Welcome to this glorious Friday, September 20, 2019. This is a rare and precious day that will never ever come again.
I’ve been wanting to share in more detail about what motivated me to establish the Turning Leaf Foundation for quite some time now. Considering last evening’s deep conversation, it’s time.
As I mention in my online bio, after spending four years studying the environment through the lens of ecology, two years exploring environmental philosophy though the lens of food and social justice, and a seven year mindfulness practice, I discovered that the external environment is an accurate reflection of the internal environment. Though I am not the first, I tend to consider myself an internal environmentalist.
While I was finishing up grad school in 2016, I was bitter, angry and righteously judgmental. Over the previous six years, I was made aware of incomprehensible exploitative and oppressive treatment of the environment – people, places and things. Though I would never have told you, most of my anger was due to the fact that I could not deny my contribution to the unfathomable destruction. I changed immediately and saw that you didn’t. I became righteous and was quick to point out how you were the cause of these global atrocities. I wanted to live in a kind, respectful and peaceful world and you weren’t helping.
Was I being kind? No. Was I being respectful? No. Was I being peaceful? No.
Mindfulness has helped me to discover that even though I wanted all these fine qualities for the rest of the world, I didn’t even embody them myself. Practicing Mindfulness has helped me to realize that we can only give away what we have and that it’s our dissatisfaction for what is that feeds these destructive relationships. Despite my intentions, I wasn’t bringing kindness, respect and peace to the world, I was bringing cruelty, judgment and discord – all the things I hated! Despite my knowledge and “sustainable” living practices, I was still being destructive of an environment that I loved. Or, so I thought I loved.
I recall telling people that I ate only organic and locally grown food and that I bought only sustainably and equitably manufactured necessities because I loved the environment. Upon deep reflection, it is very clear to me meow that I only truly loved the parts of the environment that I considered pleasing, moral and right! Nevertheless, I said I loved the environment. But, aren’t thosepeople part of the environment? Aren’t those factories part of the environment? Isn’t that political party part of the environment? Obviously, yes! How can I possibly say that I love the environment if I only love part of it? My love was conditional.
Plato suggested that, and I’m summarizing, all wars stem from the discomforts of the body. When I first heard this seven years ago, I thought of wars between countries, states, factions and all things outside of me. At the time, I didn’t have the insight to see the war within me and how it contributed to all the detestable things I discovered while in school. Understanding that it was my dissatisfaction for what “is” and my inability to sit in any discomfort whatsoever, is the inspiration behind the Turning Leaf Foundation.
Imagine a society with little ability to sit in their discomfort, seldom satisfied with their life as it is. A discomfort seemingly caused by externalities. Now combine this dissatisfied society with an innovative industrial revolution. Instead of trying to find peace through acceptance, we’ve conditioned ourselves to discover new and exciting ways to manipulate the all-inclusive environment to ease our discomforts – all this manipulation comes at a cost.
At a cost, people can comfortably live year-round in what was once nearly uninhabitable regions. At a cost, we can travel anywhere in the world in twenty-four hours. At a cost, we don’t have to wait for specific seasons to eat seasonal food. At a cost, we can choose from almost fifty-thousand products in grocery store. At a cost, we can blame those who don’t live in alignment with our values. It seems we’ve gotten so used to comforting ourselves by controlling the external environment (people, places, things) with industry and innovation that we have little awareness of our need to explore how our dissatisfied internal environment is the foundation for much the political, social, and environmental crises we face today. I’m speaking from experience!
How can I hope to bring about peace if I don’t have any? How can I aspire to live in a loving world if my love is conditional? How can I foster unity if I’m judgmental? I can’t. Before I can bring about the changes I hope to see, I must work to accept the world exactly the way it is and do my best to embody the qualities I want to see manifested. This means I must first quit blaming others and look inward to discover the true source of my discomfort, discord and dissatisfaction.
Albert Einstein stated, “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” We can’t use our same dissatisfied mind to solve the current social, political and environmental problems. Any solution, I believe, must come from the place of which we seek – peace, contentment and love.
As I become comfortable being uncomfortable and content with what is, I need less, I judge less, and I love more – everything that I want to see in the world. Unlike my fruitless days of flag waving, shouting and finger pointing, today, I feel useful.
I do love you and there isn’t anything you can do about it!
In comfortable discomfort,