Dumbo Feather

CATHERINE INGRAM HAS PASSIONATE PRESENCE

SUBJECT Catherine Ingram

OCCUPATION Dharma teacher

INTERVIEWER Berry Liberman

PHOTOGRAPHER Tom Barnett

LOCATION Byron Bay, Australia

DATE October, 2019

Catherine Ingram has dedicated her life to the deep inquiry that lives at the intersection and practice of consciousness and activism. In cities around the world, she holds Dharma Dialogues, wonderfully enriching group meditation and spiritual dialogue events for the increasing number of people wanting to find resource in quiet contemplation. Her books, In The Footsteps of Gandhi and Passionate Presence, are rich treasure troves of timeless insight and wisdom. Growing up in conservative America, Catherine longed for connection to something vast and kind, some other way of being in the world that could hold all the longings and sufferings of humanity. As a young student, she found the burgeoning mindfulness community in California, full of young, eager minds hungry for spiritual sustenance. A deep journey of meditation and spiritual inquiry led Catherine back to herself and to becoming a teacher and guide in passionate presence, a less effortful mindfulness practice—one of kind, gentle observation and loving presence with the self that goes beyond the meditation bell.

Activism has always been central to Catherine’s journey. From human rights to animal rights, alleviating the suffering of the world has never simply been a mind experiment for her; to be awake is to simultaneously be in service. More recently, Catherine has been immersed in climate science, and after much research penned the influential paper, Facing Extinction, which charts a bleak course for humanity. It is a loving, sober, impossible work that, much like “Deep Adaptation,” does not let us off the hook. There is no false hope, only stark observation and assessment of our odds of surviving our own destructive behaviour. It is a very bitter pill to swallow and I could feel my mind and heart doing anything to avoid the thoughts and feelings that we are alive at such a brutal moment. What do we do with this knowledge? Who are we if there is no future for us? Catherine’s invitation is to be calm in the storm, our nervous systems need to remain regulated and peaceful so that those of us who are strong and loving can bring that to our work, our families and our world.

I’m inclined to hold the truth of current scientific findings with the similar and yet highly invisible truth of possibility. Nobody knows exactly what will be. We do know that life on Mars is worse now than any future life on Earth. Even with a two-degree warming, this planet has been hospitable to life and will continue to be. Being in conversation with Catherine, listening to her Dharma Dialogues podcast , reading her paper, helps me stay lovingly present. Being alive to the beauty of the world is the whole point. No matter the outcome, I would like to think that we can all spend our days doubling down on the world our hearts know is possible.

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