Facing Climate Change with Heart

In the heart practice below, Sister Jewel from the Order of Interbeing offers a way to hold the inherent complexities of awakening to climate change. We invite you to use this as a contemplation for your personal meditation and to practice it together with those you consider your sangha.


Photo by Agatha Lee

This summer, I was sitting quietly at the edge of a field, and it suddenly hit me that throughout my 40 years I have inadvertently been contributing to our planetary crisis, just by being part of this society. It was very sobering to reflect on all the items I have consumed from birth—food, water, electricity, heating, air conditioning, clothing, possessions, media, transportation, and more—and the reality that so many of these things were produced, used, and disposed of in ways harmful to the environment. I had never before seen my role in our ecological crisis so personally and concretely.

Yet I am also continuously struck by how much possibility exists for transformation of our species and our planet at this moment of crisis. As convincingly argued by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone in Active Hope, we do have the means to turn away from our destructive course, and many people all over the world—including you, the reader!—are already manifesting just and sustainable ways of life with great courage and innovation.

I offer this guided meditation as a practice for awakening to both the crisis and the great potential for transformation.

—Sr. Jewel, January 2015

Breathing in, I open to my feelings in response to the climate crisis.
Breathing out, I allow these feelings to be here, whatever they are.

In: Opening to my feelings
Out: Allowing my feelings

Breathing in, I tenderly hold the suffering in me in response to the climate crisis.
Breathing out, I tenderly hold the collective suffering, including that of the earth.

In: Holding suffering in me
Out: Holding suffering of others

Breathing in, I am aware of the many animal and plant species now threatened with extinction.
Breathing out, I am aware of the growing threat to human health and safety.

In: Species threatened with extinction
Out: Humans also threatened

Breathing in, I look deeply to see how I have contributed to our global crisis.
Breathing out, I see the individual and collective ignorance at the root of this destruction.

In: My contribution to the crisis
Out: Ignorance at its root

Breathing in, I allow myself to feel sorrow and regret for my own harm and the collective harm .
Breathing out, I ask the Great Mother Earth and the Buddha in me for forgiveness and understanding.

In: Embracing my regret
Out: Forgiveness and understanding

Breathing in, I know I am also part of the solution, and I can contribute to sustainability and social justice.
Breathing out, I see the individual and collective awakening happening all over the world.

In: I can contribute to healing
Out: Collective awakening is happening

Breathing in, I open to what I truly, deeply long for in my own life and in the world.
Breathing out, I commit to making concrete steps in my daily life to manifest this reality.

In: Touching deep aspiration
Out: Concrete, daily steps to realize it


Sister Jewel (Chan Chau Nghiem) grew up in the US and Kenya, in an intentional community that practiced simple living and engaged in village development projects worldwide. She remembers contests with the other children on who could use the least amount of water for bathing. She was ordained as a nun by Thích Nhất Hạnh in 1999. She will spend the first half of 2015 teaching mindfulness courses at Schumacher College in the UK, an environmental college for graduate students, and then lead mindfulness retreats in Europe and the US.

One Comment on “Facing Climate Change with Heart

  1. O Bodhisattvas!

    Please help!

    One thing in every Bodhisattva’s practice these days stands out: no matter how hard we practice, so that all beings (all beings without an exception) benefit, the conditions for life in this world continue to deteriorate at ever increasing pace.

    What can be going wrong? Why isn’t the quality of life for all beings here and now improving?

    The reason that things in this world generally are going from bad to worse is that we don’t have a clear idea, a clear thought in our minds of how should all life in this world be accommodated optimally, so that all beings exist in harmony with all others.

    Due to our working towards different objectives (because there is no clearly defined, collectively held idea of what this world should be like at its optimum), there is no chance for conditions for all life here and now to become optimal ever.

    What needs to be done is that we all agree on what actually the optimal conditions for all life on Earth should be. Then, while we work towards the same, by all of us agreed upon goal, not anymore sorting out our differences in real life (which is very costly in time, resources, and lives), we stand a much better chance of seeing the tide turning, and seeing the conditions for all life on Earth starting, actually, improving!

    That all beings (all beings with no exceptions) benefit optimally fully here and now is very important, because here and now is forever in all three times and all directions of space. If all beings don’t benefit by our actions here and now, they never will. Here and now is all we have ever. All beings have to benefit fully here and now!

    Bodhisattvas! What kind of a world should the Earth be to accommodate all life optimally? How shall we unify, harmonize all our individual ideas about what this world should be like ideally so that we all work towards one clearly defined objective?

    Some ideas how this could be done are presented at http://www.ModelEarth.Org .

    May all differences, all controversies, all conflicts, and all complaints that there are in this world among all beings be resolved peacefully without any delays! May all these be prevented from ever arising by using what-so-ever expedient, skillful, effective, appropriate, and wholesome means! May this come to pass by the power of all true Bodhisattvas ever merit!

    !OmManiPadmeHum! – a meditation that focuses on establishing harmony across the whole spectrum of all life.

    May all beings, without an exception, benefit to the utmost by this action in all ways possible, spiritually and materially alike, starting with all beings that there are here and now.

    May humans voluntarily become fully and truly forever transparently sustainable for their own good and for the benefit of all beings!

    May the Great Enlightenment start happening here and now, or else it will never happen!


    Creating Lasting Peace- http://www.ModelEarth.Org/peace.html

    Mahayana: Philosophy for Sustainability- http://www.ModelEarth.Org/mahaecosoc.html

    Why Prayers, Meditations, Wishes, and Any Such Don’t Help to Establish a Lasting Peace in the World- http://www.ModelEarth.Org/praypeace.html

    This Paradise Earth: Philosophy in Practice http://www.ModelEarth.Org/paradise.html

    Thank you, Mr. Jan Hearthstone – http://www.ModelEarth.Org .

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