Saturday, June 18, 2016

Wake Up Schools

"Education is not information. It’s not just understanding technology, but how to be a human being." ~ Brother Phap Luu

Phap Luu: In the 1960’s, our teacher in his country had an idea to plant seeds for Wake Up Schools. His program was to help in the countryside with groups of young people (10,000 young people) who went to villages to help peasants with medications, build first aid service, as well as teach children. They trained young people with the mindfulness practice to breathe consciously, learn how to calm down their mind and body, and be completely in the present moment. When they came to the villages, they had no electricity or schools because there were no social services, and no one could play with children or be present with children who had no school. The children were only in the streets.

Later the peasants realised that when they were busy in the countryside growing rice, they were very grateful for these young people to be with their children. The young people also had soy milk without money and with good will. The peasants offered their homes for school. After a few months, they established their own school. In this manner since 50 years ago, our teacher had already started this initiative. In this aspect, he founded the first university with western aspects in Ho Chi Minh City named Van Hanh University with the intention of teaching in different way about what’s happening with humanity in general, how we can be human beings for one another, and touch our real nature.

This university was there for many years to teach the western aspects, but now it no longer follows this western program. Our teacher exiled to France for war reasons and Thay wanted to carry this path to the country. So he’s taught more than 50 years, but with a western emphasis.

We can benefit from his path. Now we want to teach in a fundamental way to change the direction of education toward the race of human beings. How we can live in our body and mind with more peace, more understanding, and deal with our emotions, such as how to manage a strong emotion that arises. For us, this is the basis of our education. If our children and we ourselves as teachers don’t know how to manage strong emotions with mindful breathing and be in the present moment, then how we can say that this is not education?

Education is not information. It’s not just understanding technology, but how to be a human being. This the basis for Wake Up Schools. 

Radio Presenter: This learning should be an additional course in an university curriculum or this should be an universal teaching.

Phap Luu: What surprises many professors is that no other thing is needed to be added to a course, but our presence, our way of being is how we teach to be present. In our retreats, the basis is how each one of us can incorporate the mindfulness practice. We always start with the professors, not techniques on how to teach children. The professors always come for technique. They want another certificate, but when they come to a Wake Up Schools retreat, they are a little surprised that it’s their own transformation which is the most important. They learn how to stop because in life we are always running in the future or we have regrets about the past. So we are lost in our thoughts.

With the mindfulness practice, we learn how to stop ourselves and be here in the now with our breathing. It’s always here. For example, when I’m breathing in, I’m aware that I’m breathing. Breathing out, I’m aware that I’m breathing out. We follow our breathing with all our attention. When our attention is gone, we can return to our thoughts with love and not punish ourselves because we lost my focus on our breathing. With love, you return and your concentration increases; the capacity of not being dragged down by daily life but to return in any moment in only 2-3 seconds. This can be done, but the practice is missing. So we can do this for ourselves, our students, and people outside to be more present. This is the biggest gift we can give ourselves and our loved ones.
Pilar: The retreat is organised together with the University of Barcelona and Plum Village community. We had the opportunity to bring Thich Nhat Hanh in 2014. A lot of professors around the world came to the retreat to see the teacher, and now we have the opportunity for Plum Village to come back here for all the teachers in Spain who can take advantage of the Plum Village monastics’ teachings. These retreats are for the mindfulness practice to help nourish us.

Like Brother Phap Luu said, to live with more peace, to nourish these seeds of well being and humanity of others. And later, they can spread these seeds of humanity in their careers, personal and professional lives. I think mindfulness helps us to be more present, to be able to live in more peace and be capable to live our own essence in life. When we are at peace, whatever we do with our family, neighbors, or our work, how do we acknowledge the others about how we have the ability to communicate with ourselves and others, to be more aware at the wonder of the present moment and all the wonders we have in the here and now. The happiness of people and know how to live with more joy and enjoy the present moment.

Radio Presenter: And this can be learned in the university. This is all revolutionary, no? Little by little, the conventional education system begins to be more open-minded to these new school of thoughts, those new ways of living as human beings that we have forgotten : attention and compassion, especially with respect to the children. 

Radio Presenter: I have another question for Phap Luu. Maybe there are people who are listening to us are a little afraid or are turned off because they think it’s a religious program or it’s a program to change children’s faith. For those who think that way, how would you respond?

Phap Luu: It seems the word “religion” is something that has brought these people with a lot of history in Europe with the Catholic church and the state. In Asia, the church is a little distinct. It doesn’t have much to do with religion, but it’s how to live life. Education and the religion in Buddhism always go together, so I wouldn’t say that Buddhism is exactly a religion. It’s more applied psychology. It’s to touch in the present moment and let go of any ideas or point of view. That is the basis of Buddhism, including Buddhism itself. It’s to be there bare in the world in the present moment.

This is the basis of the practice Buddha proposed. He didn’t want to create a religion, but he wanted to help people suffer less. So we are doing the same with our life and people around us. If there’s something that makes us suffer, we have to ask ourselves why is it suffering us?

The children, including the ones are committing suicide, have a strong emotion that they can’t deal with: the pressure of exams, social pressure, to have a job, to live in a world with so many desires and so much advertising around us that want to sell them things, and they don’t know how to manage all of this pressure. We don’t give them a way with conscious breathing to understand why they are suffering. It seems to be an error on our part in our education system. It’s interesting that so many scientists are now interested in this practice that comes from the Buddhist tradition because they see it’s a tradition that has a scientific method of experimenting with the fruits of our practice, and they don’t believe in Buddha.
Any person can put this into practice in their lives and see how it goes. When we talk about confidence in some of the practices in our tradition, this confidence comes from ourselves. It’s the same with scientists. That’s why there’s a loving and very mutual relationship between the scientific world and Buddhist tradition because we are learning from each other.

Also in our community we have, for example, many Christians who are very devoted to their faith and there’s no conflict because Christianity and Buddhism. One comes from the region with religious aspect, and the other comes from the everyday practice of breathing. Furthermore, there are many Christians who say they can go deeper on their paths through mindfulness. So I don’t think there is any conflict, and schools and institutions are learning about this. They are more open-minded now about this vision.

Radio Presenter: This was like a mindfulness question, about the past and the future. We have four minutes left. I was wondering if you could share a little meditation practice that people could learn.

Phap Luu: Well, in whatever situation you encounter – in a car, kitchen or where you are listening this program – you can directly return and pay attention completely to the breathing.
Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in.
Breathing out, I know I’m breathing out.
In, out.

(sound of the bell)
I follow all my attention, breathing in and breathing out.
I let go of all the thoughts, the future, the past.
Breathing in, I am aware of all my body.
Breathing out, I relax all my body.
I let go of any tension.

(sound of the bell)
I’m aware of the tension in my body accumulated over the years. Across my thoughts and worries.
I’m aware of them and I breathe freely.
I let go of any tension.
Breathing in, I touch within myself the joy of being alive. It’s a miracle to be on such a beautiful planet.
Breathing out, I smile to life.
Breathing in, I’m aware of the wonders of being alive.
Breathing out, I smile.
(sound of the bell)


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Hope for a better world (Ebook - online)

Hope for a Better World
A fresh approach to the creation of a truly viable society in this time of war, religious strife, stifling bureaucracy, and urban decay.

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Clean Energy Agents programme - a free 2-month online course

Apply now for the Clean Energy Agents programme, a free 2-month online course to start the clean energy revolution in your school or university!

Deadline for applications: May 22nd.

This is one of Climate Strike's contributions to ‪#‎breakfree2016‬


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Ecovillage: 1001 Ways to Heal the Planet (Ebook)

Ecovillage: 1001 Ways to Heal the Planet full pdf book download from Ursula Noamech

Kosha Joubert and Leila Dregger (editors)
"What a beautifully, lovingly constructed book! It conveys not only the variety and ideals of the ecovillage movement, but the heart of it as well. Kosha and Leila's book affirms the importance of ecovillages not just as an inconsequential alternative in the margins, but as an invitation to transform every place into an ecological collaboration between humans and the rest of nature."  - Charles Eisenstein

During the GEN 20+Summit in Findhorn Kosha Joubert and Leila Dregger presented the new GEN book about ecovillages worldwide, which they had written with the help of many longterm ecovillage members who contributed their very personal stories, thoughts, experiences, adventures, failures, learnings and successes. The book can now be ordered. Everybody interested in social and ecological change and building a global alternative should know this source of experience and wisdom.
This book introduces a selection of ecovillage projects from all over the world. The editors have aimed to give a taste of their richness and diversity with examples from Europe, Latin America, Asia, Africa and North America. Most of the chapters are based on interviews with founders or long-standing members of ecovillage communities; while a few chapters are about regional or national networks of ecovillage transition. The book sets out both to honour successes, but also to learn from difficulties and failure.

As well as serving as an inspiration to its readers, the book is also intended as a learning resource. At the end of each chapter, the editors have given a few keywords, listing some of the best approaches used by each ecovillage, for example, in developing a water treatment facility,  building a straw bale house or supporting groups of people in their endeavours. You can find out more about these solutions in the GEN Solution Library - there are  links in the book.
“Ecovillages have long served a vital function as the laboratories of a resilient future, where solutions are tested, tweaked, adjusted. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, but it’s in the “what if?” spirit that their genius lies. Kosha Joubert and Leila Dregger’s new book celebrates the remarkable diversity to be found in the eco-village movement, and their insights resonate far beyond the ecovillages themselves”. - Rob Hopkins, Founder of the Transition Network
“Your heart will soar as you revel in this treasure trove of evidence that a new and better future is not only possible but happening NOW all over the world where ordinary people have taken matters into their own hands, building vibrant, loving, sustainable communities... even national governments are beginning to take them seriously enough to support their growth... You will be filled with new inspiration and implementable ideas, so spread the book itself as far and wide as you can!”
- Elisabet Sahtouris, PhD, evolution biologist & futurist, author of Gaia’s Dance
Nowadays, ecovillages are widely accepted as living and learning centers, as lighthouses for social and ecological sustainability in their regions, as alternative to the destructive mainstream lifestyle that has brought the planet to the edge of extinction. However, 20 or 30 years ago, nobody knew the word ecovillage. Many intentional communities that existed were regarded as dropout groups, hippie oases and they were, here and there, just beginning to cooperate with other sectors of society such as politics, economy or media. It took some time before the world acknowledged the many solutions that the pioneer generation has been testing in their remote places. It also took a while before the communities, with their different approaches to an alternative lifestyle, started to regard themselves as a global movement - diverse, with different experiences, but with the same aim and principles.
It needed people in the projects who were ready to look at the bigger, the global, picture and not only their own philosophies, situations and challenges. The communities had to come together and start to form community amongst themselves: to share, to learn from each other, even correct each other and form a common platform.

The concept of ecovillages first arose in the late 1980s, with the intention of offering an alternative to a culture of consumerism and exploitation.  Combining a supportive and high-quality social and cultural environment with a low-impact way of life, they have become precious playgrounds in which groups of committed people can experiment to find solutions for some of the challenges we face globally.  Ecovillages are now part of a worldwide movement for social and environmental justice and have become regional and national beacons of inspiration for the social, cultural, ecological and economic revival of both rural and urban areas.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Climate Smart Agriculture

 This site is your gateway to implementing climate-smart agriculture. It will help you get started and guide you right through to implementation on the ground, connecting you with all the resources you need to dig deeper.


Friday, May 6, 2016

UN-REDD: Registration open for free REDD+ online course

Thursday, May 5, 2016


Disobedience is a new film about a new phase of the climate movement: courageous action that is being taken on the front lines of the climate crisis on every continent, led by regular people fed up with the power and pollution of the fossil fuel industry.

Disobedience is the story of the struggle to save the world.

Disobedience tells the David vs Goliath tales of front line leaders around the world risking life and limb in the fight for a liveable climate.

Interwoven with this riveting verité footage are the most renowned voices in the global conversation around social movements and climate justice for a series that is personal, passionate and powerful.
The stakes could not be higher, nor the missions more critical.


Thanks to Kjell Kühne for sharing this information!

Climate Strike Coordination Support
A million students for the climate. We will face humanity's greatest challenge. Together.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

5 Fundamental Shifts That Would Happen in A World Without Money

By Chemory Gunko

What would a world not driven by money look like? 

Money is a powerful driver in the modern world, and for the most part, we’ve elevated it to the point of necessity. However, we do not need money to live healthy, fulfilling lives on this planet. The current structure of society is reliant on the constant trade of money; to get rid of money would mean a complete restructuring of how we interact with society.

If we could shift into the mentality of inner connected communities that exist harmoniously around the world; then the need for money truly disappears.

1. Work Becomes Play

garden-handsWhen we’re all focusing on living off the earth, the idea of a ‘job’ ceases to exist. We don’t need people waking up to clean up waste, do accounting or govern cities. The people become the government and the work we do is in support of each other and the planet. 
Many of the jobs at this level would be supportive – water supply, growing food, maintaining, and literally building the structures of the new earth.
For many people nowadays, career choices are all about the social ranking of what they do and the potential for earning. Without these drivers, many people would choose only to do their menial chores for society and focus their time on family or other creative and learning pursuits.

2. People will do what they Love

Where people do choose to go into fixed vocations, you’ll find that it is because they love and are drawn to this work.o-HAPPY-facebook
Without the financial and social status drivers behind them, you’ll find healers drawn to healing and medicine, teachers drawn to teaching and the spiritual placed back into temples where they can uplift the community at large and contribute meaningfully.
In addition, we’ll more than likely see huge surges and advancements in these fields, because the people operating here no longer have limitations like ‘does the client want this’ or ‘can the client afford this’?
Take away the financial limitations of each person and you have a medical field that can pull out all the stops to save the lives of every person who needs help – not just those that can afford it.

3. More time for family

family-playing-tennisThe endless treadmill that most of us are running on daily leaves us very little time to enjoy the families we clothe and house.
When survival is taken off the table as an issue, you’ll find that you have more energy to spend with your family – more time to enjoy them in your life.
Likewise, your working time contribution will be much more limited than what it would be in a free economy, which will give you more time to spend on your family – instead of all the time you dedicate to trying to make ends meet at the moment.

4. The majority of your stress disappears

How much of your modern stress is made up of survival issues? How am I going to pay the bills, buy food, pay rent, pay my creditors?relax_your_mind1
Take away the survival issues and all you are left with is your health, relationships, spirituality and how much you will grow and express yourself creatively going forward.
How much easier would your life be if you never had to worry about money, food, medication or a roof over your head? How much happier would you and your family be?
How many of the other stressors in your life are driven by the money/survival issue as well? What other areas of your life would become easier?

5. Education becomes Real

Subjects schools could teach to improve educationWithout the mad scrabble for wealth and social standing – as well as securing your future – we wouldn’t place half as much emphasis on education. 

Education becomes a shared experience with everyone of all ages. Incredible learning can happen outside the classroom that only experience can teach.

When everyone becomes a teacher, then everyone is a student of each other. Learning doesn’t become impossible for them many who can’t afford to go to school. It is a birth right for all of us.


In defence of ecovillages: the communities that can teach the world to live sustainably

Associate Professor, Centre for Urban Research (GUSS, RMIT), RMIT University

What types of communities do the best job of living with a minimal impact on the planet? I asked myself this question when I read a recent article on The Conversation, which argued that even if everyone on Earth lived in an ecovillage we would still be using too many resources.
I am more optimistic — some ecovillages provide a much better blueprint than others.

As a 2013 study of 14 ecovillages by US political scientist Karen Litfin shows, ecovillages can be regarded as “pioneer species”. They show people how to improve their sustainability: the ecovillages Liftin studied used 10–50% fewer resources than their home-country averages and, being whole communities, were more influential than a single sustainable household.

Litfin’s assessment took in a wide range of factors – ecological, economic, even psychological – but one example of how ecovillages show the way forward is in power consumption.

Mainstream households tend to rely on national or regional supplies of gas or electricity, with no (or little) control over their sources. In places like Victoria, which has a very emissions-intensive power sector, this can make it difficult to make sustainable choices. However, ecovillage neighbours who have banded together to access renewable energy, say solar or wind power, can make off-grid environmental savings.

While there are financial (and other) barriers to setting up environmentally sound residential neighbourhoods, there are useful rules of thumb. In general, small is beautiful and sharing is efficient. One simply cannot fit as much “stuff” into a smaller house, and sharing accommodation often economises on consumption of goods and services.

Some ecovillages shame others in reducing their environmental footprint. Where ecovillages re-inhabit and renovate old buildings, they save on resources. A good example is the postcapitalist eco-industrial Calafou colony, northwest of Barcelona, which houses some 30 people in an old textile factory complex.

Members of another community that I have stayed at, Ganas in New York City, live in renovated residential buildings and operate several second-hand businesses at which residents work. Residents at Twin Oaks in Virginia, where I worked for three weeks, have a surprising level of collective sufficiency, with residents working on farming and making hammocks and tofu to sell, the proceeds of which are shared between the group.

Such experiments can be scaled up, settling residents in ex-commercial and ex-industrial premises — effectively shrinking cities by encouraging higher-density, more sustainable collective communities.
Crops and solar panels at Twin Oaks in Virginia. Author provided

The global village

This feeds into the idea of “planned economic contraction” or “degrowth”, which as Samuel Alexander argued on The Conversation is necessary in order to live sustainably. But I don’t share his pessimism about the ability of ecovillages to show us a way towards this sustainable life.

An analysis of Findhorn ecovillage in Scotland showed that an average resident travels by air twice as much as an average Scot, yet their total travel and overall ecological footprint was half the Scottish and UK averages.

Residents of Findhorn and of another UK ecovillage, Beddington Zero Energy Development (BedZED), make significant savings in terms of car travel. It follows that just by avoiding air travel, these residents would have even more environmentally sound practices.

Managing without money?

Members of ecovillages such as Twin Oaks not only share “one purse”, but also complement their efforts at collective sufficiency with minimal use of money. (Avoiding money is part of the culture of squatters generally.) Members of Calafou put in money to the community on the basis of their individual capacity but share governance and benefits equally. Here social and environmental values dominate.

In contrast, money is the principle on which capitalism revolves. If we reduce consumption — and we will need to, to become sustainable — then production has to be reduced. But capitalist producers have no successful operating systems for shrinking. Most often, when consumption decreases it results in unemployment and austerity, rather than orderly degrowth.

Money pressures us to opt for more rather than less, or else risk poverty and powerlessness. Thus it applies a systemic pressure to expand. Growth is not simply a result of people’s greed – even not-for-profit cooperatives aim to create a monetary surplus. How would you run a business or your household using money income in a shrinking market? What would happen to prices and savings?
Many suggest a guaranteed minimum income, but the value of the currency will prove unstable in such conditions and, anyway, what really matters to us is what we can purchase with that income (meaning that prices matter).

Such questions lead us to the conclusion that strategies for degrowth must leap not only beyond capitalism but also beyond money. This is the strength of Litfin’s focus on ecology, community and consciousness, incorporating skills which we need to replace production for trade on the principle of money.

In the future, collectively sufficient ecovillages could operate environmentally efficiently on the basis of direct democracy and arrange production and exchange within the commons they lived off without the use of money. Instead, ecovillagers would make non-monetary exchanges, where necessary, on the basis of social and environmental values.

Thus we could reduce our footprint and stay within Earth’s capacity.