After a three-year term as Executive Secretary to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres was exhausted, emotionally drained and ready to pack it in. What kept her going?
“Out of nowhere, I have no idea where, the word ‘Buddhism’ came into my mind,” Figueres remembers. She called a friend to help her on her search. “So I’m like, Buddhism! He says, ‘What do you know about Buddhism?’ I said, nothing. I don’t even know how it’s spelled, but I need it!”
With the help of Buddhist teachings, Figueres found the strength and determination to sign up for a second term, which led her to the 2015 Paris Climate Summit. “I realized my commitment and my task here is to change that global mood,” she says. “And of course I can't change the global mood before I change myself, because as we know all change starts with self.”
The prospect of trying to turn the tide of global warming can seem overwhelming. But Joshua Freedman, author of several books on emotional intelligence, believes that staying mindful can help us cope.
“I think what it means is, just as the seas are rising literally, the emotional seas are rising,” he explains. “And that means we have to work harder, right? And that's what mindfulness practice is all about.”
Rather than letting our emotions make us feel helpless, Freedman continues, we can harness them as a hidden source of power.
“This ability to grow compassion is one of the most powerful things we can do as human beings,” says Freedman. “It transforms us, it transforms our relationships, and ultimately it does transform the world.”
This program was recorded live at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on September 16, 2018, and is generously underwritten by the Susie Tompkins Buell Foundation.