By Sherry Ellms, Naropa professor & faculty lead at Joanna Macy Center@Naropa
On the weekend of September 15–17th, the Joanna Macy Center@Naropa partnered with the Boulder Shambhala Center, the City of Boulder and the Authentic Leadership Center of Naropa for the second annual Symposium: Living Beyond Hope and Fear – Warrior Principle and Climate Action.
The inspiration for the Symposium was to bring people of various faiths (or no faith) together to share meaningful conversations and express the wide range of feelings that can arise when we see the increased loss of habitat for people, the refugees from social and ecological disasters, the racism, increased violence and social disintegration around the world. It was positive and emphasized how to proceed in the midst of the intensity of our current situation. It included what people are already doing locally in neighborhoods and on the policy level in communities, as well as sparked new ideas of possibilities.
Marty Janowitz, member of the Board of Trustees at Naropa, and leader in many climate change initiatives in this country and Canada was one of the plenary speakers. He reminded us that Choygam Trungpa Rinpoche, Founder of Naropa University, wrote the book Meditation in Action over 30 years ago. Trungpa did not say meditate and then act, or act and then meditate – he was saying bring your aware mind into what ever you are doing in the moment. Inner transformation is not separate of outer transformation.
Sahar Alsahlani was the other plenary speaker. She is originally from Iraq and part of a Muslim Women’s League in New York where she lives in a multi-faith intentional community. She is part of Green Faith, a national organization of individuals from many faiths who see themselves in service of the Earth. She told the gripping hour-by-hour experience having been called to Charlottesville as a part of a multi-faith group to assist with the tension prior to the statue of Robert E. Lee being taken down, the moments when the white supremacists began marching in, and the encounters she had with some of them.
To work with the variety of emotions and conversations that arose in the many breakout discussion opportunities, Kendra Krueger acted as “Emcee”. Kendra has taught at Naropa in the Environmental Studies Department and danced and moved us through our journey together with lightness and humor – highlighting the importance of embodiment of all that we do.
Ods Bodkin, an internationally-known storyteller, captivated us with his storytelling and motivated several participants to stand and tell their story of climate change with humor, heart, and pathos. Were these tears of laughter or sorrow?
The progression of the weekend began with the ground of our radical interdependence, moving to sacred activism and concluding with healing our separateness.
A highlight was the Interfaith Panel moderated by Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of Green Faith – “Unified by Difference – the paradoxical, Resilient Depth of Interfaith Environmentalism.”
Eve Ilsen, singer, writer, teacher, and widow of the late Reverend Rabbi Schacter, who held the World Wisdom Chair at Naropa for many years, spoke eloquently about Jewish law – every seven days rest for all, which includes the environment. Go out doors, walk, and appreciate the Earth. Every seven years let the land rest – a time to restore balance so no one goes hungry and consider the future beings. “The land will respond, but we have to pay attention.”
Rev. Peter Sawtell, director of Eco-Justice Ministries, from the United Church of Christ, spoke of the Christian teachings of, “love god; love your neighbor.” In the word neighbor, he not only included all people, but also the other than human animals, the plants, trees, and beyond into the stars and cosmos in which we all abide.
Sahar Alsahlani spoke of Islam law, which states in the Koran that all must honor the earth and the environment with respect.
Eva Hamilton, an Araphoe Indian, filmmaker, and artist, met with us at Settler’s Park at a time when the city is in the process of changing the name. She spoke about the land, its people, and what it was like when she found out that some of her specific ancestors were slaughtered in the Sand Creek Massacre in 1848.
Ethan Au Green, a student in the Masters in Resilient Leadership Program at Naropa was the Project Coordinator providing logistical support, and planning of the event.
There were breakout sessions presented by diverse members of the Boulder/Front Range Community on topics ranging from: Addressing Oil and Gas in Colorado the non-dual way with Kritee and Anne Lee foster; Brett KenCairn, Senior Environmental Planner for the City of Boulder and David Takahashi on Roadmaps to Renewable Living; Healing and Resilience from the Frontlines with Eutmia Cruz Montoya and Sheree Lovemestiza Brown.
The program ended with each participant being invited to write their personal commitment for themselves of what they were inspired to do in service of the Earth.
Lots of cards were exchanged as people in a self-organizing way made connections and plans for future activities. There was great interest in starting a chapter of Green Faith here in Boulder with a meeting planned on November 12th at the First Congregational Church.