Recently I contemplated if the planet’s weather patterns are shifting in order to survive against the wars perpetrated in its air, through its water, and on its soil. I mean this in a literal sense—wars between individuals, states, nations, religions, ideologies, etc.—and also environmental pollutants such as smog, oil spills, and radiation leaks. Is the planet saying enough is enough? Is it defending itself against human beings by changing its climate? I took these thoughts further, wondering if these planetary changes are inextricably linked to one’s inner peace.
As someone who encounters people’s suffering daily, I would say most people yearn for inner peace. Sainthood, buddhahood, Christ consciousness—they are all reached by a few every now and then, so what’s the state of mind of most people? Unsettled, uneasy, unstable, inharmonious, a dualistic battle between what I believe to be the radical hedonism of ego and well-being of the spirit.
Religious/Spiritual practices step in to address one’s internal state. Harmony is the end goal of the world’s main religions. For Christians and Muslims, it’s Heaven/Paradise. For Buddhist, it’s nirvana—reaching enlightenment, the end of suffering. For Hindus, it’s having an imperturbable mind and maintaining a constant state of bliss. They all teach how to live a right life and the resulting peace one receives by doing so.
I trust you know something about any number of wars fought throughout history on the planet….
Regarding our relationship to the planet, consider how the mainstream media portrays the weather; it often presents it as an enemy. Headlines about the weather include “Downstream Threat: Water Surges Toward Communities” and “Southwest, Southern Plains Severe Tornado Threat” and “The Devastation of Hurricane Joaquin.” It seems like the planetary weather patterns must abide by our whimsical comfort needs as a species rather than evolve as it’s been over millions of years. When it does otherwise, it becomes our foe.
We separate ourselves from the planet, thinking the environment is something out there when in fact any tree, plant, or animal is part of this Universe just as one’s head, hands, or feet. Daniel Quinn, in his book Ishmael, uses Socratic dialogue between a human being and a gorilla named Ishmael to show how we live by a few false myths that affect the planet. One of these myths is how we believe the planet was made for our species alone and because of this we can do whatever we want with it. Through Ishmael’s teachings, Quinn also shares another belief that we can compete but not wage war and how war continues to ruin Earth.
Through personal experience, I found the need to relinquish any previous thoughts that “I” and “the environment” were two separate entities. Rather, I place my true Self as the environment—united. So to the extent to which I experience inner peace, that directly affects the world around me—the air, the water, the land, etc. When we cease to separate ourselves from the environment and step into the truth of the interconnected oneness of all that is, we can then live harmoniously and in alignment with mother Earth. We and the planet are one. We, as a species, are alive, as life. We respect our place in the Universe, as a contributor to the well-being of the planet as a living organism.
We tend to judge the planet as something against us rather than a home for all life. Compassion can provide the non-judgment of the planet, without condemnation. We condemn it when it’s not working exactly as we want it to be for us. We carve its surface, dam its rivers, and cut its forests. We can live without the non-attachment to it, without owning property as a slave master does to his/her slave. A slave will revolt to reinstate his/her own natural freedom, and the planet is doing the same. We can create settlements without the mindset of owning it. This ownership mindset leads to conflict, which leads to war.
Do keep in mind the ultimate war between the ego and one’s true spirit. Those thoughts that cause disease in our psyche that we take to be our identity—what we wear, how we look, our status, what we own, etc. These thoughts oftentimes clash with the reality of our true Self, which is inclusive of the infinite oneness of all things. Perhaps one of the first steps to climate change is to remember our own inherent inner peace. To have self-compassion for ourselves by recognizing our own essence as Love. When we remember this peace within, we cease fighting any internal wars, which then affect external wars. Peace within, peace without.