In our times of climate emergency, our inner resources are essential. They build our emotional strength and resilience.
Embracing Climate Change with a Humanitarian Spirit
A conversation between Jennifer Hynes, Dido and Pam Crisp. Feb 2016
Two days ago, (late 2015) my close friend Barbara died when her house burned to the ground, in one of the California fires that are presently raging out of control. She was disabled with MS, and that made it harder to flee – anyway the one road leading out was blocked by flames. Rescue could not reach her. She is my first personal experience of losing someone to the ravages of climate change.
She was enthusiastically engaged in life, interested in everyone, in a positive and compassionate way. She thought I was a good thing and told me so: that in itself was a great gift.
Barbara was a fellow student of Adzom Rinpoche. she also did retreats with me, and is one of the people who shaped this book, sharing her concerns and her practice with me and in groups. She read an earlier draft of my book and offered her feedback. I trust that when faced with a wall of fire, alone in her house, she was able to draw on the inner work she had done, to help herself through a death none of us would choose.
Here in Wellington we recently set up our emergency equipment, for earthquake or any kind of climate trouble; we also packed a getaway pack. We’re surrounded by forested hills: fire is a real possibility.
Our inner work offers us resources, for emergencies like firestorms, as well as for everyday use. Even the challenges of ‘ordinary’ life can feel like tidal waves and unsurvivable storms. The practices are essentially the same for both. When our ocean monsters are our allies, they supply us with profound courage and strength. Many Tibetans used them to survive the Chinese prison camps.
Barbara’s death sets off a lot of emotional storms in me: grief for losing a dear friend, and in such a dreadful way; and on top of that, all my strong feelings around climate change: fury that her life was cut short because we’re not addressing climate change; frustration and despair that there will be – already are – so many more deaths, refugees, and other difficulties, as climate change progresses unchecked; fear for my own future and the great-nieces I live with; Barbara lived in the forest, with a stream running beside her house. She loved the birdsong, the fox who visited. That’s all gone now. I fear that quite likely we will even wipe out all Nature’s creation on this earth.
I use my practice, to keep my footing in these high winds; to stay in my courage and determination to do whatever I can, I also use what I learn in my practice for work to create community that might help.