Times are confusing. We’re undeniably heading into climate change, and yet I live in beauty; harvest delicious bounty from my small garden; enjoy the humming of bees around the fennel. The city is alive with purposeful beings working, renovating, and building. I’m fed, healthy and in no pain. Climate change and a beautiful life - how can I understand these two discordant realities?
Recently at a week-long meditation intensive at the Zenwest zendo in Sooke, I experienced the deep calm of early morning meditations, days of physical labour followed by more meditation into the evening. Awakened a little before dawn by a gentle bell, I slipped out of my tent to join the meditators in the candlelit zendo. Hours of stillness and quiet watching the day brighten to full sunlight. During outdoor walking meditation each step was met by the sound of gravel crunching under my feet. Breakfast. The taste of fruit salad exploded on my tongue. A person called the Tenzo prepared the formal meals, the Handaikan served them. In the morning work period as we laboured to clear a small area on which to build a hermitage, a beautiful blue butterfly flitting from bush to bush reminded me to stay focused. Lunch. Therapeutic yoga taught by a friend and meditator. The evening medicine meal. Quiet meditation into the night in the zendo, until we returned to our tents to be lulled to sleep by birdsong and the rustling of small animals. With the support of this age old form experienced in a modern setting, it was possible to sink into practice and achieve a deep tranquility.
After that week I had a new and unsettling sense of who I was, and what it means to be a human being. I saw that most of what I call “my life” is merely entertainment or distraction.
Distraction from what?
This is the question I will be unpacking for the next little while. Distraction is a survival technique that gets us through difficult times. Now that I have made the time and have the maturity and resilience to deal with my stuff, my work is to gently uncover the truths that have been repressed.
All around me I see people who are distracting themselves to death. It is just too painful to think for long about the harm we are collectively doing to maintain what is, to us, our normal way of life. It’s also unthinkable to join the 3rd world, to reduce our environmental foot print to the point which would ensure a reversal of climate change.
What a bind.
Yet this bind is merely a product of Western analytical thought. Our way of thinking leads us to see in black and white, ‘either or’ terms. When contemplated from a heart space it is possible to see things differently. Confusion becomes clarity – I feel responsible towards all life on the planet, and see that I can act differently, can act in ways that will be of benefit to all.
Life can be hard, and as we know, it is not all that satisfying in the West, where we fill our lives chasing after things: a beautiful body, a career, a high end bike, a house, only to find when we achieve them that we are still not satisfied.
Satisfaction, freedom from suffering, true joy, these are all in the realm of the heart and require a different kind of labour to achieve. This is the labour of love, of service to others, and of deep investigation of our humanity.
You can read more posts from our multifaith blog, Spiritually Speaking HERE