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12 Dec 2019

Mindfulness for a burning country?

Our vast land Australia is on fire and irrespective of how deeply we try to burry our heads in the sand or bush or whatever we do, it is no longer possible to deny that we have a climate crisis.  With the relentless reminding that we have in the form of smoke, flooding, temperatures never seen, the extinction of species and much more.  How do we manage to feel ok, while not dialling down our anxiety and fear so much that we take no action?  And what action is most useful for us to take? 

Never before have we humans been confronted with a threat that we have contributed  to and continue to contribute to this extent.  How do we handle it, what happens for us?  How do we manage to celebrate Christmas, to hold all the frightening stuff at bay while we enjoy, and should we? 

The journey from avoidance to acceptance

Earlier this year I decided that I was going to enter into the fear of the environmental crisis.  Really feel it.  I had avoided the full emotional dimension of this, it just seemed too big, too much to bear. When scanning the news I would often not read the environmental news. After diving in, the first visitor was no surprise, intense fear.   At the core of the fear was the loss of those I love, or to see them in pain.  To see great suffering.  Then came a depressed mood, followed by a lingering sadness.  After some time came acceptance, the status quo is changing, we will see more extremes in the weather, and that means more suffering as we are already seeing in Australia and Africa and other places. 

Clarity came next (and this will sound harsh) that the only constant in our human experience is consciousness, that which observes the human experience.  The ‘I sense/know that I am’.  From that perspective it does not really matter that we die.  The planet will cast us off for the sake of her own survival and so it should be. We are only here as visitors.

Philip Adams often says that confronting our death is an aphrodisiac for life (in those moments when it occurs, it requires ongoing reminding).  The parts of life that comes to life are of course the little things.  The delight in the herb garden, new growth from last year coming through the soil, beauty, kindness, humour, my cat’s endless purring. I became even more aware of the delight that I feel from the basics in life which are of course the miracles we are surrounded with. 

Our selfishness

Another element in going into this issue is the shame and ‘not good enoughness’ I feel around my inability to make drastic and big changes in honour of the planet.

I am acutely aware that when it comes to making choices between what I want and what is good for the environment my self interest wins every time.  Little habits like bringing my own shopping bags, like composting, and recycling have been happening for years now and they are easy as they do not limit me or affect me.  But when it comes to flying, or not buying new clothes I fail dismally.  I go to Denmark to see family knowing a flight uses up 16 times my annual CO2 budget.  I have to own my inherent commitment to self interest.  I am not alone in this!  I like you am just a little human perfectly imperfect.  Mindfulness has lead me to know that my inadequacy is not personal, it is inherent in all humans showing up in different domains for different people.


When in avoidance we cannot think responsively, we easily project and feel overwhelmed and confused. Acceptance is followed by the clarity that we can only do so much.  It becomes clear that decisions have to be made that protect us from ourselves and yes it is going to hurt. This calls for a new understanding, our systems are flawed.  Without an ‘off’ button, we will destroy that which sustains us.  If we have for instance based our income on industries that damage the planet we might have to make some changes, or if we have based our work life on commuting via flying we might have to also make some changes.  This will hurt, and it will hurt some more than others.  That is in the nature of things.  It won’t feel fair but this is not about fairness, fairness in this context is not relevant.  It is about a correction.

It becomes clear for me that at this point in time, the main causes that I need to support are those who push for environmental action.

And that the more we voice this issue on social media, speak out, read and support articles on the issue, the more politicians will have to take note.


Connecting with my dear body, connects me with life, with the knowing that I am but a little life form.  It brings me to knowing my fragility, my dependence of everything around me, in every breath there are elements of the world past and present. 

In connection love arises and from that our need to protect.  This planet has never needed us to connect with it more.  Virginia Satir suggested that we all need four basic things:

to be attended to, be listened to, treated with mutual respect, and to be touched. The planet is no different, when we attend to our garden, tune into the needs of plants and allow them to inform us, when we respect the soil, insects and plants and when we allow our hands to get into the soil, into transforming our kitchen waste to compost, then we experience connection.

Incidentally research shows that we need 4 hugs for survival, 8 hugs for maintenance of wellbeing and 12 hugs for thriving.  What is the equivalent of this for our connection with the planet I wonder?

Re thinking

Finally I cam upon this little clip from Avatar Robbie’s taxi driver in Auckland:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHwp6R5g8vY

The discussion is on whether growth is good. With an increase in turnover do we see it as success?  The speaker clarifies that there is a difference between growth, progress and success.  Increasing material possessions is growth.  Once aided by ethics and honesty  it becomes progress. That plus humanity, morality and spirituality leads to success.   Globally we see that growth has not lead to happiness, nor in many cases has progress. It has lead to destruction.  Time to redefine our goals and clean up in our delusions.

During this Christmas claim doing ‘nothing time’ claim being bored, claim the possibility of ‘no growth’ in your annual planning, you need it and the planet needs it.  In intending to connect we need to dial down other ‘stuff’ including the haze that social media and games cause as well as our relentless ‘doing’.

4 Responses

  1.  Thank you sooo much Charlotte for your sharing In deep honestly and concern! Some good but challenging questions. I believe in this time of crisis we all need to slow down, breathe and feel. Accepting what is, and then taking direct action to what is required to address these environmental issues. To my understanding, one of the really important things we need to do is plant more trees all over the world. Speaking with a phd student this morning studying conservation she explained that the east coast of Australia is ideal for combating the excess of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Suggesting that this could help as much as 1/5 of the needed regeneration. Also helping the rain building over forests and maintaining the natural cycle.

     We all need to take responsibility for every step we take and conscious awareness of the ripples they create. Living a more old fashioned lifestyle, slowing down and rewarding and showcasing those making conservation a first priority.

     Better communication skills is fundamental, sharing knowledge and leading by example. Through facebook, conversations and the media, sharing the message in a way that is not attacking anyone but in a way that shows the benefits to individuals, family, friends and our community for our childrens future.

     Specially those in power need to get this!!. As you mentioned Charlotte we need to love and respect our environment! Sadly we continue to abuse and destroy the earth, our other mother who continues to provide for us. In what I see as an excessive use of resources in a constant quest for external gratification to feel good.

     By practicing mindful techniques we can all live in more harmony, joy and peace. Honouring this sacred gift of life on our precious planet.
      Changing the laws so its illegal to rap and pillage the earth anymore. Making so called sacrifices to live a more suitable life, which I’ve found soooooooooo forfilling living a simple and heart centered life! Being!

    Thank you again Charlotte for your continued efforts to make the world a better place.
    So much respect for you!!!
    Bless your heart ???

  2. Thank you Guy for all your wise thoughts on this issue. Just the other day I sat next to a geologist who gave an example of how important it is the our politicians are on board. Some years ago BP found oil of the south coast of England. It was a particularly pristine area with some of the most expensive properties in Europe. When they applied for the permit to drill the answer was ‘yes’ providing it has no impact on diversity, it cannot be seen, smelt or heard. And that is what has happened. The geologist said there is so much money in oil that there is plenty or room for governments to set the necessary criteria. I found this example so fascinating, seems that we have a lot to learn about what is possible and what to demand of our politicians!

  3. Thanks a lot for this interesting point of view on climate change. I was in Australia this time last year and although I live so far away I feel this fire in my same heart.

    I wish all of you safety and we’re sending prayer from our side here in Europe!

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