To behold the global climate crisis in all its enormity””human suffering, mass extinction, the loss of Earth’s precious ecosystems””requires a strong foundation of spiritual practice. When I feel overwhelmed by despair or anxiety, I use the Ä€nÄpÄnasati Sutta, a Buddhist meditation exercise that enables me to “zoom out.” By creating a sense of spaciousness in my heart, I can contemplate the inevitability of suffering and honor my grief without crumbling.
I find the fourth tetrad of the sutta to be particularly helpful, because it reminds me that while everything is impermanent, including suffering, time has no beginning or end. Contemplating our current climate crisis on a scale this vast doesn’t deny the problem, but it does expand our range of possible responses. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that a drop of poison in a glass of water could kill someone, but that same drop of poison in a lake is nonlethal. The poison is still there, but with more water””a bigger perspective””we are better able to withstand it.
My spiritual practice saves me from being paralyzed by grief. It helps me stay energized and focused on right action””applying my unique skills with pure intentions, regardless of outcome. This is essential, because taking meaningful action””whether it’s suing fossil fuel companies, protecting rainforests, or working at a community garden to increase local food access””is at once part of the global climate solution and a powerful cure for climate despair.
About the Contributor
Jungwon Kim is the head of the creative and editorial team at the Rainforest Alliance, an international nonprofit organization working with farmers, forest communities, governments, businesses, and consumers to build a world where people and nature thrive in harmony.