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Lions Roar : January 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2009 102 amendments, compost box, and so on. It also requires an invest- ment of your own precious and limited time. As you share the fruits and vegetables of your labors with others, success generates its own momentum and your investment pays off. Rethinking priorities leads naturally to the second process of personal assessment. From those early stages of beginner’s mind, you now have accumulated new skills and knowledge and likely have developed ethical stances in the areas where you have some understanding. So you ask yourself: What do I know? What can I actually do? What more do I need to be helpful on another level? It can be very helpful to talk this through with someone who can be a witness to your personal growth as a concerned Earth citizen. As much as you see what you have gained thus far, it will be obvious that there is much more to learn. It is not possible to do it all, no matter how concerned you are. You are only one person with a finite number of hours to give to Earth care. So you must make some strategic choices to guide your next steps. For some people, what is appropriate is more education and professional develop- ment to prepare for full-time work in an environmental field. This is a common motivation for seeking a graduate degree. Others may need a change of location, a geographical move to bring them closer to a hub of environmental activity, such as Washington, D.C., or one of the rising centers of sustainability, such as Port- land, Oregon. Still others may want a major change in lifestyle or more spiritual training to support deeper environmental work. Complementing both of these processes is self-reflection on the Big Picture: What is really important now, both in my own life and in the world? When I was preparing to take lay ordination vows in the Soto Zen tradition, I was asked to do just this. My Zen teacher had me sit in a room quietly all day by myself, thinking about what it meant to take these vows. I felt somehow there was much more going on than I completely understood. I read the Buddhist pre- cepts and recited the three refuges, settling my mind on accept- ing this commitment as best I could. In late afternoon I took a long slow walk in the New Mexico landscape, preparing to cross through this gate. The next day, after a light snow had dusted the mountains, I repeated my vows in the presence of the local Zen community and received affirmation from my teacher. Afterward we held a wonderful party, and one of my teacher’s senior students called in to offer congratulations. He explained that before this day I had been practicing primarily for myself, to improve my own physical and mental well-being. Now, with these vows, my practice would be primarily in the service of others. When you come to take environmental work seriously, you realize you are doing it on behalf of all beings, not just for your own well-being. Looking at the Big Picture means understand- ing the nature of the current threats, seeing who the political players are, finding the initiatives that make the most sense in the long run. It also means really trying to apply global principles of justice and sustainability. We cannot do effective environmental work without taking up the roles of race, class, gender, power, The Green Path continued from page 49