August 27, 2014

Zen Activism.

Lord Jim/Flickr

The world is going to hell in a hand basket.

I think that is something we can all agree upon, isn’t it?

With ISIS in Syria and Iraq, to global warming, deforestation, rates of extinction being the highest since the last ice age, Monsanto’s GMOs, blood diamonds, BPA in plastics, skin cancer, the obesity epidemic, racism, sexism or you name it, how do we choose what to worry about?

I simply do not have time or energy to be stressed out about all of the things that warrant my concern.

When I prepare my food each day, I think about keeping my animal products to less than two ounces per day, because I read Dr. Colin Campbell’s book, the China Study.

Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barouin passionately proclaims eliminating consumption of all animal products to eradicate cruel actions against livestock farmed en-mass, and warns against the ills of GMOs and artificial sweeteners.

Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen by Ani Phyo informs us that we could feed all the hungry human mouths in the world with the food that we feed our livestock in America, not to mention critically reduce the number one greenhouse gas offenders—methane from cow poop, which exceeds that of the entire auto industry.

So by the end of breakfast, I have confronted enough depressing information to make me want to crawl back in bed with an Adderall and some vodka.

Honestly, I want to have compassion for all of the suffering in the world, and I want to protect the environment for my future children.

At the same time, I am a yogi who practices Zen philosophy. I struggle mentally with a balance of finding a place of inner bliss without being complacent in the world. I know that I cannot buy organic, plant an orchard, ensure that my diamond is conflict free, ride my bike everywhere, recycle everything, eat vegan, avoid commercial flights, use glass instead of plastic containers and use the oven instead of the microwave everyday, all the time.

But I can some of the time. And so can you.

I believe in Gandhi’s message, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” How do we find the right balance of Zen bliss and conscientious activism? Am I an activist about the right stuff? I do not know the right answer, but I have found that I feel better about the problem just by bringing awareness to the fact that I have choices that I can make everyday life that make a difference.

I follow my passions. I vote with my dollars. I buy locally when I can. I recycle when I can. I make an effort to eat vegan or at least vegetarian as much as possible. When I cannot or do not make a choice that aligns with my “ideal self,” I try not to judge myself, and recognize that I made a choice that is not in alignment with who I want to be. This honesty allows me to feel at peace, without encouraging stagnation.

A friend long ago warned me that I was starting to alienate my friends by being passionate about every injustice that I read on the news. He helped me realize that my activism was actually passive, because I was really just complaining to my friends and poisoning our positive social environment.

So as you contemplate what you are passionate about, and how you can make a difference in the world, first remember that your actions, not your complaints, are what change the future.

There are over 300 million Americans. If every American made one small change per day towards living with awareness of the environment and global suffering, imagine how quickly we could change the future of America, and of the world.

Warren Buffet reminds us that, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree long ago.”

What can you do today to make difference?




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Eliza Groff

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