Local DANCE groups: Bringing mindfulness to the climate conversation
HOW CAN MINDFULNESS BENEFIT THE CLIMATE CONVERSATION?
We are living at a time when climate change, the greatest crisis of our civilization, threatens a sustainable environment that supports life on Earth. The scope of what this means can feel overwhelming, and seem insurmountable, and lead to feelings of ‘stuckness’, of anxiety, suffering and despair. Mounting research on the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness has contributed to and helped to legitimize a growing interest in meditative practice, with recent studies linking mindfulness with emotional stability, improved sleep, increased focus and memory, enhanced creativity, and higher levels of emotional resilience to be able to ‘be with’ anxiety, depression and despair.
Mindfulnessness offers a critical role in being able to support people to awaken and respond to climate change, and to explore how practice can support and motivate wise effort in response.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT NOW?
The People’s Climate March in September 2014 was a turning point moment which brought hundreds of thousands of people around the world to the streets and placed climate firmly back on the broader agenda as the key moral issue of our time. With the scientific community warning of ‘catastrophic changes’ and a crisis which is already placing thousands of vulnerable people at risk, a sense of urgency is now steadily increasing in the lead up to the climate talks in Paris, December 2015. The scale of the devastation that we are currently facing has prevented many from being able to grasp or indeed engage emotionally with the issue, which in turn has created a a barrier to wise action.
Mindfulness and meditation offers an important role in helping one another to engage, and build emotional resilience, as well as to extend the tools of the practice outwards to help others; to see, accept and respond to the way things are with wisdom and compassion.
WHAT DOES DHARMA MEAN AND WHO IS DANCE FOR?
Dharma has a number of meanings that depend on the context in which it is used. Sometimes it refers to the teachings and practices of the Buddha, but it’s most significant meaning is the natural truths, laws and processes of the path of practice, and is characterized by and expressed through non-harming to ourselves and all living beings.
The Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement (DANCE) is for anyone who feels called to consciously respond to climate change, and is open to all, including Buddhists of all lineages and traditions, as well as people who are not Buddhist, or are secular in approach but interested in practicing mindful living, yoga and meditation.
Our mission is to bring practice to support awakening, emotional resilience and active response to climate change and other threats to our shared home through education, sustainable living, advocacy and activism. Through practices and collaboration on projects which cultivate awareness and compassion in response to climate change our aim is to build connections and foster the courage and confidence required to take action which ignites positive social change.
WHEN WAS DANCE LAUNCHED?
The Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement (DANCE) was launched by a group of teachers and practitioners at Gaia House in 2013 as a space for people to connect and explore the breadth of possible Dharma responses to climate change and related issues. As well as an opportunity to network and form localised groups of support, activity and political action, DANCE was also formed to serve as a forum for people to meet, voice feelings and share concerns. Members of the group extend across a variety of Buddhist traditions, but also include people who have a secular outlook and are not affiliated with any religious tradition, who are interested in exploring meditative practice through other ways and means. The intention has always been to be as open as possible and welcome people of all faiths, or non-faiths, who wish to connect and come together to respond consciously to climate change.
HOW DO LOCAL DANCE GROUPS WORK?
Local community DANCE groups offer an opportunity for people concerned about climate change to regularly meet and reflect, share and process news or stories that they may be finding challenging, difficult or disturbing, and for those feelings to be held and listened to without being judged or ‘fixed’. Usually framed with a period of stillness and silence, the group itself decides how they want to work together, and belong to all.
As well as acknowledging the inner response the groups may also choose to work together on outward actions such as local campaigns to bring about positive change.
Previous/ongoing projects include:
- Earth vigils – all night meditations to raise funds for local community projects
- iPledge bike rides – pilgrimage across the South-West to express deep care and connection with land and each other
- Divestment campaigns – launching local fossil-free campaigns to target city councils to disinvest from fossil fuels
- Arts activism – bringing meditation and silent protest against oil sponsorship of arts and culture institutions
LAUNCHING A LOCAL GROUP WITH A COMMUNITY SCREENING OF ‘WISDOM TO SURVIVE’
In partnership with Bullfrog Films, DANCE are delighted to be able to support you in bringing ‘Wisdom To Survive’ to your local community. Showing a screening is a good way of opening up the topic of climate change to wider discussion, and can be the starting point to find others who’d like to set up a local DANCE group and meet regularly to talk about feelings, and work on fun projects together. Following on from the screening, an ancient form of sharing process called ‘Council’ can be offered, which offers a conscious reflective space for responses to be shared, and witnessed.
The makers of the documentary address both the spiritual and practical implications of climate change, and offer thoughtful reflections on the ecological and economic state of the planet from academics and activists. Amongst those interviewed in the film are Buddhist author and activist Joanna Macy and environmentalist and campaigner Bill McKibben. The film takes viewers on a journey which explores the reality of sustainability and interdependence, and how our very breath connects us to the earth and to one another.
More information on the the film can be found on Bullfrog’s website.
Watch a trailer for the film here:
COUNCIL – BRINGING AN ANCIENT RITUAL TO EXPLORE FEELINGS AS COMMUNITY
Council is an ancient form of meeting which allows people to be supported in listening and speaking from the heart, and offers a way for people to share and process, whilst being held in awareness and supported and witnessed by the group. It allows for difficult feelings which may arise from the film to be acknowledged in a space of safety and acceptance. Read a personal account of a previous Council here. DANCE works with a specially trained Council facilitator and can help support your screening.
To find out if there is a DANCE group somewhere near to where you live visit our local DANCE page.
If there isn’t a local group but you’d like to go ahead and organise a screening, please find a checklist of suggestions to consider which might be helpful. Please also drop us a line to discuss how we can help you.
We’ve also prepared a DANCE W2S prep final which includes all the key information you’ll need to consider before hosting a screening, including some suggested tips around venue, schedule, set-up and film license fees.
OBTAINING A FILM LICENCE
All previous screenings have been offered on a dana/donation basis, and the license fee is the $59 (No-Frills Package), which includes 1 Community License DVD and 50 postcards to publicize the event.
The Council facilitator can also offer their services on a dana basis, but we would ask that travel and accommodation costs (if required) are covered.
Please contact us for more information on Wisdom To Survive and to check in the availability of the Council facilitator, at firstname.lastname@example.org