One of the topics that’s been on my heart all month, and that I can’t leave this nature theme integrously without exploring, is that of human-caused ecological destruction. That phrase alone has sent me to the kitchen for chocolate numerous times this month, and, much to my dismay (and maybe not surprisingly…), my wanderings haven’t once written this post.
Tonight I’m not leaving my seat, though. We’ll see where Spirit/Universe/my own little heart lead.
Here’s the honest truth: I’m sad and frightened by what humans are doing to our planet. I feel sick when I look out at the LA horizon and the sky is the color of mud. I’m shaken by the signs on the piers in my area that warn fishermen and women not to eat the muscles or many of the fish that feed in our polluted waters. I read exposés on what Exxon Mobile is doing and planning to do in Alberta; on oil spills and failed promises to clean them up; on scientists’ best attempts at understanding the trajectories of global warming; on cleaning chemicals the average American uses unquestioningly in their home every day and…my dear heart. It wants to climb into bed and shake.
I don’t do that most of the time, though, and, in fact, live mostly in denial about how sick our planet is. I’m guessing that most of you do, too. To do otherwise, without growing a hearty kind of trust beforehand or right alongside, is to walk deep into miring sludge.
I don’t think I’m capable of finding a pathway toward trusting that we will collectively change our ecological course. If you know of such a trail, please – PLEASE share it with the rest of us! I very much want to hear.
I do, however, think I’m capable of finding other pathways that lead me away from denial-producing fear and closer to an open-eyed, peace-inducing trust on this topic.
So here goes. Let’s give this a shot…
1. Read about efforts people are making to reverse the harm that’s been/being done to our planet.
If all I know about our planet comes from news headlines aimed at shocking and terrifying people into reading them, I will unwittingly assume that doom more aptly characterizes everything than hope. I will assume that brilliant minds and every day folks are not working very much to reverse real-world, ecological problems.
Maybe even better than reading about these efforts would be to spend time with someone whose life is devoted to them. Someone who’s excited about what they’re doing and tickled by the discoveries they’re making.
2. Get out of my house and car and spend time with Earth.
While this activity can and does break my heart sometimes, given the signs of pollution I so readily find, I think it also works a kind of magic. All the lessons that Carol and Christine spoke of in their interviews, and the ones I’ve been reflecting on this month: they really do tilt me toward trust. And they’re there at our fingertips, literally, if we take the time to look, listen, touch.
3. Take heart-centered, earth-friendly action in my day-to-day life.
This one is tricky because I think most of us go numb or put our denial glasses on the second words like “action” come into play. We’re overwhelmed with our lives as it is; adding one more set of inconveniences or duties or responsibilities – especially when they’re associated with tree-hugging fanatics – feels like just too much. (For the record, there is a tree hugging fanatic in me who wishes often for more air time. I’m not critiquing the lot by any stretch!)
But here’s what I mean by this one:
What if instead of making earth-friendly choices because I’m trying to do my part to reduce or offset the destruction humans are causing our planet (this would be my typical reason), I instead made such choices as small acts of defiance against the forces of apathy, greed, self-centeredness, ignorance, and despair in our world. These are forces that cause and perpetuate the destruction of our planet, but they’re responsible for so much more. And (dare I say it?) for far more devastating losses than the health of our physical earth.
The shift in perspective here is significant. It’s away from dependence on making physical changes in our world in order to have hope, and toward a focus on protecting and emboldening and maintaining the health of one’s own and our collective heart. The stronger and healthier our hearts, the more physical/ecological manifestations of health and healing we’ll see (I presume!), but that’s less the point than the health and flourishing of our hearts for their own sake.
The thought of hundreds and thousands of people – heck, the thought of only one or two! – making small and daily acts of defiance – not because they think they will solve our earth’s problems, but because they’re unwilling to let their hearts be occupied or wilted by the powers that harm our planet and souls: I find this tremendously hope-inducing.
4. Notice the resilience of our natural world.
Again, this doesn’t mean “look at how our earth heals itself and take heart that no matter how much we destroy her, she will survive”. I’m sorry, truly sorry, that I can’t do this.
Instead, I think I’m nuancing this one toward heart things again. Soul things. There is wonder, for me, in recognizing what land and bugs and people and animals and bacteria and plants and air and water do in the face of destruction. As long as they’re able, they keep trying to survive. They keep adapting. They keep devising new routes and new devices to lead them toward what they need. This is amazing to me! It makes me want to bow deeply to life. To the miracle of it all.
Focusing on this wonder and this miracle – these trillions of miracles: this not only allows me to look with open eyes, rather than denial, at what we’re doing to our ecosystems, but makes me WANT to do so. Open eyes are the only way to experience this kind of wonder.
5. Get more comfortable with death.
Huge parts of me don’t want to go here at all because of our collective agreement (in my country, at least) to avoid talk and thoughts of our own inevitable deaths. We give billions of dollars every year to products and surgeries and medications and advertising aimed at helping us avoid death and all signs that we’re headed there. And even without these cultural norms, apart from the small percentage of people who want to take their own lives, our lizard brains are hard-wired for survival. Scenes from books and movies and our own imaginations of a world so polluted and contaminated that sickness and illness and suffering and early deaths are far more prevalent than they they are now can make us so scared – for ourselves and for future generations – that our only option is to push our fear underground.
We aren’t only our lizard brains, though. And it is possible, with the help of journalling, meditation and wise teachers (this book has been one such teacher for me), to grow increasingly more comfortable with the fact that all of us are going to die.
Can you imagine how liberated you would feel if death wasn’t something to fear? How much more possible it would be to maintain equanimity – levity, even, at times – in the face of Earth’s human-made disease?
When Buddha and Jesus and sages from across the millennia speak of losing our lives in order to gain them, this has to be what they mean.
These are the paths I’m finding tonight. If you know of or can think of others, I would love to hear them!
And more generally speaking, I’d love to hear how you feel about our earth and what you tend to do with your feelings. Your company around this topic in particular – one I have few conversations about in my offline world – would mean the world to me.