Friday, December 4, 2015

United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France November 2015

Have you noticed in recent days how our attention has been diverted away from the Climate Change Conference in Paris?  On a day when mass shootings made headlines,  I took comfort in Andrea Bocelli  singing Adeste Fideles amid the Christmas lights at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. 

Local to my neighborhood on the North Shore of Lake Superior, influential friends at OCA (Organic Consumers Association) in Finland, Minnesota, were among the 40,000 attending the Paris Climate Change Conference.  See the quotes I highlighted further down the page.

I shared on Facebook a few posts and quotes by Peter Adriance, Representative for Sustainable Development | Office of Public Affairs for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the US. His office is in Washington, D.C.   

Here is a quote that covers what I see in our local community:  "Establishing sustainable patterns of individual and collective life will therefore require not only new technologies, but also a new consciousness in human beings, including a new conception of ourselves and our place in the world."

We have positive action in our local community.  Experts and activists in climate change, sustainable development,  social action, and social justice - all willing to share their passions without fear. 

Below see some of the highlights posted by Peter Adriance.  I will follow these global efforts within Agenda 2030 the next few years.    

" Rae Abileah, founder of The Climate Ribbon Project ( was interviewed for their film on the project, which gets folks to ponder in their hearts what they love and they would hate to lose due to climate change. I've participated in New York, Salt Lake, and now Paris."

Don Brown, spoke on a UNESCO panel on climate ethics. UNESCO announced it is launching a two year process that will culminate in a Declaration of Climate Ethics in 2017

Bahá'í International Community Statement, Paris—23 November 2015
Shared Vision, Shared Volition: Choosing Our Global Future Together:

Change caused by human beings:
 “Anthropogenic climate change is not inevitable; humanity chooses its relationships with the natural world. This lies at the heart of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP 21), ...The current global order has often approached the natural world as a reservoir of material resources to be exploited. ... more balanced relationships among the peoples of the world and the planet are clearly needed. The question today is how new patterns of action and interaction can best be established, both individually and collectively, through personal choices, social systems, and governing institutions.

With the adoption of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including its social, economic and environmental dimensions, momentum for meaningful change has been building. A universal, legally binding agreement on carbon emissions seems within reach for the first time.  Yet sustainability is defined as much by human and social factors as ecological ones. Correlation has been found, for example, between inequality and environmental degradation[1], suggesting that the relationships linking human beings with one another have a direct impact on the physical resources of the planet. The global systems that have left many facing poverty and want, have similarly impoverished the natural environment."
Foundations for a New Consciousness
“Setting humanity on a more sustainable path to the future involves transformation in attitudes and actions. Reform of institutional structures will be critical, and indeed this is a central focus of those gathered at COP 21. ... Establishing sustainable patterns of individual and collective life will therefore require not only new technologies, but also a new consciousness in human beings, including a new conception of ourselves and our place in the world.

PARIS – The Organic Consumers Association (OCA), IFOAM International Organics, Navdanya, Regeneration International (RI), and Millions Against Monsanto, joined by dozens of global food, farming and environmental justice groups announced today that they will put Monsanto ... on trial for crimes against nature and humanity, and ecocide, in The Hague, Netherlands, next year on World Food Day, October 16, 2016.

Speaking at the press conference, Ronnie Cummins, international director of the OCA (US) and Via Organica (Mexico), and member of the RI Steering Committee, said: “The time is long overdue for a global citizens’ tribunal to put Monsanto on trial for crimes against humanity and the environment. We are in Paris this month to address the most serious threat that humans have ever faced ...  Corporate agribusiness, industrial forestry, the garbage and sewage industry and agricultural biotechnology have literally killed the climate-stabilizing, carbon-sink capacity of the Earth's living soil.”

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thich Nhat Hahn Passing

A Facebook friend shared a news link yesterday that Thich Nhat Hahn was near death in Indonesia.  Yesterday, November 12 also marks a Baha'i Holy Day the Birth of Baha'u'llah in Tehran, Persia in 1817.

Thich Nhat Hahn represents an authentic guru, in my opinion.  His book, Living Buddha, Living Christ was a primary reference for a term paper I wrote for the Wilmette Baha'i Institute course on Buddhism last February and March 2014. Ram Dass' book, Still Here, covers relatively the same time period beginning in the Vietnam War era, and deals with challenges we face in understanding the value of our role in community as we age.  End-of-life conversations often sound like a blend of Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian beliefs.

It was reported that Thich Nhat Hahn asked us to turn our thoughts away from his passing, and toward mindfulness of the principles he taught.

From my term paper,
Born Richard Alpert, Ram Dass says he chose his name to mean “Servant of God.”  Ram (God), Dass (Servant). According to Ram Dass, an unknowable divine Oneness exists between our conscious awareness of physical pain as distinct from suffering.  Our conscious awareness promotes spiritual self-healing. The outcome of our spiritual healing depends on God’s will. As the experience of the historical Buddha shows, the outcome may be a lesson in dealing with adversity, or a new appreciation for the horror of pain and suffering in our world.
While many of Ram Dass’s insights are in harmony with Bahá’í teachings, Dass does not know God after death. He prepares himself, and practices soul awareness with others who fear death.  “By cultivating mindfulness, we can prepare ourselves for this final passage by allowing nature, rather than the Ego, to guide us. In doing so, we become teachers to others, and our own best friends, looking beyond the body’s death as the next stage in our Soul’s adventure.”

In the early 1960’s, Thich Nhat Hanh was beginning his work in Vietnam. In  Living Buddha, Living Christ, he describes how meditative practice engendered authentic spiritual awareness. Social action against the War in Vietnam was a necessary outcome of his practice.

One of the things I appreciate in Thich Nhat Hanh’s writings is how we see ourselves as spiritually conscious, aware that we know Christ, and Baha’u’llah, living an authentic spiritual experience in community, not merely adhering to doctrine.

He writes: “In Buddhism, we take refuge in Three Jewels – Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. These refuges are a very deep practice.  They are the Buddhist trinity.
I take refuge in the Buddha, the one who shows me the way in this life.
I take refuge in the Dharma, the way of understanding and love.
I take refuge in the Sangha, the community that lives in harmony and awareness.”

“Mindfulness is the light that shows us the way.  It is the living Buddha inside of us. Mindfulness gives rise to insight, awakening, and love.  We all have the seed of mindfulness within us, and through practice of conscious breathing, we can learn to touch it.  When we take refuge in the Buddhist trinity – Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha – it means to take refuge in our mindfulness, our mindful breathing, and the five elements that comprise our self.

Breathing in, breathing out,
Buddha is my mindfulness, shining near, shining far.
Dharma is my conscious breathing, calming my body and mind.
I am free.
Breathing in, breathing out,
Sangha is my five skandhas, working in harmony.
Taking refuge in myself, 
Going back to myself.
I am free.” 

There are, of course, parallels in Bahá’í history.  Baha'is face extreme opposition in Iran today.  

As Thich Nhat Hanh said,  “They may believe that they are serving Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha, or serving the Trinity and the church, but their practice does not touch the living Buddha or the living Christ.  At the same time, these men and women do not hesitate to align themselves with those in power in order to strengthen the position of their church or community. They believe that political power is needed for the well-being of their church or community.  They build up a self instead of letting go of the ideas of self.  Then they look at this self as absolute truth and dismiss all other spiritual traditions as false.  This is a very dangerous attitude; it always leads to conflicts and war. Its nature is intolerance.” 

Faced with intolerance from some in my local community who espouse a narrow-minded concept of what it means to be a believer, I look for other avenues to apply spiritual principles to community development. Engaging with junior youth through creative arts programs has been one such avenue. Working to support climate change mitigation is another, as is engaging in interfaith dialogue with those who are open to it. Promoting spiritual healing may prove to be another. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Youth Empowerment Programs

Recent messages from the Baha'i Universal House of Justice, and our Baha'i National Spiritual Assembly focus on
  •        "community-building efforts in clusters throughout the country, hopeful that it will inspire youths everywhere to enter this promising and immensely rewarding arena of service."

  •      "The unique and remarkable ability of the junior youth spiritual empowerment program to 'shape character and bring forth the praiseworthy qualities latent in junior youth... to release the deep reservoirs of commitment to significant social change.'”

  •     " The merit of the junior youth spiritual empowerment program lies, first and foremost, in its effectiveness at enhancing the power of expression and the quality of spiritual perception within its participants and in assisting them to develop the capabilities necessary for a life of meaningful service to their communities."

How does this work in a wide community, such as Lake and Cook counties in Northeast Minnesota, where there are no Baha'i children or youth (as of January 2013)?
In fact, Junior Youth Empowerment Programs in major metropolitan areas of the U.S. often involve young adults who are not Baha'i, but who are trained Junior Youth Animators. 

Among the core activities, classes often begin in neighborhood homes, sometimes hosted by parents who are not Baha'i.  A systematic sequence of courses and books, including community-building practices,  begins with children's classes, first through third grades.  

In Silver Bay public schools, I've noticed fourth graders already showing passion for leadership, bringing spiritual qualities into their artwork, and getting involved in community.  Many teachers do a good job getting root spiritual principles across, and instilling a passion for community service.  Where is it OK to ask about spiritual experience and beliefs?   

By eighth grade, leadership and mentor-ship are well established in science, math, and creative arts. Many high school students have strong passions about current social justice issues that require urgent action.  

Baha'is have resources.  Here are links to “Make Peace, Build Community”, a Facebook page and a blog.