Adyashanti’s Climate Wisdom

Here are teachings from Adyashanti‘s inspiring talk on “Climate Change as Spiritual Teacher on 1/21/23, with Jonathan Gustin of the Purpose Guides Institute (from my notes, lightly edited & resequenced.)

Adyashanti: We are simultaneously holding the facts of climate change, the arising of heartbreak, and the fullness of courage in finding a full-hearted response. It is not about rejecting the facts, nor about rejecting the heartbreak. It’s about accepting, about being with what is.

I experience human heartbreak / sadness / grief at what is happening, alongside an experience of transcendence. The only thing I trust, in my own experience, is when both perspectives are present.

The closer we get to paradox, the closer we get to truth. We can be not okay and okay at the same time. Everything is eternally, absolutely okay, even though it is very not okay.

Is there a little corner of you that is okay, even with the situation of our planet not being okay? Once you find that corner, you may find it is more expansive than you could have imagined.


What is the most effective way to connect with others about the existential crises we face, without creating lines of separation?

When I encounter someone, the first thing that I am intuitively feeling for is that point of contact. I have to connect first. If I don’t connect, it doesn’t matter what I say.

Be open and sensing as you look for points of contact. Look for a way that the other person can truly hear you. Embody your passion and your compassion about the things that are important to you. Speak directly and with a humble demeanor, as people are much more receptive when you show sincere humility.

A feeling of connection lowers the temperature on everything. We can never defeat opposition; there will always be opposition. Yet where there is connection, a possibility exists for something different to arise.


Will abiding enlightenment save us from pain and suffering? Will it save us from heartbreak, grief and anger? No. Enlightenment doesn’t give us a pass on the nitty gritty realities of human existence such as loss, sickness, and death. Sometimes life is heartbreaking.

However, abiding enlightenment can save us from the suffering that arises out of our narrative – what I call optional suffering, the condition created by the narrative that we tell ourselves about ourselves, others, and the world. When we take this inner running narrative as being real and true, then we suffer.

A student asked Robert Aitkin Roshi, “Imagine the whole world went up in flames. Are you telling me that from the absolute perspective, all of that would be totally okay?” Roshi replied, “Yes. But what about all the blood (the suffering, the turmoil)?”

So yes, experience the godhead or the absolute, but don’t get lost there. The human heart, love and compassion are the link between the absolute and the relative. We can’t, nor should we, forget the blood, even if we able to be at peace in the absolute.


How much exposure to the info feels creative and touches into your soul-wisdom?

You want to be informed; you want to educate yourself so you have something to offer. Yet in today’s world, it is easy to be over-informed in a way that leads to overwhelm. When we read things over and over, getting more and more anxious, this does not lead to a good outcome. Sitting cowering in a corner is useless. When we become a puddle on the ground, we serve nobody.

Even though most of us feel it from time to time, overwhelm is not a helpful place in which to ground our action. Instead, open into these painful feelings and allow them to exist simultaneously with expansiveness, while refraining from jumping into action to do something to stop the feelings.

When we allow this larger opening, it can open up a wider view. From that vantage point, we do not experience being overwhelmed in the same way. Action taken from this place is likely to be more effective.


How is your life experience and narrative playing into how you feel about climate change?

Part of the responsibility of being a climate activist is to take a deep dive into our own motivations. There are the facts of climate change, there is our understandable heartbreak and response, and then there is the hard-wiring formed by our whole life up to this point, affecting how we meet the situation.

We need to have enough emotional well-being such that we can have a positive impact in the world. When we are reactive and emotional in response to the challenge, this has roots in our entire life experience.

A certain amount of anger or anxiety as part of what fuels us is fine, but when we feel caught in an emotion that is driving us, this is when we should bring our attention to the situation.

We see these existential issues most clearly when we have some access to our deeper true nature. I want to make a tie between our open-heartedness, our emotional wellbeing, and the effectiveness we can bring in our action to meet this great challenge.


How can you be an instrument of positive change?

When we dive into challenging areas like this, it is natural to focus on what we are against. This can give a certain direction, but we are so much more powerful in the world when we are rooted in what we are for.

People of impact are highly positive and highly action-oriented; these are the people who change the world. Throughout history, people with this orientation have had the greatest impact for good.

When we act from deeper sources of knowing within, when we open and connect others with high regard and intention, we are rooted in positive energy. Seek to live and be inspired and communicate with others from this place.

Of course, you will get caught in separation and negativity at times. Most anyone would when seeking to do a deep dive into scary subjects. If you are rooted in separation, in negativity, don’t create a further separation in yourself. Accept, while knowing that such an orientation is less effective.


Ask yourself, “What is the best way I can act on behalf of my love for the earth? How can I love the world and meet climate change – today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year and beyond?

I am very concerned about anyone’s ideas about “what we should all be doing.” This is not about “we have to” or “I should.” Each person connecting with what lights them up is the really interesting place to live from. Whatever your connected place is calling you to is the place to be.

And yes, the small things really do count. A lot of the big things in life arise from tiny seeds.

With something as complex as climate change, there is so very much to be done. We don’t know what might get us out of all this. New information is constantly coming out. There are so many moving parts, with the solutions still very much in question.

All of this means that our call to action can be quite passionate, while at the same time remaining quite open. We can engage how and where we feel most strongly drawn to act, while keeping an open mind to where things may be going in the future that we can’t envision now.


There can be a dread of facing these issues. We have all been there, putting our heads in the sand and looking away from things that are uncomfortable to see.

Underlying a lot of this is fear of death. Until we have faced and dealt with our fear of death, it will be a motivating factor in everything we do, without us realizing it.


Climate breakdown is incomprehensibly huge, and it is already underway. Species are going extinct every day. The oceans are warming, the glaciers are melting, food insecurity is on the rise, and growing numbers of climate refugees are being displaced from areas that are fast becoming unlivable. Perhaps it is more accurate to speak of “Decline, the End of Civilization, and Overshoot as Spiritual Teachers.” To contemplate these larger realities is to take on the fear of death on steroids.

I see reflecting on our own non-existence – both own individual existence and the larger planetary situation – to be one of the most potent of all spiritual practices. Not everyone is ready to contemplate the end of our way of life, the decline of hospitable conditions for human habitation on earth, the collapse of many species, and the likely partial elimination of humans, our own species.

Indeed, focusing on such dire prospects can feel overwhelming and unhelpful. Yet facing up to these things is also what can guide us to a more effective response.


If things end up being as dire as we fear they may, “How then shall we live?”

Ultimately, I’m not going to make it forever, humanity is not going to last forever, and even the solar system is not going to be around forever. Still, here we are, right here and right now – and we want to do the best we can.

Living well and dying well look very similar. It is a Zen belief that “Every day is a good day.” Each day is precious, and we do have choices about how our days unfold. Resolve to live this day as best you can, so that you will not have any regrets if this is the last day you are alive.

Hospice nurses say that at the end people often express, “I wish I had devoted more time to connect meaningfully with the people in my life.”

Maybe this in-between place and time is something about love.

Can we embrace this present moment as an invitation to deeper connection with other people, with all of life? This is, in fact, the thing that will give us our best chance of turning things around.

And if we are not able to turn it all around: even so, to experience everything as sacred, and to connect with others in a meaningful way, will be a great “out-tro” for our species.


The full video of Adya’s talk is here.

Also see his website:

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