“The last thing the world needs is our despair… if we want to be agents of change we need to cultivate qualities of hope, understanding, happiness and love”.
These are the words of Ha Vinh Tho, one of the teachers at a retreat I recently attended in Chandolin, Switzerland. The retreat was called Transformation and Healing: Ancient Wisdom for a New World, and explored how we can bring more hope and positive action to these changing times we live in.
There can be little doubt that the world is shifting around us in fundamental ways. There have been many political, economic and ecological crises in recent years. All signs that something is not working; that we cannot go on this way.
And yet we do. We continue along the same path, aware that death and destruction exist on the margins of society, and also painfully aware that the margins are shifting, growing, and have long in fact contained the hidden majority of living beings on this beautiful planet.
We know we need change, and yet deeper change has thus far evaded us. Why?
According to the wise teachers I heard from in Chandolin it is because we need to create a shift on a deeper level. It is not enough to tinker with small changes on the outskirts of the material world; instead we need outer change powered by a fundamental shift in our deeper consciousness.
This means a change of mind. Not a simple shift from one perspective to another, but a deeper look into the “poisons” in our own consciousness: ignorance, hatred, fear, attachment, greed, pride and jealousy. Although the retreat was primarily based on Buddhist teachings, the perspective shared has a wider relevance. There are many leading researchers now pointing to the value of traditionally Buddhist practices, such as mindfulness and compassion, for fostering wider social change.
Negative mindsets can be transformed if we stop running away from them, into the many distractions created by our current system. If we can sit with pain and suffering mindfully – our own and others’ – then there is a stronger potential to transform it in to loving kindness and compassionate action.
Of course, this is easier said than done. As Ha Vinh Tho highlighted at the retreat in Chandolin, we live in an economic system built on greed for material distractions, which promotes the necessity for competition as a weapon against perceived scarcity. Yet this scarcity is not created naturally, but by design.
“The goal of making profit is nonsense; the goal of all economic activity should be to serve needs”, argued Tho. This brings to mind Mahatma Gandhi’s famous words: “the world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed”.
At Chandolin we were encouraged to imagine an economy and society based on abundance, and the generosity which might result from this shift in perspective. There are already lots of existing examples of this – such as the Share Shed, Karma Kitchen, and, at a more systemic level, Gross National Happiness. These examples (and there are many more not listed) are small seeds showing the potential of a new way of being with each other in the world, and they should be watered and encouraged to grow.
The retreat in Chandolin was a very deep experience for me. I value the I lessons learned on the interdependence of inner and outer change; the connection between creating more joyful lives for ourselves and a kinder society as a whole. I know I have lots left to learn and I don’t want to oversimplify the truth of interdependence, but I do want to live in a way which embraces it.
Share your comments:
- I’m new to having a personal blog, so firstly thanks for taking the time to read these words! Please leave a comment if you’d like – and feel free to share your favourite examples of projects based on an approach of generosity and abundance, too. Thank you! 🙂
Read more posts like this:
- Can happiness change the world? Three lessons from Bhutan
- Can mindfulness change the world? Daniel Goleman event review
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- Thank you to my lovely friend Mercia Moseley for the photo used in this post and a few others on this blog too (including the header image and the photo on the About page).