May 05, 2010

Containing Contamination

Oil seepage in the Gulf of Mexico is disturbing to say the least. Earth and humanity seem besieged with calamities far larger than we can easily contain. I'm afraid to list them in case I should leave out something so immense because I can't hold them all in my mind. Haiti, Chile, China, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Iceland, New Orleans, the Gulf, Indonesia, India. All these are recent occasions of natural and human influenced disasters.

I've always felt that the earth was a mirror of my own body. The rivers and oceans are the blood stream, the stoney mountains are the skeleton, the trees and bushes are the hairy covering of the skin. When I look across the lake and think, oh that is my body, I also feel like a Lilliputian with a puny brain in relation to the size of my body, the earth. And that, of course, is the case. There's a relatively small brain engineering the human entanglements of steel towers on and off shore however remarkable the designs. We aren't exactly sure of how to solve the problems of contamination when destruction occurs. Whatever we build is destined to collapse and decay, but it's usually not in our scope when we first assemble the ladders and rigs.

Recently I saw a 4 minute YouTube film about the Hubble space telescope and the Ultra Deep Field. (See and "Hubble Ultra Deep Field 3D.) The Hubble, for ten days, was pointed into a tiny dark spot in the sky about the size of a grain of sand. The attempt was to find out if it was only dark space or if anything was out there. The camera revealed an unbelievable world of galaxies about 13 billion light years away. They did it again a few years later in another dark spot near the constellation Orion. This discovery is known as the Ultra Deep Field with yet thousands and thousands more galaxies. There are over 100 billion galaxies in space. This is nearly impossible to comprehend but if we look into the sky and realize the galaxies go on forever, we can see how miniscule we are in relation to the field of phenomenon.

What I'm getting at is to say that we know so little. Nature is ultimately more powerful and yet the contamination is taking its toll. It gets harder and harder for nature to respond in a healthy way. Scotland, for instance, used to be all forest. If we beat down the trees enough, they will disappear, at least for a certain time. Where I live in the State of Washington, we are slowly and surely depleting our canopy. People come from other places for the first time where there have been few trees and they are astounded at the abundance of green. However, Olympia is half what it was 25 years ago. Every day, something conspires to contaminate.

So, all this to ask, if the earth is the mirror of my body (and yours) how am I participating in the contamination? Our arteries are clogged and so are the rivers and oceans. It does begin with my own thinking, and then proceeding with those thoughts in action. The Buddha says we are what we think. Almost anyone would admit there is an awful lot of contamination in the mind. Much of the way of thinking is habitual, just like needing to drive a car. We get set in our patterns and have a heck of a time trying to change, often because it's inconvenient. But, what can we hope for if we cannot have custody of our own habitual patterns that contaminate the space around us. We (in America especially) have got to take charge of this. We have got to come to our senses and wake up.

This tiny, miniscule spot in space where I stand influences all other space. This breath that does not belong to me must enter and then leave with the same pure quality of intention. I must allow this body and mind to be influenced by it. It is Wisdom itself at work in the body of existence, in the expression of the Buddha. Let me contribute to the healing in the Gulf by being responsible for my own correct thinking and action in the world. Let me contain my own contaminating flow. This is what we work on every day, every moment, in every activity. It is called practice, and every morning Zazen is the best way to begin.