Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Trump's War on Nature, Culture, and the Future


I just fired this letter off to the Richmond Times-Dispatch,  But since it is an apt summary of what I find so loathsome about the Trump regime, I am sharing it here, for all to see...

Editor, the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
With the release of his recent draconian budget, Donald Trump has declared war on nature, culture, and the future.
His war on nature takes the form of eliminating funds to protect Appalachian rivers and streams from coal ash, our atmosphere from emissions, our public lands from logging and drilling, and the Chesapeake Bay from pollution. He is also slashing funds for research from the EPA, and reversing Obama’s decisions on highly risky and destructive pipeline projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline.
His war on culture takes the form of eliminating much-needed funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  All these nonpartisan programs ensure high quality, noncommercial education programs like Sesame Street for our children, the promotion of scientific literacy through programs like NOVA and Nature, and the transmission of our cultural heritage through magnificent, commercial-free programming like the American Experience, Masterpiece Theatre, and Great Performances, all of which are available only from PBS. Trump’s slashing of these cultural enrichment programs will quickly reduce our population to clueless, commercial-saturated morons, easily manipulated by truthless demagogues like himself.
Finally, his war on the future is most visible in his slashing all funding for research into climate change, his abandonment of the historic Paris agreement, and his ignorant pooh-poohing of the international consensus on the threat of climate destabilization through excess CO2 emissions. These actions effectively doom our children to a horrific future of sea-level rise and worldwide ecological collapse—but obviously, Trump does not care.
We cannot hope to educate him, so we all must resist, making our representatives’ tenure in office entirely dependent on their total rejection of Trump’s budget.
Thomas I. Ellis,

Hampton, VA

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Permaculture and/or the Deluge


I just viewed a very recent (2016) and sobering address by Geoff Lawton, the charismatic, internationally known teacher and proponent of Permaculture, who has traveled the world over the last 25 years, teaching and demonstrating Permaculture design principles and techniques with astounding successes in every imaginable climate and bioregion--even in the parched deserts of Jordan. (See Greening the Desert)

His address was given at this year's International Permaculture Conference in London, and in stark contrast to his usual ebullient enthusiasm, his tone in this latest address is quite melancholy--a clear and sad assessment of the desperate and disintegrative state of our global ecosystems---but it is not hopeless. He clearly sees, as I now do, that Permaculture design has the potential for being our last, best hope for propagating the spontaneous remission of the Cancer of the Earth--the next phase of human evolution, into a symbiotic, rather than parasitic, relationship to the Biosphere. He points out, however, that less than .01% of humanity has ever heard of Permaculture.

Should we therefore be discouraged, and simply give up? Never!  In times of encroaching darkness, such as now, with the global corporate oligarchy on the verge of taking over completely and destroying the last vestiges of real democracy under a neofascist Trump regime, I often contemplate this poem by the pious 17th Century Anglican divine, George Herbert:

Vertue.

Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridall of the earth and skie:
The dew shall weep thy fall to night;
                                    For thou must die.

Sweet rose, whose hue angrie and brave
Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye:
Thy root is ever in its grave
                                    And thou must die.

Sweet spring, full of sweet dayes and roses,
A box where sweets compacted lie;
My musick shows ye have your closes,1
                                    And all must die.

Onely a sweet and vertuous soul,
Like season’d timber, never gives;
But though the whole world turn to coal,
                                    Then chiefly lives.


  Herbert was, of course, a devout Christian, whose hope in the face of impermanence lay vested in the Afterlife, beyond even Judgment Day when the "whole world" would "turn to coal"  But the poem has resonance for me nevertheless, even as, in another sense, the world is "turning to coal" due to Trump's renewed and enthusiastic embrace of fossil fuels, climate be damned.

The resonance derives from the image of a "sweet and vertuous soul" as being resilient, like "seasoned timber."  And that, I think, is the key. If all hell breaks loose, whether from accelerating climate catastrophes, tyrannical crackdowns on dissent, global nuclear conflict, economic collapse, swarms of refugees, religious fanaticism, and roving bands of brutal and predatory marauders, those who have quietly mastered the arts of permaculture--growing regenerative gardens, restoring damaged ecosystems, exchanging skills, designing for the long term, and building community--will still be better off than everyone else, still be able to share their abundance with those in need and propagate their skills. Even if we are only .01 per cent of the population, if a handful of seeds survives a forest fire, they can still regenerate the forest.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Diamond in our Minds

After the Catastrophe—that is the election of Donald Trump on November 8—as I joined most of the rest of the (sane) world in paroxysms of dread and despair, I found myself again and again singing a refrain from a song by Tom Waits:

Always keep a Diamond in your mind;
Always keep a Diamond in your mind;
Wherever you may wander, wherever you may roam,
You’ve got to Always keep a Diamond in your mind…

Somehow, I find this refrain very healing, a kind of mantra, whenever the next horrid headline afflicts me with waves of dread about the future. But what is this “Diamond in your mind”?

In Buddhism, the Diamond Sutra is one of the essential Prajnaparamita sutras of the Pali Canon. In his translation and commentary on this sutra, Thich Nhat Hanh refers to it as “the Diamond that cuts through illusion.” It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to explain what this is “Diamond” is, for it is inherently paradoxical; it refers to the ultimate insight that “this is because that is,” from which we may logically deduce that neither “this” nor “that” has any intrinsic existence. But this paradoxical way of thinking is likely to be too abstruse to be of much comfort to most of us.

Another way of thinking about the Diamond in our minds is to consider the physical characteristics of diamonds themselves.  They are the hardest known substance; they can cut through anything else. This is why this ultimate insight in the Sutra is compared to a diamond (Vajra). In this sense, it is cutting through all the illusions that keep us bound to Samsara, bound to the wheel of suffering that we create when we assume (1) that things have separate existence from each other, and (2) that we ourselves have a separate identity from others.

The first delusion is relatively easy to penetrate intellectually; we can readily understand, for example, that without topsoil, oxygenated air, solar energy, fresh water, and inherited genetic information, we would not have any flowers, trees, insects, or even people. But the second—the delusion of a separate self—is deeply ingrained in both our biology and our consciousness, and hence we are emotionally attached to it as well.

It is a lot harder, therefore, for us to be able to look at Donald Trump and see ourselves in him, and him in us—to see that there is, in reality, no separation between ourselves and everyone else. Yet we affirm this connection every time we take a breath, exchanging CO2 for oxygen, as trees inhale CO2 and yield oxygen again, and that oxygen in turn is breathed by everyone else—even Donald Trump—becoming incorporated into his metabolism in the same way it was in ours. 

And this delusion of separateness that I share with Trump (though not, I hope, to that extreme!) and everyone else is the source of all the suffering on the planet: our shared ignorance gives rise to greed, which gives rise to hatred, denial, and despair.

But again, because it is so hard emotionally to let go of this delusion of separate self, there are other, more palatable ways of conceptualizing the Diamond that could be shared with those, like my students, who know nothing of arcane Buddhist doctrine, and may inhabit a mindset informed by Christianity, Islam, or Judaism, or indeed no religious affiliation at all.

For example, a Christian may wish to conceptualize the Diamond in his or her mind as the Holy Spirit or Grace—the indwelling of the Divine or Christ Within, a Jew will conceptualize it as JHVH, the One True G-d, while a Muslim will naturally conceive it as Allah.  Whatever religious language they wish to use, the important thing is that the Diamond is, as Stephen Gaskin used to say, “the highest and holiest part of ourselves,” however we label it.

                The important thing about the Diamond metaphor, again, is that diamonds are indestructible. If like me you are a Gaian—that is, if you adhere to both science and the insight of William Blake that “Everything that lives is holy,” you also might consider the fact that diamonds are pure carbon—an opaque, pure black element that is the very basis of organic life, which, when concentrated and reorganized into a tight molecular lattice, turns clear and brilliant, capturing and refracting light. That is an apt metaphor as well—that a Diamond is the stuff of life itself, concentrated into its purest form.


So for practical purposes, we may contemplate the Diamond in our minds as the very essence of who we are, the essence we share with all other living things, and with the entire Cosmos. And in times of political oppression and social disintegration, as we are likely to see in the coming years under this egomaniacal despot, it is very healthy to keep in touch with the Diamond in our minds, however we conceive it.  

 If we practice the Buddhist discipline of Tonglen—giving and taking—we can visualize the Diamond in our minds as that which, 
  • on the inbreath, takes in all the darkness--our suffering due to Ignorance, Greed, Hatred, Denial, and Despair--which we feel in ourselves and see all around us, and 
  • on the outbreath. transforms it into the radiant, healing energy of Benevolence, Compassion, Shared Joy, and Equanimity, sent out freely to our suffering selves, our loved ones, our acquaintances, those we don't know, our enemies, all people, all of life...


Saturday, December 3, 2016

A message to my students


Since this is my last year of teaching at TCC before my retirement in May, this seems like a good time to leave a farewell message to all my students, past and present.

Dear Students,

As you all know, our collective future prospects have recently taken a wrenching turn for the worst, with the election to the Presidency of a clownish, boorish, cruel, pathologically narcissistic demagogue--a man whose elevation to this position of unimaginable power and prestige has traumatized the entire world community. This means, of course, that the brighter future for which you are all preparing through your education may never come to pass; instead, we appear headed into a long dark night of neofascist bigotry and violence, especially toward minorities; corporate domination of all branches of government; and the vindictive use of unprecedented surveillance to seek out and punish or brutalize all who resist or speak out against his agenda. The horrific possibilities boggle the imagination, as his daily capricious actions and tweets--and his appointments of thuggish yes-men and corporate cronies to positions of power--bring us wave after wave of dread...

So how will we cope? I first wish to refer you to a superb, though sobering, article by Bill McKibben: "How the Active Many can Overcome the Ruthless Few."

McKibben pulls no punches in laying out the terrifying details of accelerating climate change, and he stresses that our window of opportunity is steadily closing for redirecting our collective course away from global catastrophe.

And yet, in the final paragraphs, he gives us some hope, by paying tribute to the grand 20th Century tradition of Satyagraha, Mahatma Gandhi's brilliant principles and techniques for collective nonviolent resistance to evil and oppression.  He then cites many of the Bodhisattvas who have followed in Gandhi's footsteps, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Thich Nhat Hanh, Wangari Maathai,  Aung San Soo Kyi, and Vandana Shiva. His point is that such massive nonviolent resistance techniques are the only sure way to curb the abuses of corporate and state power. They do this, above all, by changing the terms of the debate.

For example, even though the Occupy protesters were crushed by massive police power in the service of corporate interests, they changed the conversation by introducing the concepts of the 1% and 99% into public discourse, and thus brought to light the criminality of the banksters and the obscene gap between the billionaire class and all the rest of us; this widespread awareness of systemic corruption and injustice in turn enabled Bernie Sanders to mobilize massive support, while at the same time, it enabled Trump to exploit the same reservoir of widespread resentment and discontent for his own pseudo-populist agenda, by directing it against scapegoats (i.e. minorities and immigrants) rather than against the super-rich (like himself and his cronies).

I am not saying, of course, that we should all hit the streets, wave protest signs, or get tear-gassed, tasered, or arrested for trespassing. Public protest and voluntary suffering are tools, but to be effective, they must be strategically planned for greatest effect. And as protests increase in frequency, the corporate media pay less and less attention to them (unless they turn violent--only then do they see it as newsworthy). There are many other, subtler ways to practice Satyagraha. In fact, Gandhi divided Satyagraha practices into three categories:

  • Ahimsa (righteous nonviolence--refusing to stoop to the level of our aggressors);
  • Satya (speaking truth to power)
  • Swaraj (cultivating self-rule and self-reliance).
While Ahimsa requires the kind of moral courage and discipline shown by those on the front line, such as the Civil Rights marchers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge or today's Native Americans at Standing Rock, most of us lack the inner fortitude to stand our ground in the face of brutality without either running away or lashing out violently in turn. For such people--the majority for the most part--the latter two strategies remain open.

Satya means speaking truth to power, and doing so mindfully, strategically, and relentlessly. This can be done by writing Op Eds or letters to the editor, or by speaking out at city council meetings or public hearings. You have considerably more clout from writing a well-crafted letter to the editor than from being a face in a crowd at a mass demonstration that is likely to be ignored by the media and contained or brutalized by riot police. So this is an acceptable and very effective choice for the great majority of us who have no stomach for martyrdom.

Finally, Swaraj is for everyone, even if you are neither brave nor articulate. Its root meaning in Sanskrit is "self-rule," and it originally referred to the colonized Indians' quest for self-government and freedom from British colonial rule. But Gandhi extended the definition to include both "self-control" and "self-reliance." Its symbol was the Spinning Wheel, so chosen both because it is a symbol for the eightfold Wheel of Dharma (referring, of course, to self-mastery), but also because it was a literal means by which Indian peasants could declare economic independence from the British Empire, simply by spinning cotton cloth to make their own clothing.  In our time, Swaraj can be divided into three broad categories:

  • Good Buy: assuming responsibility for the social and ecological effects of the money you spend. This means, before buying anything, to ask three kinds of questions: (1) Where is the money for this going? (2) What am I getting in return for it? Is it useful or addictive? (3) Does this product constitute a responsible use of the Earth's resources? 
  • Good Work: assuming responsibility for the social and ecological effects of your choice of livelihood. To what extent is it Work (doing what you know best for the best interests of yourself, your community, and your planet--learning, teaching, healing, or creating) or Slavery (serving the interests of your own or others' greed, ignorance, or denial; working for "the man" in return for nothing more than a paycheck).
  • Good Will:  Taking care of everyone and everything, and abandoning no one and nothing. Making this an asymptotic goal in all of your relations with others and with your world. Cultivating benevolence, compassion, selfless joy, and equanimity.
It is in this way that Satyagraha connects to the other two essential disciplines: Tonglen and Permaculture. Let's consider these briefly:

  • Tonglen: in order to achieve Ahimsa, to become truly nonviolent, to root out hatred (which is the enemy within, along with denial and despair), one must learn to cultivate compassion for everyone, perpetrators and victims alike. This is difficult, but the Tibetan practice of Tonglen meditation is a powerful training technique for cultivating Ahimsa. It consists of engaging your imagination on the breath:  breathing in suffering, both the outer suffering for the victims and the inner suffering that gives rise to the violence of the perpetrators, and breathing out healing, relief, and inner peace, both to the victims and the perpetrators--along with a prayer that the latter see the light and abandon their violence (as many sheriffs and other police have already, resigning rather than brutalizing the Native Americans at Standing Rock). It takes practice, of course, but as it becomes habitual, you can use it on yourself (when something fills you with rage and despair, just breath it in to the Diamond in your mind, and breathe out inner peace, firm resolution, and equanimity)--but also do "Tonglen on the spot" with anyone else you see or anyone whose suffering enters into your consciousness. For an excellent discussion of Tonglen,  see this article by Pema Chodron
  • Permaculture: In the same way that Tonglen practice enables us to practice Ahimsa--to confront and resist evil without violence or hatred--so Permaculture is the fruition of Swaraj; it involves creating a whole new, ecologically harmonious culture from the ground up, according to tried and true principles. If you are interested in learning more about Permaculture, there is an excellent short online course at Oregon State University, available on Youtube at this address




Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Green Tara manifests...



In Tibetan Buddhism, Tara is a Tantric meditation deity, a mythic female bodhisattva, who is a metaphor for Buddhist virtues, to be envisioned and contemplated by practitioners as a way of internalizing and strengthening these virtues. Tara manifests in many forms, each reflecting different characteristics of enlightenment and each associated with a color reflected in her iconography: White Tara, Red Tara, Yellow Tara, and Green Tara.

The latter, Green Tara, is the bodhisattva of enlightened action. In her iconography, she is characterized as lifting up one leg as if to step down from her Lotus cushion in order to take action in an afflicted world--to do what needs to be done in the face of injustice, cruelty, and Adharma.




How apt it is then, that out of the courageous standoff of the Native American water protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota, and the brutal response of the hired thugs to their nonviolent bearing of witness, a spokesperson has emerged who is named Tara--I see her as an incarnation of Green Tara, the Bodhisattva of enlightened action on behalf of our living Earth.


Tara Houska is a Gaian goddess and bodhsattva, a highly articulate, pure-hearted, and inwardly and outwardly beautiful young Native American woman, who was just arrested and brutalized in North Dakota. Her story of being hog-tied, strip-searched,and thrown in a kennel by these fascist thugs has filled me with blinding, sputtering rage, which I am now trying to breathe and observe, so that I can channel it into mindful, strategic, and relentless action against Trump and all the other corporate fascists...wish me luck, and let us all say a prayer for Tara and her incredibly courageous people in North Dakota.



Her mantra is

Oṃ Tāre Tuttāre Ture Svāhā / Om Tare Tuttare Ture Svaha

But if mantras don't work for you, simply practice Tonglen:

Breathe in, and take upon yourself, the horrific suffering now being inflicted on Tara and her people.

Breathe out, from the diamond in your mind, compassion, relief, and a good hot meal to her and the courageous people she represents on the front line.

And then, like Green Tara, get off your cushion and take action that is mindful, strategic, and relentless against Trump, against this corporation and their hired thugs, and against all who would put their own profits before the health and future of our sacred planet.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Only Castles Burning


Catherine Larson is a long-time friend of mine from my earlier life in Oregon. She has been paralyzed from the neck down since she was 15 (and is now over 60), but her disability has never prevented her from leading a culturally rich, politically active life. She is one of the most resilient and amazing people I have ever had the privilege to know, and--like all of us--she was devastated by the Trump catastrophe.  So here is a letter I wrote her this morning, that I thought I'd share with you...

Hi, Catherine--

I was never much of a Neil Young fan, but this song was in my head as I awoke this morning:


"Don't let it bring you down; it's only castles burning/Find someone who's turning, and you will come around..."

The castles are burning indeed. This flaming asshole lunatic Trump has already surrounded himself with thuggish yes-men (e.g. Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani) who will pander to his worst instincts and block all counsel from wiser souls, and the upshot is, the entire fragile global order of diplomacy, trade, and alliances will collapse into tribal, xenophobic nation states as the global economy goes down the toilet.  Wars will follow soon enough thereafter, coupled with internal strife, unrest, and violence at a level of intensity that no one can yet imagine.  Our global industrial civilization is finished. Kaput. The collapse will be slow and painful, but gaining speed and momentum as one system of checks and balances after another fails.

Unfortunately, the burning castles will also bring down much of their foundation--our biological support system--as the voracious fossil fuel industry, given carte blanche by the Trump regime and their clueless accolytes in the vicious, bought-out Republikan congress, rides roughshod over environmental regulations and local opposition to drill, frack, blow up mountains, and string pipelines over public lands and rivers everywhere, defacing and polluting the planet...

I wish I could be more optimistic, but quite frankly, I think we are fucked.

What now? "Find someone who's turning, and you will come around..."

For me, the broader view is this: Global industrial civilization was doomed anyway by the fact that its major premise--the maximizing logic of money ("more is better")--makes it a cancer on the Earth, and cancer, by definition, in devouring its biological support system, necessarily destroys itself sooner or later. The election of Trump is simply the trigger--the efficient cause--of a global collapse for which both the material and formal causes were already in place and primed: the upward concentration of wealth, our addiction to fossil fuels, and our culture of rampant greed and consumerism ("you are what you own")  All these premises of Glomart culture are radically at odds with the operating principles of Gaia: Enough is enough, you are what you do, and value inheres in relationship and interconnectedness.

So Glomart has been doomed for quite some while--all it needed was a triggering device, and there is no more effective trigger than a clueless, cruel, narcissistic blowhard taking over the show. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

The question now, of course, is--what do we do? Here is my short answer:

To survive the collapse, and prepare the groundwork for a life-affirming Gaian culture to arise, phoenix-like, from ashes of Glomart, we need to cultivate and propagate three essential disciplines:

Tonglen--the discipline of cultivating insight and compassion, on the breath, for ourselves and for all other living beings, on a regular basis, in order to develop the resilience, compassion, and equanimity for...

Satyagraha--we need to stand up to, and neutralize,  the violence of Trump's Amerika and of Glomart generally against people and the planet by practicing and organizing nonviolent noncooperation with evil that is mindful, strategic, and relentless. That means studying and emulating the lives and work of Gandhi, King, Mandela, Wangari Maathai, Vandana Shiva, and all other such valiant and charismatic Gaian warriors. But Satyagraha also involves unplugging from the Glomart money machine by cultivating self-rule and self-reliance, which Gandhi called "swaraj." And the best technique for this that I know is the study and practice of...

Permaculture--the discipline and skills needed to create a Gaian culture literally from the ground up, by growing gardens, growing community, and sharing knowledge and skills, in keeping with the three Permaculture ethics of Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share.

May Gaia rise, phoenix-like, from the burning castles of Glomart!

Much love,

Thomas

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Spontaneous Remission, Step by step


As most of us who are honest with ourselves already know, the world we have known is going to hell in a handbasket--environmentally, economically, and politically. The great unraveling has already begun (e.g. "Brexit," the rise of toxic nationalism and xenophobia throughout Europe and the Americas, and the rise of ISIS and other forms of toxic fundamentalism and sectarian violence through the war-torn Middle East, the acceleration of global climate disruption and its horrific consequences, failed states that have collapsed into chaos and violence, etc. etc.). It is bound to continue, accelerating as civil society disintegrates, and the symptoms of breakdown--craziness, terrorism, tribalism, old and new hatreds, poisonous cynicism, etc.--continue to be amplified and broadcast nightly by mass media and the Internet. Not a pretty picture.

But in systemic and ecological terms, this is the inevitable overshoot and collapse that is bound to result from a cancerous system rooted ultimately in the runaway, self-accelerating feedback loop: the Agricultural revolution,  dramatically accelerated by the Industrial Revolution (i.e. more and faster food leading to rapid population growth leading to the need to convert more diverse ecosystems into grain-based monocultures and the need for imperial conquest to seize yet more land and labor to drive the process). We stand now at the climax of this runaway loop--a planet that has been used up, and can no longer support the endless growth of production and consumption upon which the global tumor of industrial expansion depends. From here, there is no escape, it seems, from the hellish chaos of overshoot and collapse that has already started.

Or is there? As I continually tell my students, cancer has only two possible outcomes--death (systemic collapse) or spontaneous remission. The first is, of course, the most likely by far--there is no getting around that.  But the latter can and does happen, when somehow the cancerous cells "wake up" and are able to process, and act upon, the biochemical information that has hitherto been blocked--that they are, in fact, a part of the system they are consuming as a "resource" for their own self-accelerating expansion (the body). Whereupon they accordingly shrink back spontaneously and once again become functional elements within that system.  We don't know how this happens--we only know that it does.

So is it possible for the Cancer of the Earth--the global market economy and the social and cultural premises that support it--to go into spontaneous remission?  For years, my rather feeble short answer has been "I hope so."  But now I am more optimistic, for I have discovered a viable mechanism which, if propagated effectively, could conceivably trigger the spontaneous remission of our global cancer.

That mechanism is called the Permaculture movement. It is more viable than any of the myriad other ecovisionary ideas I have seen over the years because it is theoretically rigorous (based on systems theory), non-ideological (i.e. there is nothing you need to "believe" or commit to philosophically that cannot be proven scientifically and demonstrated in practice) yet eminently pragmatic, teachable, scalable (from homes and backyards to whole farms, communities, cities or states), adaptable to any and all bioregions, open to, and encouraging of, continuous feedback and innovation, and consistently proven viable in practice.  Sound too good to be true? Check out this hour-and-a quarter introductory video by Geoff Lawton, the charismatic Australian permaculture teacher who has now gained a global following, as he lays out the basic design principles, and shows how well they work in practice. It is no wonder that the Permaculture movement has now spread around the world, although--for obvious reasons--it is well below the radar of Glomart media.

Having immersed myself in Permaculture theory this past year, I am more and more convinced that it is the master key to spontaneous remission of our global cancer. The challenge is, of course, in how to propagate this brilliant, adaptable, scalable, and innovative way of thinking, designing, and practice--before it is too late.

Here is one possible approach.

Imagine...

--we convene our own circle of students or anyone else interested. I will call mine "Dharma Gaia Circle," of course, reflecting my own interest in the deep connection between Buddhist practice and ecological thinking and action. But Christians could call theirs "Mustardseed Circles" and Jews could call theirs "Tikkun Circles," for example. ) We then predicate the circle on cultivating, in ourselves and others, practices that promote the health, competence, and resilience of ourselves, our communities, and our planet.

--In my Dharma Gaia circle, I would focus the efforts of the circle on three interrelated disciplines: Tonglen, Satyagraha, and Permaculture:

1. Tonglen--starting with basic meditation and advancing to the active cultivation of compassion or Ahimsa.
2. Satyagraha--the integration of the three Gandhian disciplines--Ahimsa, Satya, and Swaraj--as our tool for promoting the values of compassion, truthfulness, and self-reliance among our peers, and taking strategic, nonviolent action against all forms of evil and oppression.
3. Permaculture--the deliberate cultivation of self-reliance, coupled with ecological responsibility (Earth Care), social compassion (People Care), and redistributing the surplus (Fair Share).

My idea is that the teaching and propagation of meditation practice, beginning with the basic practice of breathing, observing, and letting go, could form a solid and proven foundation of the self-healing which is the essential prerequsite to nonviolent noncooperation with evil (Satyagraha) and creating an adaptive, compassionate, and ecologically intelligent new culture from the ground up (Permaculture) to displace the cancerous Glomart culture as it goes into convulsions and collapses all around us. Christians could employ their own approaches, along the same lines, to what Martin Luther King called "self-purification."


--In this way, we all would integrate Vertical Healing (of body, mind, and spirit) with Horizontal Healing (self-community, planet),  based on what I call the Gaian Categorical Imperative: to assume responsibility for the health, competence, and resilience of ourselves, our communities, and our planet simultaneously.

So be it.