As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.
– Henry David Thoreau
Let’s talk about love.
Not the boy-meets-girl, or girl-meets-girl kind of love. I’m talking about an all-knowing, all-feeling, human-meets-universe epic love affair: falling in love desperately, head-over-heels with the world around us, in all its great glory and elusive mysteries. This is a love affair that will last a lifetime, and beyond, if we wisely choose to let it burn with passionate care and awe-inspired wonder.
It is not difficult to see how environmental issues like our dying Great Barrier Reef, the decay of coral in our oceans, and the melting glaciers play into our love affair with the universe. If we had a human partner who were going through a terrible, life-threatening illness, it’s highly likely that we’d be taking them to the doctor, and doing our very best to ensure them the best possible care.
So, why don’t we automatically react with the same compassion when it comes to our environment? Particularly when the chronic illnesses that our oceans are currently enduring are largely at the cause of our own hands? My hypothesis is that our level of responsibility is the very reason we instinctively shy away from positive action. Putting back care and compassion into both our oceans, and our environment at large, requires that we hold ourselves accountable for our past actions. Taking responsibility can be tough to do.
In order to begin to undo what we’ve done (or, at least, move forward with care rather than with further harm), we must choose to embark on a full-fledged healing process with our universe. As with any healing process, coming to terms with the past can be one of the most challenging aspects – and yet it’s necessary for any forward momentum to occur. Accepting the past requires embracing where we currently are.
On a superficial level, staying in denial can be quite appealing, as it lets us skip out on doing difficult personal work: denial means that we don’t need to examine how our own emotions and personal issues relate to our daily actions that affect the environment; and we don’t need to make any uncomfortable changes in our habits. Essentially, denial allows us to live in an illusory state of stagnation. Illusory, because nothing about life can ever be truly stagnant; by nature, it is mutable – always moving, even during times when we feel stuck standing still.
Beginning a healing process with our universe starts the same way it would with anyone else, like a lover, our self, or a family member: by developing compassion and empathy for our own actions. Take a moment to assess your current relationship with the universe. How do you treat it day-to-day? I know that I’ve personally improved – by leaps and bounds! – over the past few years, but I definitely still have a long way to go before my actions are completely aligned with my true passion for the world. And I’m really looking forward to continuing to move forward with it!
I fly on airplanes a lot, which already greatly increases my carbon footprint. Riding my bicycle as my main mode of transportation is how I currently try to offset my plane habits. In addition to being eco-friendly, cycling also gives me greater connection with the natural world on a daily basis, which helps me to stay present in my body. I’ve spoken before about my recent efforts to bring tupperware to restaurants, as well as re-usable bags for any kind of shopping I do. I’m even a bit embarrassed and ashamed that I wasn’t doing this all along — it’s not something that I would readily disclose with some of my eco-friendly friends. But as long as I come back to having empathy for the reasons behind my past actions, I’m able let go of any shame associated with it. This, in turn, allows me to accept the present reality of the situation, and move forward with actions that are more in line with my real values. Delving into a love affair with the universe has profound effects on our sense of self: when our actions align with our values, we gain personal integrity — and that’s something no amount of money can buy.
I’m also much more aware of my choices as a consumer these days, always on the lookout for fair-trade and eco-friendly products, and local businesses that I can support. In terms of water, I feel I’m doing pretty well with keeping my consumption level pretty low. Not having a washing machine, bathtub, or pool really helps with this!
So, perhaps your carbon footprint is, at the moment, extraordinary. Maybe you’ve never recycled in your life, or used compost; maybe you use plastic bags every time you go to the grocery store, and take baths each night. I believe that wherever we’re at is exactly where we need to be on our journey. So, embrace your present reality in order to move forward with yourself, and your relationship with the universe.
Living in the US gives us many opportunities to reduce our carbon footprints, and help to heal our oceans which are being harmed by our unnecessarily large usage of fossil fuels. Small steps including walking or cycling to work, not upgrading our electronics to the latest-and-greatest new toy, and making mindful choices as consumers, like choosing an all-natural Soma water filter in place of a wasteful Brita. We need to drink filtered water, since unfiltered water is simply unsafe; we need to reduce the amount of waste in our already vastly overstuffed landfill sites; and, if you’re anything like me, we also want to spend our hard-earned money on items that visually enhance our lives. Choosing a mindful and eco-friendly product like the Soma water filter is an easy, pro-active way for us to begin healing our relationship with our environment and moving forward toward embracing a full-fledged love affair.
And Soma is just one example of many fantastic, eco-friendly companies that are doing their part to help the environment. All we need to do is remember our love affair with the universe, and our choices become so clear. More TLC for our universe means more TLC for ourselves, every time.
Jumping on board with a love affair with the universe compels us to re-frame the way we think about love. The ancient Greeks talked of four kinds of love:
“storge, or family love, and philia, which is the love one has for a friend. Then there is agape, which is the purest kind of unconditional love, and finally eros, a romantic, passionate love.”
However, I personally need much more than four kinds of description for the love that I’m capable of. And certainly, a deep, impassioned love for our universe must be included.
The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.
– Henri Toulouse-Lautrec
Regardless, we must re-define our stereotypical version of love so that it extends beyond other human beings: if we stick to the narrow-minded definition of simply loving other people, we miss out on a much bigger love affair – that with our omnipotent universe. Never unrequited, the universe is ready and waiting to love you, whenever you’re ready to let it.