Simplifying Climate Action – July 4, 2014

Today looking out my window with a view in Woodacre, California I notice the weather seems “normal.”  Outside are the sunlit golden green hills, the fog-chilled breeze from the coast and the occasional sound of a buzz saw. How nice that I can relax into the usual today rather than feeling that disturbing end-of-the-world edginess when weather patterns are noticeably off.

But this blog isn’t going to be about the weather.

In fact it’s mostly about two topics: meditation and climate change action, especially climate activism.

In September I’m going to board a train to New York City with dozens of others. We’re going to talk about climate change action together on the three day train ride and when we get to New York we will join in the People’s Climate March organized by and a host of other groups.

The last time I did anything like this I was in college and took a bus from Berkeley to Los Angeles to join student protests against apartheid. I was also there when that bus stopped at UC Santa Cruz while the UC Regents deliberated over the question of divesting monies from companies invested in South Africa.  That day, to our great joy, they voted to divest and I was quoted in the Daily Cal saying “I’m ecstatic!”

But climate activism isn’t just protests. It’s about sifting through piles of email, selecting which articles to read and which to send on to others. It’s about going to the occasional event (or organizing one). It’s about working in groups with a common purpose.  It’s about all kinds of personal and collective ethical choices. For me it is very much about considering: how can I most wisely and strategically focus my time and energy to have a positive impact on the planet?

For five years I’ve worked at Spirit Rock, a Buddhist Meditation Center just across the road from where I live. I’m a Retreat Manager which means I get to help other people sit in silence in a beautiful meditation hall for anywhere from 2 nights to 2 months.  As a member of staff, I am part of a Green Group that I initiated along with others who cared about Spirit Rock being a sustainable organization. At that time I was interested in the question of how I could lower my own carbon footprint by 10% in the year 2010 (part of the “1010 campaign”), and I thought it would even more useful to consider how Spirit Rock might do so as an institution.

My most recent project however is the one closest to my heart right now. This past spring I ran an online “Climate Action as Practice” workshop with the intention of helping people take action on climate in a way that would be personally sustainable, interweaving action, reflection and mindfulness practices. I will offer more of these workshops in the coming months, but I also want to share here some of the practices from the workshop.

I invite you to join me these next two weeks in two “dailyish” meditation practices.  The dailyish model I like is 20 minutes a day (of whatever “practice”) for about 5 days a week.

Practice One: Just Sit

Close your eyes. Feel and notice the breath (perhaps most easily noticed at the nostrils). When you notice your mind has wandered bring your awareness back to breathing in a gentle, non-worrying way.  You might want to set a timer so you don’t have to keep looking at a clock to see when 20 minutes is up.

Practice Two: Bring Awareness to What You are Reading

Each day read one short article on climate change and take some time to reflect on your reading experience. You may want to close your eyes and meditate for a minute before you begin reading as a reminder to be present with your experience. You might even keep a written log of your reactions as you read.

For Example: I went to the website Inside Climate News, and because I was being aware of my reactions, I noticed I was instantly drawn to the headline at the top of the page: U.S. President Obama, EU Leaders to Stand Together on Climate Change Draft.  Even before I clicked on the link to open the article I was feeling trepidation and I was a little nervous. Could this be good news? I felt excited but I was also afraid to feel too hopeful.  These are the kinds things one can reflect on and/or log.

After reading and reflecting you may want to go back to the piece and approach it more analytically, noticing:

·        What did you learn?

·        Who is impacted by this story?

·        Are there “winners” and “losers” in the story? Who are they?

·        Does anything in this story confuse you?

·        Is this something you want to share with others? If yes, why this piece?

Thanks for reading this first blog post! More than anything I want to hold this bi-weekly blog lightly and have fun with it.  I hope you enjoy it too. I welcome any comments, questions, or insights. Just email me at