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Doin' Our Best

Updated: Jul 24

Hello and welcome to this glorious Friday, May 22, 2020! Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again. How do you want to live it?

Towards the end of earning my Master’s degree at Oregon State University, I had the privilege of hearing Deepak Chopra speak. While I don’t agree with everything he spoke of (yet), he did say one thing in particular that eventually rescued me from overwhelming resentments and agonizing remorse. Speaking from the LaSells Stewart Center stage, Chopra said, “People are doing the best they can given their level of awareness.” It sounded good – compassionate. I wanted to believe it, but I just couldn’t. Not yet anyway.

I had just spent six years studying ecology, environmental studies and environmental ethics. As much as I wanted his statement to be true, considering what I learned, I just wasn’t buying it.

Calling to mind the sixth extinction happening before our eyes, the oppression of people – slavery in the twenty-first century, economic disparity, the exploitation of land, and of course climate change, surely mankind was not doing their best! Certainly, there was more we could do! I felt like we needed to learn more, work a little harder, sacrifice a lot more, stop being so complacent and make some damn changes. Come on already people!

My eyes were turned outward.

My mindfulness practice has helped me to turn my eyes inward. When I started looking at myself, I began to see the wisdom in Chopra’s quote.

During my year-long mindfulness course, I was asked to practice some skills to help me better understand myself, not the world around me, but myself. As I began to develop some introspection, I started to see how my emotional/mental/physical/spiritual balance affected my performance in any given situation. This was illuminating.

I’ve written a few times about procrastination. When I’m hungry, angry, sad, or especially tired, I am much more prone to procrastinate. If when I’m giving a presentation, I’m feeling scared or insecure, my performance is nowhere near the same quality as when I’m present, confident and calm. I recently started painting rocks again. The quality of the finished product is markedly related to how I’m feeling at that time. I care deeply about the origin and production methods of the food I eat. But if I’m freaking starving, I’ll just eat whatever is in front of me. Forget about my food justice degree, just feed me already! When I had to bury my Jersey cat, the best I could do was to keep from crying all day. Forget eating. The next day I worked. It was everything I could do just to show up. I didn’t want to talk. I tried to be present and happy with my coworkers, but I really just wanted to be left alone! I remember clearly what it was like when I was in active opiate addiction. The best I could do then was to try to come up with a legitimate enough sounding excuse as to why I was going to be late, again. During that time in my life, being honest was beyond my best. In looking at myself, I can see meow that my best is a condition of my current state of being. My best is always different.

Our best changes from day to day, moment to moment. If we could do better, doesn’t it make sense that we would? If you don’t agree with this, that’s ok. I didn’t believe it either, for a while. When I’m highly motivated and feeling like I’m on top of the world, if I take an honest look at myself, my best is SO much better than any other time. Can I expect myself to have this level of awareness and motivation all the time? No, that’s just unrealistic.

When I look around at what’s happening locally, nationally and globally, I see that people, just like me, really are doing their best. Among many other causes, our best is based on our age, level of education, upbringing, demographics, culture and where we’re at emotionally/physically/mentally/spiritually in any given moment. When I’m able to bring this truth to mind as I scroll through Facebook or read the news, I’m immediately humbled. When ego pushes me to harshly criticize them for being such a ______, then I realize what I was like at my worst. Who am I to judge anyone? Who am I to criticize? I know they’re doing their best!

It’s easy to look at someone and point out everything that they could be doing better. Well, they would if they could. Though we can encourage and inspire others (not criticizing), it might be more fruitful to redirect and look at ourselves and discover what’s keeping us from being our best. This we can change!

I love you and there isn’t anything that you can do about it!

Doin’ my best,

Dan

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