I watched a documentary about 10 years ago, Gasland, which blew open my mind and simultaneously filled me with despair, as it told the true story of venal, greedy energy corporations destroying lives and whole towns indiscriminately, using methods to invoke fear and mistrust amongst once united communities, to divide and conquer. It radicalized me, and yes, I have had a lot of anger since, as it woke me up, made me stop averting my eyes, made me shift, a little and a lot. After, I began the process of bearing witness to the suffering of too many human beings and the destruction of our planet, working to dismantle my own internalized adherence to systems that cause suffering too many have experienced for millennia, and all because of a fearful striving for control, money and power.
There's gotta be another way, right? But how?! ALL of us have this conditioning: to do the most expedient, money-making thing to survive, and in the process, to be a tad negligent about our planet and all the beings that live upon it, too. "Survival of the fittest" was an egregious misinterpretation that conveniently enabled us to wend our collective way towards greed and oppression, genocide and ruin. It's enough to make you despair and feel hopeless, powerless, once you finally SEE - despair that anything could ever reverse such reckless, seemingly unstoppable negligence and cruelty. (And, I think that's the intent of much of what we see out here and on MSM: to plant in us a seed of despair, to divide and conquer us, to make us fall into apathy. Because a frightened populace is not only controllable, it also spends and consumes more, too, to fill the hole that despair creates.)
When I read an article, watch a documentary, see a news story that expounds something really awful happening - hell, when I see Bud Light cans or Dunkin' Donuts cups laying along the edge of our roadways - I get really discouraged about my fellow humans. I feel angry. And, I know I am not alone in this feeling, my friends.
But, lately, I have been practicing something when I get triggered into this despair and anger: I actively choose to think instead of all the other people who drive with trash in their cars, but instead, simply chose to do the right thing with it. "Trash" exists, and most of us make it, and we have to learn how to make a lot less. But, I remember: there's a lot more of that sort of mindful person in our world, and that group is growing, waking up, doing the right thing.
Remember THOSE folks, the ones who didn't litter, when you see the trash on the roadways, not the ones who think the world is a garbage can. The practice is that simple.
And, then I extend this practice, and I think with gratitude of the folks who choose NOT to buy a disposable cup in the first place - or folks who go out on their daily walks with a bag and pick up the trash and litter. And, I think of all are working hard right now to come up with more sensible, efficient ways to reduce, reuse, recycle, or create products and services that DON'T destroy the planet. I think of folks who are growing their own food, or supporting local farmers. I think of folks putting their lives on the line right now during pandemic doing essential, generally thankless work - from those whose job it is to pick our food, those who pick up our trash for their living, and yes, those caring for those who are ill and dying in our hospitals. I think, too, of all those who have helped educate us and wake us up to a better way of being and acting in our world, and finally, I think of all who have realized that practicing a little more austerity, sacrificing, letting go of what doesn’t ultimately serve us, is an act that serves the greater good of all.
There are more of THESE folks in our country, and in our world - and you know them and I know them, and their life force is POWERFUL - more powerful than the pain behind the acts of sad, deluded folks who at this stage are unable to let go of the conditioning to consume and discard mindlessly, because of their fear and need for control, because of their despair or unwillingness to consider that there is another way to live and be free from fear.
This power towards being better is growing and shifting all of us collectively towards a different existence. And, these are growing pains as we shed the ways that do not serve us any longer, as we rid ourselves of the conditioned identity that leads us to acts of thoughtless greed and over consumption. Beneath that limiting identity, there's a great big, beautiful loving nobility at the heart of every human, which seeks to lift itself beyond the ignorant, petty, terrified, hateful need for control that leads some of us, sometimes, to acts of evil, both petty and enormous. Although it's deeply veiled in far too many of us right now, although a lot of us are feeling fearful, there is something greater than our fear, and we need to remember: no matter how veiled a person may seem, there is infinite, generous love, nobility and honor, inside of each and every one of us.
Find it in yourself, whether through practice, or prayer, or through simply being quiet, even right now as you sit still and know a truth that is with you every moment of your life: "I AM." That's the power that ultimately changes the world. We have that power. We are that power.
Sutra 2.33: vitarka-bādhane pratipakṣa-bhāvanam
When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite [positive] ones should be thought of. This is pratipaksha bhavana (Swami Satchidananda translation). When doubt or wayward thoughts disturb the cultivation of the yamas and niyamas, generate the opposite: a counterforce of thoughts, images, or feelings that have the power to uplift, invigorate, inspire, and steady the mind. This is pratipaksha bhavana (Rev. Jaganath translation).
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Michelle Ryan, yoga practitioner and teacher.