Once again, this will involve the integration of Vertical (Body-Mind-Spirit) and Horizontal (Self-Community-Planet) healing modalities. For unless we are vertically healed, our horizontal healing of our communities and planet--whether through political activism, technological innovation, marketing strategies for renewable and sustainable alternatives, or public education efforts--will backfire into rage, despair, and frustration. We therefore need practices that will sustain us regardless of the outcomes of our efforts. This is the basic discipline that Gandhi describes, drawing on the Baghavad Gita, as "renunciation of the fruits of action." As Elizabeth Roberts concludes in her superb article, "Gaian Buddhism," (from the anthology Dharma Gaia: A Harvest of Essays in Buddhism and Ecology , ed. Allen Hunt Badiner, Parallax Press 1990):
"Gaian Buddhism is radical and decisive. Through it we invert our instinctive Western hierarchy of value wherein contemplation and silence are seen as of lesser value. While our environmental actions may be turned aside from their purpose or taken over by the milieu in which they occur, our practice cannot be taken over. It attains its goal because it is its goal. It brings an end to living in front of things and a beginning to truly living with them."
(This fine article, unfortunately, cannot yet be found on the Web.)
That said, I wish to share with you my own brief guide to Spontaneous Remission of the Cancer of the Earth, with my Dharma Gaia Mantra as its foundation and plumline:
PRINCIPLE: Begin by contemplating the Universal Dharma, as expressed in every wisdom tradition on Earth. My own favorite formulation of the Universal Dharma is from Martin Luther King:
"We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
Never forget this; it is your key to understanding everyone and everything.
PRECEPT: This understanding translates inevitably into a basic ethical precept, again common to all the wisdom traditions on the planet. My favorite formulation is that of Lao Tzu:
"Take care of everyone, and abandon no one; Take care of everything, and abandon nothing."
Revisit this precept often as well, thinking of it as an asymptotic goal for which you continually strive, in your relations to all others ("everyone") and to the Earth ("everything")
PRACTICE: The following ten verb phrases, which I have come to call the "Dharma Gaia Mantra," are simply reminders, intended through mindful repetition to keep us on track from moment to moment and day to day as healing agents for our planet:
I.VERTICAL HEALING: This is our starting point, which we may revisit as often as necessary. If we are to become effective agents of Gaian healing, we must start with ourselves.
- Breathe, Observe, Let Go: This basic formula for meditation and mindfulness is always our starting point--something we can do at any time, in any circumstances, to restore the equanimity necessary to make any wise decisions.
- Be Well--Renew your vow, each day and moment as necessary, to take care of your own body, mind, and spirit--for your body is a microcosm of Gaia, your mind, Her mind, and your spirit, Her spirit. So eat healthy food, get exercise, relax when stressed, and observe and let go of afflictive emotions such as anger, greed, or lust as they arise. Make Wellness an ongoing practice, as a foundation for everything you do.
II. VERTICAL and HORIZONTAL HEALING: These injunctions are for the points where our personal practice connects with, and manifests in, those around us. They involve, above all, assuming full responsibility for the social and ecological consequences of our personal behavior and decisions.
- Do Good Work: This discipline refers first to what Buddhists call "Right Livelihood"--to seek a way of making a living that does not contradict, but enhances, our Gaian healing mission. A simple guide is that Good Work normally consists of learning, teaching, healing, and/or creating. It is doing what you are best at, to promote the health, competence, and resilience of yourself, your community, and our planet simultaneously.
- Keep in Touch: This is simply another way of saying "Take care of everyone, and abandon no one"--starting with yourself, and radiating outward to those you love, those you know well, complete strangers, and finally those you are inclined to resent or despise. Tibetans have a powerful discipline to practice keeping in touch, called "Tonglen"
III. HORIZONTAL HEALING: This is how we can manifest our personal healing in actions that directly and beneficially affect our communities and planet.
- Learn Gaia. To teach anything, we need to learn it first. Therefore, our first efforts should be to learn to think and act like a Gaian. I know of no better approach to this than the discipline of Permaculture--which combines both ethical and practical principles for design, with a firm foundation in ecological and systemic awareness, for healing first our households and backyards, then our neighborhoods, then our communities and farms, and finally our landscapes and bioregions, expanding out to include the entire planet. The outcome is the restoration of human intelligence to its proper role as an agent of Gaia--of sustaining the conditions that in turn sustain life, both our own and all other species.
- Teach Gaia. The next step, of course, is to incorporate Gaian understanding--that is, promoting the health, competence, and resilience of ourselves, our communities, and Gaia--into everything we teach. But more specifically, it involves modeling, disseminating, and teaching the principles of Permaculture wherever and however we can to those with whom we have any influence.
- Heal Gaia. While all our efforts at practicing and disseminating Permaculture will heal Gaia at the local level, the larger, urgent political problem still remains: Glomart rules, and has already hijacked our democracy, and is doing its best to colonize our minds with corporate-sponsored distractions such as "news" and advertising, and to suppress information about anything (like Permaculture) that would threaten their hegemony. We cannot simply ignore Glomart--we must confront it in every way we can, by practicing the principles of Satyagraha established by Gandhi and practiced by such Gaian Bodhisattvas as King, Mandela, Wangari Maathai, and Vandana Shiva. Those principles, in brief, consist of Ahimsa (doing no harm--total resolute nonviolence, or resistance without hatred), Satya (Speaking truth to power), and Swaraj (Self-reliance, self-rule--and Permaculture is an excellent path to Swaraj). The other important feature of Satyagraha is that, while it may encounter setbacks, it can never actually be defeated, for it is rooted in the Dharma. Satyagraha actions should therefore always be mindful, strategic, and relentless.
- Create Gaia. This refers to any and all of our efforts to model and disseminate a Gaian way of life, through the arts, through educational efforts, through sustainable commerce, and of course, through Permaculture.
So to the exact extent we each, in our own way, and in accord with our own talents and disposition, practice and inhabit these Dharma Gaia injunctions, we can still bring about Spontaneous Remission of the Cancer of the Earth. So you can start right now, by focusing on each of these injunctions on ten long breaths. If you are more ambitious, try thirty breaths: on the first ten, contemplate the importance of each injunction; next simply practice them mindfully in the present moment, and finally for each, vow to continue doing so.
Reclaim the Moment: Breathe, Observe, Let Go.
Reclaim the Day: Be Well, Do Good Work, Keep in Touch.
Reclaim our lives, and our unique and irreplaceable planet: Learn Gaia, Teach Gaia, Heal Gaia, and Create Gaia.