“When we reconnect, unfortunately part of what we reconnect to is a lot of pain, it’s more in the face. So I have to have a way of tolerating that pain in a way that’s not numbing. So something within me needs to grow, to be able to hold it, without going into despair.
“The second piece that is possible through meditative training is a cultivation of a wellspring of well being, a resource. Most of us actually don’t have access to that, so because I don’t have access to it I think I need to buy this or that, holiday here. I become addicted to a consumerist lifestyle to feel nourished enough to meet the demands of the modern lifestyle. Just developing enough resource that I don’t ‘need’, because I have enough inside me.
“The third is a sense of the sacred. I mean that in the broadest term, there are many kinds of sacred. What’s behind the current environmental crisis, driving climate change? You could look at a lot of things, but underneath all that is this sense that Earth is just a commodity, that people are just the cogs in an economic machine. So there’s something that any kind of spiritual practice might offer, a deepening into the sense of the sacred. Once that’s there it becomes hard to violate the Earth, to violate other people. That somehow in this modernist world we find a way back into the sacred is absolutely crucial. Paula, might have other viewpoints? What do you think?”
“Yes,” I said enthusiastically “for someone who’s never tried mindfulness or meditation, becoming more mindful of small everyday actions, you’re more aware of the impact they have on the planet. Where is that object going? How does that add to all the others?”
“Why am I doing this? Is it a quick fix mentality?” Added Rob. “You’re able to stand back. It gives you a consciousness and space to make a choice, which ends up being a moral choice.”
Eve nodded. “I’d like to know a bit about DANCE, how did it come about?”
“Well having talked about those connections, having been involved with the meditation world for quite a while, sometimes what I saw was the opposite. Sometimes when a person meditates theres also an image associated with it of what a meditator is, as perhaps someone who’s removed, or not bothered by what’s going on in the world. Does it always look one way or is there space for lots of different personalities?”
“When you clearly see that someone is doing something harmful, like the fossil fuel industry,” Eve said, “can we compassionately enforce? To say, ‘you’re hurting yourself, you’re hurting others, I’m not going to let you do that’. Can you engage, but with compassion, not be passive? A lot of us are frightened of power. We don’t want to use whatever form of power it is – money, influence, emotional. To me the Buddha was a very powerful individual. To me if you see someone hurting others you have a duty to not let them be the bad guy.”
“Yeah, what is my duty as a human being?” asked Rob. “I have this gift of life. A lot of people feel off balance a lot of the time, and if you’re an activist you may just feel burnt out. But if I have a meditative discipline, maybe it’s ok to be off balance sometime, so I don’t have this image of needing to be in balance all the time. It’s ok to be a little crazy, maybe it’s good to be a little crazy. Maybe being crazy is an appropriate response to what’s going on right now.”
Rob caught my eye and I started laughing.
“I realised a lot of people wanted avenues for alternative responses,” continued Rob, “but just didn’t know where to do that. So really DANCE was set up with some colleagues as a forum and a platform for people to bring whatever they brought. It stands for the Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement. A network isn’t top down. The whole range of personality styles can be brought and everyone can plug into what they want to. It’s ongoing and I hope it will open up more and more so people can share their views and actions.”