Inspired by Standing Rock as the Fires Rage

Part of the “Showing up for the Planet” series

Where do we look for solace and inspiration as natural and political disasters unfold around us? The dharma is our basic refuge, a deep and rich source of wisdom and practices to help keep us steady. Our closest communities are another essential source of support, “islands of sanity in a sea of chaos.” So, too, we can be inspired by heroic acts, people standing up to defend and protect themselves from exploitation and injustice.

In this video, as she packs her car to be ready to evacuate from the fires in northern California, Thanissara recalls the powerful impact of the solidarity and bravery she experienced as part of the Standing Rock protests in 2016. This historic act of resistance brought together Indigenous Nations from all over North America, First Nations peoples from South America and New Zealand, and other allies, including over two thousand military veterans, to stand with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in defending their sacred water. The spirit of Standing Rock continues to sustain her as the world grows more uncertain around us.

A transcript of this video can be found on Thanissara’s blog.

This talk was excerpted from Showing Up for the Planet, a daylong program on August 22 hosted by Marin Sangha. Speakers in addition to Thanissara included James Baraz, Kritee, Donald Rothberg, Teja Bell, Kristin Barker, and Eve Decker.

Selected Quotes

I’m aware I’m now breathing in incinerated trees, foliage, creatures, small animals, maybe large ones too, redwoods, buildings, structures, cars, maybe even some people.

At Standing Rock, the heart was stripped down to its essential rawness. In place of socialisation strategies, what arose was strength of authenticity, of sharing, of camaraderie, and a wonder at the resilience of human beings rising up.

The lines are drawn, internally and externally, and the fight for nature, for existence in all its astonishing diversity, is on. The question is what will our response and contribution be?


Thanissara trained as a monastic in the Ajahn Chah Forest Tradition for 12 years. She’s led retreats since 1988, and co-founded Dharmagiri in South Africa and Sacred Mountain Sangha based in California. She has an MA in Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy from the UK, and is author of several books, including Time to Stand Up: An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth — The Buddha’s Life and Message through Feminine Eyes.

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