Throw Nothing Away 5/27/2012
While doing research for a painting, I found this quote in oceanographer Sylvia Earle’s book, The World Is Blue.
“If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.” Aldo Leopold, Round River, 1953
I loved connecting with this quote as it reminds me that this is true for myself as well, as a human being. There are many parts of me that in the past, I felt I “should” get rid of. These were things that I felt were “wrong” with me. On the physical level, there was crazy hair, body fat, facial hair… you get the picture. In my mind there was an intricate maze of thoughts and thought patterns that I loathed and did not understand and wanted to cut out of my head!
Now I recognize that we change our thoughts, not at the expense of who we are, but because we know that who we are is a matrix of experience and emotion that we have spent a long time looking away from and running away from- instead of acknowledging their presence and seeing ourselves as a complete being… every element of ourselves essential to the process of awakening. It is with constant awareness of what is unfolding before us and within us that we begin to recognize who we really are- and how all the things about us… even the warts can be vital tools for transformation.
So I ask myself why I would “throw away” any part of me and label these parts as “useless” without first investigating how those parts have shaped my perspective and my understanding of life. If I bring my awareness to these “parts” I can see them for what they really are and cease allowing these “parts” to dictate my mood, my sense of Self, my possibilities. If I stop loathing the things about myself long enough to see them with clarity, I can work to lose my attachment to being someone or something “other” than I am. I can begin to live authentically and the things I don’t like will begin to transform and refine into something more useful and become a friendly part of me instead of a detriment. Perhaps we can think of the things we’d like to eradicate in our selves in a new way. We could think about recycling instead of discarding. Recycling can be a softer, kinder way to promote change.
Reduce. We work to reduce negative thought patterns. The seeds of himsa or harming may remain present within us, but become subtler and subtler, creating a more peaceful view of Self and others.
Reuse. We replace negative thoughts with opposite or positive ones in order to turn around the cycle of despair and anxiety and lift ourselves out of the looping of thoughts that bring us down. In Yoga this practice is called Pratipaksha Bhavana. We use our negative thoughts to alert us to opportunities for change and transformation.
Recycle. Letting go of old mental and physical patterns that no longer serve us – that we have been using to control the outcome of our lives and surrendering control to something larger than ourselves. This is the practice of Isvara Pranidhana- surrender to god, or imbuing all our actions with devotion and giving up attachment to the outcome of our actions.