In the last dharma talk I offered a way to investigate whether an action we did was wise. Even the simple question of whether something is a wise action brings our attention to the present moment, modifying the impact of mindlessness, which is the chief cause of unskillful action.
The other cause is feeling disconnected, separate and therefore lacking in a sense of compassion, for ourselves and others. When we looked at Wise View, we saw why it is that we feel separate when in fact that sense of separateness is simply a convenient shorthand to get things done — handy but if we buy into it too much, we cause suffering for ourselves and others. [Read more.] But we have other ways to investigate an action to see if it is wise. We can ask, ‘What if everyone did this?’ This challenges any sense of personal entitlement we might have mindlessly lurking in our murky motivations. If we can honestly answer that if everyone did this action there would be no negative outcome, then perhaps it is not so unskillful. Another question we might ask is what impact this action could have not just on our children or grandchildren but on down to the seventh generation of our descendants, a wise consideration imparted by native American traditions. Understanding the long term implications of our actions, even small ones, is increasingly important as our population increases and our resources are depleted. To a degree, we as a species have become more mindful, have taken steps to modify and correct our previously mindless behavior with recycling, composting, increases in alternative technologies, etc. But we are far from where we need to be in order to say we are doing our best.
I am happy to say that the Buddhist community is increasingly committed to Wise Action in this regard. And this week, Buddhist meditation teachers have been asked to talk about the importance of environmental awareness to their students. How perfect when we are studying Wise Action!Notice how this feels. What comes up in your thoughts? What happens in your body when I say this will be our topic. Is there an eagerness or a sense of unease? Whatever you are feeling, be compassionate. This is not a scolding, but an exploration of what is true and what, with mindfulness and balanced effort is possible. Take your time and answer these questions for yourself: To what degree does the well being of the air, water and land play a role in your daily decisions? If everyone did what you are doing, what kind of world would this be? This is such a great question because it speaks to our collective humanity, our community. It reminds us that we are not isolated. Yay! But also that everything we do has ramifications. How can we be conscious without becoming strident? How can we be in relationship with the earth and all beings who inhabit this planet in a way that is compassionate, caring, joyful and responsible. Can we do this without proselytizing and fueling an ‘us against them’ mentality that is so disruptive and counterproductive? We are not just all in this together; we are one pulsing energetic system of life! Try this practice right now:
- Set the intentions to be present, anchored in physical sensation and to be compassionate with yourself and others.
- Bring to mind your relationship with all beings and the earth itself.
- Notice how this feels in the physical senses, if there is a sense of ease, discomfort or tightness arising.
- Practice some metta, lovingkindness: May I be well. May I be happy. May I be at ease. May I be at peace….See how that feels, this sense of giving and receiving lovingkindness. Then: May all beings be well. May all beings be happy. May all beings be at ease. May all beings be at peace.
Sit with the gifts of this simple practice, staying present with physical sensation, being compassionate when the mind tugs like a puppy on a leash, wanting to leap into the past or future. Simply come back to this moment, anchored in physical sensation. Rest in this place a bit, this natural relationship. If there is tightness, you might imagine a furry animal coming and nestling against that area, offering compassion, companionship and warmth, a sense of shared aliveness.
This is where the Eightfold Path is so very useful. It helps us to see what that nagging discomfort is within us. Knowing this, we can take Wise Action, based in Wise Intention, Wise Effort, Wise View, Wise Mindfulness, attended by Wise Concentration.
What would Wise Action be for you?
For me, I took my commitment to the well being of the planet to another level when I switched to Deep Green level of the Marin Clean Energy program. If you live in Marin County, CA and would like to know that your electric bill buys 100% wind power, rather than a combination of nuclear and other sources, it’s easy to switch.
Again, if you live in Marin County, you might find the Green Up! page on the Marin Group Sierra Club website useful. (I am the volunteer website administrator, and that page is my baby. I am always interested in feedback on how to make it better, so please check it out.)