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Apr 22
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Climate and Wabi Sabi

Earth Day 2016 in Shambhala

by Irene Woodard

reflections-1287317__340Wabi-sabi is the quintessential Japanese aesthetic, the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. At least, this is how it is defined on the back cover of Wabi-Sabi by Leonard Koren. This philosophy has nurtured my understanding of myself, family, community and. for this year’s Earth day, the climate….

Yesterday morning’s front page of the New York Times has an article titled “Signing a Hard-Won Climate Accord That Leaves Much to Do.” There we have it, there is much to do. This can be a destabilizing thought, and can stop us in our tracks. What to do? How to do it? In our Shambhala mandala, it is often the place where we get stuck, as we cope with the frequency of big view descending and our longing to to conduct ourselves in ways that meet that vision. But we can help ourselves out in such moments, realizing that our ability to serve the world is simply about taking a single step, in the direction of east. Our hearts have that natural tendency, our inner great eastern compass. And that, for me, has been stabilizing.

Last week at the Rubin Museum, Gloria Steinem and Katherine Hayhoe met for the first time, leaders in their respective fields of feminism and climate science, sitting on the stage and conversing about karma. The karma of this planet, the earth and all that that can mean. A variety of conclusions were agreed upon: reproductive freedom not population control, challenging ‘bigness’ is good, diversity will help provide the solutions, if you have less power talk more & if you have more power listen more. When asked a question about whether we should work inside the system or outside the system, Steinem responded that we are a collective, and should work together this is not verbatim.

forest-272595__340But the main point of their discussion was this: at the end of the evening, just before it closed, the moderator from the Rubin asked the two women if there was one thing each member of the audience could do on Earth Day that would be of benefit. Steinem said that since we are adults, there is not just one thing we can do, and that she had faith in the people present there to do what they themselves felt compelled to do. She had faith in us.

Inspired by her, I am emboldened to say the same for us as a mandala. When we are looking for the the one thing we can do, or waiting for guidance from above — DON’T WAIT.  Waiting to find out what the leadership of Shambhala will tell us to do — DON’T WAIT. We have already been told to go ahead. And I have faith at this point that in most of our centers, if not all, there will be some person or some persons with the passion and curiosity to just get going, and to start bringing green initiatives to their centers. Many already have. As Acharya Marty Janowitz is happy to say it, “proceed until apprehended.”

hands-1222866__340So if you are inspired now, go ahead, read not the rest of these words. If you are the type who needs to see a list of numbers and ways, there is something here for you too, so read on. Not everyone just sets right out with a compass and water bottle. Some of us want to see the map first.

During the First Shambhala Online EcoForum event on September 25, Richard Peisinger from Halifax commandingly spoke up and called for all of Shambhala Centers to get going on green initiatives. He created a draft list: Six Steps for Greening Your Shambhala Center. Briefly, they are:
1. Form a Green Team
2. Go for Low Hanging Fruit
3. Publish Eco-News in your Center Communications
4. Save Energy in Your Center
5. Provide Environmental Programming and Initiatives
6. Define Center Environmental Policies and Procedures
The entire document will be posted on the Shambhala EcoForum page on the Shambhala Network, and also on the Shambhala EcoForum Facebook page, which I for one find much easier to navigate than our dear network.

In addition, Acharya Lobel has suggested that we have five of our centers serve pilot programs, to try the GreenFaith Shield and Certificate programs as guides to going green. Land center, large urban center, small urban centers, tiny groups. Which are you? If you are from a group that would like to be one of these pilots, let me know. GreenFaith has created a step-by-step program for religious institutions to follow. Please contact me if you would like to see the details.

ball-108651__340And I trust that there is a lot going on already, things that are happening unknown to the rest of us. In Philadelphia, they have a one day curriculum on the environment that is being rolled out.  This week, I represented Shambhala at the UN Chapel for the presentation of the document Interfaith Climate Change Statement to World Leaders. The high level signatures on this document included our own dear Pema Chodron, as well as Acharyas Lobel and Janowitz. The news brief and video of that event will also be posted on the EcoForum site. Never fear, Shambhala is already present.

So, back to Wabi-Sabi. It is inherently “imperfect, and incomplete but also complete” to go ahead with efforts to change our centers, to go ahead with our own good lives. We have the riches already.  If we wait for further directions from the top of the mandala, the climate devastation will be even worse before we take action. The Sakyong has given us all we need to do the work. Let’s proceed.

Irene Woodard is a Citizen of Shambhala. She serves on the Board of Directors of GreenFaith, and as an environmental action-taker on many levels — at her center (Sky Lake), in her local community, in her own home and life, and on the larger stage as a representative of Buddhist practitioners in regional, national and international forums. Readers can contact her by email at [email protected] .

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5 responses to “ Climate and Wabi Sabi ”
  1. Nadia Scoggins
    Apr 23, 2016

    Wonderful read Irene! “….our ability to serve the world is simply about taking a single step, in the direction of east” …This can take so much learning and patience, but brings so much liberation and joy…..Thank you for the reminder and inspiration.

  2. Thank you, Irene, for writing from the heart…and for all that you do!
    Lots of love…Nicki

  3. Great article Irene ! Thank you for your continued ongoing awareness on behalf of our mandala to “green us UP” and keep us on our toes. Its no doubt that this is the issue of our time and as students of the “earth protector” himself we are duty bound to sign up and move forward on this path. Thank you thank you. Keep up the good work and please keep up keeping us informed on the process. I think The Sakyong said while speaking at the aspen institute this past march that the climate crisis is a symptom of our collective karma and minds own confusion, the more we work on our minds, the more well work on treating earth the same way. Big vision simple idea. Grateful that we have so many great minds in our mandala working on this and making an effort to make a change. Hats off to those folks and you Irene ! May each of us play a part in this and cause benefit.

  4. Applause, applause, dear III. Direct, sweet and full of encouragement – that’s our dear Lady Warrior ! TATAblisslove, AA

  5. Faith Miller
    Apr 22, 2016

    Thank you for this inspiration and reminder which I aspire to apply to doing what needs to be done.

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