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Posts Tagged ‘consciousness’

The news of Steve Jobs’ illness has been on my mind. All day.

Tonight, I want to meditate on these words from him, from his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford – as quoted by Leander Kahney in his excellent post today, Steve Jobs and Death:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.  Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

Many years ago, as I lay in Savasana, I took in these words from Carlos Castenada, given to me by my teacher, Gabriel Halpern: Live every day with death upon your shoulders, it will remind you to love. Often times, I have thought of that first part about death. The last words about love had slipped from my memory. It is only tonight, as I googled ‘death on your shoulders’, in search for the exact words, that I got the love part back.

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It’s that time of the month again, and I am due for the Green Moms Blogging Carnival, this time over at Best of Mother Earth. I am supposed to write about gratitude, specifically three green things I am thankful for.

We behave with nature, the same way we might with a faithful lover, when we are forgetting how much we are being given, and how much our lives depends on such constant love. That’s the irony, we take nature for granted, because it’s so good to us, most of the time.

Take a few minutes and . . .

imagine a world without trees, and birds chirping in the trees, imagine the silence, and the scorching sun, and the absence of shade and coolness,

imagine a world without water, as in here:

imagine the air so polluted that you could no longer breathe freely, and would have to wear a mask 24/7, or stay indoors,

imagine . . .

While we may never know such extremes in our lifetime, we may get dangerously close, sooner than we think, if we don’t all change our ways.

Today, I am thankful for the trees, and the water, and the air.

How about you? What do you appreciate the most in nature?

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More potent than the most virulent tirades from flaming climate deniers, are the silent thoughts that circle in our minds and negate even our greenest intentions. It takes trained attention to catch these thoughts. Right now, for instance, I am about to go grocery shopping at Whole Foods. Only a few miles away. No objective reasons for why I can’t bike. Still, my mind is already made up:

I am going to drive. Don’t ask me to be good. Don’t ask me to be green. I don’t feel up to it. Need to be pampered. Out of sight, out of mind. Plus I am angry about stuff. Can’t deal with all that other shit. I fall back on what’s familiar, what I know best. Can’t, don’t want to make the extra effort. Right now, it is just me, me. Could care less about the planet, and what’s going to happen in ten, even a few years from now. It is too much work. I want simple. No room for other considerations. 

See what I mean?

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For years, I have been listening to my dreams. They are my internal compass, and a source of infallible wisdom.

Robert Redford visited me last night. I was back to being a jewelry artist and I was making a pair of chandelier earrings. Robert Redford was correcting my design. He was telling me to trim some of the pieces. Other parts needed to be moved around. The bottom strands with green beads, especially needed some attention, so that the overall design could be more harmonious.

Lately, I have been overwhelmed with too many projects. I need to focus, eliminate, rearrange, simplify so that I can be more effective at what I want to do. Despite my steadfast commitment to the green cause, I have allowed some distractions to take away precious time, and doubts to seep in, that cloud my vision.

I need to go back to how I felt after attending Robert Redford‘s speech, when I emphatically declared, ‘Robert Redford grabs my heart and inspires my whole being to go further and to act.

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Want to bike or drive?‘” Prad was testing my green-ness once more. For a moment, I wavered. The easy way with the car tempting me. And the pressure to get to the gym quick, so that I could get back to my day of work. “It won’t take us much more time. And it’s sixty four degrees outside.” Prad was making a convincing argument. Plus the feeling from Robert Redford‘s talk the night before was still fresh. “ok, let’s bike!“.

That was two days ago. Since then, I have noticed I have been using my bike more and more, did not even drive once yesterday. And today, I returned to the gym, alone this time, and on my bike. It felt good . . . I am starting to look at the people in their cars differently. I am joining the bike folks. I am feeling a shift. Not unlike what happened with shopping a few months ago.

One year of sustained attention and conversations with people like you, and a final nudge from Robert Redford, that’s what it took.

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Just a moment. I grabbed it, quick, before it slipped away. Halfway between the kitchen and my office. Empty space. Vertigo. I could go shopping, get some action in. Quick remedy for transient un-ease. No. It doesn’t work any more. A vision of sisters moving amidst racks of clothes. And my heart sinks. The absence of substance is not that bad. After all.
Do you have such moments?

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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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A blank piece of paper, and a pencil. That’s all it took for the truth to come out.

This Is How I Feel About Global Warming

My head, connected to the big bubble.

My heart, my guts, my hands, and my feet,  in another space altogether.

I’m split.

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This morning, I joined the crowd of concerned environmentalists on DotEarth, and lamented with them on the outcome of the Bali talks. And declared,

Talk is nice. My concern is what can I do as a citizen, to become a part of the solution. Here are my resolutions:

1) to continue to explore the psychology of green in my blog
2) to try my best to green my life
3) to join a green business venture, hopefully in the next few weeks
4) to act as a responsible citizen and make sure the right person gets elected as our next President
5) to explore ways that I can spur green initiatives in my immediate community
6) to channel the anger, frustration, I feel as a result of these talks, productively, into positive actions.

What are you all choosing to do on a personal, concrete level?

Later in the day, I decided to go to the gym with Prad. Charlotte saw me grab my car keys. “You are not taking your bike?” Prad offered to ride with me if I wanted to. No, it was too cold, and I just wanted to get to the gym, fast. We drove.

What happened? Why such a discordance between what I know to be the right action, and what I end up doing? I have become obsessed with understanding what goes on in my brain during those split seconds, when I decide to not follow my green conscience. Several times before, I have tried to revisit similar moments, to grasp the thoughts, the feelings, that trigger such behavior. I am convinced, if I can reach down far enough, I will retrieve valuable insights, that will help get to the roots of the behavior. If I can nail down the cause, it may be easier to figure out some solutions.

Seven Reasons Why It’s Hard to Be Human and Green

Back to the gym moment. I was tired with a slight cold. The idea of going out in the damp weather, and of spending a half hour biking, did not feel good. Compared with the comfort of our warm car, the bike did not come close. In that moment, all I could think of was, cold versus warm, hard work versus easy ride. I did not feel so good. I wanted warm and comfort. A curtain came down between my green conscience, my morning discourse, and the reality of my present physical need.

I surprised myself with the strength of my response to Charlotte and Prad. ‘No way, I am riding my bike. I am tired and it’s cold.’ Never mind that I was going to the gym to exercise. My heart was set on swimming, not biking. Still, if I had enough energy to swim, I probably could have biked. It is just that I was thinking exercise equal gym. To exercise I needed to go to the gym. Although I was tired, I am very disciplined about exercising every day, and I was willing to make that effort. In my mind, going to the gym, was in the transportation category, not the exercise file. Transportation meant, I was going to naturally choose the option that was most efficient time wise, and comfortable.

Now, why was I willing to make the effort to exercise (swim) although I was not feeling so good, but not to bike instead of driving? The answer is, I consider exercise a direct personal benefit to my health and my well being. Biking instead of driving, because of environmental concerns, does not affect me directly. (that’s assuming I maintain earlier ‘logic’ of biking not as an exercise form, but as mode of transportation). Its benefit gets diluted both in time and space. The big pot problem again. When I exercise, I feel an immediate personal benefit. When I consider acting from my green conscience, it falls in the higher category of ‘I and many other enlightened people know it’s the right thing to do, but it is not part yet of the commonly accepted set of ethical behaviors’. Where I get in trouble is with that latter part. The lack of collective consciousness in the green category, and the resulting lack of environmental laws and best practices, give me license to err.

Am I that selfish of a person that I never do anything for the greater good? Actually, there are many instances when I can act selflessly. My maternal instinct makes sure I always put my children’s interests before my own. I find great pleasure in mentoring my Little Sister. For seven years, I spent my time helping people as a profession. In the green category even, I now make sure that I bring my recyclable bags to the grocery store. I try not to flush. I have diminished my shopping significantly. I only heat the house very selectively. I always turn off the lights. I take the train whenever I go to the city. . . My laziness with biking is one of the last fortresses of my unconscious, not so green self, and a window into the ways most of the civilized world behaves. Here is what I saw:

  1. We are creatures of the flesh. Trapped in our physical body, and at the mercy of our basic needs for physical comfort, pleasure, and immediate gratification. Without the external reinforcement from state or spiritual laws, these primal needs take precedence over our conscience.
  2. We are lemmings. We look around and tend to emulate others’ behaviors.
  3. We are self-centered. Our priorities start with getting our personal needs met first. Needs for security, personal health, financial security, comfort, safety, education, etc. Environmental concerns are at the bottom of the pile.
  4. We are products of our culture. In America that means capitalism, money, greed, consumerism, extremes, convenience, industrialization, technology, cars, invincibility, man over nature.
  5. We are creatures of habits. Our thoughts and behaviors are set in certain ways. To unset them requires tremendous energy and outside forces.
  6. We are inherently lazy. Given the choice, we will most often pick the easiest, most convenient alternative.
  7. We are not rational beings. The way we derive our thoughts is often circuitous, and leads to behaviors that fly in the face of reason.

Next, is how can we take into account these seven characteristics of human nature, and formulate winning behavioral change strategies for a greener planet. Plenty of material for another article. . .

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Birds Moment

Out to get the Sunday papers, I am welcomed by the sound of birds singing high up in the bare trees across the street. Soon I hear a symphony, of birds far and near, competing for my attention. And the thought, what would happen if, one day, all the birds vanished?

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