February 12, 2014

Living Green.

Green Living, Hawaii

Living in harmony with the earth.

Living, thinking, breathing, being green.

The way green is trending, you’d think it was a fad, the in thing, all the rage. Everywhere from online stores to Walmart seems to carry green choices with all of the regular items: get your green car, a green juice, eat green, think green. Green is ecological, eco-logical and eco is definitely in.

What does that mean exactly, living green?

To live in harmony with the earth.

Our society seems to be turning more toward this green, harmonious living like recycling, reusing, refraining from too much consumption. A variety of “green” products and organic options are found in supermarket aisles. Bamboo cotton, recycled clothing and solar lighting are trending more every day.

However, is there some deeper meaning to being in harmony with the earth? What does that really mean? I don’t think buying a greener product or substituting organic rice for regular is enough to really enable full harmony with our environment.

Being in harmony with the earth means, ultimately, being in harmony with ourselves.

Our bodies, minds and hearts are simply another expression of the earth, just as a tree, a dog, a cloud or an ocean is. Those things don’t try to “be green.” They naturally express themselves and there is a harmony that exudes from that natural expression.

In our current culture, many of us seem to be lacking harmony and are searching for a way to center to our hearts, a way to find balance. The recent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman struck me. His death, like so many others, put a spotlight on the shadowy reality of life way out of balance. There is a strong rise in addiction and death connected to many kinds of pharmaceutical drugs. This is such an extreme way to live life and we are in so much pain that we cannot bear to be with our own minds, our own art.

Are we so far from the voice of our heart that we must use drugs, medicine and bad food, leading us to choke on the weight of our own suffering?

Listening to the news, navigating toxic food, hearing reports on sick and dying oceans and increasingly polluted environments and learning that thousands of people are turning to prescription drugs to find relief can be overwhelming at the least. When I feel overwhelmed, I turn to spiritual practices from Tibetan Buddhism to assist on my path.

Both Tonglen and Green Tara practice have been vital to my well being.

In Tonglen, we visualize inhaling dark, heavy energy, transmuting or transforming it in our hearts and breathing out brilliant light. Specifically, we relate to a type of suffering, a group of people who are suffering, or the earth.

When we breathe in the darkness of this suffering, we connect to all those who are having a hard time. We feel immense compassion for all who suffer. And the simple act of visualizing the transformation of this heaviness into lightness also instills a kind of confidence in us.

We don’t have to hold this suffering, we can take action to relieve it, to transform it and let it go.

Green Tara CompassionSimilarly, in Green Tara practice, this is a way to put my compassion into action; to literally transform my negative feelings into an expression of love and gratitude.

I am inspired by the Tibetan story of Avalokiteśvara, (Chenrezig in Tibetan) who is the Buddha of compassion. The Tibetans believe the Dalai Lama is the embodiment of this compassionate Buddha.

In one legend, it is said that Avalokiteśvara was so moved by the intense suffering of the world that he cried tears which formed a lake. From the center of the lake a lotus appeared. The lotus opened to reveal Tara, the compassionate goddess of mercy, light and love.

When I contemplate this story, I am moved that Avalokiteśvara’s response to suffering is ultimately not with pain and anguish, but instead with the beauty and grace of a goddess. As an active goddess, her right leg extended to attend any who call upon her, Green Tara illuminates compassion in action. She is choosing to participate in the wonder that is the world by being of service. I am deeply inspired by her beauty and her reminder to take compassion into the form of action.

Being of service is the grateful balm to the pains and cries of our world.

“By learning to cultivate compassion through helping others, we reduce our small self, our ego, and thus become even more filled with love.”

Fire of the Goddess: Nine Paths to Ignite the Sacred Feminine

As I practice my daily meditation of Green Tara, compassion arises from my heart. I recognize the profound gratitude for myself and my path where I choose a life that leaves a minimal imprint on the earth, residing in the green lush lands of Puna, Hawaii, the Big Island. I feel the blessings of life all around and I’ve expressed my thankfulness here in a short video of Green Tara, full moon and wild ocean coastline.

I am surrounded by the beauty of green and wild lands, raw lava and ocean. Here we have the opportunity to eat almost entirely from local foods grown by friends, to be surrounded by people who are attempting to unplug from the sickness of our culture and reexamine what true harmony is.

In a community of creators and dreamers, farmers and builders, we are making our way back toward a life in balance. By reclaiming a variety of spiritual tools and practices, we can begin to find harmony within ourselves.

This enables us to truly think green, to feel green.

Aloha nui loa!

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Image: Author’s Own, Wikimedia Commons

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