By Alan Davidson
© Alan Davidson- All Rights reserved
Shrieking wind punched the tent. The anchor ropes strained against the storm’s power. Hurricane force gusts threatened to turn the tent’s panels in to a sail. Dr. Lonnie Thompson felt the adrenaline flushing his muscles. He had pitched camp near a mountain cliff atop Huascaran, Peru’s highest peak. At 22,200 feet, it dominated the northern skyline of the Andes’ “White Range” (Cordillera Blanca). Many consider it to be the most beautiful mountain in the world. It wasn’t feeling very pretty that night. Fierce gusts battered his only protection from what climbers call the “death zone,” the environment above 18,000 feet. Thompson was used to the dangers of working at this extreme elevation; dangers that included altitude sickness with horrendous headaches, difficulty breathing, frostbite, avalanches, and (during the day) searing heat from the sun. And now add being blown off the mountain by the wind.
A crack signaled the anchor ties snapping under the strain. Fiberglass poles kept the tent panels upright, turning them into sails. Unmoored from the icy ridge, the wind pushed the tent toward the cliff edge. Inside the now teetering tent-raft, Lonnie scrambled into action. He grabbed his ice ax and jammed it through the floor of his tent; barely stopping his plunge to icy death below. Dr. Thompson is our, “closest living thing to an Indiana Jones.” Trekking through the Andes, the Himalayas and beyond, he has risked blood clots and temporary blindness in the name of science. His driving goal: preserving 100,000 years of weather history coded deep in the planet’s fast-melting glaciers. “No scientist has taken bigger risks to track ancient weather patterns and help us understand the anomaly of current climate trends,” says Al Gore.
Dr. Lonnie Thompson
Lonnie Thompson is a towering figure in the world of climatology. With his dramatic, low-budget, seat-of-the-pants trips to the glaciers of Africa, China and South America, he’s led expeditions from the Andes to Kilimanjaro, to drill for ice cores, frozen time capsules that lock in air, dust, and pollution of climates past, and offer solid (literally ice solid) evidence of the human impact on our environment. Thompson has now spent more time in the “death zone” than almost anyone alive. Once seen as an eccentric who had a wild idea about studying the ice near the planet’s equator, he’s now acknowledged to be a visionary in the field.
What has Dr. Thompson found? Global warming is real. A recent core sample from the Dasuopu glacier in Tibet reveals the last 50 years to be the warmest of the last 9,000. Thompson has found that the ice is melting at a rapid rate at some sites. At the Quelccaya glacier in Peru, a lake now exists that was not there in 1974 when Thompson first visited. In some areas, the ice is retreating about a foot a day, he said. “Those glaciers — they’re really a bank account,” he said. “They have stored water resources over thousands of years.”
Dr. Thompson, a professor at Ohio State University, said: “It doesn’t matter if you’re in the Himalayas, South America, or Africa. The system is changing.” The main way that warming is likely to affect mankind, scientists say, is through changes in the balance of water as liquid, vapor and ice. “A change of nine or ten degrees [of the Earth’s temperature] would almost certainly cause widespread catastrophe,” writes Mark Bowen in Thin Air, a treatise on global climate changes and Thompson’s high altitude adventures.
In the short run, the melting could unleash sudden floods and avalanches as it overwhelms lakes and stream beds. In the long run, though, these long-frozen sources of water will run dry. Generally, agriculture is expected to die out in arid subtropical areas like the eastern Mediterranean and southern Africa, while flourishing in northern climates — like the North American wheat belt — as more rain and longer growing seasons boost crops. But climate experts say that even there, rain is more likely to fall as field-scouring torrents. Government scientists have already measured a significant rise in downpour-style storms in the United States over the last 100 years.
Earth has suffered from one crisis or another since someone started telling stories around the campfire. But what is the world’s #1 worst crisis: destroying our environment, wars and their “collateral damage,” crushing and dehumanizing poverty, sex and slave traffic of our young girls?
Shockingly, the #1 crisis facing our world today is none-of-the-above; Yep. That’s right. Our #1 crisis is really the LACK of human development in the world. We’ll get to remedy in just a minute. Every crisis mentioned above is a symptom of poor our human development. We hate, fight, abuse each other, and the planet we live on because we have yet to grow up.
Human growth falls into three broad levels: Selfish, Care, and Cosmic Care.
The SELFISH level means a healthy Self-Care; or not—and often the case these days. Our basic human needs are healthy bodies–good food, clean water and air–and safety, shelter, and security. The “Dark Side of Selfish,”as it stands 1.3 billion people live on less than a dollar a day and 850 million people do not get enough to eat every day. 350 million kids go to sleep hungry every night.
The CARE level means caring for each other—a real sense of love, belonging, and self respect. Most of the people in our developed nations are at this level. “Dark Side of Care”—There were 180,000 deliberate murders in the world last year; 660, 020 domestic rapes—this number does not include war rapes. In the U.S. alone 16% of children are physically abused and 9% are sexually abused—that’s almost 1 out of ten children. And these numbers say more about the quality of police care throughout the world and a victim/witness’s will to report a crime. We have a lot of growing up to do.
COSMIC CARE means caring for all things—our fellow human beings, our animal friends, the planet, and universe we live in…and a real integration of all three levels of growth. Even with the vast wealth and technological progress found in the world, only 3% of our entire world’s population lives at a COSMIC CARE level of growth. So how do we grow up, with more and more people peaking into a COSMIC CARE level, you ask? Well for my money, mastering our Five Vital IQs—healing and integrating body, heart, mind, choice, and spirit are a necessity.
But there’s one exercise that is statistically proven to boost human growth…Meditation. Yep, that’s right. Sitting quiet and still every day, pretty much guarantees growing up. It doesn’t even matter what kind of meditation, just the sitting, whether it’s watching your breath, scanning the sensations of your body, chanting, praying, or concentration. They all work to raise our level of growth.
Ken Wilber, the creator of Integral Theory, believes that 10% of the world’s people living at COSMIC CARE level will create a tipping point of consciousness; a shifting that will radically change our world and the all the crisis that threaten us today: human cruelty, war, environmental destruction, and the incredible imbalance of wealth will all shift, as our consciousness does. As we grow each of these problems will heal. (Other, more complex problems will surely arise—but to the work at hand).
There are literally thousands of ways to meditate in the vast history of our world’s traditions. Here’s one of my favorites.
Sensational Body Meditation
The key to this meditation is simple: you focus on the sensations of your body as you sit; the sensation of pressure, temperature, vibration, and pain/pleasure. Then there’s always your five senses: taste, hearing, smell, or touch (I prefer to meditate with my eyes closed). When you notice yourself thinking, which you will (it’s what the mind is designed to do), gently return your attention to any of the sensations of your body. The skill of meditation is to consistently focus our attention in the present. The sensations of our body always happen in the present moment. When we focus our attention to those sensations we automatically tune to the present moment.
Sit comfortably cross-legged on the floor with your spine straight. Placing a cushion just under your sitz bones (the bones of your pelvis you actually sit on) lifts your spine. It helps you to sit in peace and quiet. Turn off all the distractions you can—telephones, TV, music, kids. Gently close your eyes.
Turn your attention to your feet and sense everything you can. Feel any pressure from the ground, your socks? Sense your skin and the feel of air or fabric on it. Do you have a sense of temperature? Of vibration? When you notice yourself thinking, gently bring your attention back to your body.
Move your attention to your calves, hips and thighs. Sense the weight of your body pressing on the floor. Sense your skin and the feel of air or fabric on it. Do you have a sense of temperature? Of vibration? When you begin thinking, gently return your attention to your body.
Move your attention to your belly. Soften your belly. Let your muscles and guts relax. Sense your skin and the feel of air or fabric on it. Do you have a sense of temperature? Of vibration? When you notice yourself thinking, gently return your attention to your body.
Move your attention to your back. Sense the muscles and bones that hold you erect as you sit. If there is tension or pain in your back turn your attention to it and take a deep breath. Direct your breath to the tension. The movement and attention of your breath may soften that tension. Sense your skin and the feel of air or fabric on it. Do you have a sense of temperature? Of vibration? When you notice yourself thinking, gently bring your attention back to your body.
Move your attention to your breath. Notice the rising and falling of your chest. Sense the air moving in and out of your chest. Sense your skin and the feel of air or fabric on it. Do you have a sense of temperature? Of vibration? When you notice yourself thinking, gently bring your attention back to your body.
Move your attention to your neck and head. Sense the movement of air across your upper lip as you breathe. Feel the movement of air through your nose and throat. Notice any aromas or tastes you have. Sense your skin and hair. Do you have a sense of temperature? Of vibration? When you notice yourself thinking, gently bring your attention back to your body.
Return to the sensations of your feet and move back up your body to the head and neck. Initially sit for twenty minutes. As you are comfortable, increase your sitting time by ten-minute increments until you can sit for one hour.
Commit to yourself and a meditation program. It’s best to start with something you can do consistently, like every day for ten minutes. Build from there. You can add more minutes to your sitting, or add another round of ten minutes (say one in the morning, one at night). There’s lot’s of good advice on how to start and sustain a mediation practice. The most important thing to me is “Just do it.” Find the groove that works for you. You’ll feel better, focus your mind, and choose better. And the world needs your Cosmic Care.