Effectively, whether we are aware of it or not, everything we think, say and do has an effect on everyone and everything else: our thoughts and actions can lead to chaos and destruction as easily as they can to healing and friendship. This means we have enormous resources within to us.
“Do not make the mistake of thinking you are a powerless individual in a vast world. You are armed with three great powers: the power of the body—the source of all action; the power of speech—the source of all expression; and the power of the mind—the source of all thought,” writes Tai Situ Rinpoche.
Our actions have the most obvious impact. The destructive results of believing that whatever we do has no bearing on anyone or anything else can be seen throughout our natural world as every action we take, even the smallest, has a consequence. In southern Egypt we traveled by truck into the desert. From where the truck left us, we hiked far up a dry riverbed into silence and beauty and rubbish: piles of polystyrene and plastic dumped in the middle of nowhere. On an island in Greece, we found large bags of garbage washed ashore that had been tipped into the sea by passing boats. While in the exotic paradise of Sri Lanka, Deb was happily swimming in the beautiful Unawatuna Bay when human feces floated past her.
“We are always looking for gratification and this can lead to all sorts of problems. For instance, we don’t like to scrub and scrape our cooking pots so we invented Teflon and nonstick pans. But now toxic perchlor fluoride from Teflon manufacturing can be found in the umbilical cord blood of 98% of newborns. Everything exists in relationship,” says author Marc Ian Barasch.
Ed was walking down a fancy shopping street in London when a girl in front of him finished drinking a can of soda and threw the empty can on the ground. “I picked it up and handed it back to her, asking ‘Would you throw this on the floor in your home?’ She looked at me like I was crazy.” But our neighborhood is our shared home, our environment our shared garden. Picking up rubbish is not just an act of kindness to the street but so we don’t clog our rivers or seas; fighting to save the rainforests is not just so the trees survive but that we may breathe more easily.
The impact of our words may be less obvious than our actions, but they are just as powerful. Words are heard and felt; they reverberate throughout our system, affecting both those who say them and those who hear them. How we express ourselves can cause either conflict or joy, it can start wars or mend hearts. Words come and go and others may soon forget what we said but they will never forget how we made them feel. The simple act of replacing words that belittle or hurt with ones that encourage and uplift can change our world.
And it’s not what we say but how we say it—we catch more flies with honey than with vinegar! Hurtful words creep under the carpet and constantly remind us they are there, while loving words lift and shake the carpet loose of unwanted feelings. As such, words should not be used lightly, but with consideration and wisdom.
Thoughts may appear private and silent but when used constructively they are equally as powerful. As we think so we become: like a domino effect, our thoughts influence our feelings from which are born words and actions; our thoughts affect our behavior and beliefs, who we care for and who we dismiss. If we think it’s impossible, it’s impossible; if we think it’s possible, then it becomes highly probable. If we are full of judgment, anger or fear, we will be contributing to the problem. And if we let judgment go and become more loving and accepting within ourselves, that is what we give to the world.