|Winter sun filtered through |
I’d like to share with you a game I picked up on my journeys: Find the Mind. If you already know it, I hope you find the reminder beneficial.
Simply ask yourself the following questions and look for the answer. But don’t just settle for what first comes to mind, keep asking: Who am I? Where is that person I think I am?
Our bodies are changing all the time, second by second. There is always some digestive, respiratory or circulatory process going on, nutrients being absorbed and excreted, in-breaths, out-breaths, hair growing, muscles tensing and relaxing – and our minds are in constant motion. You just have to sit quietly to discover the mind is soon populated with thoughts flying around. It’s not that they suddenly appear – they are there all the time; it’s just that in our everyday lives we tend, through habit or conditioning, to cling to certain thoughts and feelings and let others pass by unnoticed.
We are not so much ‘human beings’ but rather ‘human becomings’, constantly evolving and adapting. We are not a thing, but a process – a verb, not a noun.
Our bodies are collections of parts, such as the heart, brain and other organs. These in turn are collections of parts, molecules, atoms, chemical reactions and biological exchanges of minerals absorbed from our surroundings: oxygen and carbon dioxide; rainwater, sunlight, and compost recycled by the earth into the food we eat.
Our minds too are collections, of experiences absorbed through the senses, then processed in relation to previous experiences. Every one of us is a relationship, and in a relationship of some kind with everything around us.
We are, as Thich Nhat Hanh puts it, “interdependent”: “I am because you are.”
We and the earth are one. This is not just fanciful or poetic thinking; it is science.
There is no doubt in my mind that “environmentalism” is about people: us. The call to protect our woodlands and wildlife, to tackle man-made climate change (there’s not much we can do about natural climate change, except stop making it worse by our own actions) is a call for our own survival. The earth does not need us; we need the earth. The earth existed long before humans and will, probably, continue long after we have gone.
Emma Restall Orr, a Druid priestess, speaking on the BBC’s The Big Questions, talked about the importance of “sustainable relationship”.
Now, I’m wary of the word “environmentalism” because -isms too often lead to schisms, but it seems clear to me that our survival as a species is reliant upon our ability to live in a sustainable relationship – within us, between us and other people, between people and other inhabitants of the earth, and between the inhabitants of the earth and the earth herself.
As Albert Einstein said: “A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.”
Looking for ourselves and finding that we exist in relation to everyone and everything around us is, I think, a step towards our long-term survival.