Dearest friends,
 
After an incredible and memorable visit from Father Charles Ogada (which many of you were involved in and generously volunteered your services for!) followed by an equally amazing week at the Parliament of World Religions, I’ve found myself ready to make a commitment. It is a commitment that has its basis in love, a love so deep it often makes my heart ache.  And as I make this commitment, I invite you to reflect on what you would like to commit yourself to as we move through the holiday season towards a new year.
 
My commitment is to give voice to my love for the earth. I love this planet. I love waking up to see the magnificence of the flowers in bloom, autumn leaves blowing in the wind, and fresh snow on the ground. I love walking down the street and seeing the incredible mixture of peoples that have come to “the Meeting Place”, Toronto.  This life is a marvel, and a mystery. This is an awe-filled world. I sometimes try to capture this through a camera lens but most of the time I quietly dwell in the presence and beauty of it all.
 
Sparked by the messages of urgency I heard from members of every spiritual/religious tradition on the planet (Indigenous elders and speakers in the lead), it feels like it is time to put what is in my heart into words. And yet, sometimes it is the very structure of language that limits my’ capacity to experience what is most incredible and that separates me from the beauty of what is.  So as part of my commitment, I invite you on a journey with me to relinquish the paradigms we use to relate to the world and to explore alternative ways of knowing life that are beyond word, beyond thought, beyond blogs and essays,  beyond words that sound smart. For me this means real, constant, practice – mindfulness – here and now – in every moment.
 
At the Parliament of World Religion, one of the Indigenous speakers, Sheri Mitchel, beautifully expressed that the Indigenous people have suffered colonization, been placed in residential schools and on reserves. This, of course, has caused tremendous pain.  In addition, she pointed out that the colonizers and their descendents (which is most of us!) are also stuck in a reserve, the reserve of our own minds. We exist in a world view that is profoundly limited by patriarchal and capitalist perspectives. No longer able to feel and experience the interconnectedness of all life, we have come to believe ourselves to be separate, finite – limited in time and space. We have lost our freedom. Our very language reinforces the sense of separateness. And as a result of this mental imprisonment, we have forgotten that when we harm the earth we harm ourselves. We have come to live lives so apparently remote from this beautiful earth that we are not even aware of what we are destroying. Let us wake up from this dream.  We are not separate.
 
Sheri’s words reminded me much of the difference between the regular mind state (mental chatter, distraction and self-centered view) and the more expanded awareness that mindfulness practice can take us to.  The shift happens when we let go of the belief in the stories of the monkey mind and are able to surrender all of our resistance to exactly what is. When we do this, when we truly let go, we have the capacity to develop such an intimacy with life, such a closeness to experience, that even in the midst of sorrow there is an underlying peace and even joy. In this state of presence, our limited view of self starts to dissolve and we start to expand. It is a practice from which we find ourselves humbly bowing in the recognition of the vastness of the love in creation which we are so completely a part of. It is also a practice that invites us to feel the fullness of suffering (human and non-human) as well as the fullness of joy.
 
And so I return to my commitment to give voice to my love and share that:
 
My heart aches and weeps as I feel the pain of entire communities of forest life being bulldozed to their grave to build sprawling suburbs.
 
My heart aches when I hear that the most beautiful and diverse sea communities, our coral reefs, are endangered.
 
My heart aches when I hear that the current rate of extinction is at least 1000 and possibly 10000 times the normal extinction rate.
 
And, my heart aches for all of the human communities, particularly the poor and marginalized, who will lose their homes and lives to natural calamity as the oceans rise and natural disasters strike with global climate change.
 
And because there is no other time but now, it is now time to take action! Action can be small and large. And the first and most important ‘action’ can be found in the simple act of breathing in deeply the incredible interconnectedness of life.

BREATHE
 
Action also takes the form of lovingly shifting behaviours and choices in support of our earth.

  • Give love not plastic
  • Say no to straws, excess plastic bags and packaging
  • Re-gift, repurpose and make your own presents this holiday season
  • Buy locally grown produce
  • Eat less meat
  • Choose organic when possible
  • Ride a bicycle or taking public transit to work
  • Move close to work (or working from home!).
  • Buy a hybrid or electric car
  • Turn off your lights when you are not using them.
  • Sharing what you have with friends, neighbours and those in need
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle!!
  • Organize a clothing or other stuff exchange with friends or neighbours
  • Support an environmental organization of your choice
  • Become familiar with the wisdom and teachings of our Indigenous elders and peoples.
  • Visit and care for your favourite spots on the planet
  • Pray for the earth and her healing
  • Find satisfaction in simplicity
  • Live humbly

You probably have many more creative actions and I’d love to hear about them.  And never forget to allow yourself to Care.

Truly.
Deeply.
Completely.
Beyond.
Words.

Much love,
Shira

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