Little Changes

A Shift in Perceptions – Let me make it clear I do not want this blog to be perceived as ‘preachy’. Rather my intention is to provoke thought and self-reflection so that you can arrive at your own conclusions and consider how you can make the world a better place.

Mindfulness

Perhaps it’s that I’m getting older and have a bit more worldly experience, but I definitely see the world as a very different place now, aged mid-30s, than I did in my mid-20s. My shift in perception of the world has been down to no one single cause or event, rather the cumulative effect of life experiences.

Some experiences are common to all of us old enough to remember them, such as acts of war and terror. Others are also common to all of us, though many of us choose to ignore the problem, failing to see how it directly affects us, such as the slaughter of endangered animals or destruction of the world’s precious natural resources.

Others are more personal, having witnessed first-hand drug and alcohol-fuelled violence, poverty, squalor, deprevation, death and despair – all of which can be summed up in one word: suffering.

The Big Questions

Another cause of the shift in my perceptions has been some of the books that I have read, including Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen and Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson.

There are a few key messages I took from these books as a way of making sense of the world and learning how to deal with life’s events:

If it’s not going to bother you in five, ten, fifteen years time then it shouldn’t bother you now. It’s not important, let it go.

There are those of us that believe we can simply consume our way to happiness. If only we have the newest gadget, best shoes or nicest car we’ll be happy. This is a myth perpetuated by our capitalist societies, which are driven entirely by greed. It is a myth that I cannot accept.

Everything is connected, all people, all animals, the eco system. Everything. An action, no matter how small, ripples around the world. Picture a pebble being thrown into a pool of perfectly still water, watching the ripples work their way out, getting gradually smaller as they fade from view.

How did the world come to be? If it was indeed a Big Bang, what caused it, and where did the required materials originate? Does everything have a beginning, a middle and an end?

Everything in the world is cyclicle. Think of the seasons, flowers, oceans, day and night and so on. Does it follow that reincarnation is therefore not only a possibility, but reality? Is there a Creator?

Start With You

As a result of the foregoing I’ve began to think more carefully about how my actions effect the rest of the world. The realisation within me is simple, that I need to be the change I want to see in the world. If we want to change it for the better, we have to start with our own thoughts and actions.

Some examples:

• I stopped buying liquid soap in plastic bottles, in order to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfill and in the sea. Instead I reverted to buying traditional bars of soap that are not wrapped in plastic. (On average plastic can only be recycled twice before going to landfill!)

• When it came to changing my car last year I avoided buying diesel, despite the fact it would have made the most financial sense for me due to my annual mileage. I was keen to avoid putting more extremely harmful particulate matter into the streets I drive on. I don’t want my exhaust fumes to cause health problems in other people. I chose electric.

• I gave up my smartphone. I recognised the addictive nature of the smartphone and the apps installed on it – all driven by commercialism and greed, rather than need. I equipped myself with a basic phone instead, saved a lot of money and focussed on re-connecting with real human beings instead.

• I began attending Church (more fun than you might think) as a way of connecting with other people and developing my sense of compassion for others. In doing so I have begun to discover a whole world of kindness and charitable actions.

• I put together a box of items (such as toothpaste, soap, books, pens, pencils etc) to send to Africa to gift to people in need. I did so out of compassion for other people and it was quite humbling looking at the contents of the box and realising that some people there (and indeed elsewhere in the world) actually have almost nothing – at least in a physical sense. It really made me think about how lucky we are in the West, where we can simply nip to the nearest shop in our air conditioned cars and buy almost anything we desire. Remember the ripple effect? I tweeted about the box and another blogger contacted me, wanting to do something similar. Notwithstanding several friends and colleagues also came forward to donate items to send. The ripple effect in action.

• I reduced my alcohol consumption significantly. Why would I want to continue to ingest such a harmful intoxicant regularly when I have witnessed first hand the destruction it causes?

• Having developed an increased compassion for animals I significantly reduced my meat consumption (I’m not ready at the moment to go full blown vegetarian) and learned to cook some delicious vegetarian meals instead.

• This Armistace Day, 11/11, I will wear a white poppy and white dove as an alternative to the red poppy. This is not to diminish the sacrifice made by British servicemen, rather to promote peace across the world and recognise ALL those killed and injured by war, including civilians. I believe the red poppy has become too politicised and glorifies war – a view that was shared by my grandfather (himself a WW2 serviceman). War is driven by greed – and I do not support either.

Think

There are many, many ways in which you can make small changes that have a positive effect on the world. Just think about things a little more. I am far from perfect and I never will be. For example, I still love Amazon despite their unethical practices and impact on small business. One step at a time…perhaps I’ll ditch Amazon yet.

My hope is that in reading this people will perhaps undertake small changes that improve their lives and the lives of others. It could be as simple as buying your daily paper from your local independent retailer rather than a multi-national superstore, or as big an idea as you want. People are all different and have different strengths, play to yours.

Taking time to think and act with right intention, that is mindfulness. That is how we will alleviate suffering. Little changes make a big difference.

Since you’re here check out my thought-provoking blog on Technology Intrusion in your home!

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