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Posts Tagged ‘buddhism’

My good friend Christine has been looking for a present, for me. She was just at Anthropologie, my favorite store, but could not find anything. That’s fine, I tell her, I do not need, do not want anything. The urge has died. My wavering green conscience from a few months ago has grown strong now, and with it, the moral resolve to no longer participate in the further demise of our planet, whenever I can. I find this evolution of mine absolutely fascinating, and worth examining.

It was not that long ago, that I was a shopaholic. Revisiting my blog entries from last year, I wonder who is that person?:

April 23

Charlotte asked me to spend the day with her in San Francisco. She wants to see the Vivienne Westwood exhibit at the De Young, and then go shopping to H&M, with lunch in between. How could I possibly refuse? a day with my dear daughter all to myself. Plus, H&M is one of my favorite stores anyway. Once in the store, I am seized with a frenetic urge I know all too well. Gone my resolutions to no longer consume, my determination to boycot slave labor. Nothing is left, except guilt, that keeps nagging at me whenever I grab yet another dress, another cute top, another deal too good to pass up. The whole experience is a mixed bag of excitement, and disappointment. I am disappointed with myself for not being stronger, for giving in, once again. The spectacle of my other fellow shoppers, all shopping like mad, just like me, transport me for a minute in a place I would rather ignore. The earth has become dark, and a huge landfill with mountains of discarded clothes, that leave no more room for us to be and breathe. Charlotte calls me, she has found a white dress she wants me to look at. I push the fleeting image of doom into the recesses of my thinking brain. Charlotte and I are on a mission and nothing will stop us.

July3

The paper is filled with July 4th coupons. Will I go to Macy’s to take advantage of their incredible sales? The sight of my closet, overflowing with clothes should be enough of an answer. I really do not need anything. That’s besides the point, however. I, and most of the other women I know, do not shop because we need clothes. Shopping is just something to do when one is bored, or feeling a little down. It is called retail therapy.

August 3

I am a Target addict. It only took reading one small blurb in Jane magazine, about the upcoming release of Dominique Cohen for Target jewelry collection, to send me scouring through the Target website. I could feel the rush of anticipation, and while I was at it, I did a run through of the entire site, looking for other designer items at Target prices. Handbags, shoes, clothes, other jewelry, I did not miss a thing. How ironic, after I wrote this glorious post yesterday about wanting to become a buddhist! I started feeling guilty. Quickly, my mind fabricated an elaborate rationale for why I should be so obsessed with shopping. It said, you are a woman, you have been biologically programmed to want to adorn yourself, so you can better seduce your mate.

Now, what used to give me transient pleasure has become repulsive. The mere thought of going to Anthropologie and perusing the racks fills me with sadness. About our planet. About all the other women I see shopping still, seemingly oblivious to the consequences of their actions. Maybe they have not seen The Story of Stuff? Maybe their conscience is as mine was, whispering guilt laden words, but not loud enough yet to stop them?

I have to wonder, what is it that spurred this transformation to pure green eco-worrier? Wouldn’t it be nice to discover the secret elixir for green-ness? Noticing, and writing about my daily green sins certainly helped me become more conscious, a lot more conscious. No change in my behavior, that I could notice a first, however. No, it just took time. Time to pay attention, time to take in insights from fellow bloggers, time to watch heavy duty videos like The Story of Stuff. Time to stare at scary facts. Time for it all to sink in, down into my core. It was not one single thing that did it, but rather the combination of all that I let in. And the repetition over and over of the same message, that there is no way out of this predicament, and that it will take no less than all of us making changes in order for the planet to heal.

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Yesterday, I reported on my not so green moment, when I chose to drive instead of riding my bike. And I went through the meditative exercise of retracing my thoughts during those decisive seconds. Buried in that bag of thoughts, are some personal truths about why my actions do not match my green thoughts and promises. Today I want to reopen the bag and look at each random thought for insights:

‘Laziness. Priorities. A drop in the invisible cloud of CO2. It won’t make a difference. I am having so much fun, don’t want to be bothered. Habit. Comfort. Convenience. How bad is it anyway, to drive such short distance once or twice a day? It can’t hurt that much. Effort, I don’t want to make the effort. The weather wasn’t even that nice. My time is precious. The extra time spent biking, I can use doing other ‘more productive’, more important things, such as working on green projects. Nothing is going to happen if I drive instead of biking. No consequences. I don’t have the discipline. What’s in it for me? The car, so fast, such a proven entity. I can zip in and out of places. I know, I should bike. But it’s such a small thing. Today, I can ’sin’, only once, maybe twice. I will get it right some other time. Ah! the immediate pleasure of blogging away, versus the higher satisfaction of a clean conscience. Big, instant pleasure over small dent in my green conscience. Pleasure wins. I can’t even see that CO2 anyway. It’s invisible. A crime without the evidence to prove it. Everybody else is driving anyway, or almost everyone. I am too wrapped up into the moment. The present supersedes any hypothetical concerns about the consequence of my small actions for the whole planet, myself included. There are two issues. The lack of immediate consequence for my action. And the dilution of personal responsibility, the big pot problem.’

Here is the list of 16 psychological barriers that are a part of me, and I dare to make the leap, most of my fellow human beings as well:

  • I am inherently lazy, and will opt for what is the easiest, most convenient solution.
  • Becoming green is only one of many personal priorities, behind others such as work, family, and social obligations.
  • Behavior change is made up of many many small actions. Taken separately, each action feels ridiculously small and insignificant.
  • When I pollute the air with my car, there is not physical evidence for me to see, and experience directly.
  • I am a pleasure driven creature. It is hard to sacrifice immediate pleasure for a higher future benefit.
  • I am a creature of habit, and I don’t like change.
  • I do not like to sacrifice my comfort.
  • I am already pressed for time, and am not willing to trade off some of my current activities for greening efforts.
  • I am constantly comparing the personal rewards from my various activities, and will choose the ones that bring highest rewards.
  • If there are no direct negative consequences to my actions, I will continue to engage in the same behavior.
  • If there are no direct positive rewards to my actions, I have little incentive to engage in those actions.
  • I do not have the personal discipline to be green.
  • I console myself with the idea, that tomorrow I will take action, just not today.
  • Most of the clues I get from the outside world are not helping, and only reinforces my existing habits.
  • I tend to live in the present, and have a hard time adjusting my behavior to accommodate future imperatives.
  • The emissions I generate get lost in the big pot called Global Warming. Gone, without my name written on them. Anonymous.

See, how much can be learned from just looking inside! I invite you all to go through the same exercise. Next time you find yourself wavering in your green-ness. Stop and sit with your thoughts. Write them down, and mine them for your own insights, just as I did here. From that newly gained consciousness, I guarantee you, a new behavior will emerge soon. It is also important to share what you find, as it will help take the global warming debate to a deeper level.

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Day 28 of Daily Footprint Project. Cold, and rainy. I had to go out twice, once to a doctor’s appointment, and then to the pool. Both outings in the five miles range, a perfect ‘bike it’ distance. ‘Pervenche‘ was waiting, and I had made such a big deal of looking for the perfect bike and finding it, and being ready to ditch my car, that I felt obligated to come through.

What happened next is less glorious. I was busy blogging, making comments on the Huffington Post. Lots of posts on global warming today, and I had to make my opinion heard. Came 12. 30, the time when I could still have made it to the doctor on my bike, and I had to decide. To bike or to drive. The computer screen was luring me with one more post to comment on. Ten minutes more, that’s all I needed. What the heck! Forget my green conscience, forget all the promises to myself, and to my readers. The temptation of convenience, of minutes shaved away for more blogging about environmental concerns, was too great. The truth is I love my car.

This is the kind of stuff that I would push back in the recess of my mind, and my heart, if I was not committed to telling the truth, all of it. Am I embarrassed? Yes. The irony of the situation does not escape me. Today, I was a Green Hypocrite. I could dwell in self-loathing. More interesting, though, is to get down to the root of my behavior, to understand as I have tried in the past, what causes the split between my rather high awareness, and those moments when I choose to not act accordingly. This is where it is important to pay attention to thoughts, no matter how seemingly mundane, for they hold clues to the intrinsic human problem at the root of climate change. Going back to that 12.30 moment, when I had to decide, to bike or to drive, here is what I found:

Laziness. Priorities. A drop in the invisible cloud of CO2. It won’t make a difference. I am having so much fun, don’t want to be bothered. Habit. Comfort. Convenience. How bad is it anyway, to drive such short distance once or twice a day? It can’t hurt that much. Effort, I don’t want to make the effort. The weather wasn’t even that nice. My time is precious. The extra time spent biking, I can use doing other ‘more productive’, more important things, such as working on green projects. Nothing is going to happen if I drive instead of biking. No consequences. I don’t have the discipline. What’s in it for me? The car, so fast, such a proven entity. I can zip in and out of places. I know, I should bike. But it’s such a small thing. Today, I can ‘sin’, only once, maybe twice. I will get it right some other time. Ah! the immediate pleasure of blogging away, versus the higher satisfaction of a clean conscience. Big, instant pleasure over small dent in my green conscience. Pleasure wins. I can’t even see that CO2 anyway. It’s invisible. A crime without the evidence to prove it. Everybody else is driving anyway, or almost everyone. I am too wrapped up into the moment. The present supersedes any hypothetical concerns about the consequence of my small actions for the whole planet, myself included. There are two issues. The lack of immediate consequence for my action. And the dilution of personal responsibility, the big pot problem.

There is a lot to be learned from that thought soup – I stole the words from Nadine – Lots of insights, not just about myself, but more importantly, about the human condition in relationship to climate change. What are the personal obstacles to change? How can these can be best addressed? I just followed a fascinating exchange on DotEarth, between Andrew Revkin, and his readers, on that same topic yesterday. The discussion did not suffer from a lack of opinions . . . and intellectual ramblings. What is missing most in many of the climate change conversations, is that connection to the psychological reality of the individual. That reality affects individuals in their personal lifestyle choices, their professional choices as influencers, deciders, and politicians. It is probably the single most important factor, besides technology, with the potential to critically alter the course of climate change.

 

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #28

Water
personal:
flush toilet 3
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 5
shower at pool 2
mom:
wash fruit
communal:
rinse dishes
wash vegetables
wash rice

Electricity/gas
personal:
electric toothbrush 4’
microwave tea 2’
microwave milk 2’
laptop on all  day
microwave oatmeal 4’
mom:
communal:
lights
bake chicken in oven 30’
stir fry zucchinis 4’
microwave rice 30’

Food
personal:
tea
organic milk
organic persimmons 2
organic chocolate
oatmeal
mom:
grapes
breakfast pastries from Whole Foods
communal:
baked organic chicken
organic brown rice
organic zucchinis
organic salad

Waste
personal:
toilet paper
mom:
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers
chicken packaging
zucchini package
salad plastic 

Recycling
personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers

Transportation
personal:
drive to appointment (stop by Trader Joe’s on way back) 5 miles
drive to pool 6 miles
mom:
communal:

Non food shopping
personal:
mom:
communal:

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I get so much from the people who comment on my blog. They help me with blind spots. Darmok and Nadine, both struck me with the gentle ways in which they approach their greening process. I have gotten caught in the trap of looking at all I do not do, rather than appreciating the many steps I have been taking. I am getting impatient. I want to turn green overnight, and it is simply not possible. Greening is a process of give and take, a willing attitude, and an awareness. It is about savoring the victories, and reflecting on the ‘oops’, laughing along the way. It is about sharing all of the above with others, friends, in real life, and on the web. It has to do with loving one self, and others. My little green victories:

  • Unplugging my computer and cell phone charger, most of the times
  • Turning off the lights, always
  • No longer feeling like shopping for clothes
  • Not flushing
  • Not wasting water
  • Skipping on paper towels whenever I can
  • Refusing to use plastic bags for produce
  • Hardly printing anymore
  • Walking places more and more
  • Taking the train instead of the car

I caught myself counting. Ten things, is that enough? I want to be a good green girl. Marion Woodman’s book, ‘Addiction to Perfection’ has been gathering dust on my bookshelves. Maybe I ought to reread it. Green perfection is dangerous, it can eat at you, and then, what’s the point?

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It’s hitting me. Again. This feeling of being overwhelmed. By the mass of information coming at me. Green facts, and comments on not so green facts. It seems that everyone’s got things to say, to report, an initiative they are working on, participating in, a cool article they found, that somebody else wrote. There is conflicting data coming from various fronts, about the doom coming, or not coming. Organizations are trying to organize, into communities of souls, scattered over the land. Al Gore’s got something up his sleeve, but we don’t know what. Could be more green and that’s it, or more green with a political twist. Environmental news are coming every minute on the feed. I am feeling dizzy, anxious, tired, uneasy, worried, torn, unsure, restless, powerless, frustrated, a whole salad of nasty feelings. With dark images to go with. I wrote about the Big Monster before. It’s there again, engulfing me with its sliminess, and its ugly claws. There is no getting away from it. Maybe if I sit for a minute, I will calm down.

A little while ago, I read Matt’s post in 21st Century Citizen. He says he is not afraid. I am. I can’t stand so much left to chance. I am one of those people who is insured for everything. There is no insurance against global warming. The only thing that would appease my fears, is the knowledge that we have grasped the problem, and we know what we are doing, and there is some kind of master plan we are following. How do you get a whole planet to act in unisson? I need a sense of order. Not the current chaos, with lots of people agitating in many directions, all pretty much trying to do their thing. Here I am writing this blog, also trying to do my thing, just like hundreds of thousands of others. Blog Action Day represented a feeble attempt at unity. I am still not calmer. Need to still my thoughts, go with my breath.

Train roaring. Clock ticking. And then silent house . . . ‘Do the work, it will teach you’. The words from my art teacher, David Middlebrook, come to me. Could it be that I am feeling overwhelmed, because I have been too much in my head, thinking and writing about solutions, instead of going out in the world, and doing my work as a green citizen? I do feel the need to act, more and more. At a minimum, I can do my share and follow Green Guru’s footsteps. And then, the question. So what? if the rest of the world does not follow, what difference will it make? I keep going back to that same question. And again the danger of thinking too much, of trying to take on the challenge of the world, and imagining solutions? I need a vacation from my thoughts.

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Talking about ‘I’ versus ‘Us’, Gabriel Halpern, my yoga teacher from way back, used to have us meditate on the fact that we are all breathing the same air. I remember my first reaction to be one of disgust. You mean, I am actually taking in some of the air exhaled by the stinky homeless at the other end of the park! There was also something strangely comforting about the idea, to do with the realization that we are all bathing in the same communal ether. How is that for sharing? The illusion of being separate, and having our own space is just that, an illusion. Yet, it is how I feel. There is ‘I’, and there is the rest of the world. It’s called boundaries. It is necessary to retain a healthy sense of self. And it stops being useful, when it turns the world into a collection of closed individual systems. This mistaken reality is directly at odds with what we know from biology, that we are all interrelated and part of a series of related ecosystems, made up of other humans, animals, plants, and nature in general. I am left wondering, how come I feel so disconnected, then. What happened?

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In the Clouds, Sitting Watch Over Paradise‘, the front page article in yesterday’s New York Times, introduced me to the fascinating world of Mike Gates, one of the remaining 800 lookouts in the United States. Mr. Gates lives high up in a shack atop the mountain. His job is to spend most of his waking hours, scanning the Lake Tahoe landscape for possible fire smoke. Like him, I have been spending a lot of my time lately, scanning the landscape, and looking out for evidence. The only difference is, I am looking inside, trying to stay mindful of all the thoughts, feelings, that keep me in a state of Green Girl Wannabe.

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Now is payback time

Great article from Vaclav Havel in the New York Times yesterday. He was able to put in words what I have been feeling for a long time. ‘Maybe we should start considering our sojourn on earth as a loan. There can be no doubt that for the past hundred years at least, Europe and the United States have been running up a debt, and now other parts of the world are following their example. Nature is issuing warnings that we must not only stop the debt from growing but start to pay it back. There is little point in asking whether we have borrowed too much or what would happen if we postponed the repayments. Anyone with a mortgage or a bank loan can easily imagine the answer.’

The bargaining problem

I can so well relate to the internal bargaining part, this vain attempt on the part of my ego to negotiate with nature. In my case, I am not questioning the need to repay with some kind of personal sacrifice. I am just wondering if, maybe, I can get away with not paying all of my personal debt back. OK, I will cut down on all the things that don’t deprive me that much, but the ones I really like, such as shopping for clothes, could I please keep on my to do list? I am also tempted to abdicate some of my personal responsibility and to turn it over to policy makers.

We are all responsible

I will leave the last word to Vaclav Havel. ‘I’m skeptical that a problem as complex as climate change can be solved by any single branch of science. Technological measures and regulations are important, but equally important is support for education, ecological training and ethics – a consciousness of the commonality of all living beings and an emphasis on shared responsibility.’

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I am in an introspective mood today. Where does the restlessness I feel come from? My body says it lies within the pit of my stomach. Something does not agree with me, and I can’t quite tell. This is a familiar feeling. I wish I could be more content, more often, with just the way things are. Instead, I suffer from a vague malaise, a diffuse state of anxiety that makes all my talks about consciousness irrelevant. In the whole wide world, I am part of that infinite minority, lucky enough to have beautiful children, a loving husband, a creative life, no financial or health worries, good friends, more material possessions than most, an an environment to die for. So, what’s wrong with this picture?

As I go inside, I quickly come up with an answer. I am not happy with what I have. I am constantly looking for what I do not have. Hence the quest, the fear, the worries, the restlessness. One easy way I know to give myself a rest, is through a flurry of activities, and through exercise. Each day, I look forward to my time in the water, becoming one with the element, feeling the bag of knots dissipate with the stretch from each swim stroke. Shopping is another form of therapy, although not as satisfying as swimming. I don’t like it, I wish I could do away with it. Last, there is work. I can get lost in work, losing track of time, and even basic necessities such as eating, drinking, and bathroom breaks. Fortunately, I have Prad and the children to give me a sense of much needed balance

You may wonder, what is the connection with green-ness? I am realizing, once more, that this state of wanting, has everything to do with the current global crisis. If I, and all the other disenfranchised souls in the world, were able to stop wanting things, we could cut down our consumption by the trillions. Those dollars could be spent instead on products and services in the service of the planet, and ourselves ultimately. The climate crisis, is more than just a natural phenomenon, it is a spiritual emergency, a cry for more consciousness on a global scale. This is where today’s post from No Impact Man takes all its significance.

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Becoming green requires being mindful. Being mindful requires time. I need to not clutter my days with so many activities.

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