This week, I’d like to share an excerpt from The Survival Guide to Staying Conscious.
Momentum for Positive Change
Best-selling author and New York Times journalist Chris Hedges, in his brutally honest book The World as it Is, quite simply says, ‘Our way of life is over. Our profligate consumption is finished. Our children will never have the standard of living we had.’ when we look into the challenges before us, the tendency is to assume that it is an economic or an environmental crisis that we face. I am suggesting that it may be a spiritual and moral crisis as well, and that if we can address this, our chances of resolving our or others challenges are hugely increased
At almost every level of our lives, there are clear indications that we might have to embrace a wholesale change in the way we approach life. The signs are not hard to see for any of us who are prepared to pay attention, and yet we have so far been either unable or unwilling find the kind of determination or tenacity to seek the solutions that are being asked or demanded of us to ensure our well-being in the here and now, and the wellbeing of those who will follow in our footsteps. I feel there is a numbness creeping up on all of us, myself included. And it is often hard to spot in happening.
By numb I mean we are losing our capacity to feel deeply and meet our experiences with full awareness. In short we are becoming desensitised, and the result is that we become increasingly willing to accept things in our lives, and in the world around us, that we would find unacceptable if we were not numb. This cuts deep, and it is profoundly upsetting. While we are more connected than ever before through technology and social media, it has encouraged us to become intoxicated with ourselves and for many has exacerbated a need to be seen. We have become so distracted by it all that we are losing touch with that place in the heart where we’re all connected and what it is that we are connected to.
I am always being asked for advice on how people can improve their feeling of contentment and personal meaning. I can honestly say that in fifteen years I can count on one hand the number of people for whom the answer to this question isn’t just ‘simplify your life and get rid of what you don’t need (preferably by giving it to someone who does’. The Buddha used to say that one who is of few needs and easy to serve is close to being happy. One who is of many needs and hard to serve is far from being happy.
It seems so clear the world deeply needs each of us to start giving back. Perhaps it is time to stop asking ‘what’s in it for me?’ and start asking ‘what have I got to give?’
We are all intelligent enough to see what is happening to us if we are willing to pay attention honestly. But our welfare in the future will not be built on understanding alone, it will be built on conduct and choices. We are living, both individually and globally, the effect of our past choices. Our life will roll out in the future as a reflection of the choices we make now. This is now, the predicament and the challenge that faces mankind, each of us as individuals, together as groups, and as a species, seeking to secure our long term future, survival and happiness upon this earth.
A cluttered and overcomplicated life leaves little room for contentedness, happiness and inner peace. The more we have around us, the more vexing it is to maintain. At every level, simplification and a lighter footprint is the way forward. We all need to step back and catch our breath. By working, sharing and collaborating together, whilst learning to be of few needs and easy to serve, we can change our world dramatically for the better.
There is a lot of positive movement in many quarters to seek out solutions to our problems, but all too often such initiatives are occurring on the fringes of society. It is all too easy to reflect upon the challenges we face and feel it constitutes an insurmountable problem. This is why we have to start at home, with ourselves, by simply asking, ‘How can I respond to what is happening to us as humans?’ It is not enough to wait for change to be initiated from the top down. We must remember the 100th monkey effect footnote?. Be the change, set an example and let it spread organically.
The real movement towards change is going to be a folk movement. The real revolution is going to have to start in our own hearts and minds as we look deeply at how we have reached the point that we are at and imaginatively seek solutions. I don’t believe there is a macro solution to be found. Rather than waiting to see what our leaders are going to do and which way our economy is going to go, our first step is to make a personal resolution to place our longing for peace and happiness at the head of our agenda and to stop being a burden to the world. This can become our own individual responsibility should we chose. Once we decide to take responsibility into our own hands, the feeling of helplessness is becomes transformed into faith and courage. From there, solutions will present themselves. But they won’t if we just sit back and wait to see how it all pans out. That’s indolence, and indolence in many ways is the most insipid of all weaknesses, for it would allow us not to act even when the way ahead is blatantly obvious. If ever there was a time to dig deep and find courage, it is now.
For the past fifteen years, I have been teaching meditation to groups of predominantly fortunate individuals. The only way I justify teaching such a group, instead of seeking, in some way, to be of service to those whose needs are truly great, is because I live in the hope and belief that each of us, if we chose, could make the decision to genuinely seek ways in which we can bring benefit to the world that we are a part of.
Everyone is interested in their welfare, but somehow we have lost sight of where our real welfare lies and what it truly stands upon. It doesn’t stand upon our capacity to bend things to our will. It stands only upon our learning to live in alignment with the greater intelligence behind life.
In the past, the path out of suffering was traditionally one of renunciation. Yet I believe in the current age there is another path. For the vast majority of us, I see a route out of suffering that is not to don robes but to dedicate a proportion of our time energy and resources to the service and benefit of others and our planet as a whole.
Answering the Call
For those of you who are inspired to change, who are feeling the call to a new way of life, my one piece of advice is that time is of the essence. Do not delay. Go out with conviction and exigency and find out what you have to give. Do it now, while the fire in your belly is still strong.
If ever there was a time to stand tall it is now. A time like this won’t come around again. We may never again be called upon to find greatness within hearts. Let us not sleep now when it is time to act. Let us go out there and see what we have to give, so that even if we do not succeed in our efforts, we will do so, greatly, and never stand amongst those timid souls who know not victory nor defeat.
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