Saturday, April 24, 2010

Earth's Hope

"When despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the last sound in fear of what my life and children's lives may be--I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water and the great heron feeds.  I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought or grief.  I come into the presence of still water.  And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.  For a time, I rest in the grace of the world, and am free."  Wendell Berry

     August 20, 2008, my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversay in typical Travers' style with all the hoopla such festivities will incur.  After the vow renewal and reception with family and friends, we found ourselves headed for Kona, Hawaii.  What we remember most about this beautiful island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean was the water teamming with sealife--coral reef, sea turtles, dolphin, ...  Having lived in land-locked Indiana since 1995, we spent much of our time enjoying the beauty of the water through boating, snorkeling, and what not.  It was a special time on the water, where we would find ourselves recognizing the beauty of the earth surrounding us.

     In the Northern Pacific Ocean there is what is called the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a slow moving, clockwise spiral of water currents created by a high pressure system of air currents.  It is an oceanic desert with only tiny phytoplankton living there, no big fish nor mammals, including fishermen, can be found in this area.  However, if one were to go there, they would find in the water with the phytoplankton millions of pounds of trash,  with an estimated 90% of it being plastic.  This is the largest landfill on planet earth; floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean -- two large masses of trash.  The Eastern Garbage Patch floats between California and Hawaii and is estimated to be twice the size of Texas.  The Western Garbage Patch floats from Hawaii to Japan.    The plastic in the Pacific Garbage Patch outweighs the plankton by a ratio of six to one.  Of the 200 billion pounds of plastic produced in the world ten percent ends up in the ocean.  Plastic does not biodegrade, it merely breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces, remaining in the ocean.  It is estimated that over one million birds and marine animals die each year from consuming or becoming caught in the plastic and debris of the Pacific Garbage Patch.  When standing on the beaches of Hawaii and looking out to sea, I can tell you that you would never realize the damage we have brought to the Pacific Ocean.   If the "supreme reality of our time is ... the vulnerability of our planet," as stated by President John F Kennedy, we, the human race, must find a way to live in harmony with the earth rather than "fouling our own nest." (President Richard M Nixon, "What a strange creature man is that he fouls his own nest.")

     The practice of yoga is the practice of "being" with the reality of what is.  Regardless of whether the present moment is painful or pleasant, we focus our attention to what is happening in the now.  This may be difficult for us because when we stop and see our past choices, we may become aware of the unconsciousness that accompanies many of our daily activities.  For instance, have you ever sat down to see who has been on facebook, began playing Farmville, and realize two hours have passed by?  Perhaps you are driving to Target, your cell phone goes off, you begin talking to your spouse, and suddenly find yourself in a parking space at the store, but no recall of the actual drive there.  Maybe you start tossing the spoiled food in your fridge out, plastic packaging and all without a thought as to what could be recycled.  When we become aware of how much of our lives are lived on automatic pilot, we can make a change in our habits towards awareness of our choices and actions.  Through this awareness, we are able to make choices which are nonviolent towards others and the earth, which is the essence of change needed to bring healing to our earth.  As Margaret Mead stated, "never doubt that a small group of thoughtfully (conscious) committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."  So as committed citizens to protecting our earth for our children's children's children (bearing in mind the Native American Proverb, "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children."), we must bear witness to what is happening around us and throughout our planet.    It is important to work on diminishing our capacity for apathy, distraction, laxity of attention, hyperactivity, which all decrease our awareness of our choices and their effects on the world.  We must bring clarity to how we live each moment, enabling us to serve others and protect our earth.  When we realize our interrelatedness to all life on this earth, how the dying of marine life in the Pacific Garbage Patch is directly related to our choice of automatically using plastic bags at the grocery store rather than reusable ones, we may begin to chose a vitality and clarity of action, which will protect the earth.  As Wendell Berry tells us, "The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility.  To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope."

With hope that I can begin to make a more conscious choice in what I use and how I use it and how I ultimately dispose of it, I take a step towards living each moment in awareness, which ultimately will bring healing to our planet.

May you find gratitude and peace in every moment.
Namaste, Joan

"If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology.  We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through using it."  President Lyndon B Johnson

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