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What We Do Moment to Moment Can Make a Difference...

Earlier in the day, Bruce (our GM) and I had been lamenting the sorry state of politics in the U.S. and the decline of our infrastructure and educational system. We were saying that everything seems to be "going to Hell in a hand-basket" with seemingly no way to turn things around.

A couple-few weeks ago, one of my relatives was riffing on this same theme and he asked why I thought everything was getting worse and worse and worse. At that time, I didn't really have an answer for him, but, having been mulling this over ever since, I think I do now. Since this is going to be my last Blue Poppy blog (as I move ever forward into my retirement), I'd like to leave all my readers with the following thoughts.

As a Buddhist, I believe that the outer world is a reflection of our inner minds. In the Dhammapada, Lord Buddha said, "We are what we think, having become what we thought." In other words, we are the architects of our body-minds and our experience, including this seeming outside world. From this point of view, "the world" is the experienced result of the sum accumulation of all our thoughts, words, and physical deeds. As TromoGeshe Rinpoche said in Lama Anagorika Govinda's classic, The Way of the White Clouds, the world we live in is always exactly the world we deserve. Since it is the fruit of our own karma, how could it be otherwise? (It's taken me 40 years to really accept this.)

As I've mentioned before on this blog, many Buddhists believe we are currently in the Kaliyuga, the Black Age -- a time when everything is getting worse and worse and worse. This downward spiral is believed to be due to the degeneration of our inner virtues (i.e., ethical choices) which then reflects in the virtues (i.e., qualities) of the outer world. Not only are the outer environment, society, and our own individual heart-minds as a whole getting blacker and blacker or worse and worse, this process is actually speeding up. It's like a soap-box racer rolling down hill faster and faster and faster, totally out of control and heading for a crash.

I don't know about you, but it sure feels like that to me these days: the Great Recession, the venality of Big Business, a completely dysfunctional political system, Sarah Palin and Glen Beck, Fox News, and a generally pandering media, global warming, the Gulf oil spill, estrogen-like substances in our water supply, icebergs four times the size of Manhattan, species extinction, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the problems in Pakistan, Somalia, N. Korea, Israel, Iran, Congo, Sudan, etc., etc., etc., and, of course, The Jersey Shore. (Hey, I grew up on the Jersey Shore, and it just wasn't like that back in the day.)

As I was going out the door last night, Lori, another of our CS reps said that this is all she and her friends are also talking about. She mentioned that this is the first time in her life that things seem really hopeless. However, Lori sagely added that all anyone of us can do is the right thing in the moment. And there we have the absolute crux of the matter. If our shared outer reality is nothing other than the reflection of our own inner heart-minds, the only way we can even begin to change that outer reality is to change our own minds and our behavior dictated by our minds.

That means not giving in to the thousands of minor temptations we face each day -- the temptation to be mean, the temptation to tell that "little white lie," the temptation to be arrogant, the temptation to do what's good for us even though we know its not the right thing to do and is not good for someone else, the temptation simply to not care. In my opinion, the current mess we are in is due to an inconceivable number of bad moral decisions we all both individually and collectively have made.

We rationalize these unethical, ego-centric decisions by saying such things as, "Everyone does it," "What difference will just one make?" "I know it's wrong, but...," and "Just this one time" (which, of course, it never is). We always have some reason why we can't actually do the right thing. It costs too much, we won't be able to get re-elected, someone won't like/approve/love/respect/be friends with us, it's uncomfortable, it requires effort, it's risky. In other words, we're not sure we're going to be ok personally if we do the right thing. So we feather our own nests at the expense of others and all. We try to create our own separate peace. We buy the Hummer or other fuel-guzzling SUV; we spend way too much on our food, clothes, entertainment, our daughter's wedding, you name it; we buy the items that come in way too much packaging; we don't bother to recycle, to bring our own shopping bag, to walk or bike instead of burning gasoline. And so we live in exactly the world we deserve.

And the only thing we can do to turn this mess around is to try to do the right thing in every situation to the best of ability -- no excuses. If you think that your one small decision, your one small moral choice is of no consequence, you're wrong. The mess we're in is due to nothing other than the accumulation of many, many, many small wrong choices. However, just as tiny drops eventually fill a large bucket, many small, seemingly inconsequential acts of moral bravery -- virtue -- will eventually add up. One of the insights of Buddhism is that this outer world is nowhere near as solid as it seems. In other words, it is much more malleable, more changeable, more responsive than we mostly think. What I do moment-to-moment and what you do moment-to-moment can make a difference -- will make a difference. Be the change!

Excerpt from Bob Flaws' Blog at www.bluepoppy.com.
woman meditating on a mountain top