As Within, So Without

“There’s this very deep connection with our inner opening, with our own wellbeing, and the wellbeing and connection to the natural world around us.” – Jack Kornfield

This past week, I went driving with a friend through Idaho: Hell’s Canyon, the Snake River, the Salmon River, McCall, Boise and everything leading up to that from Sandpoint. We’re in our own ways searching for where to begin again at this juncture of life. While in the more remote areas of Idaho’s winding highways—where cell service is unreliable—we listened to The Power of Now on audiobook in the car. If you are unfamiliar with Eckhart Tolle’s seminal work, there is no better time than now to pick it up. So many of the points he makes apply to the power struggle taking place in major headlines across the world, particularly in relation to climate change. We are witnessing the painful death of an ego. 

In the book, Eckhart swims through material on the ego and consciousness, emphasizing how our ability to be present in the Now is the essential life force that keeps us connected. Around the fourth chapter, he describes how our inner worlds, whether contaminated, or pure and bright, become a mirror image for what we create on the outside, manifesting in our bodies and also in our natural environment. 

“You set and you sweep the garden; and it doesn’t matter how large the garden is,” says Jack Kornfield in his talk, The Dharma of Climate Change. In other words, you plants seeds and then, tend to their wellbeing. What seeds have we been planting lately to warrant a world like this? It does seem that a lot of the woes of our times are due to imbalance and certainly economic inequality, as well as a quite overlooked internal social disease. Despair, denial and anger are strong emotions in this movement of climate change—all emotions that come from a place of fear, our dark sides. These are the same sides we see showing up around many societal issues, especially here in America: greed, hatred, delusion and ignorance.

On the grandest level, ignorance is an illusion of separateness from the rest of the world or existence itself. It is not just ignorance of a fact from a book or what you see, it is the kind of ignorance that sees a very limited scope of our reason for being here in this life. It is the denial of our full, grand existence, instead focusing on the small matters of the ego. I believe ignorance is our most trying challenge right now. Sometimes, it seems we don’t know why we’re living here, but for money and the gain of power. Is that not a big part of what has led us to such a global crisis? The youth of today are seeing these traits of greed and abuse from the past and want a better future for themselves—at least that’s what they say. 

It’s the ultimate task that we all be heroes and start living up to larger values, not just for ourselves, but for the whole realization of ourselves as complete beings, for others and for the planet. Can we begin to see interdependence as a healthy reality, rather than a weakness in the face of a capitalistic for-maximum-profit model? I believe this is why we collectively feel so much grief and anger right now: our disconnection with larger societal values. When you add grief to anger, you get frustration.  

Our main shared value system in America (and beyond) circulates around currency and material wealth, most of the time, at the expense of the people and resources around us. It is an extension of valuing the individual over all, the ego victorious. What this call to climate action is asking us to do is to reevaluate our values and how they impact ourselves, others and the environment. In other words, our unity consciousness. It is truly incredible: this is an opportunity for awakening. 

It takes a lot of open-eared listening and patience to believe in Eckhart’s words in The Power of Now. His claim that there is nothing but the Now (pure consciousness and awareness of existence) and our ability to be in it that determines the quality of life is questionable for many with all the worries and woes in the world. But this is just again a symptom of our ignorance, an old belief that things must remain the same, that values are immediate and small, that we must be governed by fear. Awakening to our full potential means realizing unity in the face of ignorance: knowing that we are part of a much larger whole that is full of potential and then, seeing that in others, as well as the environment.  

With all of these marches on climate change and the youth order rallying to raise awareness of the future of the planet, we are witnessing a higher consciousness in the next generation. They see with eyes of impassioned love, anger and all, instead of complacency. Once again, no more business as usual.

As we enter the darker hours of the year, have faith in the seeds. Seeds contain infinite, unseen potential. They rest until it is time to re-emerge and grow anew. Plants seeds of love, the only force that can give life, and shift your values to everlasting.

PS To listen to Jack Kornfield’s podcast on how climate change can be seen through the Four Noble Truths, see this link:

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