I feel nervous as I write to you – because I am exposing some of my vulnerability, because you might not agree with or like what I’m going to say, and because this is deeply important to me. I hope you’ll hear me out.
A few weeks ago I attended my first Extinction Rebellion meeting here in Malvern. I listened to a lecture about the state of our planet, including all the science. I noticed feeling a few moments of sadness at what I heard, and then I came home and got on with my evening.
My layers of denial were still pretty much in place. I have known the facts about climate change for a long time, and I always believed them in theory – I just didn’t quite see them as applying to me. I see myself as living quite simply, and so felt I was already ‘doing my bit’. I trusted that action would be taken by others. Or I just didn’t dwell on it.
Over the next couple of weeks I read the Extinction Rebellion Handbook. My denial started to crack. As I read on, I felt shock, guilt and fear. Every time I sat down to read it, something made me weep. I began to lose sleep.
Now, a month on, I am still deep in a process of waking up. As Kaspa wrote in his recent article, I also have a mix of feelings. Alongside grief for the earth and all her inhabitants, I am in lot of turmoil about what I am willing to surrender.
Some of this turmoil is about big things – will I ever fly again after the flight I have booked? Am I willing to be arrested in a civil disobedience action? And, if I’m honest, many smaller things are causing me just as much (if not more) pain. Can I still drive Aiko for walks on the common? How will I handle that person I don’t like at the meetings? If we try to stop buying plastic, will I never eat a vegan Magnum again?
As a planet, we haven’t made the changes we need to because we are bombu. We are deeply driven by our greed, hate and delusion, and we are terrified of letting go of our big or little securities. These little securities help us deal with the big fears – of sickness, of helplessness, of the death of our loved ones and of our own death.
There is another way. We can come together as a community, a sangha made of many sanghas, and support each other as we grieve and as we decide on what we can do next. We can take wisdom and courage from the Buddha’s teachings. And more than anything, we can remember that we are held by the Buddha, who will be there for us even if we do become extinct. He’ll be there with us up to the very last second and beyond.
If you’re ahead of me, if you are deep in this process yourself, or if you’d like to know more, I’d love to hear from you. Write to me.
Sending warm blessings from the temple, with deep gratitude for our sangha,
Namo Amida Bu