An interview with Yanai Postelnik on meditation and climate change activism


Yanai Postelnik

In early 2020, about a week before lockdown began in the UK, I met online with Buddhist meditation teacher Yanai Postelnik, who in recent years has been devoting more and more time to activism with the group Extinction Rebellion. Equipped with questions I collected from my blog readers, as well as my own curiosity and respect for Yanai, we had a long and fascinating conversation.

The pandemic buried it in my computer for a ridiculously long time, but finally, with the enormous help of Ramsey Margolis and Mike Slott, I can offer it to you. It is not a short read, but I hope you find it as fascinating as I did.


Bernat Font Clos: How did you realise that you had to make a shift towards climate change activism? What flipped?

Yanai Postelnik: I’ve always felt that my dharma practise and my service as a teacher was a form of activism, partly to help me engage in the world in a way that could be beneficial, supportive and contributing. As a dharma teacher, I support other people not just for their own wellbeing but because in their own wellbeing and spiritual development, they will inevitably be engaged and contributing to the wellbeing of the world.

While I was very aware of ecological issues and concerned about the sustainability of our world as an ongoing process, I wasn’t really plugged into it that closely.

In 2018 I encountered the conclusions of the IPCC report: that the combined scientific consensus was that we’re failing at this as a collective community. Our way of doing things, our activity as a human species in the world, is accelerating towards a devastating and destructive outcome. Something in me felt a sense that I need to do something more than just work on the transformation of hearts and minds. That is essential, but something more needs to happen.

In that year, I travelled back to Romania, where my father was a Jewish child during the Holocaust. He survived because he and his parents escaped from a concentration camp. Being the first member of my family ever to go back to where that happened, I had to face how what had happened then in that community was the slow progression of small things. Each one of those things was difficult, but it was more difficult to stand up and resist it, so nobody did. Yet the outcome of the genocide for the Jewish people and others was horrific. Something in me got the message that I have to stand up now.

So there was a sense of wanting to shift my focus away from just inner work towards doing what I can to help our world collectively wake up to this, and respond effectively and meaningfully to the risks we face.

Bernat: Why Extinction Rebellion (XR)?

Yanai: Their model of engagement is non-violent civil disobedience, and also what I would regard as a more spiritually informed and psychologically savvy approach to activism, which gave me a sense of hope. It felt aligned with my core values and I thought it had the potential to be effective.

One of their foundational principles is to refrain from blaming and shaming. I left activism as a university student because I could no longer be part of something that, to me, felt toxic with anger, both towards others and between different groups acting for the same purposes but in different ways. There was a huge amount of unconscious aggression and anger. XR understood the dangers of burnout, and the need for sustainable engagement, while seeking sustainability as a human culture as an outcome.

Bernat: One question I collected was about activist rage and anger bringing more blaming and destruction than solutions.

Yanai: We need to transform the roots of this reactivity so that action comes from a wholesome inner place, and then we can make a difference. Could fierce courageous activism be rooted in love, not just as a nice principle, but as a felt experience? In my initial time with XR I was checking them out, in terms of, how deeply is this talk getting walked here? Because this requires practise. You can’t just decide not to blame and shame. You actually need to be able to deal with what leads to that pattern of behaviour.

XR approaches things through implicit ethicality. Beyond no blaming and shaming, we recognise that we might see the police, or people in government or in business, as the problem and the opposition, but these are people we need to work with and respect as human beings, even if we profoundly disagree with their actions, decisions, or policies. As in a dharma context, we separate out the person from the action and recognise that their action may be unskilful without condemning the being per se. This seems really significant to me.

There is no Planet B sticker on red post

Bernat: In what way are dharma practise and activism two sides of the same thing, and in what ways are they different?

Yanai: I remember as a teenager hearing the phrase ‘Think globally, act locally’ as a framework for (spiritual) activism. Envisioning the end of environmental destruction across the whole planet, we work to save a tree in our neighbourhood if we can. This made a lot of sense to me and it gave some point to focus on. To me, meditation practise is the most local form of activity one can be engaged in.

If I understand that the harm taking place to the ecology is born of greed, hatred and delusion, then attending to the root causes of that within ourselves and each other becomes the basis for transforming how we live and interact with the world into something more sustainable and healthy. It’s taking on the inner forces of destruction as a foundation for taking on the externalised expressions of them which are found in our society. So in that way it’s very similar. The difference is that activism appears to be engaged with very much the outer situation, while spiritual practise can be conceived of as being involved with the inner, with my self.

We may think, experience, and talk about these as separate, but ultimately they cannot be separated. The condition of our world reflects the condition of our heart and mind, and the conditions of our heart and mind reflect the world. They’re parallel.

Many forms of activism do look different, and many forms of meditation look different as well, but to me, the essence of it is learning how to meet whatever causes harm and transform it into something that can support wellbeing. That’s the essential movement within both spiritual practise and activism. And equally to identify what causes wellbeing and bring that to engage with what causes harm.

Bernat: Sounds like the ‘four great efforts’ of Buddhism.

Yanai: Yeah, exactly, to give rise to the wholesome and sustain it, and to not give rise to the unwholesome, or allow it to diminish.

Bernat: So these two activities are like different scales of the same thing.

Yanai: Yes, and particularly exciting for me was starting to understand that non-violent civil disobedience takes the transformative principles used in meditation at an inner level and applies them into the outer social arena.

Bernat: How exactly do these two areas work similarly?

Yanai: The first thing you encounter when you start to do inner work is a sense of blaming. We tend to blame the world or others for the situation we’re in. Once we pay more attention as a meditator, we realise that actually no, it’s me doing a lot of that. So we start to blame ourselves. There’s so much inner judgement and criticism going on. And that parallels the situation in activism, where you see so much judgement and blaming, and sometimes overt hatred and condemnation of the ‘perpetrators’ of harm.

So, to be non-violent in its deeper sense as an activist, the first thing we need to do is to include the so-called other within the field of one’s concern. To care for those who seem to be the problem, or at least to respect them. In the same way, in meditation, one needs to make space for the unskilful that arises within one, rather than judge, reject and attack it or oneself. But in order for this to be truly successful and transformative, in activism, one needs to learn to do that in one’s relationship to others, to those who we see as the cause or the problem.

With that as the foundation, we also identify what messages we follow that don’t actually lead to my wellbeing, and what messages are we not following that would lead to our wellbeing. The inner process of discovering freedom is to recognise that the way we identify with lots of thoughts and patterns inside leads us to act on things that don’t serve us, or our world, at all. We start to discern them and then we follow them only if they’re skilful – at least that’s the orientation.

We also notice those prohibitions that say you must not do something. So, alongside the demands to act, there are prohibitions to not act, and some of those internally prohibit us from doing what is actually wholesome, helpful, beneficial. Freedom is the ability to really see that impulse and urge clearly, to have enough space to determine what’s skilful, and act in line with it, instead of being coerced into either acting or refraining from acting, but in ways that are limiting or harmful. Of course, the understanding of not-self, of not identifying with them, is key to that.

Bernat: It’s like going against collective habits.

Yanai: Yeah, but also a collective superego or inner critic that keeps pushing us back into certain modes of collective fear, or anxiety, or neediness that keeps demanding certain things from us. The way we’re doing things is compelling and collectively has a momentum, so it’s really hard to change. We might all agree that we need to live differently, but it’s really hard to do that because of the momentum of everyone doing it the way we do it. Plus all is set up to facilitate, for instance, that I get in my car and drive somewhere.

Bernat: As part of an XR action, you have chosen to block traffic.

Yanai: When I first did it I wondered whether this was okay. People are going to be angry. It’s completely counterintuitive to step outside of the rule that says you can’t do this because it’s going to upset people, or because it’s against the law to obstruct the road. Yet there might be a really good reason for doing that, such as to get people’s attention.

Part of what happens on a retreat is that we take away our escape routes, the ways we normally avoid facing our reality, which are part of our normal social behaviour and social setups. A lot of people will never choose to do that, for all sorts of understandable reasons. Similarly, to impose something that stops people continuing to do what they normally do through civil disobedience has the effect of focusing people’s attention on what’s going on in a way that other things don’t.

Bernat: How do you face up to the negative impact of demonstrations and the sort of violence in connection with those actions? …to the stress of involving third persons, even if it’s for a very good cause and, as you say, perhaps unavoidable if you want to catch people’s attention?

Yanai: I think it’s important to say here that doing anything of this nature needs to be founded on a sense of non-violence. And yet at the same time, so far as one is employing force to prevent someone driving down a road by blocking it with one’s body, using a moral power that says you’re not allowed to run a human being over, there will be discomfort. One cannot train one’s mind or one’s body without being willing to put up with some degree of discomfort.

It may feel like I have the right to subject myself to that, because it’s for my own growth and development, but I don’t have any obvious right to subject someone else to it. Now, in my body, is it okay for my brain to decide that my arms should hurt? We tend to think so, because it’s all one organism: it’s me. But say I’m part of society, or that society is me, and one part of society is aware that we need to do some training and make some changes here. I can see a way in which it’s okay for other people to experience something difficult. It’s not that I would wish it, but that at the moment we don’t see most of the difficulty that’s being created. All those cars being driven along the road are not being connected to the pollution deaths in London, for instance, of which there are thousands every month, according to the science.

man in yellow and blue shirt holding blue and white strap

Bernat: So perhaps your ethical dilemma, which is there, is simply more apparent than other, more hidden ethical dilemmas, such as I want to get to work but indirectly this kills people.

Yanai: Exactly. I’m not stopping people going driving down the road because if they do they’ll kill someone with pollution. This would sound like there’s a judging or blaming of them, and part of the not blaming is the humility of acknowledging that I too use a car, or I don’t turn my heating off when it’s above the barest freezing. I like my house warm. I engage in these behaviours.

But there comes a point when waking up as a collective community requires some degree of pain, and that’s an unfortunate reality. I think of it a bit like the image of tough love, which in the recovery world is when sometimes you have to do something that’s really difficult for the person, but you do it because you care for them, even though they don’t like that you do it, and it hurts for them. I see our relationship to fossil fuels and to our way of life as a form of addiction. The doctors have been telling us for 30 years that if we keep doing this, it’s gonna kill us, and our grandchildren.

It’s not a particularly pleasant metaphor, but it’s not just gonna kill you. It’s going to kill so much more. And yet, despite that, we keep doing it. This is like addiction. Something compels us to continue to act in a way that harms us. So, in that circumstance, we may prevent someone from continuing along their pathway, even if it’s problematic for them.

I was deeply saddened to hear of the difficulties that people encountered as a result of having their pathway blocked by some actions. I was there, I met those people, I listened to them, and responded. Here’s someone trying to get to an appointment at the hospital. I hear this is really hard for you, and I’m sorry. If our grandchildren were here with us now, or their grandchildren, and we could see the effect on them of what we’re doing, it would be a different way to look at the harm or suffering caused by creating disruption.

Bernat: You’re very much owning up to the consequences of your particular actions in your willingness to be arrested.

Yanai: That’s part of it. In spiritual practise, we understand the place of sacrifice, of giving up things we value in the service of something we value more. And we do so in this kind of situation, where I offer my own vulnerability and, as you say, being willing to take the consequences. I was in court last week and, surprisingly to all of us, the prosecution had increased the severity of the charge and was seeking a significant jail sentence for a group of us. We dug up some grass outside the Home Office a few weeks ago to protest against their approving the expansion of coal mines against the wishes of local communities. It was kind of shocking, but at the same time a part of me says that this is a risk that it’s okay for me to face, though I hope it won’t come to that.

To actually live in alignment with one’s values and one’s principles may be the most important thing we have. I think we experience deeper harm, both psychologically and spiritually, when we fail to do that, than the harms we risk by acting in line with our conscience.

That causing disruption does get the attention of the media, does get the attention of the public, does get the attention of the politicians, is why it’s justifiable to my mind. It’s really clear that just going for a march doesn’t do anything. I’ve done a lot of those, as well as writing petitions and sending letters. They’re very easily ignored. But creating disruption has an impact, and I’m always sorry for the impact it has on people at a personal level.

Bernat: All this activism you describe resembles meditation in its having to deal with lots of feelings that come up, and staying grounded in the midst of it all. At the same time, it seems like you’re also presenting meditation as an act of inner disobedience.

Yanai: Yes, it is. Inner civil disobedience is part of where we start to find some freedom inwardly for outer civil disobedience. It also gives us more hope, the possibility of overcoming the sense of hopelessness for many of us, this feeling that we are bound within very rigid options for responding to a situation and that our options for response don’t seem to be effective. Instead of despair or giving up, there’s some hope from seeing how doing something outside my previous boxes, such as civil disobedience action, actually brings a response. And I’ve been struck by how people are effectively engaged with both the sacrifice involved and being arrested, but also the subject for which one would choose that and make that sacrifice. That’s been something really striking to me. And humbling, actually.

Bernat: Let’s change a little bit. Someone suggested that most Buddhist analyses see climate change as a consequence of desire or grasping, and you have referred to that in a way, but he asks: isn’t this consumerist craving fundamentally the result of a particular western understanding of the self?

Yanai: I think it’s not just craving. The way in which we’ve conceived of our self is definitely part of the issue. And I would put it that the underlying tendency towards craving is actually expressed through a materialistic outlook that suggests that we can use certain things for our benefit without really needing to pay a lot of regard to our impact upon those things. And this sense of self is one that regards itself as separate from the things which it acts on, or that act upon it.

So in that sense, a sense of separate self is at the root of the idea that I can do things to others, or to other places, and not be affected by them, which is a fundamental delusion. I think delusion is actually at the root of this, although it’s craving that’s being enacted, as well as fear—an aversion to discomfort that leads to our desperate call for more and more comfort, pleasure and entertainment. Also, I’ve had this interesting contemplation over recent times about the idea of ‘throwing things away’. But there is no away – possibly briefly they might be a little further away but eventually they come back. Everything we throw away eventually comes back to us. In the end, it’s all here and it keeps coming back to us from wherever we’ve tried to send it.

Treating things in that way is an expression of not really giving full value and respect to that which we don’t take to be ‘me’, where we see other people, other places, where we see resources or species or ecosystems as somehow ‘other’, as ‘not me’ not in the dharmic sense, but in terms of a sense of absolute separation, so that we can act on them without really needing to concern ourselves about them.

Therefore, in terms of dharma teaching, one of the key roots of the climate and ecological crisis is the way in which we failed to include others and the other circumstances or places within our field of care or concern, within our sense that this actually needs to be cared for too.

Bernat: Are we operating under an outmoded mentality that might have been okay a few centuries ago when the world was bigger and people were less connected? And it really felt like you could send something away, or that what happens in Wuhan does not affect what happens in Milan? As the world becomes more and more connected, though, the truths of these connections and these non-separations become more obvious, but we haven’t updated.

Yanai: It’s the image and perception of time that suggests it was okay, because it would take a long time for the consequence to come back. In that sense, it wasn’t apparent at all to most people. They wouldn’t have understood what was happening. Now we do, or it seems we have the capacity to, but we don’t necessarily understand and recognise the implications. In that sense, it looks more horrific, tragic and painful, or more culpable, to continue to act in a way that we now see as harmful. It seems driven by greed, or maybe addiction is a better word for it.

Bernat: It seems that the Buddhist concept of attachment is a way of speaking of addiction in its many facets—addiction to the self, even. How do you think that dharma teaching should change in the face of these issues? Where has it failed, perhaps?

Yanai: What I have found important to change and what I think needs to be present, if it isn’t, in the teaching, is a willingness to say things which people might find really challenging and uncomfortable to hear. This is one of the responsibilities of a dharma teacher. One of the gifts of the dharma is the courage to turn towards what is not always comfortable because it is true and needs to be faced. In a way, the first noble truth of dukkha is all about those. Let’s turn towards this, and contemplate mortality, maranasati, really turn towards that. These are elements of the practise that are there already.

I think it’s easy to become drawn into a sense that practise is to make us feel good or feel better or feel calm or feel peaceful, so let’s not talk about the things that make us feel uncomfortable, unpeaceful, unhappy, because we can feel uncalm and unhappy all by ourselves. We don’t need to go to hear teachings for that. We need to understand that actually it’s our role to engage with the sort of material that is difficult.

Bernat: How do you prevent this from putting the dharma into a particular political line or party? Do we even have to prevent this? There’s a sense that one would not want to restrict the dharma to one political option, but I sometimes wonder whether it is possible, naive perhaps, to think that you can absolutely abstain from politics.

Yanai: Well, politics and ethics easily get blurred in the way that they’re handled. If it so happens that it mirrors a particular political movement’s view, it needs to be made clear that this is an ethical position rather than a political position. I don’t think that’s a reason not to express it. It’s just that one needs to make it clear this isn’t because we think you should be voting for the Green party, for instance. It’s because actually the dharma is concerned with the transformation of suffering and the realisation of freedom and these issues are part of that. Personally and collectively.

If there’s a risk that someone’s going to say, oh, that’s political, that’s a risk that I think is worth taking, because the risk of not engaging with this material is greater right now, for me. And while someone might be turned off from the teaching because they say, ‘oh, that’s political, I didn’t come here for that’, others will be turned off if we’re not talking about the ecological and climate emergency situation because they see it going on, they know it’s happening, and they need their teachers and their communities to be facing that and engaging with it rather than leaving it for someone else or somewhere else. And I think that’s really important.

On retreats when I’ve talked about this, I have sometimes received notes saying, ‘look, stay off the political stuff’, and other times they’ve said, ‘Oh thank you. I’ve been so needing someone to talk to about this.’ As with many dharma topics, there will always be some for whom they’re more or less welcome. I tend to choose what’s needed rather than what I think is going to be everyone’s preference.

 

Going back to your question, the other piece that really needs to be emphasised, and I think it’s really there in the teaching, but it’s not always talked of as much, is that ethics are the basis from which the development of heart and mind – bhavana – can be developed. And we are participants in the ethics of our community, we’re not just acting for ourselves. We have involvement in the community’s activity, so if my community acts in a way which is harmful, it becomes part of my ethical reality. If I don’t stand up and try and alter its course, I become responsible for it in a certain way. We need the emphasis, or the recognition of responsibility in terms of ethics, that we actually aren’t going to have a peaceful mind just by working on inner stuff if the world around us is burning. I don’t think that’s where dharma teachings are pointing.

We can’t really know freedom and inner peace by ourselves. Because our self doesn’t exist separate from others in the world, any truly transformative path has got to include the transformation of not just our self but the world. For me, this flows from the understanding of not-self. You can’t transform a not-self, something that is not intrinsically separate without also transforming the conditions and the connections in which it’s embedded, which is the world.

I find myself talking these days more about non-separateness than not-self. Because it emphasises the other side of that truth, the relational and ethical relationship that’s involved in it. I think those are elements that really bear being given full emphasis, and we could say they maybe need to change, but it depends. There are teachers for whom this is a significant part of their teaching.

Bernat: Someone asked a related question. What new forms of dharma practise besides individual and group silent retreats does the climate crisis ask for?

Yanai: It asks for gathering together with people who care and who are concerned, that’s sort of the process of sangha, of coming together to look and ask: ‘What can we do? What do we want to do? What do we feel moved to do? What are we able to do?’ One of the strengths of the silent retreat form in solitude and silent meditation is that it allows us to go very powerfully into deep and profound dimensions of human experience. That’s a really beautiful and essential part of practise.

But there needs to be an equivalent breadth of engagement to include everything, to leave nothing out. Not a form of choiceless attentiveness to all experience, but to actually include the world, which for each person will be different. And there will be, for many, a point at which their dharma practise causes them to stand up and say ‘no’ to that which they find is harmful, and that needs to be addressed.

And in what different ways may that happen? I think that new ways need to be found. Again, non-violent civil disobedience for me feels like an expression of my practise, and so much of what I learnt through sitting still and walking back and forth has come in handy. Even just being able to sit somewhere and be uncomfortable for an extended period without liking it but being able to be okay with that. To be able to stay in a place of vulnerability while being subject to something that’s difficult.

For me, it’s more about translations of the practise rather than new practises. It’s like translating those same kinds of principles into another form.

Bernat: You mentioned people coming together, and it feels sometimes that perhaps western Buddhism in the last few decades has forgotten the third refuge, not given it that much weight. Maybe that needs to change, maybe it is already changing.

Yanai: Indeed, and that is key. It’s interesting in a sense, because the sangha expresses that element of the teachings, which you could also talk about as togetherness, connectedness, and that larger field of shared life, which is represented by having community, not being on one’s own in the path. So at another level, sangha includes the trees and the rivers and the creatures of the world. That’s part of a sangha, because that’s what supports my practise as well as classically expressed meditators or dharma followers.

Bernat: You talked about that moment when one decides to say ‘no’ to certain things. Many teachings are about recognising our rigid positions and questioning them, but of course, that doesn’t mean that we pretend we can live without ever taking a stance about anything. That’s just avoiding having an opinion. How, then, can we make sure that instead of just reacting with habitual fixed views, we are discerning what’s wholesome and unwholesome? How does one make that distinction?

Yanai: Understanding the danger of getting fixed in views and opinions is really important. It’s also really clear to me that in the Buddha’s teaching, there are some views which are really important to hold, not to be attached to, but to recognise their truth and validity. Also, I think that the idea that one shouldn’t have a fixed position… I’m really willing to say I’ve got a fixed position about wanting to reduce or bring an end to suffering. I have no problem with taking a fixed position on that. Exactly how that’s going to look and how it’s going to be done, I’m open to negotiation.

How does one know what’s actually useful? Well, to me dharma practise is all about giving oneself the permission to test things out, to actually explore and ask: What happens if I do this? What happens if I do that? I think to a large extent, one is given the framework of the Buddha’s own journey and that of our teachers, and the history of practitioners through generations, what they found worked and didn’t work.

But there’s still a process of putting that into practise for oneself and asking: ‘What does that actually mean to me if I do it this way?’ I notice that if I’m starting to get fixed in a view – for instance that I don’t think we should be continuing to burn carbon fossil fuels –I might be really angry or reactive to anyone, including myself, who ever used any sort of such fossil fuel, which would make for a lot of suffering and probably not be very helpful.

But this view may also give me a sense of courage to stand up and say ‘no, we have to change how we’re doing this’, and find a way to communicate that message. Again, part of the power of non-violent civil disobedience is that it gives us a voice in a place where otherwise we don’t have a voice, because we don’t have enough money to compete on the table where the decisions are made with those who have much greater resources.

That sense of standing up and saying ‘no’ is informed by one’s own inner sense of what feels ethically okay. And I think that’s something that one needs to talk with others and see. I love the fact that in some monastic communities, every two weeks the nuns and monks sit down together, and they first of all own up with all the things they’ve done that were harmful or in breach of the vinaya. That’s lovely. Then, as part of their support for each other, they point out to each other all the things that the person hasn’t owned up to that they’ve done. It’s that sense of holding some accountability, of saying, actually, you also did this and we’ve made a commitment not to do it.

For me, this is a compassionate element too, which is part of the teacher’s function, of being able to instruct and admonish, to say how we should practise and also point out where we’ve fallen down on the job, so to speak. That’s actually a compassionate action in a collective, so one isn’t just coming from one’s own reactivity. But there’s a broad consensus here, which is not just me and my friends or the people who think like me, but is a broad scientific consensus that we’ve got to stop. And I trust that, and then: ‘Okay. What can I do to help that? What can I do that will be skilful?’ If I wait until I know for sure what will work before I try anything, I’ll never try anything, because I’ll never know.

I don’t think I’ve really heard of anyone hassling the Buddha for spending seven years trying out things that didn’t work so well, which didn’t completely liberate him on the way to finding out what did. So the question is: ‘Do I keep checking and seeing? Is this leading where I’m trying to go?’ If it’s not, okay, I’ll try something else at some other point, and I’ll keep listening to those who’ve gone before me, and asking also those who are going at the same time as me: ‘Are we going where we’re trying to go here? Is this working?’ To me, that’s a lot of what we learn to do in meditation practise.

Bernat: So the willingness to review is key, yo say. That’s the difference between thinking something is wholesome or just being fixed about something, being stubborn and refusing to check whether it’s working.

Yanai: Yeah, and that’s a more concise way to put it.

Bernat: Is there anything that you would like to close this with, some final thoughts or anything that’s stayed inside and you remember now? Or perhaps the great lesson we can take from the current information to extrapolate?

Yanai: Well, part of what I’m seeing at the moment is the natural response of people willing to help in so many different ways. People are trying to find ways to reach out, to connect, to support, and there will be some for whom that’s not happening, but we can remember that the deepest meaning, value and fulfilment in life doesn’t come from how much we have or even what we do, but more from connection and care. And that when we place that at the centre and in front of us in terms of what our orientation is, then things become possible that we wouldn’t have imagined possible. But what that might look like we can’t know.

It may be that one can face extreme circumstances of high levels of suffering with some degree of openheartedness that one might not have ever imagined one would be able to do. Or maybe one can take courageous steps to bring about change that one might not have imagined one could do. Or if someone is about enlightened self-interest, they may understand that what really serves us is actually caring for the larger whole, because our wellbeing is intrinsically connected. Right now, we are having to care for the whole world in relationship to Covid 19. If we were to keep that view, it would be actually a blessed outcome. To see our incredible vulnerability. We’re so incredibly subject to so many incredibly powerful forces that we’ve briefly managed to create the appearance of being in charge of. But boy we are not.

What we can bring is our own deep caring and our capacity of heart to find what feels most true, most authentic, most of significance and value, and to live by it. For me, that’s really what makes a life fulfilling and authentic, to actually be focused on finding what that is, and then living in accordance with it. And one of the fundamental elements of that is the process of serving and supporting the wellbeing of others equally as oneself.

Bernat: Well, this poignant and at the same time hopeful note seems like a very good point to conclude.


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