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A Bodhicitta Dream

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Those of us who consider ourselves spiritual in nature may wonder from time to time how we came to be walking the path that we’re on. Is it simply a natural manifestation of what we naturally are, or was the process far more happenstance than destiny? Did a beautiful gift somehow fall into our lap, or was it a hard-fought struggle to become the spiritual being that we are today? Christians often speak in terms of the grace of God when considering such questions; which may explain how one person can hear the gospel and thereafter become a lifelong Christian, whereas another may hear the very same words and remain steadfastly aloof and unmoved. Buddhists, similarly, speak in terms of bodhicitta – awakened mind, or awakening mind (see Schuhmacher & Woerner, 1994, for instance). The workings of bodhicitta may explain how one individual can be moved to practice on behalf of all beings by whatever understanding of sunyata (emptiness) they may have been fortunate enough to glean, even a…

Abundance, Diversity, and Death

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Nature values life in abundance. The very soil beneath our feet is evidence of this truth, a testament to the untold abundance of all that has lived and died since life’s first humble beginnings here on earth. In equal measure, nature values diversity of life. Anyone who has ever strived to maintain a weed-free lawn can testify to this truth, as can anyone who has ever pondered the existence of the infectious diseases that so often plague us.
Abundance and diversity, these twin values ultimately work in concert with each other, despite appearing to engage in mortal combat from time to time. Like when an abundance of foxes decimates a population of hares, annihilating diversity in the process; or when the abundant crop that we’d hoped for doesn’t materialize on account of the insects, weeds, fungus, or disease that came to call "our" garden home. Notwithstanding the inevitable ebb and flow in the short term, abundance and diversity do eventually come to exist in harmony with…

The Insufficiency of Intention

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“It’s the thought that counts.”
These words have a certain ring of truth to them, don’t they? On the other hand, a friend once related to me a story of how she put a lot of thought into choosing a gift for her daughter which, while perfect in every other way, happened also to be of a particular color that was rather abhorrent to the little girl. But it wasn’t just a dislike of a color. The real issue was that the little girl felt unheard.  She felt unknown – by her own mother nonetheless! Didn’t her mother know that she didn’t care for that color? I can relate, actually. As a young adult beginning to walk a path of vegetarianism, I was presented one Christmas with a beautiful leather jacket. It was quite expensive, too, which meant that accepting it with a smile and then never wearing it again seemed like a woefully inappropriate thing to do. And all the while we were having the discussion as to why I could not accept it, I just couldn’t help thinking of all the times meat had been fo…

Cargo Cults and Climate Change

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I was having a social media conversation with a climate communicator friend the other day. He’d posted a video by the much lauded Bill Nye the Science Guy that fairly closely followed the talking points many climate change realists use when speaking about climate change: 1. It’s real. 2. It’s man-made. 3. We can do something about it. Check out the video here if you’re so inclined. 
On the one hand it’s a great video – engaging, educational, and hopeful. On the other hand, with the exception of a brief mention of the potential for gains in efficiency, the take-home message is fairly one-dimensional – vote. Without any actionable suggestions as to how to address rampant consumerism or population growth, without ever mentioning our insidious and ubiquitous belief that we’re entitled to take from the earth whatever we want in order to fulfill even our most trivial desires, it just ends. Vote. Just vote.
By all means vote! Vote for politicians who support valid climate research and have …

Beginning Anew

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Perhaps it would be easier if each new year began in spring – when dry stalks pulse again with green, and pregnant buds begin to burst; when the color of renewal is everywhere, and the light of each new day comes calling: “Greet me with full measure of your life force!” So much easier it is to think of new beginnings when all around us is rebirth! How can we not join in when it is so? But no, the year begins in the coldest depths of winter – when our days begin in darkness, and we muddle through their grayness clutching our collars with our hats pulled low, wishing for nothing other than to slumber long and late, with the mind of a cocooning being for whom life resides in the in between.
Nonetheless, we greet the year with noisy revelry and bluster. We rage against the dying of the light with plans for what we think should be. We huddle with those we love on the eve of a brand new year – reminiscing of what has been, so filled with hope for days to come. But then we wake up all alone…