“It’s my conviction that we cannot change the world if we’re not able to change our way of thinking, our consciousness. Collective change in our way of thinking and seeing things is crucial. Without it, we cannot expect the world to change. Collective awakening is made of individual awakening. You have to wake yourself up first, and then those around you have a chance.”
Thich Nhat Hanh: “Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet”
In this time we are living in, there are many changes happening around us, some are very positive. The world is becoming smaller and we are all seeing very clearly that we are part of a global family. This is a positive thing as the old divisions are becoming increasingly irrelevant and we can have the opportunity to treat the whole planet as one living organism. On the other hand, we are on a very dangerous slide to complete environmental collapse as global warming and environmental destruction are increasing every day and governments are doing very little to make real change.
As we are people that are practicing yoga and trying our best to become more awake and mindful, these issues are burning deeper and deeper in our hearts. It isn’t enough to just have our own spiritual practice and ignore the flames that are engulfing the world. But many are frustrated as it seems that the issues are too big for one person to make a difference in the face of corporate greed, government inaction, and collective denial. So what can we do?
First, we need to look very carefully at the source of all the problems we are facing today. How can we really solve a problem unless we find the real source? Otherwise, we are not uprooting the difficulties at their source and they will keep coming back again and again. Everything around us in the human realm has been created by our minds. Our cities, the internet, our country borders everything we have developed by the power of human consciousness. So many positive things have come and also many destructive things have come from this powerful human mind. So the solution to our problems must also come from our minds. How can we hope to eliminate the greed that destroys the amazon, the hatred that creates division and wars, and the ignorance leading to apathy so that nothing changes, if our mind is full of greed, hatred, and ignorance?
Real spiritual activism starts with ourselves. And from there it will spread outward to change the world
If we try to make an external change coming from an angry or fearful mind then our minds are burned first and then enemies are created, and the whole divisions of right and wrong start appearing. Suspicion and paranoia start to invade our minds and we see the governments or secret societies are out to enslave us or so many other fears can start to appear. The angry mind is not clear, it doesn’t make the right decisions and anger only creates more anger in ourselves and others.
If we try to make an external change with a greedy, self-obsessed mind then everything is seen only in relation to what benefits our personal ideas, not reality as it is. Again paranoia appears and we are caught in the trap of trying to protect what is ours, our country, our family, our livelihood, instead of seeing the interconnectedness of everything we only see through our paranoid lens of self-absorption fuelled by fear and insecurity.
If we are simply ignoring the situation, not taking action, pretending that these problems we are facing will just go away on their own, and we continue to avoid looking, feeling the enormous problems we are facing today, then we are really down a dangerous path. The human mind is an expert at fabricating reality and not so good at seeing things as they are. Especially if action is needed that will upset the comfort or security of the individual.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
There are no easy solutions to the problems we face internally and externally, but we can start with our own minds. We can see when actions are motivated by anger or fear and step back until clarity arises, then take action if needed. We can see when our minds are dominated by greed and we can create some space to feel the interconnection of all things, until clarity arises, then take action if needed. We can see our lazy comfort mind that pretends things are ok when the house is on fire, and wake it up. Clarity will come and we can take action if needed.
The awakening of clarity is the key to real solutions, and how we get clarity is through mindfulness.
A practice in mindfulness to develop clarity.
Mindfulness practice is at the heart of Buddhist spiritual practice, essentially mindfulness means to be present and not be distracted. The whole heart of effective spiritual activism rides on our mindfulness. It is a practice in the sense that we have to be interested first of all in waking up from our anger, greed, and dullness, then we will automatically start to bring our attention to our lives in a mindful, deeper way. The best way to develop mindfulness is to put your full attention on the present moment. Whatever you are doing, do it in a mindful way. For instance: we may be eating a sandwich for lunch and instead of being completely there, tasting the sandwich, we may be talking with someone, scrolling through social media, or just lost in our heads. The moment has been lost, and in a real sense, if we are distracted in this way most of the time our whole life is lost. Our life exists in the present moment, not in a distracted mind running into the future or past.
So the simple practice is: when you are eating your meals, just be completely present with each moment. Eat mindfully.
Start with this and then move into other things in your life, like washing the dishes, cleaning the house, or working on the computer. Be mindful of each moment. But start with the small things, like eating. Let your mindfulness expand to your whole life, then it will move beyond you into your family, your town, your country, and the whole world. Imagine if everybody on the planet was interested in being mindful! What a different world this would be.
May all beings be mindful and loving.
“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
― John Lennon