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  • Cedar Koons, LCSW

Wade in the Water


Wade in the water,

Wade in the water, Children,

Wade in the water,

God's gonna trouble the water...

African American Spiritual

We stand on the edge of environmental changes that threaten our very existence. Water levels are rising inexorably as the poles and glaciers melt. Water temperatures increase as carbon and methane spume from our activities into our atmosphere to create bigger and scarier storms. Anyone who lives in a low lying area is at risk for refugee status and many of the most vulnerable humans are already discovering what this means. The rest of us watch in horror. No one knows how to stop this catastrophe let alone attempt to mitigate its terrible destructive power.

Our old enemies greed, ignorance and hatred confound us at every turn. The ignorance of the blind and gullible, the hatred of racism, religious bigotry and misogyny and the greed of capitalist robber barons. Overpopulation undercuts our ability to manage. As a species we need a miracle in order to evolve. If we don't, we may become extinct, taking thousands of other precious species with us into oblivion.

How do we remain mindful in the face of such fate? How can we renounce despair and summon the energy necessary to at least try to effect the miracle of evolution needed? Can we become an enlightened species?

To me the answer lies in wisdom that is articulated in the Great Vows for All taken by all Bodhisattvas (yes, that is us!) First, we must Renounce Ignorance. We need to learn all we can about our plight as a species. We have to look the problem square in the face and understand it. Our planet needs a giant consciousness raising about climate change and its potential threats including sea rise, floods, droughts, fires, disruption of agriculture, food insecurity, migrations and collapse. These forces are already underway with a vengeance. Let's get the word out over the din of ignorance.

Second, to survive as a species we must Renounce Hatred. For enough of us to root hatred out of our hearts to effect this miracle will be our most difficult task. We know it is possible by the careful effort of mindfulness--this has been shown countless times by the examples of many people in history whom we revere. Each one of us must commit to the effort to embody compassion and non-judgment. We are all on the same life raft. If we don't renounce hatred our species will drown. Renouncing hatred happens in the moment for the moment but every time we do it we change our brains.

Third, we must Renounce Greed. We must adopt measures of voluntary simplicity as part of our mindfulness practices. Find as many as you can to adopt: eat vegetarian or vegan, drive less, hang out laundry, turn away from consumption goods, reduce frivolous travel and share what you have with others in need. Make a list of things you are willing to do and commit to doing more toward a sustainable future. Involve yourself in the governing process by voting and supporting elected officials who will stand up against greedy individuals and corporations who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of us all.

And finally, we need to reject despair. It is tempting to give up and become hopeless. But that is a way of remaining asleep. Like the Israelites pursued by the Egyptians to the edge of the Red Sea we need to be vigilant. Its not God who is going to trouble the water. Its us. We stand at the edge of the sea. If the waters are to part it is up to us. "The many beings are numberless. I vow to save them." Bodhisattva vow.


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