Whether we orient ourselves to climate change and the environment, racial injustice, species degradation, power grabs, hunger, or disease, our global Internet connections bring into awareness the immensity of suffering happening on our planet at this time. It also underscores that we are all in this together, given that we travel around the world, share economic and cultural activities, that we are one human family living with countless other earth-kin, on our precious planet that has its limits.
It can become overwhelming to recognize that there’s nowhere to go to escape our interdependence and interbeing. The fact is that we are bound to one another. As the African word “ubuntu” states, “I am me because we are.” Ubuntu invites us to treat others with respect and to acknowledge that we are irrevocably dependent on one another. Here’s a Ted-x talk that speaks to actions that arise from an awareness of ubuntu: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrnhdY0B7Cg
For this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to explore the principles of Ubuntu more deeply, in whatever way works for you and within whatever philosophical or spiritual orientation resonates with you. Because ubuntu focuses on humanity, I also invite you to expand your definition and experience of family to include all our earth-kin, all the life that arises from the natural world that is our true home.
For some people, this kind of recognition brings the pain of recognition of the suffering of others. Joanna Macy talks about this as an important way to orient us to what needs our attention. Here’s a YouTube link to a brief piece by Joanna on pain and suffering: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fnEUhZIirw
One of the invitations of recalling that we’re all in this together, and that there is tremendous suffering in our world, is to also look for the beauty in life, for the magic and wonder in the natural world, to pay attention to acts of kindness that are all around us. Joanna Macy talks about how our acknowledgment of pain helps us not get stuck there, helps us move into an awareness of the beauty around us. Being able to move through and beyond our pain also allows us to mobilize what is needed to heal or change the conditions we are able to affect. Not being willing to acknowledge suffering can often mean that we turn away from it, whereas recognizing and being willing to feel it naturally increases our compassion, our ability to empathize with and respond to those who suffer.
When doing a practice like this one, it helps to orient to your heart intelligence and perception, to your heart space. The heart understands things differently from how our head brain perceives and thinks. It can be both helpful and illuminating to shift from head to heart to notice what the heart can add to our understanding and experience. Also, inherent, underlying wholeness that is at the core of every living thing, including our beautiful planet, invites us to remember that there is always more to the story, always a deeper complexity operating. Here’s a quote from Parker Palmer on wholeness: “Years ago, I found the idea of a hidden wholeness in an essay by Thomas Merton. It helps me keep my eyes open for the wholeness that lies beneath all the brokenness in our world—and in our hearts.”
As with all these practices, please bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through without your having to do anything with or about them.