Showing Up

September 22, 2014

Today I want to pick up where I left off earlier this month when I wrote that true mindfulness does not afford us the luxury of camping out within the gated privacy of our own hearts and minds. Mindfulness invites and requires us bit-by-bit, to take in the full range of our experiences from the beautiful to the painful. All of it, every little bit. Joanna Macy says we’re not required to be hopeful or hopeless; we’re just required to show up.


A lot of people showed up this weekend in New York City for the People’s Climate March, more than 300,000. I imagine some were hopeful and some were not. But they were there, there demanding action on climate change, willing to see things as they are. Most of us who weren’t there also know how things are. In California, we’re in a horrendous drought and fires are burning throughout the state. The rivers are drying up which means the fish will die. Hopeful or hopeless? Just show up? I have to choose hope and show up. It’s just much too frightening to be hopeless and hide.


The Buddha taught that Right or Wise Action is action rooted in non-harming of ourselves and others, and this includes our environment. If you’d like the five specific guidelines that support non-harming, check out the post from August 30th, Ferguson. Lately,I’ve especially been thinking about the last guideline; maintaining a clear mind by not using substances that cause heedlessness. Does this include fossil fuels? Or the way we use water? Does it include the media? How about the food we eat? How does what we take in and what we use affect our thinking, decisions and actions?


I don’t know how to stop using fossil fuels. Everything needs to change in order to do that; our entire orientation to our lives, our habits and understanding about the consequences and impact of our actions. That will require a seismic shift. But I can try. And I can stop letting the water run down the drain while I brush my teeth. I’ve done that for years. I can also stop watching the news, checking Facebook or reading the New York Times first thing in the morning. All three cloud my mind with tragedy, violence and greed leaving me scared and sometimes numb. They do not support my well-being which certainly affects the well-being of those around me.


A guideline from the Buddha that does support my well-being is “What when I do it will be for my long-term welfare and happiness?” I love this question because it lets me access my innate wisdom and take wise action. I choose to believe that given a choice, most of us will not make decisions that intentionally cause harm. It takes a lot of mindfulness to keep this question alive, and it makes me hopeful.