There are levels upon levels of compassion. It isn’t enough to help an old lady through a parking lot and then drive home in a super car that gets 6 miles to the gallon.
That isn’t compassion.
In the worst case, it’s narcissism.
I don’t say this to detract from the positive benefits of the first action. YES! HELP THE OLD LADY! DO IT! But don’t ignore the problem of the super car.
If you own a super car, you can buy an electric one. Better yet, buy a house in a consciously planned community where you can walk to everything. In doing these things, you’ve spread compassion to more parts of your life, as opposed to compartmentalizing.
Love isn’t something that can only apply to one aspect of life. It is a total living thing. If we love, if we really love actively, it will impact all aspects of life. Once we begin this path, it becomes increasingly difficult to avert our eyes to problems around us. It becomes increasingly difficult to ignore the impact our actions have in every aspect of life.
At first, we may not make the connection between the single actions we take every day. We may not make the connection between eating a burger at a fast food restaurant with environmental degradation, poor labor practices, or amoral international agreements. It may be a stretch, at the beginning, to connect even the packaging to landfills or killing wildlife.
But here’s the thing – compassion is all about seeing connections. We must understand the webs of which we are a part.
We are all connected. Your actions impact my life. My actions impact your life. The sooner we all see and understand this, the more compassionate we can be.
The world – existence itself – is built on cycles. Science proves this. Faiths preach this. Our bodies illustrate this. Matter and energy, life and death, the movements of the planets, the tides, hormonal fluctuations – all these things reflect the cycles upon which existence functions.
Let’s think of these cycles as interconnecting circles of various sizes. In the simplest of terms, let’s look at a single circle regarding plants.
A seed is planted. It sprouts, taking nutrients and water from the earth. The plant grows into itself becoming home and food for creatures, who in turn eat parts of the plant. It dies. It becomes food for microbes and then worms. It is earth. A seed is planted, and the cycle continues.
Insert humanity at the point of growth. We cut the plant, using it as a resource, which is not inherently a problem – we are, after all, creatures. The problem comes when the plant is turned into packaging, and instead of returning to the soil to continue the cycle, it is removed – its resources placed into stasis for an indeterminate amount of time in a landfill. Pressed into the landfill, microbes are unable to breakdown the plant materials in the normal amount of time.
The cycle is broken.
Now you’re wondering why I talk about this – “Alexis, I thought we were talking about compassion! How does this have anything to do with compassion?”
Dear Ones, this has everything to do with compassion.
When we remove the plant from the cycle, we do ourselves a disservice – we practice abuse against the self.
I can hear you saying, “Alexis are you feeling all right? Abuse? To the self?”
I feel awesome. And yes. Abuse to the self.
What other word can be used to describe polluting our water and land? What other word can be used to describe disrupting the cycles of our planet up and down the chain of life? This is fundamentally abusive. And we are responsible. We are clearly responsible. And we’re doing it to ourselves.
The cycles we’ve broken have been done through fear – fear of scarcity (greed), fear of being found out (guilt or shame), fear of responsibility (escapism), and fear of knowledge (willful ignorance).
These are acts of self-loathing, ignorance, and short-sightedness. We seek “pleasure” and “escape” now at the expense of the future.
It is abusive to ourselves in the same way too much junk food or excessive exercise, or too much of anything is abusive. Is overeating an example of health? No. It is an indication of brokenness. Is overexercising an indication of health? No! It is an indication of brokenness!
There is imbalance of some kind and it must be corrected.
In these cases of excessive eating or exercise, the correction lies with the self first and foremost. Accepting the self and seeing the rewards of doing so is immediate, and satisfies the hunger for instant gratification. But what about these larger cycles? What about systems and structures that are greater than the self?
Connecting to the Cycle
While it is easy to see the changes of eating or exercising moderately – of accepting and loving oneself, other actions do not have such immediate impact. When we move beyond the self, addressing the greater cycles, the actions of a single person are insignificant.
For example, this week I started switching my personal care products to minimize my packaging, carbon footprint, and chemical usage (many chemicals have hormone disrupting effects as well as stripping the skin of natural protections). It’s a process for me. First I have to discover the right recipes for minimizing packaging (balancing my needs with social and environmental impact) and then I need to transition from the widely used recipes (many of which have ingredients that can’t come from Southern California) to ones that use as many regional ingredients as possible (Can I connect with some First Nations on this?).
I am in the transition phase. When I got rid of my products, I felt lighter. My heart swelled. I knew it was the right thing to do. I also knew I would see limited impact from my actions.
Personally I feel the impact. My finances thank me (Ever heard of the women’s tax for personal care? Uh yeah. That’s a thing!). My body thanks me. My garbage and recycling are a little less full.
Does this stop fossil fuel usage? Does the landfill cease to be needed? Will little girls stop getting their periods at 9 years old because I stopped using hormone disrupting chemicals in my shower routine?
Uh…no. I am a single drop of water.
Get enough drops together, however, and you have an ocean. Nothing lasts long against those waves.
Thinking Small to Do Big
My point is, while I am one person, when a group of people all do the same thing, these actions accumulate.
If you write 1000 words a day, in 2 months, you have a novel. The process is the same – it’s how I’ve written and published as much as I have!
This principle works no matter where it’s applied. If people buy fast food all the time, the garbage piles up and the demand for amoral agribusiness continues (as well as the increase in chronic illness throughout the population!). If people, as a group, decide to cook at home more, buying locally-sourced foods (or growing their own!), there’s more money in their communities, they decrease their incidence of chronic illness, there’s less garbage, AND there’s decreased demand for corporate farms.
Suddenly we shift everything towards love-based systems.
Oh. My. God. See how this works?
You are responsible. I am responsible.
WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE.
So I ask you now…
Do you love yourself? Do you love your children? Your grandchildren? Nieces? Nephews? Do you love the trees? Do you love the ocean? Do you love how it feels to walk along a stream-bed? Do you love salty sea air? Do you love dolphins jumping out of the water? Do you love eating fresh juicy berries? Do you love wild bird songs? Do you love the feel of grass between your toes? Or the smell of wet earth after a summer rain?
I do. I so do.
If we love all these things, we must change. We must choose more compassionate ways of living.
It takes time to wean oneself from these fear-based systems and replace them with love-based ones. There are many moving parts and pieces to consider. There is a withdrawal period, but afterwards, things normalize.
During that withdrawal period don’t beat yourself up about this process. When you make a mistake, don’t hold it over yourself. Forgive yourself and continue. Hold to the vision of a more compassionate life (click to tweet). There’s no point in shame or guilt in this. That serves no one.
To make this easier I thought it would be good to have a few beginning steps at the personal level. I’m working on myself in this, and I personally am only beginning this process, but I’m committed to a total cultural shift. I know if I don’t do it myself, I can’t ask this of anyone else.
Here are some suggested things to do TODAY:
Eat at home. There’s a joy in cooking and eating something you’ve made. Also, the process of eating can become a wonderful social time with family and friends.
If you eat out, only order as much as you plan to eat (avoiding food waste and take-home containers) and choose socially conscious restaurants.
Repurpose packaging instead of throwing it away or recycling (This uses less resources.).
Buy local. This decreases fossil fuel usage while circulating funds in your community which is better for libraries, police, fire, and the farmers/businesses you supported!
Switching your personal and home products to those that are nontoxic, low packaging, with ingredients that are environmentally-friendly (benefits listed in above post).
I love you. I really love you. I love the birds. I love the trees. I love the Pacific, streams, lizards, and butterflies. I love this beautiful world. And I am a drop of water, but so are you.
Imagine! Together, nothing can stand against us.
- Between Chaos and Order: The Need For A Middle Way - June 18, 2018
- Spiritual Mamas: Intuition, Spirituality, and Motherhood - June 4, 2018
- Neither Selfish or Selfless – Only Loving! - April 30, 2018