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Compassion, Emergence, and Climate Change

Just a few weeks ago, my community was hit by a hurricane. In the four years my husband and I have lived in this region, we had never witnessed such torrential and electric rains. The power went out for an extended period. The creek shapeshifted into a rushing river. A large lake formed in our yard. Trees fell. Somewhat protected by the mountains, our home did not flood, nor did we have to evacuate – but major flooding occurred in our town. Neighbors evacuated and people lost their lives. 

The night of the storm, my husband and I sat in the dark with a couple of lit candles and meditated. We listened to the rain pounding the roof, and sat with feelings raw and tender. The storm carried a sense of both shock and sacred renewal… as we were reminded so palpably about what matters and what does not. 

I believe that all of us are feeling both raw  and tender about the acceleration of climate change that has begun to take physical form. Humanity is witnessing the loss of forests and rivers, animal and plant species… and the potential annihilation of our species. How does our dharma practice prepare us to meet change of this magnitude with presence and compassion?

Alongside our profound grief for what is changing globally, we are also experiencing EmergenceEmergence is the organizing principle of the universe, the guiding story of Gaia or Earth consciousness. 

Emergence is the process of coming into being. Emergence helps us to recognize that change is not the end of something. In its place, something new is always created… Emergence can help us to stay present as we navigate global change — and fuel our love and pain for our world into compassionate action. 

We can inquire:

  • What is emerging in our world in this moment? What is emerging  emotionally, when I listen deeply within and remain present to life’s process?
  • What qualities of wonder, reverence, and respect for the mystery re-awaken in my heart when I recognize emergence— alongside my grief for what is changing?
  • How is there room for both greater acceptance and greater commitment to being of service when I remember emergence?

Consciousness by means we cannot begin to fathom has an organizing principle. Emergence is the natural state of life. 

Discussion

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