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Lessons from a Solstice

June EcoDharma Exploration

This EcoDharma Exploration featuring Adam Lobel, Michelle King, and Fitzhugh Shaw took place in June 2021. Find the recordings and other resources below.

The heat of our warming biosphere invites varied and dynamic responses. When we’re connected to natural seasons and cycles, we can see this more clearly. Earth’s dynamism is seasonal and responsive—this seasonal transformation is constantly teaching us as we negotiate within ecosystems. We are part of a cosmic diplomacy.

We don’t need fixed answers to ecological problems. We don’t need to cling to hope, or live in fear. We don’t need one solid truth about activism, spirituality, or healing. Instead, like the seasons, we can discover an agility and wild diversity in our ecological awareness and action. In the summer we might blaze. In the autumn we may feast and celebrate. In the winter we might rest or go dormant. In the spring we may begin to create. Though capitalism and colonialism tend towards constant productivity and profit, it remains possible to rest and move seasonally.

Adam Lobel served as a teacher (acharya) in the Shambhala tradition from 2005-2018; he designed the curriculum and trained teachers for the international Shambhala meditation centers. A speaker on ecology and spirituality at the United Nations, he was part of the first delegation of Buddhist teachers invited to the White House under President Obama. He leads ecodharma workshops called “Silent Transformations,” has taught in the Ecosattva Training, is a Greenfaith fellow, and is active in ecological and social justice movements. Adam’s teachings focus on Great Perfection Tibetan Buddhism, modern phenomenology, and inoperative studies (Heidegger, Foucault, Agamben). As a founding practitioner-educator at the City of Bridges High School, he has a longstanding interest in progressive contemplative education and transformative pedagogy. A professor of Buddhist and phenomenological psychology, he is curious about a cultural therapeutics for our collapsing society. He remains attuned-to an awakened, just, terrestrial society. Adam teaches a critical style of contemplative training that seeks to avoid enclosure in neoliberal mindfulness while still disclosing effortless awareness. He is currently developing what he calls “four fields” of contemplative practices for potential worlds.

Michelle King is a Learning Instigator, Love Activist, and Transformer. Her origin story is rooted in being an Army Brat, child of an Ethiopian immigrant, and teaching middle school for over 22 years in public schools in Southwestern PA. She learned and honed her craft in Mt. Lebanon for over 16 years plus five years at The Environmental Charter School. Her current interests are in game-based-learning, design, justice, equity, the environment and teacher empowerment. Currently through her varied partnerships, she is seeking to co-create dynamic learning experiences and opportunities that inspire wonder, discovery, contradictions, frustrations, and joy. Current Conundrums: What do humans need to learn now? How might we create empathetic institutions that remind us of our humanity? How might we re-design for equity and social justice in and out of school learning? How might we allow those connections to help us re-see the worlds we inhabit? How might we co-create the Beloved Community in this lifetime?

Fitzhugh Shaw lives uphill from Andrew Carnegie’s first steel mill in Braddock, Pennsylvania, United States, with his wife and child. He’s a white descendant of Chickasaw and Scottish ancestors. He’s an urban farmer engaged in food justice, soil-building, and land healing. He’s also an ancestor-wrangler, writer, artist, and frequent napper. He takes care of two dogs, one cat, a school of fish, two humans, a flock of hens, and a whole lotta mushroom and plant people. In his scholarship, Fitzhugh explores intersections between peoples’ histories, ritual practice, political movements, and food systems. In his fiction, he dreams histories of a liberatory future. His art practice expands through the cracks in our current ideologies, wondering about the kinds of listening that are possible when we release our purity and security blankets. He is curious about the rituals of his ancestors and how to mix their wisdom with the wisdom of the dharma without tokenizing either. Currently, he manages a large, urban market garden for a Black-led and Black-serving non-profit in Pittsburgh through which he teaches agriculture and food literacy. He sometimes writes at foodpower.site.

Exploration Resources

Welcome

In this video, One Earth Sangha co-founder Kristin Barker welcomes us into this exploration. Kristin is speaking from a small forest near her home in traditional Piscataway territory and the Potomac River Valley.

Guided Meditation

Adam Lobel offers a guided meditation to bring us into the body and support our contemplation of heat.

Download Audio File

Guided Meditation Transcript

Dharma Offerings

Michelle King, Fitzhugh Shaw, and Adam Lobel open up the core teachings of this Exploration in this recorded conversation.

In the video below, Fitzhugh Shaw leads us in a fire offering.

Contemplations

These questions provide an opportunity to inquire into the solstice and the themes of heat, global warming, and the spiritual dimensions of warmth. Consider these suggestions and feel free to adapt, replace and augment.

Contemplation Questions
  1. Do you usually acknowledge the solstice? Do you have any rituals or practices connected with the solstice?
  2. What is your relationship with our warming globe? What do you feel when you give yourself time to reflect on the heating climate?
  3. When you buy food or go out to eat, where and “when” does the food come from; does the food come from the local season in which you find yourself? How is warmth and coolness part of this process?
  4. What might it mean for you to cultivate a relationship with the heat of a warming biosphere? What practices or trainings would support you in this?
  5. How would you tell the story of our moment of history, and the reality of climate change without any blame? What feelings, tensions, questions, and relief might this bring up for you?
  6. What are you willing to surrender?
  7. What are you willing to offer?
  8. Can you think of some ways in which the warming of our biosphere might be healing? What does this question bring up for you?
Approaches

Here are a few ways that you might engage with the questions.

  • If you are approaching the questions alone:
    • Simply read the following questions, one at a time. Pause and sense what is arising for you. If it feels right for you, close your eyes and feel into the felt-sense that arises in your body as a response to each question. Take your time; no rush. Contemplate what arises.
    • You may then want to journal about each response or the process as a whole, whatever you’d prefer.
    • You could also open the voice memo app on your smartphone and speak your response for a few minutes into the phone. (Delete the memo when you’re finished, if you’d like! It’s about the process, not the product.)
  • If you are approaching the questions with a partner or in a group:
    • Get into pairs.
    • Read one of the questions aloud. Both partners can pause and sense what is arising. If it feels right for you, close your eyes and feel into the felt-sense that arises in your body as a response to each question. Take your time; no rush. Contemplate what arises.
    • Then one partner speaks openly and honestly, from the heart, as a response to each question for about 5 minutes.
    • The other partner just listens receptively. There is no need to “help” or “encourage” your partner, simply listen and be there.
    • Then, switch roles. The partner who listened now contemplates the same question, pauses, and then speaks a response for about 5 minutes.
    • Move through all or some of the questions in this pattern.
    • Then, when the group decides, return to a whole and hear from each other about the experience. Notice difference as well as shared themes.

Live Gathering Recording

On Sunday, June 27, participants gathered online with our three leaders for shared practice, inquiry, and ritual.

Follow Up Resources

Articles:

Music:

Opportunities for Engaged Practice

  • Take the time to attune to your local bio-region. Ask how climate mutation and global warming are affecting your specific region. For example:
    • What tree species will be most affected as temperatures warm, or as there are more frequent flash floods, or as sea levels rise?
    • What songbirds or other birdlife are already changing?
    • How are non-human-animal migration patterns influenced or changing?
    • What are the predictions for how the temperature, water-flows, soil and agriculture will be changing?
    • How might urban centers and populations change?

    Get to know your specific region well, if you do not already. You can do this in at least 2 ways: 1) Just some simple online research or more substantive research. 2) Actually walk the land, the city streets, the rivers, the parks, development sites, and industrial areas. Feel into your region and get to know how the landscape is changing.

  • One of the most acute signs of global warming in many continents is the increasing perdurance and intensity of drought and wildfires. Here is a site that reviews various charities that offer wildfire relief. You may consider offering a donation or volunteering.

Related Initiatives

  • Learn about and support First Peoples Fund, which invests in first nations’ people, artists, projects, and collectives.

Additional Resources from the Live Gathering

More EcoDharma Explorations

Upcoming

On Right Relations with Deniers, Delayers, and Destroyers

How might we relate to the "bad guys" as advocates and activists attempting to reduce suffering in the world at large? On June 23, Kevin Gallagher leads this exploration on how we might relate on behalf of both people and planet, to those who cause harm.

Past

The Dynamic Balance of Yin and Yang, Emptiness and Action, Rest and Engagement, on the Path of Change-Making

What strength might we discover when we connect to often-overlooked virtues such as stillness, rest, and receptivity? On April 28, Deborah Eden Tull led this investigation into the sacred balance of light and dark within Nature and our own minds.

Past

How might we nourish the ecological self and support its maturation? John Seed and Br. Tenzin (Dr. Alex Anderson) led this EcoDharma Exploration on May 26 exploring the interwoven teachings and practices of Deep Ecology and Buddhadharma.