by Bernat Font
The climate catastrophe: the challenge of the 21st century. “Who would have thought,” it occurs to me sometimes, “that this would be the great theme of my time?” But the information has been there since the day I was born, like a waiting room magazine that nobody pays attention to. Ignorance, Buddhism argues, is a main feature of ordinary human existence, and the old sutras hide verses that compare greed to a flood. Today I find it hard not to remember them.
In March I will have the pleasure of interviewing Yanai Postelnik, who has found a space in his very active “rebel” schedule to chat to me. And I want to gather your concerns and questions: What would you want to ask a meditation teacher who is also an Extinction Rebellion activist?
Yanai Postelnik has been teaching meditation classes and retreats for almost thirty years all over the world. He was a resident teacher of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts; and is a member of the Gaia House Teacher Council in UK. You can read a piece by his on meditation here and listen to his talks on Dharma Seed.
Two years ago he felt called to climate activism as part of his commitment to act for the benefit of all beings. Deeply engaged with Extinction Rebellion (XR), his conscience has led him to occupy the Waterloo Bridge, or to glue himself to the entrance of a hotel to protest a congress of the oil industry. He has been arrested on multiple occasions. Yanai says:
“The urgency of our circumstance requires sacrifice and I am called to risk my comfort, my privilege and even my liberty, to call the government’s attention to the danger and to the ecological, social and spiritual devastation that we face if we do not all act together, now, with courage and commitment.”
He seems to follow the words of Martin Luther King Jr: “Never be afraid to do what is right. Society’s punishments are small, compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”
I have heard a few times that XR departs from habitual anger-motivated activism. Without being denominational, XR has a clear spiritual dimension and a psychological intelligence that leads, for example, to organizing sessions or rituals to come to terms with grief for the ecological catastrophe.
“What moved me about XR was the sense that we have to respond to everyone from a place of love—to not blame or shame even the apparent beneficiaries or perpetrators of destructive behaviors,” Yanai told Tricycle Magazine. In fact, Yanai has already given several talks under the title of “Love in time of extinction.”
Since this is a very current topic, whose waves are coming to the Buddhist and meditative shores (but perhaps not yet enough), I call for you to suggest themes and questions—the more specific the better. Many of us are seeing how we cannot continue without addressing this, but we may not only not know what to do, but also how it might fit with our practice or how to create a dialogue between these two areas.
- What would you like to know?
- Do you have messages of support?
- Do you have doubts?
- What would you like us to touch upon in the interview?
Please contribute your questions in the comment section. I will gather them and bring them to the conversation with Yanai Postelnik. I’m sure it will be a very interesting one!