some seeds only germinate in a forest fire.

to become a flamingseed: one who uses challenging conditions to blossom rather than burn. light seedFor inspiration, I comb the streets — not to mention the forests and villages, as well as the contemplative and mystical traditions — for insights, spiritual practices and visionary ideas on cultivating a loving, generative world view regardless of circumstances. And I doggedly question cultural and spiritual assumptions so that we can open fresh to these changing times with curiosity, innocence and a sense of adventure.

A letter from a Dayak woman who lost her forest as a child

Mina Setra Bidayuh womenTHE TEAM working on behalf of the guardians of the Borneo rainforest received this beautiful letter from Mina Setra, a Dayak from West Kalimantan whose people lost their forest in only 10 years to palm oil. She was a child then, and has since gone on to work on behalf of indigenous people, including the people of Muara Tae. She told us her story — so deeply moving — and also told us from the point of view of a Dayak person about the vow ceremony that the people of Muara Tae will perform:
Read more >

A Borneo tribe is losing their forest. What would love do?

Carved statue, Dayak Benuaq, Muara Tae, BorneoMY JOURNEY TO BORNEO began with a feeling — a deep grief that through meditation and careful tending, I had allowed into my conscious mind. It had been underground for most of my life, like a dark river that ran into me through my indigenous, forest-dwelling ancestors. Then last year while on solitary retreat, I heard of the indigenous people of North America protesting the XL pipeline in the bitter cold; read of the standoff between rainforest tribes and the companies that came to take their homes; and saw the photo of a weeping Brazilian chief whose ancestral forest was to be flooded for a dam. My heart broke open into a howl, and then a profound, tender grief. I couldn’t just sit by myself and meditate anymore. I felt a deep, visceral need to do something – anything – to help.
Read more >

Facing the shadow of modern materialism: What would love do?

night-traffic-490062-mAFTER MORE THAN A YEAR AWAY, much of it in timeless solitary retreat, I returned to California for a few months. I thought I was prepared for the shock of landing there. After all, I had gone back many times after retreat. But this time was different. A veil had been lifted from my psyche by that year of practice and I had no protection against the fast and hungry life that prevails in America: the tight schedules of friends with packed lives; the required long distance driving in heavy traffic that is the norm in California; the vast parking lots; the slick, expensive cafes and shops run on the constant buzz of electricity and filled with people distracted by their gadgets; the pricetags that seemed to hang off of everything. Read more >

In praise of idleness: Lessons from my daredevil retreat

squirrel_2I AM JUST NOW emerging out of a long period of retreat where I spent much of my time in solitude — reading, reflecting, experimenting with various forms of prayer, and just sitting. The last three months of this period I spent in a simple guest house on a relatively quiet lane in Ubud, Bali, where I was given a bed, a place to hang my clothes, a chair on a terrace and a simple breakfast each morning. I took my second meal of the day at an off hour in a cafe down the street, and generally skipped the third. There were few distractions and few interactions. Read more >

Confessions of a recovering consumer

forestLATELY I’VE FOUND MYSELF nursing a deep well of grief as I daily witness how both people and the planet suffer from rampant materialism. Since I’ve settled into a lifestyle that includes little in the way of accumulation, I can feel in my gut how unnecessary this suffering is, but something has silenced me from talking about it. I’ve decided to risk sounding preachy, rather than let this grief stay stuck in my throat. Read more >

5 real-life lessons in meditation from Occupy Wall Street

542346_self_portrait_in_orangeCONSCIOUSLY OR NOT, the Occupy movement has done something truly radical: from the beginning, they have followed the principles of meditation. All of the components of the meditative attitude are reflected in Occupy Wall Street, and they have given us five real-life lessons in how to truly live our spiritual values in the gritty, real world:
Read more >

A single word can seed your whole way of life

word seedsI MET A WOMAN who had a stroke and lost her ability to speak. She had only one word left, and that word was “love.” I liked to watch her say it. She would roll that word around in her mouth like a raspberry, eyes lit with pleasure, and say it slowly, as though tasting every letter. Read more >

4 steps that transform your personal suffering into universal compassion

chenrezigIN THE FIRE of a traumatic or transitional time, it’s natural for unconscious material and hidden emotions to come up. Things we may have numbed against and only felt in a distant way for most of our lives suddenly become vivid. While these periods are unpleasant, they are fantastic for spiritual practice, because it is an opportunity to release buried confusion and deepen compassion. In fact, with the right tools, the more difficult the emotion, the greater the heart opening. How to do this? Rather than push the feeling away or judge yourself for having it, do the opposite: invite it in using Tonglen. Read more >

What helps a teenage culture grow up?

grandmotherIF HUMANITY as a whole were a person, what developmental stage do you think we are we in? If you said adolescent, you’re in good company. Author and visionary Duane Elgin has asked people all over the world this question, and most think humanity is in its teenage years: testing limits and boundaries, innovating without regard to past or future (for better and for worse), focusing on social standing and image, and doing all those things that teenagers do. Read more >