Friday, April 23, 2010

5 Ways to celebrate Earth Day

Yesterday I heard on the radio that it was Earth Day. Naturally, all kinds of things were said about the environment - we got tips how to be more eco-friendly and a general invitation to be mindful about our stewardship of the resources be have at our disposal (pardon the pun!).

After the radio show was over, somehow I was not done with the topic of Earth Day. All day I had this nagging feeling that there was another significance to Earth Day, other than the ecological side. It felt that there was another elusive truth hidden here, and a significant perspective that wanted to be uncovered. Then, late at night, I picked up the book I am currently re-reading - Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. And there it was. Right in front of me. It was like the page had been screaming at me quietly, all day long. It reads "Unhappiness or negativity is a disease on our planet. What pollution is on the outer level is negativity on the inner." It is no wonder the world is not ecologically responsible - we have a hard time managing own inner messes, so we are not going to be brilliant at managing the outer ones.

The interesting thing is that while listening to that morning radio program I was on my way to Private Information Court here in Toronto, where I preview cases and assess them for suitability for mediation. Private Information Court (PIC) deals with private citizen prosecutions that involve a criminal charge, usually a "light" charge, as most cases involve domestic disputes, neighborhood or workplace conflicts. One of the crown attorneys at this court is a huge believer in mediation as a conflict resolution tool, and she addresses her audience every time pointing to the need for each party to be willing to speak to one another and communicate, especially when there is an ongoing relationship. She points out that proper communication, where each sides gets to really understand the other, will in most cases lead to a resolution that both parties are willing to abide by. She makes it clear that the courts' time is designated to address serious charges and serious victims - lighter issues should be resolved by communication between parties themselves until a resolution is found.

Tragically, I am finding that most people are ill equipped to have these difficult conversations without help from a facilitator. As soon as conflict arises, there is a helplessness that sets in. This helplessness can translate into anger and possibly violence, withdrawal, frustration or long-term bitterness. All of this of course contributes to the overall unhappiness and negativity that Tolle talks about. We simply do not learn to use conflict resolution tools, either at home or in school. Apart from the communication skill set, which anyone can learn, I find that what is lacking is a mindset that is truly curious as to why the other party insists on their position. I find that there is almost a glee with which individuals will figuratively stomp their feet, insisting on the "rightness" of their position, and then literally insist on their day in court.

What is it that has us be so negative and stubborn? What is it that we can clean up inside, so that we are more open to hear another person's truth? Truth is, we literally carry that "garbage" around with us, we dish it out to others, and we nurture it with our thinking - so at best, we end up harping on disasters and negative topics all day long, and at worst all this negativity (our own and that of others) can make our bodies sick.

So, What might we do between now and the next Earth Day to clean our internal "house?" Here are some thoughts:
- Who are you in conflict with currently? Given that their position makes perfect sense to them, can you figure out how might that be? Try on their shoes and perspective for a moment. You don't have to agree with it!
- Notice your thoughts when they turn negative. As soon as you notice, focus on your breathing for 2 or 3 breaths. Notice how this breaks the thinking pattern. Then decide consciously whether you wish to return to that thinking or head somewhere better.
- Decide one day that you will have a good day and that you are only expecting good things from everyone you meet. Naive? Test the theory and see for yourself!

Happy and peaceful belated Earth Day to all!

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