Beyond optimism and pessimism the Buddha taught possibilism. You say, “Possibilism, what are you talking about, Mark?” What I’m talking about is that no matter how hopeless anyone feels, one can connect with an inner core of life energy, vibrancy, the source of life affirming change. It’s always there within reach. Possibilism! That’s the Buddha Way!
Likewise, no matter how imprisoned anyone feels, one need not be paralyzed with fear or mired in negativity or apathy. We are not stuck forever with the habits of thought or action that inhabit us now.
We Can Change
I’ll suggest one down-to-earth example of dramatic change from my own life. I quit smoking in 2003. That was an extremely hard change to make. How hard was it? I started trying to quit smoking in 1988. That is, I tried to quit for fifteen-years. Smoking involved a lot of suffering. So did quitting. Yet, now I’m free of the habit and have been for fifteen-years.
That’s The Buddha Way!
“Behold suffering,” the Buddha said, “all suffering has a cause. And, since it all has a cause, it’s workable, changeable, reducible, eliminable.” The Buddha’s possibilism says, “ I changed. You can change. Our relationships to each other and to the world can change… for the better!”
I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.
~ Henry David Thoreau
Consequently, no matter how unrealistic what I’ saying might feel, we are not stuck with our anger, our victimhood, or the loneliness we may be experiencing now. What’s more, we are not stuck with the environmental pollution of every kind that’s multiplying all around us, or with the hopelessness that seems to hover around our hearts when we see or read about it. We can change the way we live.
In my 2018 New Years post, I wrote about Zen and Buddhism’s commitment to what many people are calling the minimalist movement or the movement for simple living. In that post I stressed that Zen always has asked us to live mindfully, appreciatively, and sustainably in tune with the welfare of others. It asks us to mindfully live and act in ways that bring health to the natural world. And yes, it’s possible to do this, even in these crazy times. Millions of people are exploring and discovering this truth today.
Every aspect of our lives is, in a sense, a vote for the kind of world we want to live in. ~Frances Moore Lappe
I also wrote about one new concrete harm reduction project I’m intent on working for in 2018. This project is, in the spirit of the Buddha’s possibilism, to dramatically reduce the amount of plastic I buy, carry home, or end up throwing away in 2018.
If I can make progress on this, even though my little contribution will be infinitesimally small, this small change will be good for me and you and the environment. Doing this is a way for me to vote for the kind of world I want to live in.
Correspondingly, taking even very small positive actions lifts my spirit. This is one big reason why in Zen we vow to do good. It’s always good to do good. And very often it feels good, too. It’s enlivening. Inspiring. So, no matter what’s happening, no matter how we feel, we try to live up to our vow to do good. This is just one example of the Buddha’s life changing possibilism. No matter… just do good.
How’s my project going? As you might imagine, it’s not easy to reduce the amount of plastic I bring home from the grocery store. And, it’s hard to avoid the plastic that gets passed to me with meals at some restaurants.
Ever Mindful of Intention
So, I have to be ever mindful of my intention to cut out plastic. Otherwise, I end up with another plastic bottle in my hand, or carrying home groceries in a single use plastic bag, or throwing away another set of plastic eating utensils after a meal. It’s tough.
Nevertheless, I’m happy to say I’ve made some progress. For example, I don’t put my fruit and vegetables in those thin plastic bags in the produce department anymore. What’s more, I try to use my own reusable bags at the checkout every time. When I forget my own bag I ask for paper.
Water packaged in plastic is out. A thing of the past.
Moreover, I’ve ordered a stainless steel, folding spork to carry with me so I don’t have to use the plastic stuff at restaurants. You can get one here: lifewithoutplastic.com/store/eating/utensils-and-straws.html
Getting In Harmony With The Buddha’s Possibilism
Furthermore, I’m trying to get off zip-lock storage bags and plastic wrap. I’m replacing that stuff with non-plastic, biodegradable, reusable, compostable food wrap from a Canadian company called etee. I’ll give you a report on how the eco-friendly wrap works out. Here’s a link: shopetee.com/pages/reusable-food-wrap-offer
Getting more in harmony with the Buddha’s possibilism and Zen’s minimalist and eco-friendly ethos really feels good to me. Writing to you about it feels great, too.
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I hope you have a wonderful week!