The rumors are still circulating about what this year will bring and what the Mayan calendar is really predicting about December 21, 2012. During our interview with best-selling author and Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield for the March 2012 issue of Elevated Existence, we asked him to share his thoughts on the year.
“It’s so mysterious and far away to understand how the Mayans saw this eternal turning of time, but to whatever extent there is something to learn from it,” he explains. “We are in 2012. It’s not something coming at the end of the year. There are grave economic problems, continuing injustice, warfare, racism, and division of the world. There is also grave ecological problems and climate change. So we are in it.”
One of the most important things we need to understand is that the solution to our problems is more than just technology and science, he says. We also need to change the human heart, which is the source of racism, warfare, greed and hatred.
“Just as we develop changing technologies, these must be married by a change in consciousness,” he notes. “We can’t feel ourselves as separate tribes and individuals, as if we didn’t interbreed with the rainforest, as if the salt water of the ocean didn’t flow through our blood, as if we didn’t all have one ancestor in Africa, or as if the universe hadn’t given birth to us out of what in Buddhist psychology is called this web of interdependence.”
While there is tremendous suffering in the world, Kornfield also sees a tremendous call for the transformation of consciousness. “Whenever things are truly difficult, people have to rely on their spirit to get them through. It’s not just this time, but I think back to my mother and my grandparent’s generation, living through the depression and war. They too had to find the strength of spirit.”
However, now with the global interconnection of the Internet and so much more, he believes we are being called to make an even bigger change – to shift from beliefs of separation and fear to the truth of our interwoven lives, he notes. “It’s really necessary now, and I’m very hopeful.”
He also believes, as Ghandi did, that it’s a false division to separate the transformation of spirit with the transformation of the world and politics, and he explains a story Thich Nhat Hanh told about those who were crowded on the Vietnamese refugee boats.
“If everyone panicked all would be lost. But if even one person on the boat remained calm and centered, it was enough to show the way for everyone to survive,” he says. “So someone on the lifeboat of the world has to be that beacon of steadiness and compassion, and be mindful and free of heart. As you do that, it changes all you touch.”
We can each have an impact on the world in this way, as everyone has a gift to contribute. His advice? “The say in Zen there are only two things – you sit and you sweep the garden. And it doesn’t matter how big the garden is,” he notes. “Find ways to establish mindfulness of breath and body, and be mindful of your own humanity. Develop loving-kindness, and then take the sitting part of the practice out and tend to the garden of the world.”
For the full interview with Jack Kornfield, see the March 2012 issue of Elevated Existence Magazine.