A challenge. A choice. What will YOU do?
“As individuals, we need to change how we live,” points out Nancy Wallace in Gyre: The Plastic Ocean. “In 2010, Americans generated 250 million tons of trash– 31 million tons of which were plastics” (20).
On Monday, the day of the second new moon after the winter solstice and the first day of the Chinese New Year, we welcomed the Year of the Fire Monkey. According to Chinese Astrology, Monkey years are playful, adventurous, creative, resourceful, opportunistic, and TRANSFORMATIVE — and this year, as we change and grow, we do so by fire which is erratic, chaotic, hard to control. Learn more about the astrology from Mystic Mamma here.
In this new year, what are your resolutions and intentions? What and how will YOU transform? According to Feng Shui expert Karen Abler Carrasco:
“When we collaborate with others this year, we can turn that self-interest into profound social change, because what helps one, helps us all. This is an excellent year to meet with friends and neighbors to find innovative solutions to the most pressing local problems.
“The Fire Monkey loves this kind of hands-on problem-solving, especially when the goal is direct action rather than mere brainstorming. Keeping such work local and small-scale allows the human heart to open more directly and the magic of its generous spirit to pour out.
Whether you believe in astrology or not, these are wise words for change-agents.
This week is also important in the Christian tradition: yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of the 40 days of lent, a period of sacrifice to make sacred.
An article in Time Magazine quotes the early Christian mystic John Chrysostom as saying that fasting or other sacrifices during Lent that “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others…if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”
“Our heart grows cold,” wrote Pope Francis in the 2015 Lenten message. “As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off. Today, this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference. It is a problem which we, as Christians, need to confront.”
But how do we start? What should we do to stop being indifferent?
I propose that this period of Lent –or at least for the rest of February– we each take on a transformative challenge. Something more meaningful than giving up chocolate or alcohol. I have three to suggest.
- Spend the first and final hour of each day OFF social media and screens. Journal in the morning. Read. Talk with family or housemates. Go for a walk. See how your sleep and your life changes. Take notes recording your challenges and changes.
“This is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be, this is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen,” Joseph Campbell told Bill Moyer in an interview that became the book The Power of Myth.
If we stay constantly entertained and distracted by social media and our various devices and screens, we miss out. And often we don’t even know what we are missing.
- Spend one hour a day outside. Go for a walk. Garden. Play. Take a child to the park. See how many hours you can spend outside in a week. Keep a diary about what you do and how it feels.
In Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv argues that we need to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature. Our mental, physical, and spiritual health depends on renewing our broken bond with the outdoors (3). If we do not spend any time in nature, why would we value it or seek to save the planet and the species that populate it?
- Spend less on plastic and track plastic consumption by keeping a plastic diary. Just like a food diary helps us to know what we really eat each day, keeping a plastic diary can track how much plastic we actually consume.
We humans thrive and survive these days by consuming long dead dinosaurs. Our cars, our homes, our clothes are all constructed using dead dinosaurs, and our food is packaged in them. But these dead dinosaurs are killing us and the planet.
“Of the 31 million tons of plastics we generated in 2010, we recovered only 8% from recycling.
Everyone has a contributing hand in the problem, which also means everyone can and must help solve it. We are the main cause of the problem, but also the key to the solution,” writes Nancy Wallace in Gyre: The Plastic Ocean (20).
An Eskimo-Kalaallit Elder whose family belongs to the traditional healers of the Far North from Kalaallit Nunaat, Greenland, Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq says that
Only by Melting the Ice in the Heart of Man does Man have a Chance to Change and begin using his vast Knowledge Wisely.
As I wrote in a paper for my MA in community, liberation, and ecopsychology at Pacifica Graduate School, melting the ice in our hearts is challenging because it is encapsulated in plastic and as Louv shows, our bonds with our planet are ruptured. Read more about the problem with plastic here and Chris Jordan’s Midway Project here and here.
For Lent, I am melting the plastic that protects the ice in my heart from melting by becoming even more aware and concerned with my plastic consumption, by spending an hour a day outside, and by avoiding my computer and other screens as much as possible in the hour before and after sleeping.
I’ll be blogging more about each of these subjects and I will link to the blogs of others who are also writing about this (please post any links I should check out in the comments!)
What about you? What transformations do you see for yourself in the year of the monkey?