Stephanie Kaza

"Mindfully Green"

(Finch Publishing)

By Margaret Evans

Perhaps it's a sign of how highly attuned a thinker can be to the energies of the world around them that explains the serendipitous arrival of some books just when you need them. Deepak Chopra is a master, of course, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama seems a dab hand too. Attuned they certainly are and they have some savvy marketing skills at their disposal as well.

Stephanie Kaza is less well known but her simply designed paperback Mindfully Green drew me immediately - and I think the reason is I, like so many of us, have been seeking solace and guidance after our world's so called leaders left us dangling at Copenhagen.

Climate change is here for us all to see - and, more to the point, feel. However we try to tax carbon use or trade it off in some convoluted way, deep down I think we all sense the cyclical weather patterns we have known since childhood are changing in ways we can't predict or understand. Our politicians are just tinkering at the edges and we have no choice but to accommodate the changing world in which we find ourselves. To accommodate it and to work in harmony with it.

Our greatest hope, suggests Kaza, is in forging a stronger connection with the Earth and in becoming more mindful of the impact on the natural world of how we choose to live our lives. She calls it the "green practice path" and outlines the challenges we face with such clarity and compassion for our human condition it seems the only path we could possibly choose. It is very comforting to "meet" a wise and serious teacher so aware of one's own misgivings. Her advice to us is both heartfelt and eminently practical.

As a Buddhist and a Zen Buddhist at that, Stephanie Kaza has an innate grasp of the interconnectedness of the natural world and all the creatures within it, from us mighty humans down to the humblest amoeba. She gives a vivid description of Indra's Net, the classic metaphor of the interconnected universe where an endless number of fishnets crisscross every plane of space and, at every junction, a multifaceted jewel reflects every other jewel in the infinite net. What a razzledazzle of light and energy where the slightest tremor in the finest filament is flashed from jewel to jewel! The more one dimensional "butterfly effect" is much the same idea.

Kaza, who is a professor of environmental studies in Vermont, subscribes to the "deep time" view of ecology which urges us to sense the systems behind the superficial changes we see about us. It's when we begin to understand those all-embracing systems that we can make more conscious choices and become, as Kaza suggests, "active agents in Indra's Net". Simply by suggesting that we each can make a difference both in the actions we take in our transport, food choices and energy usage and, equally, in practising an ethic of restraint - how many consumables do we actually need in our daily lives? - she restores that sense of empowerment that has taken a beating of late. At least, I found it so.

Kaza is a woman who herself finds solace in nature and shares with us her long walks among the redwood and oak forests of California and Vermont. It makes for some beautiful passages: "Sometimes I would find myself climbing an oak on the mesa for the big view of ocean and sky. Sometimes I would crawl close to a small spring nestled in moss, feeding the creek drop by drop."

Throughout, she shares with us her sincere admiration for the "deep view" so ingrained in Eastern philosophies and Zen Buddhism itself. I was delighted to find her own home is dotted with statues of Kuan Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion, a quality so necessary for those who find the green path an obstacle course at times. I share with her a love of this great, serenely peaceful, goddess.

While Mindfully Green contains much that is thought provoking with many references to the author's Buddhist teachers and their works, I think it is Kaza's empathy with the consternation so many of us are feeling at this time that makes this book a little special.

I notice on the end pages reference to another Finch title, Spiritual Compass by Satish Kumar. If you are looking for a way forward that resonates with your deepest being, "a green practice path", I'd recommend both of these books.

Margaret Evans

Margaret Evans has a background in teaching, journalism and publishing. She is the editor of NOVA Holistic Journal.