Friday, May 2, 2008

People Green

The current political current has turned green: Attention has turned toward Mother Earth, taking care of the planet- it's what I've always thought of as walking gently on our planet.

I've been a gentle walker since I can remember. When I was in the 6th grade, I went house-to-house garnering signatures for a Save the Whales campaign. I wrote letters to the-then-President Jimmy Carter about the need to recycle waste.  I refused to eat animals or kill bugs (see the below ladybug blog).  Back then, it wasn't vogue, and they didn't call it being green. They had other, less prepossessing, names for people who held those values.  

Today, many more people and institutions have gone green. We're realizing the impact that human beings have on our environment, from factory farming to the massively unethical corporatization of food to the decimation of the rain forests. Even churches have jumped on board the green wagon.  This is such an important time in history for people-- time to connect with our Mother Earth-- time to take care of this beautiful planet our children's children will inherit from us. Time to walk gently on this planet. It's long overdue.

In a society of consumerism and selfish indulgences, I was thinking how, as our Green IQ rises in society, we can translate that over to being people green. Being earth-friendly is necessary: But how do we walk gently with others? How do we see ourselves in the world in relationship with others.  Our People IQ suffers a lot in the West. 

I see this particularly with the bereaved. One mother who lost her son to suicide began telling people he died in a car crash. Why? Because others flooded her with painful remarks, assigning guilt to her as a mother and excusing his death because it was perceived as self-inflicted. I see this when a young baby dies and someone responds recklessly with, "At least you're young. You can have another", as if children are interchangeable and replaceable. I even see it in day-to-day relationships when one person's feelings or opinions are rejected by another, rather than respected.

What brought our society around to an increased sensitivity to the environment is an awareness about the earth and it's vulnerability.  Awareness triggers mindfulness. When we are mindful we are in the moment. Really in the moment. Aware of ourselves, our surroundings, our actions and inactions, and mostly our effects on our surroundings. Other human beings are a part of those surroundings. Are human beings not also worthy of this mindfulness? Should we not also be mindful how what we say and do- how we treat others- affects them?

Mindful living with one another may help improve our relationships, even those transitory in nature. Even the way we interact with the grocery clerk or a fellow driver can have a lasting effect- it's Physics 101- every action has an effect. Will the effect I have on both the earth and those with whom I share it be one worthy of pride or of shame?  Imagine if, in every interaction we considered this...what would the world look like?

Really, it begins with paying attention. How are you in this world? Once you recognize yourself in this world, see yourself for who you are, actions can then follow. It's the power of presence, and it benefits both nature and humanity. While for me, it can be a challenge to really live this mantra each day, I try to stay in the moment and value every interaction, both with nature and with human beings. It's something for which I try to remain mindful, each and every day. 

Turn your attention toward Mother Earth and walk gently on her. She is worthy. 

And also, turn your attention toward your fellow humans and walk gently with them. They, too, are worthy.

Be gentle and not cruel.
Embrace humility more than arrogance.
Thank others more than you accept thanks.
Feel compassion more than apathy.
See what others ignore.
Hold others close more than you push them aside.
Learn more than you teach.
Be present more than absent.
Give more than you take.
-Joanne Cacciatore

So, mindfulness will not conflict with any beliefs or traditions — religious or for that matter scientific — nor is it trying to sell you anything, especially not a new belief system or ideology. It is simply a practical way to be more in touch with the fullness of your being through a systematic process of self-observation, self-inquiry, and mindful action. There is nothing cold, analytical, or unfeeling about it. The overall tenor of mindfulness is gentle, appreciative, and nurturing. Another way to think of it would be “heartfulness.”
— Wherever You Go, There You Are

1 comment:

Kara Chipoletti Jones of GriefAndCreativity dot com said...

We just got back from Alaska, Dr. Jo, and wow. Mother Nature is huge and all around there, not to be escape at any turn. I had this thunder bolt while there. We were meeting all these people, and well, I realized suddenly that any one of them could be a bereaved parent, and I'd never know it. They certainly didn't know it about me.

At the same time, I felt sad and awestruck. Sad because it feels so invisible. But awestruck that I should be gentle and kind with every individual because for all I know they, too, are a bereaved parent.

Even the angry person who was throwing around threats outside a bar -- how could I know -- maybe his anger is grief driven?

Or the cabbie who had the lovely photo of a young man stuck to her mirror. How do I know that was not a memory of a son she lost too soon?

I found myself thinking these things the entire trip.


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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