In spiritual teachings it is pointed out that this moment, right now, is all we have. This can really free us up, but sometimes too much choice can freeze us into inaction. Daily life offers many opportunities to bring sensitivity into the meeting of spirituality and practicality. But it can be difficult to know who to trust, what to do first, or even which paths we can travel.
In this section of our website we are hoping to look into and find solutions to common questions we find on the path of ethics, environmentalism and finance.
We are not experts in these fields but fellow travellers on the path. If you feel we have left something out, or have made a mistake with this information please let us know. We will be happy to update the information here with your help.
In January 2012 we started exploring specific themes via our Daily Life Matters Blog. We started this blog as it offers more interactivity, allowing for comments and discussion of the issues that matter. We wanted to explore the themes of our everyday impact on the world. From all angles if possible; both rational and spiritual, being realistic without losing touch with the dream, aiming for the sky with our feet in the dirt.
Here are some extracts from the blog and links to read more, we hope you enjoy what you read and please get involved.
A Declaration of Interdependence - General Sources of Inspiration
I am not who I was, I am a part of something greater that is always changing.
I take the view that we should live lightly on the planet, with the aim to pass this beautiful planet to future generations in better condition than we ourselves found it. Yet the likelihood of this coming to pass is poor. The human species has probably already changed the face of the planet in ways that will take millennia to rebalance. We have added more carbon to the atmosphere than there has ever been, and added polymers to delicately balanced eco systems.
But in light of this great failure I plan, through these blog posts, to explore the ethical, spiritual and practical dilemmas (or trilemmas; when adding the Buddha’s middle way to the mix) of being a modern human. Trying to live with wisdom and compassion while being one part of the most destructive force of nature ever to have walked on the planet’s surface.
Before I get going I want to... Read more
Bottling it - Packaged water and its environmental impact
This time I want to look at the issue of plastic waste creating by drinking water from bottles. I am writing from South India, and the content of this post is based on experience of travelling here, but the point should be applicable to anywhere where bottled water is available in plastic: It is creating waste regardless, even when it is recycled. (More about recycling and its efficiencies and inefficiencies, in another post)
If you have spent anytime in a country, like India, without a centralised waste management system and recycling plants, you will have seen an enormous pile of empty plastic water bottles. It is a dramatic sight not easily forgotten; sometimes tumbling down a small cliff in front of a perfect sunset, sometimes clogging up a blackened water way. These are the scenes of tourism outside of the tourist’s health’s comfort zone, the understandably poor meeting between western digestive systems and water systems less clean than they’re used to.
It is also a startling glimpse through the doors of perception. The huge amount of waste we create on a daily basis is dealt with very tidily in the west. We can ignore it, along... Read more
Should I get Down? - Down vs Synthetic Sleeping Bags
This is a caring travellers conundrum which I feel represents a painful dilemma: Is it better to negatively affect certain living beings in the short term or the whole planet in the long term. In this case geese killed for their lightest insulating feathers; down, or more synthetic materials; plastic, in the world. Maybe by comparing how down is collected to the impact of the alternatives on the environment we can make an educated and sensitive decision.
But first lets make a comparison of the two in terms of their qualities and benefits in a finished sleeping bag. Down feathers are one of natures great moments, they are beautiful to look at and can simply hang in the air, they weigh so little we can not tell if we are holding one in our hand or not. They are so effective at insulating that no man made object can match it weight for weight. Each down feather is made up of many filaments which radiate from their central shaft, this creates loft which allows for air to be trapped and warmth kept in.
The alternatives to down are made from synthetic (man-made) materials mimicking natures design; polyester fibres set in wiggly single threads or fanned out designs. Some are better than others but nothing as yet matches down for insulation by weight or compression. Meaning that your sleeping bag can be lighter and smaller with down. But bear in mind that... Read more
What you put into your mouth is as important as what comes out of it.
In this blog I want to touch upon the topic of food, which is a massive topic. Looking briefly at the chemical make-up of a modern diet, then looking more in-depth at the use of animals in our daily meals. As an early warning I should say this post is probably something I have quite fixed views about and will not be a very balanced account, please use the comments to keep us honest.
There is a saying “You are what you eat” and for many of us that would mean we are now all kinds of strange and creative inventions of modern times. Inverted syrups, inert stabilisers, dough conditioners, and a plethora of numbers and codes for things so plentiful they don’t even warrant the effort to be named, are added to our foods to make them look good and taste fine for longer. The mysteriousness and unnatural origination of these additives have moved many of us towards natural wholefoods, and we would often claim that they taste better too. But do they? I will leave that subjective question hanging, although fascinating to me at least, it has no corollary relation to the strangeness of chemical additives.
What happens to such things intended to preserve, improve or enhance our food when they get into our soft organic bodies? Do they improve... Read more
War, what is it good for?
In this episode of the blog I wish to look into whether there are justifiable uses of force and to explore this issue by analysing the environmental implications of war, the psychological impact on the people involved on all sides, and looking into whether there are circumstances when we can ethically support violence.
Wars are the embodiment of all possible destructive forces that humans can channel, and modern warfare has taken us to new levels of devastation. There are few species on the planet that kill its own kind, and none that do so in such a systematic manner as we humans are doing currently. Perhaps the systematic manner that our waring species executes its killing is what creates such wide spread and ongoing repercussions.
There have been wars raging across the face of the planet continuously for a long time, and as time moves forward the destructive power of the human race increases exponentially. Yet, against what we may instinctively feel, there are less people involved and directly affected by war than ever before. That we are in a more peaceful time for much of the world’s population is an... Read more
Articles from before the Daily Life Matters Blog
Rob Burbea has written an open letter addressing the complexity of issues that face us all in relation to human created climate change. Exploring the psychological, spiritual and material aspects, and what we can do about it. The letter was written with Dharma teachers and retreat centres in mind, but it is relevant for all of us trying to live consciously and with care for the earth.
Below is an extract from the letter follow the link at the bottom of the extract to read the full letter and get involved in an online discussion of the topic.
It's obvious that there is such an abundance and depth of good will in the Dharma world and in those who work in one form or another for the Dharma, and the expression of this goodwill is visible in countless ways large and small. Yet it also seems that in one area in particular - our actual responses to the Global Climate Emergency - we are falling short of what it is possible for us as a community to manifest. And I feel that as a matter of urgency we all need to discuss this issue thoroughly together. My sense is not that we are merely somewhat apathetic, as some might think, but that deep down, we, like most human beings, do care greatly about it, and very much want to address it. Somehow though, that care doesn't always manifest, get communicated, or get felt even, as fully as it could, and indeed, needs to be.
What exactly happens to stop us? It is clear the responses and reactions of the heart and mind here have become very complex. Probably, and understandably, we have all at times felt a sense of impotence, for example, in the face of this looming crisis, draining energy from both our inner and outer responses to it. But many of the unhelpful and confused movements of mind in relation to this issue may not be so obvious. They may be a good deal more hidden from immediate view. Clarity, integrity and real care then can feel hard to find and sustain.
But if the Dharma is to remain really relevant in the world, a beacon of wisdom and compassion for humanity, it seems to me we all need to understand our responses more fully. And we need to be putting out a different message, modelling something different than we are at present. I feel it behoves all of us to inquire more searchingly into all this, to shine the light of awareness and investigation here, and ask some potentially difficult questions, individually and as a Sangha, and to see if a fuller, deeper, more adequate response is possible from us. To see, 'what else is possible for us'? That's what this article is about.
I propose that we need to find a way to overhaul and transform the present system of retreats and Dharma activity to one that contributes significantly less to Climate Change and to the avijja (ignorance) and the mind-sets that contribute to Climate Change, while still ensuring adequate financial viability for both teachers and Centres. And I believe it is actually probable, for a number of reasons, that such a change will more enable students to develop, deepen and thrive as much as possible, in Dharma environments that are potentially more creative, and in Sanghas that provide more possibility for meaningful long-term relationships - between Sangha members and, equally, between Teachers and Students.
I'd be grateful if you would take some time to read and reflect on these critiques, questions and proposals in the article here
About two-thirds of electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels in power stations. This process releases millions of tonnes of CO2 (which is the main gas responsible for climate change) into the atmosphere. In fact, electricity generation accounts for nearly 40% of the total CO2 produced in the UK. The other third of electricity is produced from nuclear power, which has other severe environmental impacts.
The majority of domestic electricity suppliers offer a mix of this so-called ‘brown’ energy produced by coal, natural gas and nuclear sources, with only an average of 5.5% of renewable ‘green’ energy being included in the mix.
However there are some energy companies committed to addressing climate change and reducing the carbon footprint. These companies use energy harnessed from natural sources such as wind, water, solar power and biomass, that don’t pollute the earth’s atmosphere. Green energy companies such as Ecotricity, Good Energy, and Green Energy all offer an alternative to the ‘brown’ energy suppliers.
Although these companies are all ecologically inspired, they differ in both the percentage of renewable energy used, and the ‘shade of greenness’ of the sources. It seems that only Good Energy sources from 100% ‘deep green’ energy, but there are other environmental benefits to the other two. Ecotricity for example, has a pioneering scheme that they term, ‘turning electricity bills into windmills’, where for every £1 spent on the electricity, they’ll spend another £1 building new sources of green electricity. This commitment to building more alternative power stations means that each year the percentage of green energy supplied goes up and that of brown energy goes down.
The company Green Energy only buys and provides electricity from ‘deep green’ and ‘pale green’ energy sources, plus all of their customers automatically become partners and shareholders in the company.
In the UK people are free to choose whom they buy their electricity from.
Switching to green energy takes 5 minutes, as the only thing that needs to be changed is whom you pay your bills to. It is claimed that the price of green energy will not be too different to your current electricity bill, however this depends upon each individual’s situation.
We would like to thank www.electricityinfo.org for information, and recommend a visit to their website for more details.
It’s no secret that banks use the money you save with them to lend to others at a higher interest rate, in order to make a profit. Generally the customer has no idea about where their money goes or what it’s being invested in. For example, your money might be lent to companies that carry out tests on animals, manufacture weapons, violate human rights, pollute, etc, and you wouldn’t know a thing about it.
So is it possible to find a bank that manages your money in a socially conscious way? That only lends to individuals, businesses or institutions working in ways that benefit humanity and the environment? That is completely transparent about its investment projects; even proud of them?
“Some people think our approach to banking is old-fashioned. We believe it’s the future”.
Triodos Bank was founded in 1980 in The Netherlands, but now has offices in the UK, Belgium and Spain. They only lend to projects that create social and environmental value in fields such as organic food and farming, renewable energy, fair trade, social housing and complementary health care.
By lending to organisations that are sustainable financially, as well as socially and environmentally, they balance a positive impact on society with a healthy financial return.
The Co-operative Bank
“You tell us what you’d like us to do with your money”.
In 1992 the Co-operative Bank launched its ‘ethical policy’-a first among UK high-street banks. It states that the bank will not invest in businesses that operate in areas of concern to their customers. The bank allows its customers to have their say on the issues that matter to them, such as human rights, animal welfare, fair trade and genetic modification.
Thank you to www.wikipedia.org for information.
Unpaid or Voluntary Work
Oxfordshire Befriending Network UK www.oxonbefriending.net
Oxfordshire Befriending Network offer a befriending service to support people living with life threatening and terminal illness and their families. The organisation train volunteers and match them up with people on their waiting list. The commitment is for a year, yet people often stay longer.
Volunteers accompany the person who is ill on their journey and offer social, emotional, practical and spiritual support depending on the needs of the person who is ill and the experiences and capacity of the volunteer. There is no telling how long the person who is unwell will live for, it could be weeks, months or years. Throughout this time volunteers receive ongoing support through regular supervision groups and meetings with the coordinators.
Hope Flowers School www.hopeflowersschool.org
The Hope Flowers School in Palestine is an independent, charity school which accommodates volunteers who are willing to seriously contribute to the school and local environment. It is a safe, welcoming place with much beauty and peace in an area of dispute and conflict.
"This is something that I did for 6 months a few years ago and I found it a totally life changing experience." Richard McHale
Many hospices look for volunteers to help with the meal rounds and other work.
Room, food and a little 'pocket' money, in return for a 3 month commitment of service work.
Live-in care work UK
There are many agencies in the UK offering work with people with disabilities. We find that the aspect of living-in is very supportive to many of our nomadic lifestyles. Food and Accommodation plus around £500 a week is given in return for 20+ hours a day. You don't need to be trained in nursing or have any experience of care work, most agencies offer a week long training whether you have experience or not. With some agencies you will need to pay for your training.
If you know of any other positive volunteer placements or work you feel should be on our list please let us know. We will love to share it here.
Israel Engaged Dharma are a sister organisation of SanghaSeva. They organise peace in action activities including practice days, retreats and actions in various locations in the West Bank. Working in combination and solidarity with various Palestinian partners on many levels of direct action; peaceful protest, positive actions, tours showing the impacts of the occupation, and supporting health, social and legal progress.
We feel this is important and transformative work, if you would like to get involved please contact them.
The Israel Engaged Dharma blog gives update on their activities. Currently it is in Hebrew only, if you can read Hebrew visit the blog at engagedharma.wordpress.com
If you would like to contact them in English use SanghaSeva's contact form here. We will pass on your message immediately.
You can be a part of a supportive network reaching out to people in Prisons.
We are offering through SanghaSeva support to you so that you may in turn help support prisoners in their Dharma practice. The two Prisons we are working with are Channings Wood Prison in Denbury, Devon (near Gaia House) or Dartmoor Prison in South Devon, UK.
Please join with us to support the inmates of these prisons by:
a prisoner and talking and sharing as an equal about Dharma practice;
Starting a correspondence with prisoners;
Sending Dharma books, CDs and tapes;
Helping in the running of weekly meditation classes at the prisons;
Supporting prisoners after their release, especially with their integration into the Sangha;
Helping teach meditation classes to ex-prisoners at a safe house after their release from prison.
If you would like to open this exploration in the ways
mentioned above, or in new ways, please contact either Trevor or Jay;
Trevor Dunkley firstname.lastname@example.org
Jay Mason email@example.com