A vortex of plastic twice the size of Texas is floating in the North Pacific Ocean, and a similar one in the Atlantic. Because of the way the ocean currents converge, these locations have become the aquatic dumping grounds of all the plastics we toss onto our streets and into our streams that eventually find their way to the ocean. Over time those plastics, some of which break down into small polymers, are ingested by birds and aquatic life, becoming part of the food chain of the entire planet.
I’m mentioning this because the plastic vortex floated through my mind in meditation recently, offering itself as a visible depiction of the effect of our thoughts.
Thoughts, like plastics, are energy, and thoughts are what we cast out into the ocean of consciousness encircling the planet, the noosphere as Teilhard de Chardin called it. When we generate thoughts that carry the toxicity of hatred and violence we are polluting the environment of Earth’s consciousness, which of course includes our own consciousness as well.
This toxicity of thought is extremely intense right now in the political sphere and becomes amplified in social media, and the disregard and disdain for the so-called “other” that we witness in our public sphere is the same disregard and disdain that is threatening the biosphere. Our thought pollution and the pollution that is choking the oceans are completely intertwined.
Helping Restore the Planet by Cleaning Up Your Mind
On this blog I often talk about our need to move beyond the prevailing consciousness which sees the world through the lens of separateness, the consciousness of the ego. I talk about this for a good reason, because the unprecedented challenges Earth faces right now can only be met if we humans undergo a radical shift in our consciousness. In fact, I believe this is the most essential task facing us in our day. If we are going to make it through this initiation into adulthood as a species we will have to move beyond the ego consciousness that has created the crises we now face. In other words, our future rests on what we do with our minds every bit as much as what we do with our plastics.
Like the biosphere, Earth’s noosphere has been polluted over centuries, and the thought legacy we’ve inherited of violence, oppression, prejudice and exploitation is something we all have a role in cleaning up, just as we each have a role to play in helping clean up the water, soil and air.
Obviously the most important thing each of us can do — and the one thing nobody can do for us — is to clean up our own mind, our own mental backyard so to speak, and the way we do that is by simply refusing to feed negative thoughts that float through our minds. We deny them the nutrients they need of attention (which can also come in the form of resistance), and by doing so we allow them to begin to dissipate.
Please notice that I didn’t say that we stop having negative thoughts. The truth is we all have them from time to time; they come to us quite unbidden. But when they come we have a choice whether we will indulge them with a good juicy story they can feed on.
One of those juicy stories, and the one that’s often the hardest to detect because on the surface it seems so righteous, is the story that says you’re a bad person for having negative thoughts. When you judge yourself (in the interest of improving yourself, of course) you’re actually generating more toxic thoughts, causing your and the planet’s suffering to continue.
Rather than practicing judgment we have the power to practice compassion, acceptance and forgiveness, which are the only things capable of dispelling the pollutants of violence and hatred that swirl within and around us. By practicing compassion, acceptance and forgiveness we begin to transcend the ego’s story of otherness and in so doing we begin to heal the fragmentation that lies at the heart of so much of the suffering on Earth.
So the next time you hear about something like a plastic vortex in the ocean, or politicians duking it out over ideological differences, or read a post on Facebook that vilifies or ridicules the “other”, see if you can hold the situation and all the players in your heart, encircling them all love. Because truthfully, their fragmentation is our fragmentation, just as the ocean’s pollution belongs to us all.