Tag Archives: climate change

Welcome to the Global Spiritual Revolution

Welcome to the Global Spiritual Revolution
Dear community,
I am very excited to share this article with you! It was just published in the Huffington Post. I hope you’re well, and I hope the article uplifts you.


Here is a link to the original article as it appears in the Huffington Post.

We may not recognize it, and there may be quite a bit of evidence to the contrary, but I am convinced that we are in the early stages of a global spiritual revolution. And I want everyone to join it or enter into it even more profoundly than you already have.

There are many examples of this revolution. Last year’s U.N. Paris Agreement is a political one. 195 countries (nearly the entire world) approved an agreement that charts a course to world peace, justice, and sustainability. Here’s an example from the grassroots perspective, offered by the social justice and environmental movement researcher Paul Hawken. “I now believe that there are over one – and maybe even two – million organizations working toward ecological sustainability and social justice… This is the largest social movement in all of human history. No one knows its scope, and how it functions is more mysterious than what meets the eye… What does meet the eye is compelling: coherent, organic, self organized congregations involving tens of millions of people dedicated to change.” (Blessed Unrest)

In other words, we are doing more good than ever from the top down and from the bottom up. Why? Because we are moving beyond a phase of human history that has been characterized by self-centeredness, we are realizing that we are interconnected, and we are increasingly acting from a place of love.

I think this revolution is happening now for myriad reasons but especially because of climate change. Due to our fossil fuel-based society, and ultimately due to our self- centeredness, we are not only facing the threat of the disintegration of the whole web- of-life on Earth but the very real possibility of human extinction, and we care about ourselves and each other too much to allow that to happen.

Yet our habits are deeply ingrained – psychologically and structurally – and we don’t have much time to transform. James Hansen, the former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies and an extraordinarily well respected climate scientist, recently published a paper in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics saying that we need to cut carbon emissions by 6% a year to stabilize the environment. Consider that for a moment. With the exception of what is still thought of as alternative energy, fossil fuels are the foundation of our society. They power almost everything. So achieving this goal will require a massive movement, a series of new laws, great creativity, ingenuity, and vision.

Notice that you might not feel inspired by this article, at least not yet. It might just seem like more doom and gloom. Here is an incisive quote that could explain why. “I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don't know how to do that.” (Gus Speth) To put it simply, the science alone won’t get us there. Only a spiritual revolution will.

Today I’d like to help us fuel this revolution.

Let me offer some personal background. In my twenties, I lived in a Zen monastery for six years. While I was there, I did an enormous amount of meditation and I also developed a wonderful student-teacher relationship with a true Zen teacher. Since then I have been working with another true spiritual teacher who is also a psychotherapist, and we have been on this path together for about eight years. Throughout this time I have learned something critical again and again – that my internal power depends  entirely on who I think am.

Like most of us, I tend to believe that I am just the little “me” inside of my body that I almost constantly try to protect, defend, enhance, or heal. Sometimes, however, I am able to wake up to the fact that I am bigger than my story of myself. I am, believe it or not, the whole universe. In the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber’s words, “I am Thou.” Eihei Dogen, the founder of my school of Buddhism (Soto Zen) pointed to the same thing when he called the universe “one bright pearl.” John Muir put it this way. He said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” Countless awakened teachers, some of whom belong to a particular religion and some of whom are completely secular, have expressed the same message. Here is one more voice that I am especially fond of. “A human being is a part of the whole called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” (Albert Einstein)

From this place of awareness of who we really are, we are able to be our true selves. We are able to let our love, power, and genius flow. And from this place we discover in us the capacity to witness, process, and appropriately respond to even the seemingly overwhelming challenges of today. That’s why spirituality is all-important. It allows us to fully meet what’s happening in this day and age. It allows us to rise to this extraordinary occasion.

So how do we actually do this? How do we wake up to who we really are? There is no one way. I have found meditation invaluable as well as having many open and honest conversations with spiritual teachers. I have also found psychotherapy absolutely necessary, but it’s important to acknowledge that not everyone else does. The last bunch of things that come to mind are spending time in nature, getting regular exercise, eating healthy food, having plenty of time away from technology, dancing, playing, laughing, resting, and doing good work.

If we look, we can find tons of examples of how this spiritual revolution is already happening. Notice the influence of Black Lives Matter, the tenacity of the equal pay movement, the passage of marriage equality, the fact that the topic of transgendered people has taken center stage, the pushback by so many people against closing our borders against refugees, the increasing popularity of vegetarianism, and the success of environmental groups like 350.org and the Sierra Club. There is a river of goodness on Earth these days, and we can enter into it more and more deeply.

Spirituality is at the very heart of this revolution. It is the reason we care, the reason we try, and the reason we grow. And if we take on spiritual practice intentionally, it will empower us like nothing else. Then we may just be able to leave behind a livable world for humanity and countless other species.

List of resources:

U.N. Paris Agreement

James Hansen study

6th Great Extinction

Black Lives Matter

The benefits of vegetarianism


Sierra Club


Why Going Crazy is So Sane

Why Going Crazy is So Sane

Dear community,
I just published this article in the online magazine Psyched in SF and I wanted to share it with you.

Link to the original article as it appears in Psyched in SF


Sometimes when it feels like we’re going crazy, we’re really having a deeply sane response to a world gone mad. As we become aware of all the suffering and potential future suffering on Earth, it’s natural to feel disturbed. And although these feelings can be extremely unpleasant, they’re actually a critical part of humanity’s evolution.

Take, for example, a client of mine who gets upset seeing people eat red meat. She thinks about the drought in California, the incredible amount of water it takes to raise cows, the cruelty of factory farming, and how so many people habitually order burgers or steaks and perpetuate the negative cycle. It makes her feel crazy. She used to worry that something might be wrong with her because she was the only one who ever talked about it and because whenever she went out to dinner she was the only one who ever seemed to have any difficult feelings come up. So she kept her emotions inside until, one day, she opened up to me and began to see that nothing is wrong with her. After all, she just wants us to have plentiful water, respect for animals, and widespread conscientiousness. After realizing that her difficult feelings come from her protective instincts she was able to allow this intense energy to flow – to gush – in practical, intelligent, truly helpful ways.

Thats why going crazy is so sane. Our feelings are what power change, and we need a lot of change on our planet right now.

Here’s another example – a personal one. It has been mind-bogglingly frustrating for me to witness how slowly my community is waking up to climate change. Just about the entire scientific world, plus a growing chorus of political and religious leaders – including President Obama, the Pope, and the Dalai Lama – say that we need to stop burning fossil fuels to avoid catastrophe. So it makes me crazy when I see my own friends, family, and colleagues unaware and unengaged. Some of them fly wherever they want without a second thought, drive wherever they want without a second thought, and buy whatever they want without a second thought, even while gigantic alarm bells sound. Fortunately, like my client, I am learning how to channel these feelings. I am now using them to breathe life into this article and transmit what I hope is an empowering, liberating message to you.

It’s important to acknowledge that some of you might feel defensive or judged by these examples, but that’s not my intention. Suzuki Roshi, the founder of the San Francisco Zen Center, said it best. “You’re perfect just as you are and you could use a little improvement.” In other words, I know we’re all good people. In fact, I think we’re all great people. At the same time the world desperately needs us to grow right now. Just as in our history we’ve had to wake up to the immorality of slavery, anti-semitism, and unequal rights for the LGBT community, we now have to face the destructive way we eat, burn fuel, and much more in order to survive and thrive.

I’ll end with an aspiration for us. May we honor our agitation, frustration, and unrest. It is the Mama Bear in us awakening. To use another metaphor, it is the Earth’s white blood cells activating. Life itself is on the line and it is absolutely appropriate to go crazy.

Processing the Pope’s Message

Processing the Pope’s Message

Dear community,

Today the Pope released his much-talked-about encyclical, an official Catholic teaching about how climate change is “a dominant moral and ethical issue for society.” In it he talks about the “unprecedented destruction” humanity will face if we continue to treat the planet the way we do, and I want to offer some tips to help us really take in his message without getting totally overwhelmed.

  • We can have confidence that there is a path toward stemming climate change and this “unprecedented destruction.” This path includes buying locally grown and made things, supporting social justice and environmental organizations, advocating for laws that put a price on carbon emissions, increasing our awareness of interconnectedness, healing ourselves, and much more.
  • We can pace ourselves. This might look like genuinely absorbing the Pope’s message for a few minutes, then surfing the Internet for a while, doing some exercise, and then, when we’re feeling ready, returning to the message.
  • We can lean on each other. We can think of someone we know who is grappling with these issues and ask them for some support. If we’re scared, sad, or angry, we can cry on their shoulder for a while.
  • We can be kind to ourselves. It’s a big, hard message and it’s okay to have a big, hard time with it.
  • As crazy as it may sound, we can try to bring fun into the situation. For example, once in a while I imagine that I’m a Jedi warrior saving the world with my fellow Jedi.
  • We can feel grateful for the rapid evolution that we need to undergo to survive. Without such dire circumstances, we wouldn’t be forced to wake up and grow so much, both individually and collectively.
  • We can find refuge in spirituality. It may take some work for us to wake up, but there is a higher consciousness that we all have access to. From this place we know that no matter what happens we’re okay and everything is okay. This is not a recipe for complacency, it’s a source of peace and strength from which we become powerful agents of change.
  • We can remember that we’re not alone. If we want to help, we’ll be joining an unprecedented number of people who are already on board. This quote says it better than I can: “I now believe that there are over one – and maybe even two – million organizations working toward ecological sustainability and social justice. By any conventional definition, this vast collection of committed individuals does not constitute a movement… But after spending years researching this phenomenon, I have come to these conclusions: this is the largest social movement in all of human history. No one knows its scope, and how it functions is more mysterious than what meets the eye… What does meet the eye is compelling: coherent, organic, self organized congregations involving tens of millions of people dedicated to change. When asked at colleges if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: if you look at the science that describes what is happening on earth today and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t have the correct data. If you meet the people in this unnamed movement and aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a heart.” -Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest (2007)

I hope these tips help you as much as they have helped me.

In full support,


My Zen and climate change radio interview

My Zen and climate change radio interview

I recently did an interview with Will Sherwin, an MFT, Zen practitioner, and friend who hosts a radio show called Ethical Lifestyle Design. It’s about my attempt to make a positive impact on the world and about understanding that journey for everyone. It’s got good music, good questions, and I hope good responses. Here it is. If you listen, please let me know what it stirs in you!

Ethical Lifestyle Design – Jared Michaels, Zen, and climate change communication

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