“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” – Jane Goodall
Are you in touch with the part of you that makes choices every day? Some of your choices serve life and encourage its growth within and all around you, while others can diminish or divide it in one way or another. What awareness do you bring to your decision making process to make it a practice of consciousness and a reflection of your values? Are you familiar with your worldview today, how it has been formed, as well as how it changes through the years of your living experiences? If you were to write a “manifesto” or declaration for the intentions of your life in ten statements, what would it say and how would it reflect what matters most to you?
There is a seed planted in your heart. It is a seed of possibility and potential. How it grows and what it becomes are dependent upon how you nurture its well–being through the cycles of your body, the rhythms of your soul and the seasons of your spirit. Who has planted this seed in your heart and soul? Who cultivates its growth and flourishing in your life? How is it that seeds have the blueprint for what they are to become already contained within them?
I enjoy asking questions and discovering that no two people will ever answer them in the same way. Each of us truly does have a unique voice. I trust that that voice is both a gift and an invitation. It blesses us with a call to be and to express exactly who we are. It challenges us to cultivate our growth, not only for our own sake, but for the benefit of the whole, the interdependence within life inviting each of us to contribute to the quality of life for all.
There have been joyous times in my life when I felt so connected to life itself that I would spontaneously dance around the house singing “I am in God. God is in me. I am in you. You are in me.” Later, I discovered the word, “interbeing,” while reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, “Peace is Every Step.” Today, I wonder how many people truly have an understanding of the deep relatedness each of us shares in our interbeing. Thich Nhat Hanh describes it beautifully with his reflection on a piece of paper:
“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.
“Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud, we cannot have paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.
If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.
Looking even more deeply, we can see ourselves in this sheet of paper too. This is not difficult to see, because when we look at a sheet of paper, it is part of our perception. Your mind is in here and mine is also. So we can say that everything is in here with this sheet of paper. We cannot point out one thing that is not here—time, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything co-exists with this sheet of paper. That is why I think the word inter-be should be in the dictionary. “To be” is to inter-be. We cannot just be by ourselves alone. We have to inter-be with every other thing. This sheet of paper is, because everything else is.
Suppose we try to return one of the elements to its source. Suppose we return the sunshine to the sun. Do you think that this sheet of paper will be possible? No, without sunshine nothing can be. And if we return the logger to his mother, then we have no sheet of paper either. The fact is that this sheet of paper is made up only of “non-paper”elements. And if we return these non-paper elements to their sources, then there can be no paper at all. Without non-paper elements, like mind, logger, sunshine and so on, there will be no paper. As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it.”
One of my current passions in life is volunteering with young people in a restorative justice program in Winona. When we listen to one another, we discover more about the impact we have on one another. When we forget about our interdependence, we lose sight of the very potential we have to make a difference in each other’s lives. Choosing without awareness may lead us to an action we will regret later. Making mistakes has an impact on many people in our lives. One of the amazing things about this program is that our reflections on the mistakes we have made expand our awareness about the impact and potential we can have. Feeling dis-empowered and remorseful about a poor choice can be turned around to feeling empowered and connected to ourselves and the world around us needing the contribution we have to offer, particularly when it is born out of a need to serve life and an awareness of its impact. From this space, we can become intentional about our choices every day—little ones and big ones. We can remember how it is we “inter-are.”
I invite you to reflect on “inter-being.” Start with a simple man-made object. Think about how it came to be and all that went into its making. Spend five minutes each day, choosing an object and reflecting on its “becoming.” Be sure to recall the non-material elements that go into the process. I love how this reflection contains the whole universe in it. With that in mind, you, too, contain the whole universe within you. I hope your next decision will be a little more conscious, compassionate and creative because it will also be having an impact on the world we share together.