Meta House, Phnom Penh, Cambodia 24-8-2010

Climate Change and Conciousness

Meta House in co-operation with Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University in Phnom Penh hosted an evening talk about the link between "Climate and Consciousness". Meta House is Cambodia's first art and communication center in the capital Phnom Penh. Besides organizing exhibitions and events Meta House offers in co-operation with the Goethe-Institute, classes in the German language.

Speaker Sonja Ohlsson was sharing her experience participating in Copenhagen Climate Change Conference COP15. The Brahma Kumaris saw their contribution to the conference and to the general debate on 3 levels – thought/consciousness, values like respect and co-operation and change in practical actions.


It is understood that we have to go back to an attitude of respect for nature, for all living beings and the world around us. At the root of all old civilizations there is often a very close relationship of harmony with nature.

How can we translate that to a modern way of live? We know the fact that in order to respect other people or the world around me, we need to have the basic skill of respecting the self. If that ability to respect is destroyed by circumstances, spirituality and meditation can play an important role to recreate it.

We know that climate change affects all levels of society – in Denmark and in Cambodia, in the home and in the working place, etc. We also know that we need to work across the different levels of society to really make a change in this work. But co-operation is not easy.

For example in Denmark, the local NGO got together and created a NGO Forum, but in that work there were many delays and problems due to lack of co-operation between the NGO's. They were fighting and having conflicts. We solved it slowly, but that time could have been used for more creative work.

Co-operation is so important, still so difficult. It requires many personal skills like listening, flexibility, tolerance, humility etc. So if it is difficult to co-operate on an NGO level, we can see how difficult it is to co-operate on a national level. And the climate suffers.

It is very easy to understand the value of contentment and simplicity in this, directed to the developed countries. The over-consumption of goods has become a big problem. In order to live a fully satisfactory life without too many cars, houses, things and gadgets, I need to be supported form a feeling of inner satisfaction or contentment. In the developed countries shopping has become a compensation for happiness and good relationships.

The environment crisis shows that materialism is going too far and we are producing the wrong things, for people's greed not for their need, as Gandhi said. My inner values will support me in this work. In order for this to happen, I need to reflect on them from time to time, spend time in silence going deeper and dig out the resources and energy that are inside, and that sometimes get lost in practical actions.


Before there is a change in attitude and values, there has to be a change in awareness or understanding. A deep understanding or insight or 'aha' experience will change my attitude. It is all connected, so if it is all connected then also my thoughts are connected to the world around me. A negative thought will not only affect me, but also the world around me. When I accept the responsibility of improving the quality of my thoughts, then I am contributing to improving the quality of the world around me.

The Earth is an intricate, delicate living system, It consist of parts and processes that continually affect one another over time - they connect, change, grow. It is cyclic.

To fully understand the scope of the environmental crisis we need to look at another living system that influences the Earth, that is the system of thought at every level of human affairs. Our thoughts affect our collective effort to create a tolerable world and civilization. Already back in early 1990 a physicist from the United States, David Bohm talked about thought being a problem upstream and the pollution the result downstream.

In today's world full of problems and with inequality in time and resources, our thoughts have become fragmented. A fragmented consciousness separates cause from effect - we see one small part of the system and don't see how it affects the whole system.

Thought often also claims to comment on the world around us, this happened and that happened. Thought claims that it tells you what is happening, but in reality it has a greater part than that - it actually creates.

So what can we do? We can increase our ability to see the relationship between the inner system of thought and the outer system of the world around us, we can become aware that my own thoughts are not just neutral observers, but they create the world around us. When we take this responsibility for ourselves, we increase our ability to have a positive influence on the world around us.

When I increase my understanding of consciousness and how it creates, I can also increase my capacity to make a difference on the necessary practical changes that need to happen in the political and legal arena of climate change.

As human beings we are all influenced all the time in all directions.

That also means I can have a positive influence on the world around. I can work on influencing the world around me with generosity, tolerance, respect. I don't think we should underestimate the power of thought and change in our thinking. We have seen this far-reaching influence on climate change. Cut down the rainforest in one place, and it affects the environment in another part across the world. Can we apply the same principle to consciousness?

There is the saying that if you harm one small part in the whole system, one actually harms the whole system. So on the contrary, if I benefit one small part of the whole system, I benefit the whole system.


The evening finished with an open discussion on how to maintain a sustainable lifestyle. It might be easy to change, but to maintain the change needs a sustainable lifestyle on many levels – thoughts, values, relationship, actions, food, conscious shopping etc.

Everyone shared their experiences on how meditation is a way to sustain our thoughts and values.

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