This shift in my thinking probably took place over about a year or so, but there was a moment where I had this "aha!" experience where it dawned on me that I am not separate from my environment, I am part of it. Everyone is part of it and it is part of everyone and everything. The molecules of which I am composed, compose everything else as well. All things and beings are made of the same cosmic 'stuff' in varying proportions. From this it follows that what I do to the environment, I do to me. I'm not separate from it, I am it. This was, and still is, a realization the likes of which I have never had before, and it changed me, in that instant into someone who wanted to live within the means of the planet, not beyond them, utilizing only my fair share of its resources.
Feeling separate from something or someone is what makes it easier to be not so nice to, or just plain oblivious to that thing or person. But when I feel connected, then I want to be kind, compassionate and take care of the thing or person I feel connected to. So when I feel connected to and part of the environment, I don't want to litter or to disrupt natural ecosystems. I don't want to be wasteful because it took a lot of resources to make that plastic bottle, roll of toilet paper, rubber tire, or to transport that banana for my cereal here all the way from Ecuador.
Feeling like part of the planet also puts me in my proper place in the big scheme of things. I'm no more entitled to a piece of the planetary resource pie than any other person or thing is. My lifestyle shouldn't mean that other beings should have to suffer. This is a truly humbling thought, because I know that my lifestyle does result in others' suffering, every minute of every day. Because I have more, others have less. This is a hard thing to wake up to. I have lived as though I am entitled to more than my fair share for my entire life and not even known I was doing it.
So now I'm into the "Now What?" stage of my life. Now that I've had this "aha!" experience, I'm trying to figure out what I need to do differently, and how best to do it. And this blog is how I'm tracking those changes. Because, like I've written at the bottom of this page, "If you want things to be different, you have to do them differently." And I surely do want them to be different.
Chapter 25 of the Tao Te Ching talks about how all things, formed and formless, actual and potential, are interconnected and cyclical. When I think about it, I get that feeling like I do when I look up at a star or the Northern Lights and feel big and small at the same time:
There is something formlessly created
Born before Heaven and Earth
So silent! So ethereal!
Independent and changeless
Circulating and ceaseless
It can be regarded as the mother of the world
I do not know its name
Identifying it, I call it "Tao"
Forced to describe it, I call it great
Great means passing
Passing means receding
Receding means returning
Therefore the Tao is great
Heaven is great
Earth is great
The sovereign is also great
There are four greats in the universe
And the sovereign occupies one of them
Humans follow the laws of Earth
Earth follows the laws of Heaven
Heaven follows the laws of Tao
Tao follows the laws of nature
TTC Chapter 25 as translated by Derek Lin