K. Hall talks with Wendy
the spirit of ever-growing interest in all things environmentally conscious
these days, Robert and I sat down to discuss how the mind operates to
maintain its own ecological balance, and how the state
of our environment reflects the state of our minds.
have you noticed any connection between the state of the world ecology,
for instance…global warming….and your work as a meditation
When there is large-scale pollution of our environment, and accumulation
of wastes and garbage, this is always an indication that our sense of
ourselves, who we take ourselves to be, is something distinctly separate
from the environment.
you expand on what you mean by “separate”?
In each of us, there is a notion in our minds that what we truly are
is “a Me,” who is different and separate from everything
else. I like to call that aspect of mind “The Me”. It’s
simply a part of mind that we, all too often, take to be the entirety
of who we are. Thinking from that point of view alone separates us from
all direct experience of the natural world. Of course, the original
separation is within our own minds…it’s between “Me”
and what we think of as “Other”.
in other words, you see our global environmental crisis as a reflection
of our inner confusion?
I do…because “the me” usually takes an adversarial
attitude in reaction to the reality of natural life. “The me”
thinks things should be different, improved, and is essentially dissatisfied,
not able to rest in the present moment as it is. Because of this antagonistic
attitude and all the unrest and dissatisfaction, there is a sense of
being separate from nature. There’s always an inner argument with
the way the world really is. “The me” is a master of projection
of his or her own inner struggle upon the environment.
sounds as though the war inside manifests as destruction outside, then.
Yes, the lack of inner peace makes it impossible for us to see the harmony
around us. So we remain separate from our immediate surroundings in
that way, and feel free to disregard our environment.
does meditation practice resolve what seems to be this universal conundrum?
The fruition of regular meditation is the direct experience of the interconnectedness
of everything in our world. The profound insight that meditation brings
to us is that in reality there is no separation. Nothing exists by itself,
not even our ideas. This insight of interdependence “corrects”
the illusion of separateness that “the me” brings, and erases
what the Buddha called the ignorance of not knowing ourselves…who
we truly are.
can be scary for a lot of people!
Yes, of course, because when that experiential insight occurs, there’s
a total loss of the familiar boundaries of the individual emotional
“me self”. Fear of the unknown,
that which is greater than “the me”, can then lead us into
denial of anything greater than our “me”, and into denial
of our own destructiveness. Most people’s greatest fear is falling
into the unknown.
one denies or resists aspects of his or herself, obviously that causes
more inner struggle. What can one do to just truly accept who we are?
Learn to rest in present time. The thinking mind and desirous heart
of “the me” pollute the natural self by always distracting
our attention into memories of the past or concerns about the future.
Who and what we are, in truth, is always here in present time.
you’re saying acceptance, and I guess, detachment, help us to
attain peace and freedom?
Yes, detachment comes from surrender, in any moment, to the way it is.
Paradoxically, surrender of “the me” does lead to freedom:
freedom to choose.
The insight into interconnectedness comes with an experience of compassion
and unconditional love that erases any tendency from “the me”
to hurt anyone or anything, including of course, the environment. The
surrendered mind is not a polluter!
said, but how does a healthy mind deflect the influence of outside pollutants?
By choosing not to live with them.
what about our ability to give and receive love? How does that enter
into the mix?
When the reality of interconnected existence dawns on us, there is the
experience of what I call The All... that which is larger than any of
us. It is there, in that unknown, in that expanded level of awareness
or aliveness, where real love, compassion and wisdom live….way
beyond the fields where “the me” plays and has its power.!
we fear the unknown so much, what about taking risks?
The whole endeavor of meditation practice is taking a risk because it
alters who you think you are.
how does it mess with nature if a person wants to change?
Wanting to change is only the first step. Real change happens from insight,
and realigns us back into harmonious balance with reality. It’s
not interference at all.
bodies are made up of all the same elements of the earth and atmosphere.
Do you believe that pollution of our air and water, depletion of our
minerals, and destruction of our habitats is all going on inside of
us at the same time? How can meditation practice or Buddhist teachings
help to solve these very modern challenges to our planet’s and
its inhabitants’ health?
The teachings and the practice work very effectively to heal our sense
of alienation and separation. They reconnect us to our greater world
through love, compassion, and wisdom, making irresponsible destruction
of our environment a thing of the past.
on that note, if the planet really reflects the state of our minds,
what does it take to maintain an ecologically healthy mind?
It takes an open mind and an open heart to live in harmony with the
is an ordained Buddhist priest and meditation teacher, as well as a
published poet and performer.
For more information about his weekly Dharma talks and 5 day silent
retreats in Todos Santos,
please return to: www.eldharma.com.
makes Todos Santos her home, where she is a designer, artist, poet
and published columnist.