Lauren’s CRAN: “Places, Please!”

I’m here!  I’m in Nebraska!  And I have that, “Places, Please!” feeling.

Parvati, newly arrived in Nebraska -- ready for assembly!

Parvati, newly arrived in Nebraska — ready for assembly!

My love for theatre began in grade school; I had the good fortune of performing a lot in Lincoln, NE.  It was my sophomore in high school when I realized that even before the Stage Manager called, “Places!” I was often already in the wings, praying.  Being in the wings is a holy ground, of sorts.  It’s that space of putting one’s trust in the rehearsals and preparation, combined with the creative tension that ceaselessly nudges for further refinement, fresh paint, the freedom to risk a little.  Praying before a performance is my way of surrendering: please remind me to use all I’ve been given.  Please grace me with the ease and spontaneity of Being Present.

My CRAN (Climate Ride Across Nebraska) is no different, but more to the point, neither is our miraculous life on this fine planet-home!   Tomorrow, my Mom and Parvati and I will drive North and West to Chadron, NE, where I will begin my ride.  And, if this were merely, “a ride,” I don’t suppose I would be feeling butterflies.  This ride is a joyful, prayer-filled pilgrimage!

Please remember the stakes:  We cannot promise our children’s children will have clean water, or land, or air.

And please remember the promise: As highly intelligent, capable and creative mammals, the Divine invites each one of us to bring our love, our ingenuity, and our Whole Self to every moment.  My CRAN is rooted in a truth worth celebrating — that we are all (humans, animals, the elements) interconnected, blessed, and worth saving.”

You’re receiving this message because I want to share this week’s events with you.  I’ve committed to do the pedaling, my friends.  You can help me with your prayers and donations.  For those who have already donated, thank you, thank you.  Just this afternoon, I reached my minimum goal of $8000…so I’m raising the bar!  The proceeds from this ride will be divided between my three, specially-selected & amazing beneficiaries: 350.org, Interfaith Power & Light, and World Bicycle Relief.  You can make a secure online donation NOW by clicking on the ‘Support Me‘ button found on my Climate Ride page. You’ll automatically receive an acknowledgment and I will be notified by email of your support. Thank you for your help!

Climate Ride, 2011

Climate Ride, 2011

Sacred Activism (Part One)

[This post, and the one that will follow (part 1 & 2), are from a homily I delivered at the ChI Interfaith Community monthly interfaith service on July 20, 2013.  It is dedicated to all those participating in the Summer Heat Richmond demonstration tomorrow, Aug. 3rd – http://joinsummerheat.org/bay/]

 

In preparing my thoughts for this talk, I asked a few friends what came to mind when they heard the word, “activism.”  It was the response of one friend that particularly struck me.  “When I hear the word, ‘activism?’” he repeated my question, “ I think of angry people.”

Check in with yourself for a moment.  Do you or does some part of you agree?

 

Photo: Google Images

Photo Credit: Unless noted otherwise, all photos in this post are courtesy of Google Images

 

Photo: Google Images

 

Photo: Google Images

 

Is activism now understood to be what those angry people do to take a stand on all those issues?   And for a moment, let’s consider a small sampling of those issues…

Picture1

 

At present, 9 major wars (1000+ fatalities/yr) & 25 other conflicts (<1000 fatalities/yr);

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.justseeds.org

www.justseeds.org

 

Of the 6,222 FBI reported hate crimes in 2011, 6,216 were single-bias incidents—46.9 percent were racially motivated, 20.8 percent resulted from sexual orientation bias, 

19.8 percent were motivated by religious bias, 11.6 stemmed from ethnicity/national origin bias, and 0.9 percent were prompted by disability bias;

 

 

 

 

 

 

One in six people live on less than $1 per day, and 50% of the world’s hospital beds are people suffering from waterborne diseases.

 

 

 

 

 

Indigenous cultures are in decline all over the world;

 

 

 

 

 

and social isolation is on the rise.

 

 

 

Everyday, 137 species go extinct – 1000 times the normal rate, and if the scientific global climate models are accurate, we should expect an increase in the frequency, severity and impact (economic, social, environmental) of weather-related disasters.

Check-in with yourself, again.  What’s happening inside you…RIGHT now?  Is there anxiety?  Feelings  of Powerlessness?  Outrage?  Or maybe a simple desire to escape?  And, under the present circumstances, who of us is wrong to run for cover and escape?

It’s alright.

The enormity, the hugeness of what we are part of on Planet Home can be deadening, no question.  And often, it’s in this space where we make the choice to be an Activist…or Not.

And here, is where we can see the problem: because humans tend toward dualistic thinking, we are either Activists (aka “angry”), or we’re passive, hoping and praying a creative genius to those who feel less overwhelmed and can, “go deal with it.”

 

I agreed to talk about Sacred Activism.  So I asked my friend about this, too.  He said, “’Sacred Activism?’ Now, you’re just messin’ with me.  I don’t know what to think of that.”

Sacred Activism has been coined by a few authors and peace-making historians who suggest there’s another way.  I know they’re right.

Today, there is a NEW activist who stands on the shoulders of activist ancestry.  This activist has cultivated a few unique characteristics – sacred practices, we might say – to meet life fully engaged, moving beyond anger, beyond avoidance.  The practices are interconnected and inform one another, but to describe more specifically how this New Activist is born and moves in the world, I’m going to describe three of them — one now and the other two, in Part Two:

Practice One: Begin with Love, Return to Love

Many individuals have stumbled on what becomes activism simply by doing what they love: Mother Theresa, nursing the poor, for example.  Foster parents.  Marine biologists.

We love to love what we love! 

And there’s a funny thing about love…

our love is so strong and so tender that sometimes, it gets hidden behind WALLS of defense, TUNNELS of outrage, or WAVES of grief.  It can be a long return to love.  In the year before I professed myself an “eco-chaplain,” I had already served as the Executive Director for Green Sangha; I had built from nothing, an environmental action team at the hospital where I was a chaplain and still, in the world around me, nothing was being returned to its right place.  I saw 1-person-per-car idling on the freeway, an endless supply of Styrofoam cups and plastic bags being used once and tossed.  The Goodwill store, near my house was having a SALE!  I felt mildly psychotic: We are clearing the Earth’s forests, so we can drive to the store to buy stuff, to give to Goodwill, so they can send it to the landfill. I was desperate, I was angry; blame was pointless and staying mad felt miserable, so I turned toward what I love — toward the rocks, the trees, the smells of nature.  I began to ride my bike so I could climb the hills and sweat and breathe Mother Earth’s theology. Moving from this place – from my love – I was able to see my grief as a teacher.  My grief and love became the impetus to work within corporate America – the previous target of my outrage and blame. Love dissolves boundaries and brings us into intimacy with what is, so that even when we encounter that which seems opposite to love, we may seek to love it, too.

So, take this week to explore what you love —

Ellie, one of Lauren's LOVES!

Ellie, one of Lauren’s LOVES!

I mean really, really love.  Notice if there’s something blocking you from it (self-created, or otherwise).   What will it take to return?  To love what you love?   Next Week: Practices 2 and 3…

Visit Here: http://joinsummerheat.org/bay/

Visit Here: http://joinsummerheat.org/bay/

 

Why Lauren Bikes

[This post belongs in a series of 7 entries written to build community and receive donations to support the Climate Ride, a 320 mile cycling pilgrimage I made in October, 2011.  Several entries focus on and celebrate the particular efforts of each of the 4 NGOs I designated to receive funds I raised for the ride.]

 

Greetings!

In 35 days, I’ll be up in Fortuna, CA, and preparing to ride the 350 miles to San Francisco – 5 days of cycling to celebrate this Earth-home of ours, and to raise awareness about how we can do a better job of taking care of it.

So, SO many of you have already offered support.  Thank you for your generosity!  And for those of you still wanting to give, you have 4 more weeks.  You might recall that I’ve designated 4 NGOs, in particular, to receive the funds raised on behalf of my pedaling.  For the time remaining between now and Oct. 2nd,I’m going to focus on 1 NGO a week, highlighting why I think their efforts are important and worthy of your donation.

 

This week: The East Bay Bike Coalition  http://ebbc.org/

Their mission: Promoting bicycling as an everyday means of transportation and recreation since 1972.

Geek Treat: In the United States, 25% of trips are under a mile, but 75% of those trips are made by car.  Biking or walking one mile instead of driving will save you at least 15 cents on gas. And what about all those fun interactions with people and your neighborhood when you’re not stuck behind the wheel? (http://www.americantrails.org/resources/health/SuburbBrody.html)

 

And now….Why Lauren Bikes

 

“God made so many different kinds of people;
why would God allow only one way to worship”

– Martin Buber

 

I bike because it’s when my body prays.  I bike because it makes me feel strong.  I bike because two wheels take me to locations I wouldn’t otherwise see.  I bike because I always return from rides feeling different from when I left.  I bike because the challenges scare me…and I am someone who needs to lean into her fears directly.

 

A few years ago, I was riding my first double century – a double century is 200 miles in one day.  I became very afraid, suddenly, when I learned a big climb was coming and we’d be working very hard for the next hour.  “Climbing for the next hour?”  I questioned inwardly. A young voice inside whimpered, “I can’t!” and I wanted to cry….but another harsher voice snapped, “You can’t cry and ride a bike at the same time!  Keep moving!”

 

I finished the climb; infact, I finished the entire 200 miles, but I also became irrationally fearful of climbing.  For two months after that ride, I avoided certain roads and noticed an existential distancing between me and my love for meditation on the bike.  I knew I had to lean into this fear and find out what it meant.

 

In sought-out time with a Buddhist teacher, who is also an avid cyclist, he asked, “Lauren, do you KNOW that you can’t cry and ride your bike at the same time? For whatever it’s worth, I had a lovely cry on my bike just last Sunday.”  He also questioned wisely, “About how old was the one inside who said she couldn’t?  And who was the one who told her she had to?”  Before ending our session, he asked me to describe what it was like to finish all 200 miles.  Had I even taken time to acknowledge the accomplishment?  Ever so gently, with his own tears of joy leading the way, we both wept and celebrated my first double century triumph.  I agreed then to address the fears directly by returning to the East Bay hills, and I vowed to let him know what happened.

 

One week later, on a very foggy morning, I climbed South Park Road, one of Tilden Park’s steepest.  Along the way, I spoke to the fear, “You can do it.  Look at you: you’re doing it!!  You don’t have to go fast; you can stop if you need to….but look at you!  You are doing this.  Breathe.  Pull, push.  Breathe.”  At the top of the hill, I cried.  I cried and pedaled and laughed and whooped my way across the ridge, tears and snot running down my face, while I rode my bike at the same time.

 

Practice with Parvati, my two-wheeled Guru

 

I ride my bike because I see Creation from ever-changing angles.  I ride my bike because it is meditation in motion.  I ride my bike because in our dance together, we find God.

 

 

 

What is the Power of Your Love?

[I delivered the following homily in the summer of 2007 at my Renewing Ceremony.  The ceremony was created as a ritual to both renew my 1999 Ordination vows as an Interfaith minister and profess myself an Eco-chaplain.  Similar to a minister whose Call is healthcare ministry or prison ministry, I had come, through uncomfortable discernment, that my calling is to care – very intentionally – for the Earth and all Her inhabitants.  With my seminary’s endorsement and the blessing of my spiritual communities, I stepped into this new “office” on June 23, 2007. The ceremony began with an invocation by Jane DeCuir, of the Cherokee Metis Nation…]

 

Jane's Invocation

 

In seminary I was taught that Interfaith ritual should begin first by honoring the land on which you are gathered and the people to whom it belongs.  Thank you, Jane, for your presence here today.

I’ve heard that when the Europeans began arriving in America, they confused the Native People by asking them to translate “God” and “nature.”  In many indigenous languages, of course, the two words are the same. It’s the newer languages that felt a need to distinguish the God we know in nature as different from the God we know, perhaps, in the train station.

Looking for God, seeking the Holy in a variety of settings, is the work of a chaplain. Just as the chapel is separate from the church or temple, a chaplain resolves to create sacred space in the complexity of hospitals, war zones, city streets, Wal-Mart… At first glance, these intense places may be perceived as separate and God-less. A chaplain’s call is to bring some light; to prophetically state, “Here, too. No matter how horrid, the Source of our Breath abides in this place, too.”

A year ago, I began to see that my work was changing. Caring for the Earth had become my deep love in ministry. I’ll admit I’ve been making it up as I go, but I’ve been calling the work “Eco-chaplaincy.” I say it with love and dread because, after all, what does it mean when our Earth is so ravaged that it too, like a prison or the Iraqi desert, needs a chaplain?  And what, exactly, does an Eco-chaplain do?

Offering Homily

One of my favorite movies of all times is Mary Poppins. I love how Mary Poppins finds magic in the mundane. I also love her fastidious tendencies. For a good long while now, I’ve wished badly I could snap my fingers and—just like the toys in Jane and Michael’s nursery—have the environment return itself to a lush, forested, healthy planet. InMaryPoppins’ world, it’s fine to use what’s around you and to play with vigor, so long as you put it back…each article in its right place.

I went through a dark, troubling period last Fall. In the world around me, nothing was being returned to its right place. I saw 1-person-per-car idling on the freeway, an endless supply of Styrofoam cups and plastic bags being used once and tossed. Then one day, walking down University Ave., I saw a “SALE” sign in the Goodwill store window!

What does it mean when a thrift store has so much stuff it requires storewide liquidation?!?  We are clearing the Earth’s forests to the tune of 69 acres per minute, so we can drive to the store and buy stuff, to give to Goodwill, so they can send it to the landfill, some of it contaminating our soil and water for a millennium or more.  What is going on???  The whole scene had me feeling desperate, judgmental and angry — a pretty undesirable litany for a minister.

Blessing of Earth Worms

 

I knew that blame was pointless and staying mad felt miserable, so I did what one is wont to do when feeling sad, afraid, and misunderstood: I turned toward what I love. I spent a lot of time alone, turning toward the rocks, the trees, the smells of nature. With some kind coaching and encouragement, I got strong enough to ride my bike into these hills so I could sweat and breathe Mother Earth’s theology. It’s Her theology, after all, that gives birth to all the others. The miracle of our 13 billion year story on this planet is what, for me, truly makes sense.  We are this soil, this water, one great breath, breathing together.

 

As I connected again with all that I am and what I so dearly love, I began to thaw. The anger melted to grief, and the words of Eco-philosopher, Joanna Macy comforted me: “The grief you carry for this world comes from your love for it. It is high time we tasted the power of your love.”

My work as an Eco-chaplain, I’m coming to see, lies in the very heart of this question: What is the power of your love? My guess and my hope is that there are more Eco-chaplains out there.

I’m not at all certain how this work will continue to evolve, but I would like to close by sharing my present intention for what I will do in this role:

What is the Power of YOUR Love?

  • As an Eco-chaplain, I want to remind us all of our True Nature.  We are inextricably connected and linked to everything in this universe.
  • From this awareness, I want to act and serve on behalf of all species, advocating eco-justice.  I want, likeMaryPoppins, to teach that the magic is in the mundane. I want to celebrate the abundance inherent in simplicity.
  • In the face of adversity or despair, of which I know there will be plenty, I want to practice not closing down, but rather, “allowing in.”  I’ve heard this practice described as “poor man’s equanimity.”  With the stakes so high and the enormity of the crisis so deadening, “poor man’s equanimity” frees us to move and act without the guarantee of success.  After all, I have no clue how this story ends. The Divine invitation for each of us is to bring our creativity, our compassion and our Whole Self to each moment … one at a time.
  • And finally, the biggest secret: I want to do this work with joy!  An Eco-chaplain’s work, though wrought with a sense of urgency, is wonderfully Joyful!  I believe this is so because in caring for our interconnection to all and with all, I can clearly recognize—at least for brief, ecstatic moments—that there is no end to our mutual belonging.

If we humans want to live sustainably on this Earth, we have our work cut out for us: BIG time. As an Eco-chaplain and fellow human, my vote is that we get busy. And I invite us, like Mary Poppins, to find the magic in the mundane—to draw deeply from the wellspring of joy and love.

The Divine is ready, willing, awaiting our next act.

What is the power of your love?

 

The Making of an Eco-chaplain

The Making of an Eco-Chaplain

A year ago, I began to see that my work was changing.  Caring for the Earth had become my deep love in ministry.  I’ll admit I’ve been making it up as I go, but I’ve been calling the work “Eco-chaplaincy.”  I say it with love and dread because after all, what does it mean when our Earth is so ravaged that it too, like a prison or the Iraqi desert, needs a chaplain?  And what, exactly, does an Eco-chaplain do?

I found my answer at Walmart.

Lauren visits her first Walmart

My Eco-chaplain livelihood found its groove when I joined the founding team that designed and facilitated over 200 day-long sustainability workshops for the 1.2 million associates of Walmart Stores, Inc. Traveling across the country in the Spring of 2007, speaking with the faces of America at hundreds upon hundreds of Walmarts—a place I had been taught to oppose and avoid—I turned toward love. With a necessary naiveté and “beginner’s mind,” I entered corporate America to invite change, to be changed, and to provide space to consider a new operating practice.

One of my all-time favorite movies is MaryPoppins.  I love how Mary finds magic in the mundane.  I also love her fastidious tendencies.  For a good long while now, I’ve wished I could snap my fingers and – just like the toys inJaneandMichael’s nursery – have the environment return itself to a lush, forested, healthy planet.  InMaryPoppin’s world, it’s fine to use what’s around you and to play with vigor, so long as you put it back…each article in its right place.

There is no "away!"

In my work with Fortune 500 employees, I facilitate retreats where we talk about, “nano-practices.” It sounds technical, and it is based on a great deal of theory, but its essence is exceedingly simple: small actions result in big impacts.

Take, for example, a participant from the retreat at Frito-Lay Headquarters – I’ll call him Mark.  I askedMarkwhat one action – one behavior change – he wanted to exercise regularly to bring greater sustainability to his life and the planet. Marksaid, “I’d like to spend more time with my family.”

“That sounds great,” I said intrigued, “How does it help the planet?”  “Well,”Markschemed, “….one night a week, we’ll turn off the TV and go for a walk, as a family.” I nodded, liking where this was going, “We’ll save electricity and spare CO2 emissions by not using electricity; we’ll be out in the park getting exercise and enjoying nature together…AND!”  Markwas getting pretty excited, “we’ll also pick up litter while we’re out walking. Any recyclables we collect, we’ll cash in and give the money to a charity.”

Small actions; big impacts.

Through this work, I’m reminded again that a chaplain’s call is to bring connection; to prophetically state, “Here, and now! No matter how set apart, lost or beyond-love this place may appear, the Source of our Breath abides here, too.” Looking for God or honoring the mystery in a variety of settings is the work of a chaplain. Just as the chapel stands apart from a church or temple, a chaplain endeavors to create sacred space in the free-standing complexity of hospitals, campuses, military bases and, yes, corporations (even Walmart).

A Joy-filled moment during corporate retreat at the Houston Zoo

 

Furthermore, an Eco-chaplains’ calling is to serve and act with Joy.  I feel strongly that activism is defined as much by the peace-marching, protesting activist as by the devoted nano-practitioner who experiences a ripple over time— and that it works best when our actions bring us joy. Mother Earth wouldn’t have it any other way; it is written in the scriptures of every Faith Tradition I know.

Eco-chaplains, unite! The planet has made her aches known and the scientists have let humanity know we have a limited amount of time to act. May you be moved to act boldly, and to live and serve from the place of your deepest joy.