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Refuge, Resilience, and Response in Uncertain Times

“Even if your house is flooded or burnt to the ground, whatever the danger that threatens it, let it concern only the house. If there’s a flood, don’t let it flood your mind. If there’s a fire, don’t let it burn your heart. Let it be merely the house, that which is external to you that is flooded and burned. Allow the mind to let go of its attachments.”

Ajahn Chah

One day, early on at Dharmagiri in South Africa, Kittisaro and I, feeling overwhelmed, decided to take an evening out and catch a movie. This meant a two-hour drive to our local city. On the way, as night encroached, a rainstorm hit and soon we were surrounded by swathes of dense mist. 

Half way, we came up behind a logging lorry going so slowly. After about 30 minutes the mist thinned a little and we decided to pass. Speeding alongside, suddenly car headlights appeared right in front of us. My body turned to jelly and a cacti prickle of fear grabbed my guts. My mind deserted. Kittisaro said, “pray,” put his foot down, and miraculously squeaked past the lorry. 

The instruction was exactly right. I calmed, focused, invoked protection, and let go, all in a nano-second.

Right now, in the North Bay California, where we live, fires are raging. Santa Rosa, our nearest city, is gutted. While shocking and terrible, it’s also clarifying. Our fast-dismembering world and planetary state of emergency is our new curriculum. There’s work to do, an example of which is beautifully laid out in Suvaco’s article “Dharma Lessons from Shutting Down UK’s Largest Open Coal Mine”. (Gaia House News, Page 6.)

What’s important for practitioners is the state of consciousness that informs action. Is there a relationship between decolonizing ourselves and the reclamation of the sacred? And how can we cultivate a living refuge that enables resiliency in the face of our challenging yet extraordinary times?

Hope you can join me to explore these themes.