184: Last Episode of 2022: Strong Back, Soft Front
About this episode
Welcome to another episode of Outrage + Optimism, where we examine issues at the forefront of the climate crisis, interview change-makers, and transform our anger into productive dialogue about building a sustainable future.
In the final episode of 2022, co-hosts Christiana Figueres, Tom Rivett-Carnac, and Paul Dickinson look back at what transpired this year, what went well, what didn't, and what to expect in 2023. Plus, they have a conversation with spiritual leader Roshi Joan Halifax and highlight music from Windser.
Reflecting on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the team addresses the profound tragedy of the war but also how it proved to be a watershed moment for exposing the vulnerability of fossil fuel markets. It appears the weaponization of energy has driven the world closer toward decarbonization.
While 2022 was undoubtedly marked by tragedy, there was some good news, including three landmark legislative wins from the United States that contain meaningful provisions to address climate change. They also hailed the recent announcement from the U.S. Department of Energy about an unexpected breakthrough: Scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California for the first time successfully generated more energy from a fusion reaction than what was required to produce it. And in another positive note, biodiversity is also getting a much-needed boost from the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Next, guest Roshi Joan Halifax provides a nourishing dose of inspiration with her thoughts on her lifelong spiritual journey, social and environmental engagement, and cultivating resilience in the face of increased uncertainty.
It’s the type of motivational close to the year we needed. As we all take stock, we’re reminded that we couldn’t do this without your support, and we thank you from the depths of our hearts for joining us on this journey to better understand our ability to come together to affect transformation in the world.
Also, we wish environmental activist, Buddhist scholar, and dear friend Joanna Macy, a swift recovery as she recuperates from pneumonia in the hospital. You can find more about Macy and her work in the show notes below.
Finally, we’ll leave you with the dazzling sounds of California singer/songwriter Windser.
Have a wonderful holiday season, and we’ll see you in January 2023.
NOTES AND RESOURCES
To learn more about our planet’s climate emergency and how you can transform outrage into optimistic action subscribe to the podcast here.
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Here’s more on the Inflation Reduction Act 2022, the 2022 Budget Resolution And Reconciliation: How We Will Build Back Better, and the CHIPS Act of 2022.
Read more about the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15).
Find out more about fusion energy from the National Ignition Facility (NIF).
Listen to environmental activist, Buddhist scholar, and deep ecologist Joanna Macy on Outrage! + Optimism. Explore her celebrated book Active Hope.
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Watch the video for “Drift Away”
Stream the new EP - “Where The Redwoods Meet The Sea”
Watch Windser perform with Macklemore on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Also - Check out Windser’s AudioTree Live Session
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Tom: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to Outrage and Optimism. I'm Tom Rivett-Carnac.
Christiana: [00:00:15] I'm Christiana Figueres.
Paul: [00:00:17] And I'm Paul Dickinson.
Tom: [00:00:18] This week on our final episode of the podcast for 2022, we look back at the year that's gone. What went well, what didn't, and what to expect in 2023. Plus, we have a conversation with spiritual leader Roshi Joan Halifax, and we have music from Windser. Thanks for being here. So, friends, this is it. Wrapping up another year, another big year in the big decisive decade for climate action. It is possible to look at the moment we're in with both encouragement of all the progress we've made and the sense of despondency, that time is ticking and the big jump has not yet been made. So let's give ourselves a few minutes now before we speak to Roshi Joan, to just reflect on the year that we've had casting our minds back to January, we kicked off the year with this amazing deep Gaian episode with Stephan Harding. Trying to help people connect with the natural world. Feels like a very long time ago. How has it gone? I mean, it's going to be very difficult to boil that down into a few minutes for discussion, but I'd love to just begin by exploring where that question takes you.
Paul: [00:01:31] What was the question again? I started reading a WhatsApp note. Stephan Harding asked what question?
Tom: [00:01:37] No, it's not Stephan Harding. The question I'm asking is, how is, this a small question? How is the year? How has it been for you Paul?
Paul: [00:01:43] Okay, so so here's the thing. First of all, I've been learning you've got to pay a lot of deep attention because if you don't.
Tom: [00:01:49] When I'm talking, certainly. Yeah.
Paul: [00:01:52] Look, here's the thing. I would say to some extent, the year was, in my estimation, dominated by the invasion of Ukraine. And there are two things that came out of that for me. The first one is obviously the tragedy and the agony and the extraordinary bravery of the Ukrainian people. But two incredibly positive things actually, I think have come out of this tragedy. The first one is that there's less of a grey area between what I would describe as kind of functioning democracies and open societies and essentially dictatorships with a closed down media where the, the public, the citizens are kind of imprisoned and oppressed. We were all thought they were all kind of the same and everyone was trading. And it was like globalization and all governments are the same. Well, we've suddenly discovered that things like democracy and the open society are incredibly important. And we have to recognize that as we are faced with the sort of the evils potentially of of populism of left or right that may come to threaten our democracies. But the second thing is, I just read this a little bit of research that was done before the show that renewables are poised to overtake coal as the largest source of electricity generation by early 2025. That's not long. The International Energy Agency.
Tom: [00:03:05] That's not investment, that's actual installed capacity.
Paul: [00:03:08] That's actual installed output in electricity. But here's the thing. It's a pattern driven in large part by the global energy crisis linked to the war in Ukraine. So again, there are horrible aspects of this and there are people saying drill more. But we need to remember that behind all of this, fossil fuels have been shown to be incredibly expensive and incredibly unreliable, and that's driving the whole world towards decarbonization. So that's, that's me on a on a big positive note.
Paul: [00:03:38] Christiana?
Christiana: [00:03:40] Yeah, I would I would agree with that, Paul. Especially the fact that the Ukrainian war, which has been longer than any of us expected. I think we started the year thinking, okay, we're getting close to the end. But the fact that this has drawn out throughout the whole year is my biggest surprise this year, I would say, and both a positive and a negative surprise. The negative surprise is that it has cost so many innocent lives in Ukraine and really brought out those incredibly brave and courageous people to push beyond any human boundaries could have been expected to push. So kudos to them for everything that they have done there. On the positive side, from the climate perspective, as Paul has mentioned, this has really been a watershed moment for fossil fuels. The fact that that it has now been shown that fossil fuels can be so easily weaponized that they can drive their own cost, the cost of energy, but also the cost of everything else so incredibly quickly and be the motoring force behind global inflation. I'm hoping that and I'm seeing already signs that we're just sick and tired of this manipulation and this dependence on fossil fuels and that that is as it already has started, but is now accelerating the move over to domestic, clean, ubiquitous and accessible clean energy. And I think we will look back at this year and be incredibly sad about the negative impacts that it has had and be grateful for the positive impact that it will have had on decarbonization, as Paul has said. Where on decarbonization, if I'm going to choose one, but I have so many bits of good news. Honestly, I think the legislation's in plural in the United.
Tom: [00:06:01] Just before we go, just before we go to the legislation, let's just let's just pause and point out that when all of this happens, this very good outcome from a tragic situation that you've both pointed to, when this happened, we came on this podcast with guests and we did quite a bit of hand wringing and said, you know, we don't know what's going to happen next. There's there are voices out there saying, drill, baby, drill, expand domestic production. We were all really worried that was going to go the other direction. The positive narrative that you've just put together, which I completely agree with, was really uncertain. And so we should all it's it's important moments to look back and realize things went well in certain areas. Right? So that is despite that tragic situation, that's a really positive outcome. And you're about to talk about another one.
Christiana: [00:06:42] No, I'm not sure that it's another one. I think they're all integrated.
Tom: [00:06:47] It's the same, ok, yeah.
[00:06:47] Yeah, I think the legislations, the pieces of legislation that we have out of the United States, the three of them, because we have learned from just recent episodes that there are three pieces of legislation are absolutely brilliant in the United States. And the fact that Europe is sort of playing a little bit of, of a lost or a forgotten sibling and, and just a little bit complaining like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Why did you rush ahead of us is actually excellent. I think the race to the top is exactly what we need to, to have here. And that is what the United States has done. Then, of course, just so that we know that this is not a walk in the park, the next two years are going to be really tough for, for the White House and for all of the other administration agencies. But but they will be guided by by these legislations. And so I think that in terms of domestic policy definitely stands out for me as one of the very, very exciting things that happened this year toward the end of the year. But incredibly, incredibly exciting, actually.
Tom: [00:08:02] And I mean, on that one, it's a sort of small point in a way, but, well, it's not a small point. But the people in the US who have fought for decades for this. Thank you. Because this has been such a fight to get to this point. I remember after we adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015, Christiana, I would ask people, has adopting an international binding climate treaty improved your personal quality of life to the people who are involved in it? And people would think from it and say, yes, I actually feel happier now that we're moving in a positive direction. And I've been asking the same thing of people in the US who've been working on this and my God, they deserve this. This has been such a long fight and it's transformative. As we heard, IRA and BILL are going to change the world.
Paul: [00:08:41] And there was that. Sorry, go Christiana.
Christiana: [00:08:44] And let's not forget the other one, the other piece of legislation that is actually fostering the creation or the production of microchips in the United States. Awesome.
Tom: [00:08:52] Okay.
Paul: [00:08:53] The Chips Bill.
Christiana: [00:08:54] Yes.
Tom: [00:08:56] We just need a way of remembering it. IRA and BILL eating chips.
Paul: [00:08:58] IRA and BILL with chips. That's great. We love the tech economy. I mean, just touching on the biodiversity COP that's going on as we speak. I'm just very positive that there is a biodiversity COP. I was talking last week about how, you know, biodiversity is kind of like our balance sheet and I think it's quite helpful in climate change. We often talk about flows. I think you would call them, you know, things like how much renewable energy and how much greenhouse gas emissions. But stocks, the biodiversity is the stock, right? And it's actually the sort of machine that the flows interreact with. So just one thing, I mean net we may be losing forestry, but over the past 20 years there's also been an increase of 130 million hectares of forest, bigger than Peru. So whilst many places are cutting down, actually 36 countries are now gaining more trees than they're losing, including Ireland, Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Bangladesh. I was thinking about India, by the way, also and Pakistan, huge countries, and I was thinking about various entrepreneurs coming forward. One Jeremy Leggett, who's an old timer who set up Solarcentury, one of the very first renewables companies that really did quite well. He's been expanding forests in Scotland, buying more and more land, getting scientists involved. I think we're seeing this whole, wasn't it last week that Sanjayan spoke about this this kind of nature entrepreneurship? I think that's incredibly exciting.
Christiana: [00:10:17] And since we're on the topic of plants, I have been incredibly touched by the study that was published in Trends in Plant Science, a study, I hope you're all ready to listen to this because it is very unusual. The study shows that plants, we're now in the plant kingdom, not in the human society, that plants are teaching their offspring how to adapt to climate change.
Christiana: [00:10:57] Mother plants. Because, as we know, I don't. There are quite a few studies about mother trees. By the way, I haven't even read anything about father trees. I'm sure there are some of those, too. But mother trees, especially, are through something called epigenetics, which doesn't change the DNA sequence. They are showing the new saplings that are coming out how to adapt to climate change. I think that is incredibly exciting for many different reasons. A, because we have always assumed that all the damage that we have caused on nature is, is something that where nature is on the recipient side, on the passive recipient side. And what this is saying is no, it is not a passive recipient. They are actually engaging in active resilience. And we will talk much more about resilience with our, our guest today. But isn't that fascinating that even plants are exercising their resilience and teaching how to deal with more drought, with higher temperatures to all those saplings and let's call them plant generations that are coming after them?
Tom: [00:12:17] Yeah, that's amazing.
Christiana: [00:12:19] It is just amazing.
Tom: [00:12:20] The adaptability and the resilience of nature is incredible in that regard.
Christiana: [00:12:24] The resilience of nature and something from which we should learn, right? If plants can be resilient, why are we not? But I'm getting ahead of myself because that's the conversation with Roshi Joan.
Paul: [00:12:35] We're trying to preserve biodiversity and you know what? I think biodiversity is probably also trying to preserve us. But if we get it wrong and we go, biodiversity will continue. Nature is way, way bigger than us. This is really all about whether we are sticking around at the biodiversity party because fundamentally we lack diversity in a richness of our in our ecosystems and we're the ones who are fragile, we're the ones who are going to have the algal bloom, lose the oxygen and then dump it's gone. But on the plus side, we're talking about it widely and having a COP. So that's good.
Tom: [00:13:06] That's true. Now I know we're going to get to Roshi Joan in a few minutes, but there's so many good things have happened this year. I mean, we'll come back after the interview and we'll talk about a few more things. One that I just have to point out, because it's very exciting, very recent and potentially transformative. A few years ago we had a role helping Google X think through their technology strategy with relation to climate change. And as part of that, I would once a month get on the phone with their chief scout and have this kind of absolute firestorm of data around where climate tech is, what's coming and the piece that they would always talk about that would blow my mind would be fusion energy. And I would say, yeah, but you're nuts, right? This is decades away. And they would go through a meticulous detail and talk with the patience that was required to explain it to someone with zero experience like me, why this was not decades away. It was really close. And we're recording now on Tuesday the 13th of December. And today, the US Department of Energy announced this is for the first time ever, a successful fusion experiment in which they fired energy at a piece of fuel and that piece of fuel fused at an atomic level and released more energy than was utilized to create the experiment. Now, this has always been the holy grail of a type. It's not about splitting atoms, it's about fusing them. People will be skeptical rightly as to whether this will really turn into anything. But we should also point out it has been decades to get to this point of incredible engineering thought, and we don't know what this now might turn into. If this was ultimately what it could be, then a cup of hydrogen fuel powers a house for hundreds of years. I mean, this is an, potentially unbelievable.
Paul: [00:14:43] I mean they did use the world's biggest laser, so it's probably not going to be deployed next week but it's great, it's really good.
Tom: [00:14:47] Yeah yeah, for sure. This doesn't mean that we can't carry on with everything else we're doing. But it's an incredible piece of breakthrough, incredible piece of news and a breakthrough.
Paul: [00:14:55] Here, here. Well done, science. But, linked to holistic thinking.
Christiana: [00:15:14] Well, thanks, Tom. So, Roshi Joan Halifax has a PhD degree in anthropology, which has been a link between two of the two of us. But more importantly, she's a Buddhist teacher. She is the founder of what is known as the Upaya Zen Center, located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I have been several times, highly, highly recommended to be there for a few days. She's a social activist, has written many, many books. And very interestingly, she has been a pioneer in end of life care. She has specialized on how do you sit and not just sit in a physical way, but how do you sit emotionally, spiritually with those who are dying and with the loved ones of those who are dying. She has been working that for many years and has included in that very difficult work, working with inmates who are facing their last days of life as well, and a beautiful work very embraced by loving care and openness to uncertainty, which is so difficult for many of us to open up to. She's also the leader of yearly hikes into the very high Himalayas, taking medical care to Nepalese villages who, without this care that comes to them via her and her team, they would have absolutely no access to medical help. And she, you can imagine the strength of this woman in her eighties hiking up to, to the high Himalayas. So quite, quite a light, quite a pillar of light. And, it is my absolute joy and honour to be a friend of hers. And we were able to entice her to join us for our last episode this year. So here she is.
Tom: [00:17:41] Yay! Here we go.
Christiana: [00:17:48] So, Roshi Joan Halifax, it is so fantastic to finally have you here on our podcast. We have been thinking about when do we bring you on? And it is such an honour and such a pleasure that we have you as the final guest for our podcast this year. We would really love to send our listeners off with, with inspiration, with motivation for the time that they have off from, from work and hopefully with family and friends. So, you are our guiding light here. So no pressure on that one. Just get ready for that.
Roshi Joan Halifax: [00:18:31] Thank you, Christiana, I'm sitting here smiling. Being a guiding light is a responsibility that I actually cannot take on, but I will do my best with my little candle.
Christiana: [00:18:47] Yeah, yeah, yeah. You've been a major guiding light for many years, so no, no under appreciation here.
Paul: [00:18:54] Candles are very good.
Christiana: [00:18:56] Candles are also good. But for our listeners, just a little background of when I first met Roshi Joan, I had of course heard of her a lot and we were both invited to, I guess, teach a course, if that's the right way, in Blue Spirit, which is a beautiful, wonderful retreat center here in Costa Rica. And I had never seen her, but I walked in to the big hall where all of this was with of course, was taking place. And I see this amazing figure sitting on the floor. And I just knew it was her. I just, I just totally knew it was her. And so I went over and bowed very deeply. I don't know if you remember that. And I just expressed my joy at finally meeting you in person. And we were just immediate, immediate friends. We then proceeded without any preparation to, to have several public chats in which I, the impertinent little start up, dared to disagree with the authority that Roshi Joan is. And I did it, of course, in front of, I don't know how many hundreds of people were in the room. I didn't disagree with her once, I disagreed with her maybe two or three times, throughout which Roshi Joan with all love and understanding and patience, was just smiling and asking me another question. And I kept on insisting about my disagreement, so I've taken that as Roshi Joan knows, I've taken that big, big lesson and have really worked it through. And, what would you know? I have come around to recognize that Roshi Joan was right all the time, but I have celebrated this friendship and this collaboration for many years, including, including accepting a fantastic invitation that Roshi Joan made to me to join her up in the mountains of New Mexico and spend six days in solitary, solitary living in a cave that, that she has prepared for those who want to be there for some time of reclusion and introspection. So here again, thank you very much for my six days in your wonderful cave.
Roshi Joan Halifax: [00:21:22] Oh, Christiana, you were impressive in your absence, both absence from the main cabin, which is always a temptation, but also staying off your iPhone, you would just march the length of the valley, which is about a mile long back and forth to your cave retreat. And I would bow at a distance and think with delight, I didn't expect her to make it through a day. Now we're on day six.
Tom: [00:22:03] I think I did get the odd WhatsApp, though. I have to say, I mean, not to dob you in, I think I did get the odd WhatsApp.
Roshi Joan Halifax: [00:22:09] You are a phenom, my dear, in more ways than one.
Paul: [00:22:14] That's true.
Christiana: [00:22:15] So Roshi Joan, maybe for our listeners who haven't been following and studying your teachings, maybe a short introduction about the founding of the Upaya Center in New Mexico and what it is doing today, and then we will get into other conversations.
Roshi Joan Halifax: [00:22:40] Thank you, Christiana. So I founded the Upaya Zen Center really on the principle of the relationship between social and environmental engagement and contemplative practice. And this was very much inspired by my relationship with Thich Nhat Hanh, whom I met in the mid 1960s, who became my teacher in the mid 1980s, and who exemplified this quality of courage that comes through this deep experience of being a contemplative, a practitioner, and also comes through the experience of what it means to engage the world in a socially, in an environmentally respectable, responsive and responsible way. So Thay had a huge influence on me, as also did my third Zen teacher, Roshi Bernie Glassman, who sat with unsheltered people in the streets of New York, who sat in Auschwitz in the charnel ground of that concentration camp where I was so fortunate to join him, who went to Rwanda and did bearing witness retreats in Rwanda as well, and really exemplified this kind of courage of working in the charnel grounds of our society with a kind of spirit of not knowing and of opening ourselves to what is the truth of suffering and how can we encounter the truth of suffering in a transformational way.
Christiana: [00:24:36] And, Roshi, it goes without saying, and all of us would immediately agree that this has been a really tough year. It's been a tough year for so many different reasons because of the un-ending war in Ukraine, because the pandemic is still lingering, because of, of the inflation. Because of the threats to so many millions of people who have to be choosing between fuel or food. I mean, on and on and on. It has been a very, very tough year. And for those involved in climate or biodiversity, because we're right in the middle of the biodiversity convention negotiations, it's been a very tough year because we know that time is running out. We know that we have to do so much more than we're doing, and yet it's not getting done. And so it's leading, honestly to desperation and to the realization that these challenges, as they become more and more intertwined with each other, seem to be more and more overwhelming to us and completely unpredictable. We are in a world of total, total uncertainty where things that we think are going to go in one direction, then move to another direction, and where we think they're going to go, disastrous, they move positive. And when we think they're going to be positive, they move to, to not so positive. The uncertainty, the constant daily uncertainty that we're living in is has been very, very difficult to deal with. And so in the midst of all of that, we would love to talk to you or hear from you, rather, about resilience. Where does, because it does seem like that's the only possible response that we can have to all of this turmoil. What is resilience? Where does it come from? How do we cultivate it? Why is it even important? Does resilience seem to you to be the, the tool that we should reach for now?
Roshi Joan Halifax: [00:26:41] This is such an important question, Christiana, I first want to say that in order for us to be authentically resilient, I think we have to face the realities of the day. And the realities of the day are very much as you have characterized them. They're catastrophic. And the magnitude of our current reality is difficult for anyone to put their arms around because it's not just the catastrophe of our climate. It is our economic system. It is millions of people fleeing from oppressive climate conditions. It is war, it is racism, it is corruption in politics. I mean, it's a big package. And so the first thing I believe that needs to happen is that we are, we have a very clear picture to the extent that we are able of what is the current situation, knowing that the future is very uncertain. But actually the future, the future is always uncertain. Now how do we have a clear picture? How do we see or how do we look deeply? And, you know, why is contemplative practice relevant here? It actually allows us to familiarize ourselves with the content of our own mental continuum, with our re-activities, with our fear quotients and with our biases, and to begin to transform our way of perceiving the world. And it is just down in the weeds work that allows us to even begin to touch into the theme of resilience. In fact, I have kind of recrafted this notion of resilience, and I use two terms.
Roshi Joan Halifax: [00:28:58] One of those terms is flexibility. You know, a metaphor in Zen Buddhism for this kind of flexibility is of bamboo, which can bend infinitely in the fierce, of most fierce of winds. But does not break. So that pliability is our strong back, our capacity to uphold ourselves in the midst of any conditions. And it takes practice for most of us to develop that equanimity, that strength, that balance which allows us to actually be in the charnel ground of all of the changes that we're experiencing now. That strong back is complemented by soft front, in other words, by compassion, our capacity to perceive things clearly, to lend or give our attention to the conditions of our world, or what is happening before us, not different. Our capacity to really tune into our motivation, which is one that is based in deep concern for the well-being of others, not just our personal small self-wellbeing. So our motivation is really key in this whole process of meeting the suffering of this world and also our capacity to see deeply. In other words, do we have the attentional balance to actually see what is going on clearly and then the motivation to act. So this metaphor of strong back, soft front is one that we use often here at the center in our training of clinicians and of activists as the kind of paradigm, if you will, that we want to activate, not the strong front and the soft back.
Roshi Joan Halifax: [00:31:01] The soft back is fear. The strong front is defensiveness. Our biases, our resistance, a hardening up. And for many it is about shifting that dynamic and also our commitment to restoration. In other words, indeed, we are facing a very complex situation where, how can I say, it's not just the suffering of the human species, it's the suffering of many different species. And we're facing this sixth mass extinction even as I speak now. So I'm reminded of some words of the palliative care physician, Sunita Puri, who said, you know, the prelude to compassion is the willingness to see. The willingness to see. So we are being admonished to cultivate the strength and the courage to look deeply, but to look in such a way so as not to be traumatized by what we're perceiving, but to actually be, if you will, inspired to meet the world again and again by what we're perceiving. So I want to say a few things about so called resilience. These perspectives really come out of the field of practice. My work for many decades of working with human suffering and also the, the work of Dr. Cynda Rushton and the late Steven Southwick. We often frame things as you have pointed out, Christiana, from a deep and negative bias. I mean, actually that's what's portrayed in our social media, that's portrayed, you know, in newspapers, in conferences, in the many organizations around the world. What sells in a weird kind of way is suffering.
Paul: [00:33:33] You said our media is colonizing us with hopelessness. I thought that was a beautiful phrase.
Roshi Joan Halifax: [00:33:38] Exactly. Now it's our, our ability to actually reframe these situations not from the perspective of positive psychology, just pasting over a nice, using a nice feeling, if you will, pasting over a big wound of suffering. It is actually to understand that our experience of connection with the truth of suffering can be profoundly transformational. And this is called, in the world of psychology, post traumatic growth. So our capacity to actually reframe difficult situations in a way that is fundamentally generative, affects not only our mindset, our attitude, but also affects our, if you will, the mindset of all those around us.
Paul: [00:34:38] So, Roshi Joan, may, I wanted to check that some sort of logic here that I think I've learned from your teaching and understanding, the point of not having, finding fault with the present I realize it's a large concept, but it's actually a very deep and beautiful one because that is really where we are. Your point that we cannot over identify with suffering because we are overwhelmed, but if we under identify with suffering, we get that hard front. But perhaps the most transformational thing that you said, Roshi Joan, that touched me very deeply is for us to connect with our purpose. Why are we here? And that being perhaps a core organizing principle. Do I understand this?
Roshi Joan Halifax: [00:35:26] That's beautiful. And I have to thank you for actually connecting with my work. So I appreciate your interest, your curiosity. And it's true. So, you know, this wonderful sentence, do not find fault with the present. Most people go, what do you mean? The present is a mess? And actually what it means is not that the present isn't a mess. Not that there isn't suffering in the present, but it's to perceive the present for what it is, as it is, and not to blame it, which is like a second arrow. But to see it clearly and not to flee it. So, I've, this is from Zen master Keizan, who came after Eihei Dogen, in his Denkoroku, the transmission of light. I picked it up out of his taisho, out of his teachings and going, oh yeah, we will find fault with the present, which actually cultivates bias within us. And what we're asked to do in this situation is to perceive clearly without bias. And this does not mean to say, of course, Paul, that we do not hold those who engender harm accountable. Accountability is essential. So I just wanted to gloss on that point of the various points that you shared, including the point about empathy. You know, our capacity to be in resonance with another or with a situation where suffering is very present is really important. And it is, I have said, I'm sure you know what a world without empathy is, a world where we are dead to each other. But over identification with suffering or objectification of suffering, that's all on a continuum. We're looking for that middle path where we are not experiencing empathic distress or we're not experiencing alienation, but we're in that sweet spot of identification, but inside I am in resonance with the suffering I am perceiving, and that suffering is that person's experience, not mine. So that.
Christiana: [00:38:13] It's a difficult balance to strike that one that you've just described. Right. It's a very difficult balance because we tend to go to one extreme or the other, just out of habit, I guess. Tom called me on over identification about something this morning. What was it, Tom, that you said? Oh, over identification! What was that?
Tom: [00:38:35] I can't remember, actually. But, but now that I've got the floor. Can I ask you a question, Roshi Joan and I just want to go one level deeper on an example, because I have a lot of conversations with listeners who really want to connect with their purpose and the moment that we're in. And what I often hear is that when people get reminded by the news or by a thought of the fact that we're running out of time, how serious things have gotten, how late the hour is, how bad the impacts might be, it creates this sort of breathless anxiety which then feeds its way through into behaviour. And so I'd just love you to, I'm sure you've had lots of people ask you questions like that before. What should people do in that moment where they want to find a doorway into a type of perception that you're describing here? Should they use the breath? Should they focus on their body? What, what encouragement or words of advice would you give people?
Roshi Joan Halifax: [00:39:32] You know, I think one of the most important things is being able to actually identify the fact that you are in a state of upregulation of distress, that, that moment when you recognize that you're in it, provides, if you will, the means for shifting it, for transforming that state. And it could be through a metacognitive approach, that is and I actually use this a lot myself, where I remember this pain I'm experiencing or this anxiety I'm experiencing, it's impermanent. What can I learn from what I'm going through right now? So it's a respectful, curious approach to this dysregulated state. Or one can use the breath as a kind of anchor, or most importantly, one can see the truth of suffering, and this is something His Holiness the Dalai Lama uses all of the time, which is this altruistic impulse, which is, you know, what can I do to serve others who are suffering? And the Dalai Lama is very clear that the cure for fear and futility, the cure for hopelessness, if you will, is this cultivation of an altruistic heart, an altruistic mind.
Tom: [00:41:13] That's beautiful.
Roshi Joan Halifax: [00:41:13] How can I be of benefit to others?
Tom: [00:41:19] Christiana, do you want to close this out with outrage and optimism?
Christiana: [00:41:23] I'm not ready to close.
Paul: [00:41:27] I have one other, one other question, if I may, Roshi Joan. It's something that I think applies so deeply to climate change specifically, you've talked about non referential compassion, which is being more, I suppose, conscious of a distributed self, I even enjoyed your story of the late great Gregory Bates and pointing to mind as not in the head, but between the two speakers and this, this, this distributed self which other people have evoked in different senses. How can we find compassion for that, that is, that is sort of kind of beyond the definite and the more universal compassion.
Roshi Joan Halifax: [00:42:10] You know, I think we have to, most of us take baby steps. Sometimes we take on the suffering of the world and it becomes rather meaningless. But if our child is disregulated, if our neighbour is disregulated, if our pet, our dog is dying, and there we connect in a relational way, in an intimate way with suffering, and it becomes, if you will, a kind of stepping stone to larger and larger fields of identity. So, you know, feeling, if I think about the magnitude of our climate catastrophe, I actually, I just look at it and I feel helpless. What can I do? You know, as I'm recycling, it's really important to do that. We have, as Christiana knows, we're off the grid up in the mountains, all on solar. We harvest and care for every drop of water that comes into our valley. But these are small acts, humble acts that actually add up. If we all engage in these intimate, small scale feeling acts of blessedness, if you will. We have the capacity to not only have a sense of depth and meaning and care in our lives, but if we all did it, we would of course affect fundamental change in our world. And even though we all probably won't do it because that's just how our human race is structured at this time, still we show up. And I think that sensibility of showing up, the sense of purpose, of meaning, of efficacy in how we serve others builds a sense of integrity within our own character and through our own relationships. And I want to just mention one story, if I can, to finish our time together. Here at Upaya, we just marked the Enlightenment, the awakening of the Buddha, which is done traditionally in our community every December 8th.
Roshi Joan Halifax: [00:44:56] And we were focusing on what is called Green Dharma, through a very powerful teaching called the Avatamsaka Sutra. And it's, it was so wonderful to have young teachers and older teachers, including Kaz Tanahashi, who's 89 years old, deliver this message again and again that we must take responsibility and realize the truth of interconnectedness in order for there to be environmental and social transformation in the world. And Sensei Kozan told the story of an extraordinary woman called Josephine Henrietta Mandamin, who is an Anishinaabe elder. She died several years ago. A First Nations elder. And she is the one who helped found the Water Protectors movement in our country. And she was instrumental during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock, Indian Reservation by singing, praying. But most importantly, imagine this, this lone elder walking with a bucket of water in her hand. Slowly but surely around the Great Lakes, covering, over the course of her lifetime, nearly 25,000 miles. Just carrying a single bucket of water. Illuminating our sacred connection to water. Never in her mind, I am sure, with any idea that she would be starting a movement, a movement of water walkers, a movement of cherishing the waters, a movement that transformed the situation in relation to the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock and in other Indigenous lands. One bucket of water and one old woman. We do not know what the outcome will be of our actions, but we do have this sense of profound alignment in doing the right thing, of showing up, no matter how small that bucket is, the water that she carried, the steps that she took, brought into being a movement that is alive today across our planet. One bucket of water.
Christiana: [00:47:52] And one elderly woman. In unison, right? How beautiful. What a strong image there of our intimate relationship between who we are as people and who we are as part of nature. Right. One elderly woman and, and one bucket of water. Beautiful story. Thank you, Roshi Joan. Thank you for, for sharing that beautiful story. So, as you know, I could sit here for hours and chat with you and learn from you at your feet. But sadly, we do have to come to a close to this episode. And Roshi, we always end our podcast conversations asking our guests, in the context of what we've just chatted about, what are you still outraged about? And I love, I'm very excited to hear your answer. What does a Buddhist teacher who practices equanimity, what is she still outraged about? I'm very excited to hear your answer about that one. And what are you optimistic or hopeful about? Because, we begin to see the rays of light on that one.
Roshi Joan Halifax: [00:49:12] Well, it's interesting that you ask this question about outrage because it was a little bit my, what could I say, my MO in my twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties.
Christiana: [00:49:27] Not a little bit. A lot of your MO!
Roshi Joan Halifax: [00:49:29] Yeah, but I'm in my eighties now. And I actually am living in this sense of engaged optimism more, much more than outrage. And as a result of that, I'm a healthier person, actually. So what am I optimistic about? I'm optimistic about the younger generation. I'm optimistic about people of colour, BIPOC. I'm optimistic about the traditional ecological knowledges that are being activated at this time of indigenous peoples great understanding of how to live in harmony with our earth. Henrietta being an example, but also I who live in the Southwest in New Mexico, where 750,000 acres were burned by wildfire this summer, throwing massive amounts of carbon into the air. And this carbon sequestering capacity of our forests was diminished by some percentage because of inappropriate technologies being applied by white people, if I can say it, in the control of fire. So I am optimistic about what we can learn from indigenous peoples, humbly so, but also with great interest. And I'm optimistic about you, Christiana. You are such a force for good and I love your energy, your spark and spunk. So I thank you for this opportunity to share a few thoughts with your [00:51:18] Maha [00:51:19]community.
Christiana: [00:51:20] Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you, Roshi. That's very, very generous of you. It is the three of us and all our listeners that are really so grateful for you to to to sing us out at the end of the year, to take us on your wings and, and really take us to a higher level of engagement and deeper level of engagement both at the same time. So thank you so much. I'm very sad that we have to say goodbye, but I'm not saying goodbye to you because I will see you very soon in Costa Rica. I'm very excited.
Tom: [00:51:59] Thank you, Roshi Joan.
Paul: [00:52:00] Thank you so much. Roshi Joan.
Roshi Joan Halifax: [00:52:02] Love you so much.
Christiana: [00:52:04] Love you. Thank you.
Tom: [00:52:12] So what a privilege to get a chance to speak to Roshi Joan, Christiana, you've talked to us about her for a long time, but wow, she really, you really didn't overestimate her. This is, this is incredible. So what do you both leave that conversation with?
Christiana: [00:52:26] Well, if I can jump in, I mean, I just leave it with, again, renewed admiration for the depth of her commitment. And she, she is the teacher from whom I learned this amazing concept of strong back, soft front that is four very, very simple words, but that encompass such a deep insight as to how do we show up in the world. And we've been talking a lot over the years on this podcast about how do we show up. And there cannot be a clearer synopsis, a clear summary of how to show up, but rather with a strong back and a soft front and not the opposite as she has so eloquently explained. It's been, you know, something that has been very helpful to me over the years, and I was so grateful that she brought it up in the conversation.
Paul: [00:53:26] Yeah, well, I mean, what can you say? I think that this absence of any kind of holistic thinking, you know, since the Enlightenment, we have all this kind of scientific knowledge that's building up and the incredible achievements of science. But then as organized religion has declined in society for all kinds of reasons that I sort of understand, actually. But the absence of holistic thinking. And I think that the Buddhism that I've encountered tangentially from you, Christiana and Tom, seems like a sort of, you know, holistic thinking without the need for the idea of a sort of overbearing God, but a way of, of trying to.
Christiana: [00:54:04] Yeah, yeah, there's no dogma attached to any of this, right? It honestly is just life wisdom. That's all it is. How can we be better human beings on this planet during the time that we're here? Period. It's not about dogma. It's not about, you know, any kind of religious beliefs. It's, it really is just life wisdom.
Paul: [00:54:24] But that, also recognizing, like, you know, people talk about climate change, you know, people talking about getting overwhelmed. So, so, so wonderful to hear her recognise, you know, that whilst that you have non duality, there is also separation. And you know, I've got a sort of slightly silly version of this that, you know, I grew up in a medical family, every Christmas one of my parents was a hospital doctor. Every Christmas day I would go to hospital. I associate, hospitals are sort of like very normal things and, and kind of death is a really normal thing, to be honest with you. And and, you know, the thing about one of these ten rules for doctors is it's a jokey rule, but it's kind of funny. It says, like, the patient is the one with the disease. This is what you have to remember. And to some extent, the fact that we're working on climate change doesn't mean that we're ill. You know, we don't we don't want to confuse empathy with negativity. You know, that actually, we and part of Roshi Joan's teaching is that, you know, these moments of crisis can actually bring out the best in people and allow for enormous growth. So that's a, that's just a positive reflection on her amazing way of looking at things.
Christiana: [00:55:29] It's such a, it's such an important point that you make there, Paul, because what I'm learning from these various teachers is we have to be able to recognize the strong emotions that we have, right. Not turn away from our sadness, our despair, you know, our anxiety, not turn away from it, recognize it, because otherwise it just comes up to bite us and at the same time, understand that the despair and the anxiety, the grief and the sadness is not us. It is a part of me, but it is not me. And being able to find that space between the deep emotion and who I am, allows me to then make space for other feelings and other emotions, such as engagement and commitment to providing solutions. Because the moment that we think that we have been over overruled, if you will, or overtaken by the anxiety, the grief, the despair, and that that is us, then there's no oxygen there. Then there's no capacity to do, to help, to contribute to any solution. So it's that space between the emotions. It's not denying the emotion, but it is opening a space between the emotion and who am I?
Tom: [00:56:48] Yeah, I think that's extremely well put and I think very well, very helpful for people to be able to identify that you can have multiple different experiences and emotions in relation to this enormous change that we're facing. And you will go through all sorts of experiences. And, and I think we as the climate movement need to be careful to allow that to be the case. I was, I remember I heard someone say when I was at COP27 that if you're not depressed and anxious, then you're not paying attention. Well, actually, of course, there are lots of reasons to be depressed and anxious, but because things are bad, it doesn't mean we need to be depressed and anxious all the time. There may be an experience of that, but then you move through that to other emotions in response to what we're facing, which is what we need to do in order to find the courage and the determination to pivot that to action. So so let's not assume or apply or police each other saying we need to have a certain emotional reaction to where we are in order for that to be valid. Because as we've just heard, actually, this is a journey that we're all on and we're all finding our way on our own and with each other.
Christiana: [00:57:52] And in many different ways.
Tom: [00:57:54] And in many different ways.
Paul: [00:57:55] It's a challenge that needs analysis and not paralysis. A final thing, reading an article that Roshi Joan had written, she quoted [00:58:02] Václav Havel, [00:58:03] one of the, it's a wonderful quote, I'm sure we've said it before that hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.
Christiana: [00:58:13] Exactly.
Yes, yes, absolutely. As you've said that, should we just mention to listeners, former guest on this podcast, Joanna Macy, is currently ill in hospital. Christiana, I wonder if you want to say anything about that before we close out because it's something to keep.
Christiana: [00:58:29] Yes, Joanna Macy is an amazing, amazing also an amazing teacher to so many. She is a climate activist and ecologist. She, she does deep ecology. She's one of the deepest thinkers in deep ecology and has been with us for, for quite a few decades, reminding us of all of these insights that Roshi Joan has just laid out before.
Tom: [00:59:02] An active hope, of course, was her big thing.
Christiana: [00:59:04] An active hope. Which is her, yes, which is her book and her, and her motto, I would say. And what she means with active hope is to to keep ourselves on the positive, but do it actively, right? Engage, engage, engage. So really quite. And she's been an inspiration to many people in the climate movement, in social issues. She's just been such an inspiration and such a pillar of light and she is she is in in the hospital with pneumonia. Her daughter reported today that she is feeling somewhat better, which is very good news. But, but she's up there in age. Hold on.
Tom: [00:59:51] She's in her mid-nineties.
Christiana: [00:59:52] She's in her mid-nineties, thank you.
Tom: [00:59:54] So we'll link to the episode. But people can keep her in mind because she's been a real guiding light for so many.
Paul: [01:00:00] Look in the show notes for some more of the wonderful Joanna Macy.
Tom: [01:00:03] So this is it folks. The end of 2023. Thank you for being with us again on this remarkable journey. No, it's the end of 2022, isn't it? It's the beginning of 2023.
Tom: [01:00:14] I can't believe, first of all, I can't believe I got that wrong. Secondly, neither of you pick me up on it. That's right.
Paul: [01:00:19] 2028.
Tom: [01:00:20] It's the end of 2022, beginning of 2023. Another critical year. We will be with you. We'll be back towards the end of January, I think. So we can take a bit of a break over the holiday season. I hope you all have a wonderful time with loved ones and a great beginning of the year and we will play you out as ever with some music. This week, we are bringing you a beautiful piece of music from Windser. The song is called Drift Away, so I hope you enjoy this. Have a great break over the holiday season. We'll see you next year.
Paul: [01:00:48] Happy holidays, happy new year!
Christiana: [01:00:51] Enjoy yourselves. Enrich yourselves. Take a very needed rest and come back re-energized next year for more to do. Bye.
Tom: [01:01:04] Bye.
Paul: [01:01:05] Bye.
Windser: [01:01:08] Hi, I'm Windser from Santa Cruz, California, and you're about to hear my song Drift Away, which is track six on my debut EP, Where the Redwoods Meet the Sea. Drift Away is a song about loss and grief, and specifically, to me, the song is about losing my father when I was 22. Each verse chronicles the past, present and future feeling of loss and grief and how it affects you.
Clay: [01:04:51] So there you go. Another episode, end of year episode of Outrage + Optimism. Wow, what a year it's been. Thank you to everyone. Thank you to everyone who has listened this year. We owe it to you that we even have a podcast. And so take that with you that you made this year possible. Thank you. And not only thank you for listening, but thank you for sharing this podcast. We learned at the end of this year that both Outrage + Optimism and The Way Out Is In which is a podcast we co-produce with our friends at Plum Village. Available wherever you get your podcasts. We're both in the top 1% of most shared podcasts on Spotify. And again, that's all because of you. So thank you. You've made this an incredible year for us. Thank you. We should have a party or something. Are there any, if you're a listener that likes throwing parties? Email us. My name is Clay. I'm the producer of Outrage + Optimism. And this week's track that you heard was Drift Away by Windser. So this EP that Jordan mentioned at the top of the song, Jordan being the artist Windser, this EP Where the Redwoods meet the Sea is start to finish just a joy to listen to. I just finished spinning it for the second time and it's pop sensibilities, wrapped in funk and some drive and measure. And I know he's West Coast, but this really does have a midwest indie flavour to it that, you know, me being a midwest kid, I just immediately connect with. I love it. It's fantastic. I love this, short EP's that are front to back, no skips. Very, very well done, Windser. Thank you for letting us listen to you and share you on our show.
Clay: [01:06:49] Some exciting things to check out in the show notes. Windser did a song recently with Macklemore, performed it on Jimmy Kimmel, even did an audio tree live session, which is available both on streaming services to listen to, but also to view on YouTube. All of this waiting for you to listen, watch and enjoy over the holiday break in the show notes, Where the Redwoods Meet the Sea EP. Windser, everyone. Thank you to Roshi Joan Halifax for coming on the podcast. It's been a while. We wanted to have her on a while ago and it just took a minute, but we are so grateful to be having her on for our end of year episode. You can check out her books, more about the Upaya Center and much more in the description in the show notes. However you like to call it, it's all there waiting for you. And of course it was mentioned towards the end of the episode, but the work of Joanna Macy is also in the description, including our episode with her previously on the podcast. We're sending all our love and energy to Joanna for a full recovery and look forward to good news. Okay. Wow. That's episode 184. Another episode of The Way Out Is In is coming out this weekend for your holiday enjoyment. I'm not ready to say goodbye, but I know I have to. It's been a fantastic year and looking forward to another one with you. The best way to not miss the first episode or any episode after that of this podcast when it comes out next year is to hit, subscribe or follow. We will see you in the New Year. Love to you all. Bye.