Dr Jan Goss

Babies, Injunctions & Ordination!

Well, that is just a snapshot of the rich tapestry of my life over the past 10 days or so! Your challenges may have been different, but the resultant emotions will probably constitute a similar range to mine, with myriad thoughts, feelings and the associated emotions to juggle, manage and assimilate…

To elaborate: my lovely nephew and his gorgeous partner have just this morning brought a beautiful baby boy into the world; during the week I received a notice of Injunction from Eversheds solicitors who represent Cuadrilla – the company hellbent on drilling into the Earth and filling it with poisonous chemicals, in order to extract shale gas (does this make sense to anyone who doesn’t have a vested interest?!); and I received lay ordination in the Tiep Hien Zen tradition of mindfulness teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.

The idea of fracking does itself bring up a lot of challenging emotions in me – mostly anger and sadness. I care deeply for the Earth and much of my way of life is motivated by my deepest aspiration to live with reverence for the Earth on which we are ALL (including the individual people that constitute Cuadrilla!) dependent. With this thought I am reminded of the native American proverb that says:

“Only when the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realise that one cannot eat money.”

My feelings about fracking were compounded by the letter I received on return from retreat, which is a High Court Injunction banning me from entering a greenfield site near to where I live, that is earmarked by Cuadrilla for shale gas extraction. Emma Thompson, the actor, along with her sister and an audience of committed Greenpeace campaigners filmed a ‘Frack-Free Bake-Off’ there and shared the video via social media. I ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ the Greenpeace video (as I often do) on Facebook. This is my only connection to the ‘event’, but in the letter it is claimed that I was present “a fact which there is ample evidence to demonstrate”, and this constitutes a ‘contempt of court’!

There are many ramifications of this misidentification which are alarming of course, including the wider implications of a corporation attempting to silence people who wish to voice their environmental concerns. That is one of the reasons for me writing about it here, to highlight these issues, and also to remind you and me, of the significance of our mindfulness practice and the power it has to enable us to assimilate and calm our more vociferous and challenging emotions.

Last month I mentioned working with the mindfulness trainings as part of my on-going commitment to my personal mindfulness practice. This month I happen to be working specifically with the 6th training – ‘Taking Care of Anger’ which seems appropriate! So I have been reading, reflecting, and meditating, doing my best to create the ‘understanding and compassion’ that will enable me to quell the anger I feel….the anger feels less intense, but I know I still have more work to do. The wonderful energy of the recent retreat and the ordination ceremony have certainly helped me through this process. Being with over 200 people, monastics and lay practitioners, all practising mindfulness for a week has recharged my batteries and filled me with an inner sense of confidence and certainty.

The energy generated on retreat doesn’t stay on retreat of course – it comes back with each participant for us to share and spread throughout our various communities. We have been talking a lot about this ‘transference of energy’ recently in the weekly meditation groups that I hold. Naturally, this ‘transference’ takes place in any exchange we have. By practising mindfulness we are effectively building up a store or ‘piggy bank’ (as one of the nuns on retreat described it) of mindfulness, and each time we meditate we make a deposit, and each time we go on retreat we deposit a ‘lump sum’ – it all contributes to the whole. In simple terms: the monastics bring their ultra-calm energy, generated by a deep and intensive practice to the retreat and share that with me; I bring the solidity of my personal practice to benefit those I guide; and they in turn take their mindful energy out into the world; it is the ripple effect in action.

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