An Online Course for Aspiring EcoSattvas
In the backdrop of a pandemic and state actors actively hostile to science, ecological breakdown looms. The potential for overwhelm, becoming captured by fear, rage, or helplessness, is real. While we take steps to demand racial justice, protect voting rights, or defend ecosystems, we can also invest in our inner resources. By integrating our activist dimensions with the contemplative, our efforts will be all the more robust and disentangled from reactivity. Turning towards what is profoundly difficult, supported by community, and transforming into wisdom is what this tradition is all about. Supported by a diverse and rich set of teachers, we invite you to gather with others online and explore our respective edges, meeting all that arises in us and discovering an authentic way forward.
The EcoSattva Training has been specifically designed to support self-paced and self-scheduled participation with shorter core session videos and more resources for contemplation and interacting with one another. Ideally experienced in small groups, either in-person or online, you can start the eight module course at any time and move through at your own pace. Then join the monthly live sessions to connect with the global community of registered EcoSattvas in training, no matter where each is in the course.
We’ll try to answer your basic questions on this page and keep it updated with the all the latest details.
(If you’re enrolled in a previous series of the EcoSattva Training, you can access those course materials below.)
- Together at an Edge: The EcoSattva Training
- Overview of the Course
- Who is this for?
- Who Will Be Featured?
- How can I participate?
- What’s the Schedule and Session Format?
- Will There be Any Live Sessions?
- Registration Fees
- I’m Interested. What do I do Next?
- I still have questions
- How Can I Help?
- Access to Previous Trainings
This life was already difficult. The Dharma validates that our sense of struggle is inherent in being alive. Yet as here-and-now evidence of the dawning climate crisis mounts, the grief, anxiety and depression we may experience constitutes an additive, psychological “eco-crisis tax” on everyday life. Even for those who have manageable baseline stress, the size, scope and seeming intractability of ecological breakdown can easily overwhelm the psyche. If at some level our own body, and indeed every body, registers and wrestles with this existential threat, is it any wonder that our collective experience is increasingly unstable, similarly on edge?
At the same time, our engaged projects designed to name eco-crises and agitate for critical change often require monumental energy and time, not to mention their demand for unfamiliar skills and understanding. Challenged to confront colossal, entrenched forces and working with that same multi-layered stress, contributors often struggle to collaborate in sustained, durable efforts. It’s not surprising then that many eco-activists feel on the edge of burn out, even as Earth’s precarious ecological health can cast a pall over potential alternative endeavors.
The ecological breakdown unfolds all around us and many of its compounding effects cannot be stopped much less reversed. We don’t know what is to come, what humanity is capable of and how the Earth will respond, but we are living at a pivotal time, an edge. Dharma wisdom along with practices and the critical support of community provide the opportunity to come to terms with this place, not needing to be someplace else, and then to move to and through our own edges, perhaps to truly be of service and discover what it means to be a human being in such times.
The latest version of the EcoSattva Training is designed to meet participants in this unprecedented challenge with new insights from both the Dharma as well as the growing field of climate psychology. We will journey together to soothe and ultimately unbind our bodies, hearts and minds so that they can actively and creatively love this life. Deeply rooted, thoroughly engaged yet not dependent, we can express the most authentically helpful response to ecological crisis that is available to us.
The course will begin at the level of experience, a good place to start given our pervasive stress. Climate psychologists are demonstrating that way we experience climate crisis and losses in the rest of nature is at some level traumatizing, with the attendant adaptions to trauma showing up in both our individual and collective defenses. We will spend time in this course understanding that dynamic and then bring in specific Dharma and trauma-informed practices can soothe our eco-stressed bodies, hearts and minds.
While meeting our eco-suffering and tending to it with exquisite care is critical, we will not stop with the practices for self regulation. More is on offer. Having cultivated an inner landscape of kindness and calm, both ancient Dharma as well as modern climate psychology can support us in challenging the views and patterns that only contribute to suffering, not just for ourselves but for our relationships and our movements. We will explore the ways that we commonly conceptualize the ecological crisis, the stories we tell of how it came to be and who is to blame, as well as the impact of that framing on our ability to be with it, moment to moment. Interdependence will be a common theme throughout the course, as we explore patterning at the individual and collective levels as well as in the intersections between ecological harm with other forms of objectification and exploitation, especially in regards to race, revealing their common roots and common remedies. As the body is tended, the heart is supported and the mind has new understanding, wise action is not only unblocked but can flow like a river. In the final part of the course, we will explore diverse forms of response, from the surprisingly important changes we can make in our everyday lives, to the necessary refusals to cooperate with systems of domination, and everything in between. We will explore the support offered by both Dharma and Sangha to not only prevent further breakdown but to support healing and help our communities adapt to the inevitable and potentially colossal changes to come.
We are invited to be at our edge. The edge is uncomfortable, uncertain and completely necessary before transformation. Intimate with the difficult truth of our age, we are each called to respond with courage, to purposely move into discomfort. The outward expression of that response must be allowed to vary and vary widely: one person is building up the nerve to defy all his friends and family by admitting, even to himself, that the climate crisis is real, while another contributes to institutions that support disaster relief, another works on confronting and unwinding racism in progressive institutions, and yet another is risking arrest and even being subject to violence in as part of non-violent civil disobedience. Yet in this course and beyond we have the opportunity to support one another in working through our respective edges. Though the edges may be different, we’ll be together at an edge.
- Session One: Gathering and Setting a Course
- Special Session: Mind and Resilience
- Session Two: Cultivating Conditions for Transformation
- Session Three: Compassionate Reflection
- Session Four: Intersections in Racism, Colonialism, Patriarchy and Ecological Crises
- Session Five: Making a Home in Uncertainty
- Session Six: Creating and Discovering The Way
- Session Seven: Expressing Our Awakening Agency
- Session Eight: Going Forth
If you’re intrigued by the possibility of finding well-being amid what can seem like an impossible situation, if you’re interested in a response to climate crisis that is deeply rooted and meaningful, that develop your sense of agency, that will help you feel connected to others and to the Rest of Nature, this course is for you. Those who are already active in some way can find support for their engagement as well as those looking to discover their place in action. Even if you’ve never meditated or aren’t particularly interested in Buddhism per se, we think you’ll find value here.
But don’t take it from us. Here’s what participants have said about previous versions of our trainings:
The Dharma is a terrific lens through which to view ecoactivism. This has helped me think about ways to help others who are either overwhelmed or think no action can be sufficiently effective and have given up.
…the energy and profundity of the series was tangible. I have been feeling ‘pushed’ in my personal life around the subject of the environment and so it was really wonderful to dive deeper into the struggle with so many wisdom figures whose message was ‘yes, this is reality, and we have the spiritual tools to hold this.
I really appreciated feeling like a part of a Sangha on the topic of Climate Change. I didn’t realize how alone and isolated I felt on this issue until I really felt the support of all of you and the broader community. The feeling that we’re not in this alone and that we> As both a longtime Buddhist and a social justice activist, I have taken the EcoSattva course twice and will participate again this fall. Learning through the eyes of various teachers the many ways that Buddhism expands one’s ability to look at what is befalling Earth and, through the enormous grief that brings, to love more beings more fully provides me with immeasurable resiliency.
I see that, even though I am a long-term committed activist, there are many fears that I had not been wiling to look at before. Now I have the courage, doing this in a group. This course really helped.
I was struck by the comprehensiveness of the connection between of all our world’s troubles. Racism, war, poverty, pollution, money in politics, weapons proliferation, agri-business, depletion of resources, drought and famine, climate change… all from greed and fear.
We are delighted and honored to feature the following leaders from across Western Dharma traditions.
Thanissara trained was 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.
Daniel J. Siegel, MD, is the executive director of the Mindsight Institute and founding co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. A graduate of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Siegel is a New York Times bestselling author of several books including Mind, The Mindful Brain, Parenting from the Inside Out, Aware, and the internationally acclaimed bestselling textbook The Developing Mind, which has been utilized by a number of organizations including the US Department of Justice and the Vatican. Dr. Siegel’s publications for professionals and the public have been translated into over 40 languages.
Noliwe Alexander has been a student of Vipassana meditation for close to 20 years. She is a Life & Business Coach dedicating both her coaching & Dharma practice to the POC, LGBT, At Risk and Elder communities. Noliwe is a teacher in training with Spirit Rock and an assistant teacher on CDL6. Noliwe is a wisdom keeper and humbled by the presence of her ancestor’s spirit that lives within and walks beside her.
David comes from both the Japanese Zen tradition and Insight. As a student of Yamada Koun, Robert Aitken, and Koun-roshi in Japan, he was authorized to teach in 1988 and leads retreats and workshops nationally and internationally in both traditions. He is author of EcoDharma: Buddhist Teachings for the Ecological Crisis and A New Buddhist Path: Enlightenment, Evolution, and Ethics in the Modern World, and he is co-editor of A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency (Wisdom Publications). He is also director and vice-president of the Rocky Mountain Dharma Retreat Center.
Renee Lertzman is an applied social scientist with expertise in environmental engagement and climate communications. Informed by her practice in the Insight tradition, she teaches and consults in the emerging field of climate psychology and is author of Environmental Melancholia: Psychoanalytic Dimensions of Engagement. Learn more about Renee’s work at ReneeLertzman.com
Pennie Opal Plant is one of the co-founders of Idle No More SF Bay, a co-founder of Movement Rights and a signatory of the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty. She has worked for over 35 years to ensure that the sacred system of life continues in a manner that is safe, sustainable and healthy. Her mother is Yaqui and Mexican, her father undocumented Choctaw, Cherokee and European. No members of her family have ever lived on a reservation. She lives in unincorporated Contra Costa County and sees the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California every day.
Willa is the Founder and Spiritual Director of Natural Dharma Fellowship in Boston, MA and its retreat center Wonderwell Mountain Refuge in Springfield, NH. She is Visiting Lecturer in Buddhist Ministry at Harvard Divinity School. As a writer and editor, her work has been published in Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, Buddhadharma, and the Tibet Journal. Willa’s teaching interests include compassion, non-dual embodiment and contemplative care.
A Dharma teacher and ordained nun of 15 years in Thích Nhất Hạnh’s Order of Interbeing, Kaira Jewel Lingo is now based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. She leads retreats internationally, offering mindfulness programs for educators, parents and youth in schools, in addition to activists, people of color, artists and families, and individual spiritual mentoring. A teacher with Schumacher College and Mindful Schools and a guiding teacher for One Earth Sangha, she explores the interweaving of art, play, ecology and embodied mindfulness practice and is a certified yoga teacher and InterPlay leader.
Adam Lobel, PhD, Harvard University, is a scholar of philosophy and religion and a longtime teacher (Acharya) in the Shambhala tradition. 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. He leads ecodharma workshops is a Greenfaith fellow, and active in ecopsychology and ecological and social justice movements. Adam’s teachings focus on Great Perfection Tibetan Buddhism, modern phenomenology, and inoperative studies. As a founding practitioner-educator at the City of Bridges High School, he has a longstanding interest in progressive contemplative education, philosophy as a way of life, and transformative pedagogy. A professor of Buddhist and phenomenological psychology, he is curious about a cultural and political therapeutics for a collapsing society.
Here at the outset, Adam would like to acknowledge with a full-heart the challenge of being part of the leadership in Shambhala in the midst of the revelations of sexual abuse and abuse of power within the 50 years of our tradition. He feels that it is critically important to clearly state his commitment to healing, radical safety, and transformative justice. For Adam, this begins with complete acknowledgement of the pain we caused within our community.
Yanai Postelnik has been engaged in full-time dharma practice and service since 1990. His practice and teaching are inspired by the Thai forest tradition and nourished by time spent in the natural world. Yanai has been teaching retreats around the world for 20 years. He serves as a guiding teacher of Gaia House, England and a core faculty member of Insight Meditation Society, Massachusetts. He is actively involved in Extinction Rebellion protests in the UK.
Myokei Caine-Barrett, Shonin, first encountered Buddhism in 1963. She has been practicing the Lotus Sutra ever since. In 2002 she began training to become a priest. She became head priest and guiding teacher of the Nichiren Buddhist Sangha of Texas in Houston, also known as Myoken-ji Temple, in 2007. Myokei Caine-Barrett has active prison and hospice ministries and deeply committed to healing our culture. She is currently bishop of the Nichiren Shu Order of North America.
The best way to undertake this training is as part of a group. Check out our directory to see if an in-person group is already planned near you or an online group is gathering at a time that works for you. If no group is near by, we encourage you to gather folks from your local community or online friends to do the training together.
Online groups can include people from all over the world and offer a wonderful experience of a globally responsive community. Online groups that are open will be listed with the start time and associated time zone. By providing your time zone, others anywhere in the world can join you so long as it works well in their home time zone.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a leader, we’re providing a Group Facilitator's Guide in advance of the the first module materials. You can create a private or public (listed in our directory) group here. Once you create a group, you can use our invitation template as a starting point for gathering your community.
If you’re part of a group, your organizer should send you the link for registration so that you can pay the group rate. Of course, we welcome individuals to register for the training directly.
Registration fees are listed below. Fees will be lower for those registering as part of a group. As always, while we depend on course fees to cover our substantial costs, scholarships will be available. No one will be turned away from the course for lack of funds.
- Now: Organizers can create groups here; participants can register here
- Course resources are available here. The first module was published November 24 with subsequent modules available on a weekly basis;
- The first of the monthly live conversations, to which all registered participants are welcome, will take place on December 8, 12:30 pm US Eastern.
There is no fixed schedule for course modules. Instead, the course is specifically designed to support you and your local community in participating according to your own schedule. Once enrolled, you and members of your group will be able to access the module resources. You (hopefully with your group) can begin when it works for you and then meet weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or whatever frequency works for you.
There are eight core modules and one special module (on mind and resilience) that together create an archetypal journey to a place out beyond our familiar ways of looking, knowing, feeling and identifying. Guided by some of our community’s most profound leaders and through practices, we’ll be supported in opening up, letting go, and coming to terms.
Each module is designed to support groups in gathering for 60 to 90 minutes. We recommend that group members watch the session videos on their own before gathering, to maximize time for sharing and connecting. The meeting should provide time to do a brief opening, explore the provided inquiries, engage in discussion, cover logistics and close. You might choose to add an extended opening meditation, which will bring the gathering time closer to 90 minutes. Each module will have its own page on our site that contains the a sample agenda, the main video, a set of inquiries to choose from and a supportive resources. Of course, groups are invited to use what works for them, removing and adding as will be most helpful.
Here’s a sample agenda for a 60-minute gathering (exclusive of an extended meditation)
- Open – 15 min
- Gather attention and check in
- This Module: 35 min
- Reflecting on last Module: 15 min
- Explore an inquiry, individually in meditation, journaling, in dyads or groups: 20 min
For group sharing methods, you might use 1-2-4-all, Conversation Cafe, or other approaches found on Liberating Structures
- Practices or inquires to explore between the current and next module
- Closing 10 min
- Logistics and host appreciation
- Silence or other ceremonial ending
- Dedication of merit (feel free to lift ours!)
Our Group Facilitator's Guide covers alternatives to this agenda, goes into more detail and offers helpful tools.
To build the sense of a global community among all those registered in the course, we will host live sessions on a monthly basis dedicated to making connections. Live sessions for this season of the EcoSattva Training are tentatively scheduled to begin in fall 2020, exact dates TBD. Course leaders and all those currently enrolled in the training, anywhere in the world will gather in online sessions featuring science and policy updates from our co-founder Lou Leonard and the opportunity for breakout groups and discussion. (Yes, those who took our first EcoSattva Training might be glad to know that breakouts are back! While many of us can feel a bit shy in these settings, past participants have found the chance to connect in one-on-one and small groups one of the most valuable aspects of the training.)
While groups aren’t for everyone, we suggest that your course experience will be improved if you are part of a local, in-person group or an online group. Fees are reduced for group members based on the size of the group. Facilitators receive a discount code as part of registering the group to share with their group members.
- Individual: $150
- Groups with three to seven members: $135
- Groups with eight or more members: $108
Our scholarship program is flexible and based on financial need of the applicant. It is our policy that no one will ever be turned away for lack of funds. If you would like to receive support, fill out our scholarship application.
Participant registration is open! If you’re part of a group, your organizer should send you the link for registration so that you can pay the group rate.
If you’re not part of a group can check out our groups directory or register as an individual here:
Create a group! Facilitators can register in-person or online groups here and open groups will be listed in our directory.
To spread the word. You might use our invitation template as a starting point for an announcement email to dharma centers, teachers, activists, practitioners or fellow human beings who you think might be interested in joining this training. You can also use social media to share this page or our (forthcoming) facebook event. Feel free to use the image below (click to access the full size) and/or print and post this EcoSattva Training Flyer (PDF) in your community. Let us know what you’re planning, how we can help and then stay tuned.
In addition to the session leaders, an amazing team has combined their talents to bring this series to life. We are so grateful to Adam Lobel, Kate Davies, Tashi Black, Osa Arkin, Katie Webber, Katie Benvenuti, and Mark Rasmuson. We would also like to thank Jeff Wessman of Inner Active Media for the video titles as well as our guiding teachers for all of their support.
So glad you asked! Besides spreading the word and possibly starting a group, we have specific volunteer needs to support the training and would be delighted to waive the registration fee for those who can help out. Even if none of these works for you, perhaps you know someone who might be interested! Let us know by email and we’ll take it from there. Check out our volunteer opportunities page and see if one of those fits you!
If you’re enrolled in either of the first two series, you can access the course materials here: