I was listening to a teaching by Pema Chödrön where she was describing the impact of behaviour on those around us, and she used the word pollution. She encouraged students not to add to the pollution in the world by getting sucked in to, or hooked by, negative thoughts; she said this only adds to the global problem of suffering. It struck me how often the atmosphere is polluted without realising it, not just through disposing of physical waste irresponsibly, but through people dumping their emotions on others and making decisions (conscious or otherwise) to behave badly. (So much of how we think and behave is automatic, which is why learning how to break the cycle (through techniques like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) can literally change the world we live in).
Take care of your world. Take care of your mind. Pema Chödrön.
I started to research pollution and, as you’d expect, found articles about the types of things you see in the news: noise pollution, air pollution, light pollution and others, which contaminate our environment and are unhealthy, if not dangerous, for us. I also read more about “personal pollution”, something we may do to contaminate our own body and lifestyle – things like smoking, drinking, unhealthy habits and the way we talk to ourselves.
What affect does behaviour have on the world around us and is being ego-friendly (rather than eco-friendly) what’s really destroying the environment?
The mind uses the past as a reference point, which affects decisions we make in the here and now.
In modern day parlance if we describe someone as having “too much ego” we may consider them to be self-absorbed or self-centred; students often say to me that to be concerned with your own well-being is self-indulgent. But whilst the ego may be part of who we are – and taking care of who we are is important – the ego can trick us in to believing any number of things about ourselves and other people. The mind uses the past as a reference point, which affects decisions we make in the here and now. How we think has an effect on our self-esteem and how we communicate; it affects our personal identity, how we view ourselves (good or bad) and our place and value in the world. If we fall in to a place of consistently (and unhelpfully) judging ourselves and others, we’re being too ego-friendly and falling in to ego-traps.
Why do people behave this way?
Following Brexit in the UK, a number of comments were published online which could fall in to the category of toxic, the impact of which was undoubtedly polluting the environment. There was national outrage: people became high and hooked in to debate about who was ‘right‘ and who was ‘wrong‘. Friends verbally abused each other, families fell out and people were judged whichever way they voted, with some suggesting anyone who voted ‘remain‘ was a snob and anyone that voted ‘leave‘ was uneducated. This type of debate was neither helpful or healthy for the individuals concerned or the environment as a whole. The same thing is currently happening with the Trump/Clinton debate as I write.
The root cause for many of these comments may have been fear-based, about what may lie ahead or a desire to control the future, even though that future is unknown. Fear is a natural response, as is anger, but the impact associated with negative behaviour is destructive and far reaching.
So what can we do about it?
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