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Lions Roar : May 2018
WE LIVE ON A WARMING PLANET. Sea levels rising. Seasons marked by superstorms, flooding, drought, and wildfires. Homes flattened. Lives lost. With the destruction and chaos of cli- mate change comes a wider acceptance of the scientific reality and the motivation to contribute to solutions. But destruc- tion also brings despair, fear, and grief. Spiritual practices aren’t alternatives to swift, wise action, but they can contribute to resilience and transformation. They’re complementary disciplines to education and activism. Here are five contemplative practices to help us move from despera- tion to sustainable engagement. LAMA WILLA MILLER is the founder and spiritual director of Natural Dharma Fellow- ship in Boston and its retreat center, Wonder- well Mountain Refuge in New Hampshire. ©GERARDLACZ/AGEFOTOSTOCK 1. Find a Grounding in Ethics Climate change isn’t just a matter of what we can do. It’s a matter of what we should do. The Buddha emphasized ethics, sila, as a fundamental training for his monks. His monastic code of ethics was constructed around the idea of ahimsa, or non-violence, and that ethical actions are those arising from a commitment to non-harm, gentle- ness, and simplicity. If we extend sila to our relationship with nature, then non-harm, gentleness, and simplicity become the ground for change-making. Later Buddhist traditions developed rules of conduct oriented toward com- passion, such as the Bodhisattva precepts. These precepts extend from the idea that bodhicitta, wise compassion, is the ground of ethical action and speech. We too can ground our social engagement in bodhicitta. We can make our activism not about what we’re working against, but what we’re working for. Climate change is happening because of what we’ve valued and how we’ve con- ceived of our identity on this planet. A commitment to industry and growth has been among our dominant cultural val- ues. If, however, we place our relationship to the Earth squarely among our deepest values, we’re more likely to remain sensi- tive to ecological issues—not out of obli- gation, but out of genuine commitment. 2. Get Comfortable with Uncertainty We don’t know for certain what will hap- pen as the Earth warms, and that uncer- tainty can feel deeply unsettling. The Buddha’s teachings present uncer- tainty as a source of liberation. He taught that nothing is certain, because nothing HEART & MIND Fear of a Hot Planet WILLA MILLER offers five Buddhist practices for facing the truth of our warming planet and taking action. With temperatures rising and ice melting, the average global sea level has risen between four and eight inches in the past hundred years. LION’S ROAR | MAY 2018 17 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE