See more information on this online journey organized by WCCM France.
A review by Janet O’Sullivan
The language around climate change is changing….now increasingly described as a “climate emergency”. Recently (May 2019) parliaments in UK and Ireland, soon followed by Canada, declared ‘climate emergencies,’ as did numerous local governments, UN climate experts, environment scientists, school activists and movements such as Extinction Rebellion, and Live the Change (Green Faith). Leaders such as Mary Robinson call for renaming the crisis as ‘Climate Justice’ to also view it as a human rights issue.
How can we reach a tipping point in the politics of climate change? How do we reach a tipping point in consciousness to bring this about? (See review below of Fr. Laurence’s section in “Tipping Points for a Precarious Future”).
How can we as a global contemplative community contribute more to this change? A new individual contemplative consciousness of our interconnectedness, of our utter dependence on the natural world and a new collective consciousness is needed.
Action is slow ….opinion divided as to whether it is an economic or a moral issue; whether it is real. There is a lack of political leadership in many countries, lack of trust in scientific expertise, and a reversion to nostalgia for past identities. However, there also an increasingly urgent call for new conversations to address what is a common challenge as we face a new narrative of our future, and for mobilized action with others, not against them.
This is now an issue requiring and calling forth conversations between different fields of expertise all impacted by the effects of climate change and the need for urgent action- psychology, behavioural sciences, physical sciences, economics, business, social justice and education.
Addressing Tipping Points for a Precarious FutureTimothy O’Riordan, Timothy Lenton Oxford University Press, 2013
A review of PART 5 (1); Contemplative Consciousness. Fr. Laurence Freeman; The Spiritual Dimension.
Addressing Tipping Points for a Precarious Future includes analysis from many perspectives in the sciences, social sciences and humanities. Fr. Laurence Freeman contributed a significant chapter on the spiritual perspective with the need for a contemplative consciousness and meditation as a pathway to that consciousness.
This raised the critical question, can the outer world be transformed without inner transformation?
He puts the case that we can think and act differently and that a change in consciousness is critical at this time. Crisis in our times is often discussed in terms of tipping points, and the possibility of preparing society and its governing institutions for creative and benign ‘tips’ provides a unifying theme for the book. The conclusions from the conference on which the book is based, are that we can assess tipping points and critical thresholds on many dimensions; that we can begin to see the early warnings of their appearance; and respond.
The term “Tipping points (TPs) is defined in the book as zones or thresholds of profound changes in natural or social conditions with very considerable and largely unforecastable consequences” p3. Tipping points are processes of discontinuous, and at times disruptive, change. Generically they are critical thresholds, which offer various timescales of onset and impact. These thresholds may manifest themselves across the whole globe, or regionally, or locally.… The possibility of preparing society and its governing institutions for creative and benign ‘tips’ provides a unifying theme for the book.
Laurence Freeman: Part 5.1 Contemplative Consciousness writes of tipping points (TPs) as prophetic “radical insights into the present structure of things in terms of the greater truth” TPs are physical in terms of earth systems but also consciously with regard to human self-awareness. “they demand rethinking along fresh ways of meaning and valuing actions and outcomes.” “If we are to think radically, I would suggest an approach to a strategy for dealing with tipping points that includes acknowledging the practice of meditation as a way of metanoia, seeing in a new way.” p159
‘Contemplative consciousness (CC) is a new vantage point… a radical openness to new ways of seeing and judging where science and religion can work better together to bring about a sustainable science and economy based on wholeness” “CC specifically address the undeniable need for meaning”
He reflected on ‘memento mori’ the acceptance of death as part of contemplative consciousness (CC). “Remembering that mortality permeates all life from individual organisms to all energy systems…this spiritual wisdom can enhance consciousness and maximise our potential for experiencing quality of life” Further he spoke of the role of meditation in developing CC and “the importance of scientists and contemplative spiritual practitioners forging deeper connections. Both concerned with advancing the wellbeing of the greatest number” Science already acknowledges the psychological and physical benefits of meditation, but benefits go further- the spiritual fruits” He concludes “Relating the scientific method to contemplative consciousness promises a radical new approach to human problem solving” the chapter continues with an introduction to meditation as a path to contemplative consciousness and discusses its 3 basic elements- silence, stillness and simplicity with the focus of attention off of ourselves, non-attachment and stillness which keeps us centered and morefree from emotional attachments and our mechanical turning minds.
In conclusion, “this ‘contemplative dimension to the science, economics and politics of global warning will help the tipping point to ease from the malign to the benign…it must be learned through personal experience”
A review by Janet O’Sullivan
By Linda Chapman (speaker, Sydney Meditatio 2016)
THE HUMAN VOCATION AS KEEPERS OF THE SPACE means that we are meant to live as part of the whole earth community in a way that secures spaces for both human and other-than-human life to flourish. The Creation story of Genesis is a story of God opening up these spaces for life. All creatures are given habitat. The human being is born into this Garden of life but we are now encroaching on the space of others and are causing serious harm. The practice of meditation however is a way of hope. It is a spiritual practice that opens up the space of cosmic consciousness such that we might recognize our identity as creatures interdependent with all creation and in need of balance.
Meditation enables a way of life that restores harmony and balance; the balance necessary for life, for all to live. Much of our contemporary culture and consciousness is about growing the ‘space’ of the economy. The Genesis narrative however tells us that the oikos, the household of God, from which the word economy is derived, is about the balancing of ecology and economy. When our focus is heavily weighted on economy we become split and unbalanced. We veer in the direction of harm, rather than securing space for life to flourish.
In Genesis, humanity is given the task of ‘cultivating’, tilling, keeping, the garden of Eden. The Creation story is a primal poetic narrative of meaning rather than fact. It is the meaning that matters for us at this stage of our evolutionary journey.
The understanding that the human vocation is to ‘keep the space’ derives from the earliest activity of the Creator in the Genesis story, who opened up the various spaces for particular creatures to enjoy their particular habitats. God opened up the spaces of night and day, of the waters that would teem with living things; the sky with every winged bird according to its kind, and the dry ground; the space where vegetation could come forth. And God saw that all was good and desired an abundance of the various life forms within their spaces. And then the human being, the Adam, was formed from the same elements as the earth, the Adamah. And God saw that it was all very good and on the seventh day rested. Our vocation according to the creation story is to be keepers of the spaces and the whole space of the earth community. And the direction of creation is to come to the wholeness of God’s indwelling, to be a resting place, to rest with God. This is peace. This is shalom.
This peace however is significantly challenged in our current environment by the ecological crises we are now facing. As others have said the ecological crisis is a spiritual crisis; a crisis of human identity. We have forgotten who we are. And when we forget who we are we forget how to live. Yet in this age it may be that we are waking up to that consciousness that re-members creation. We are realizing our co-creative vocation perhaps just in time. Our original gifting with the responsibility to be keepers of the space sees the need for us to collaborate with the whole earth community through the vivifying activity of the (w)Holy Spirit.
“The human task” says Rowan Williams, is “to draw out potential treasures in the powers of nature and so to realise the convergent process of humanity and nature discovering in collaboration what they can become. The ‘redemption’ of people and material life in general is not a matter of resigning from the business of labour and of transformation – as if we could – but the search for a form of action that will preserve and nourish an interconnected development of humanity and its environment. In some contexts, this will be the deliberate protection of the environment from harm: in a world where exploitative and aggressive behaviour is commonplace, one of the ‘providential’ tasks of human beings must be to limit damage and to secure space for the natural order to exist unharmed. “
Meditation is a form of action in and of itself and provides the basis for action which is contemplative. Meditation, as contemplative practice, reminds us of who we are and how to live in a way that may preserve the interconnected community of creation. It heals our aggression and exploitative tendencies. The contemplative practice of meditation is an action of deep listening and it bears the fruit of real humility.
The convergent process of human and other-than-human nature, discovering in collaboration what we can become, requires of us deep listening and true humility. The truth of humility is that we are humus; we are earthlings, grounded and embodied beings whose habitat is within the sheltering space of the earth. We do not live on the earth but rather we are part of earth. Humility is the knowledge and experience of who we are and where we fit in the order, or relatedness, of things. The depth of our listening will be according to the extent of our relationship with the other with whom we exist in community. The Australian Aboriginal woman Miriam Rose Ungemerr from the Daly River in the Northern Territory describes such relational listening as Dadirri which she says is like our understanding of contemplation. Dadirri is ‘inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. When I experience dadirri, I am made whole again.’
The original people of Australia know, or knew, their identity as intimately connected with the other–than-human environment. Djambawa Marawili, a Yolgnu man of Arnhem land, says that he sees himself as the ‘tongue of the land.’ The land has everything it needs but it cannot speak’ he says. ‘We exist to paint and sing and dance and express its true identity.’
“When I am in my homeland”, says Marawili “I know that my spiritual reality is here. I can see what is happening in our tribal country, in our land. We have significant ngarra (governance). Living in our country we can see what is happening in the future in a spiritual way.” Here are people who realize in the most profound and authentic sense their vocation as keepers of the space. This culture of his, the oldest living culture on earth, recognises the relationship between the space of country and the spiritual reality of the human being – indeed their very reason for existing, their human vocation. These people know who they are in relation to the ‘country’ (place) they belong to.
The practice of meditation is a path of self knowledge. Through it we understand ourselves as spiritual beings in need of more than material wealth to live fully. As spiritual beings we need space to simply be. In Christian meditation we begin by saying the mantra and eventually we listen to it. Our practice becomes one of listening in the space that the mantra keeps us in. We keep the space of consciousness through our practice and it keeps us, grounded in reality and rooted in the Love that keeps all space. Over time we re-member who we are as our fragmented self becomes integrated in the Self who holds us in being.
The ‘household of God’, the created reality, is one space consisting of a diversity of life. The contemporary over-emphasis on the economy, measured in material wealth, denies the space of the various ecologies that make up the whole earth system. Meditation can be a bridge between economy and ecology. Through the regular practice of meditation our consciousness becomes healed of the split. We come to realize that economy and ecology must exist together in harmony derived as they are from the one Source. Meditation reminds us that our prosperity is to be found in the spiritual capital of knowing who we really are and how we might live in balance for the whole earth community. As we become more conscious so we live out our human vocation as keepers of the space; the space of creation that also keeps us. Ultimately we become that space in which God finds rest as we, more and more, rest in God who sees all creation as ‘very good’.
See more information about the seminar Ecology, Economy and Meditation
It was estimated that over 20,000 people participated in past Sunday’s march, making it the biggest climate march ever in Sydney. The main March was preceded by services in the Uniting and Catholic churches, whose groups then met together to join the march wearing purple to distinguish the group identifying as “faith groups and diverse cultures”. That group including many banners focusing on the Papal encyclical and a contingent from our Sydney Christian Meditation Community. The march was led by a large contingent of Pacific Islanders, including those from Tuvalu, Kiribate and Papua New Guinea who are on the front line of already experiencing the effects of extreme weather conditions on their livelihoods and homes. The whole march encompassed a vast collection of groups working towards different aspects of our environmental challenges, recognising that it is our common home at stake and there is no Planet B.
In Australia, we are starting to notice a significant shift in the collective consciousness relating to accepting and facing the consequences of our way of life and taking action to prevent further deterioration in the environment and climate.
With a government beholden to the vast coal mining industry as a mainstay of our economy, there has been much reluctance to meaningful action at a political level. This is despite Australians globally having the highest per capita carbon emissions and despite living in the South Pacific region where many smaller countries are already facing disastrous effects of climate change: raising the question of our responsibility as the richest country in the region, for possible environmental refugees in the near future.
Religious groups and a growing network of faith-based environmental groups are now taking an active role in urging action for interlinked social and environmental justice and are participating in many areas of environmental advocacy; from physically opposing mining to political advocacy. The Papal encyclical has provided a new impulse to see the interconnections between social and environmental injustices and our responsibility to act. Hope lies in the coming together of these many religious, social and environmental movements.
The coming Meditatio event, Meditation and the Environment, is giving our ACMC the opportunity to engage with environmental groups to offer the understanding that transformation needs to begin with inner transformation; leading to a new consciousness of our interconnectedness and an awareness and experience of how meditation can heal us, and so heal the environment.
More information about the Meditatio Seminar on Meditation and the Environment here.