Living Mindfully

Litter Lout
Litter Lout (Photo credit: Smabs Sputzer)

I think most of us, most of the time, don’t think about what we’re doing. I think we live our lives on inertia, nudged by forces we’re not even aware of in directions whose validity we never question. Most of what we do is done on autopilot, a series of habits we’re not even aware we have. We assume that however we’re doing things right now is the only way it can possibly work. Every day, I look around the world and want to pull my hair out, wondering how people can miss what seems so obvious to me.

How, for instance, did we get brainwashed into thinking we have to buy name brand laundry detergents and bathroom cleaners, when you can make both in less than half an hour from completely natural ingredients–and they work just as well (and sometimes better)?

How can a family half our size, who spends most of their day away from home, generate 2-3 times as much trash as we do?

Why do people sit in parking lots and run their cars for a quarter of an hour at school pickup or the grocery store? Do they not understand how much poison they’re spewing into the air–much less how much money they’re burning? Or do they just not care? Sure, it’s hot–find a shady spot to wait outside the car. It’s inconvenient, but it’s only an inconvenience.

What are people thinking when they toss fast food bags, plastic bottles, and cigarette butts out their car windows? I mean really–what are they thinking? Where do they think all that trash is going to end up?

Why do people who see the wisdom of a chemical-free diet not recognize the inherent philosophical conflict of using pharmaceuticals to shut down their reproductive systems, as if that is the only, or even the best, way to plan families?

These sorts of frustrations underscore how very differently I live than most of the people in America. It’s tempting–very tempting–for me to wag my finger self-righteously at everyone else. But I know I’m guilty, too. Driving my kids to their three separate schools, with their three separate schedules, causes me to put 40 miles on my van every Tuesday, even though none of the schools are more than 5 miles from my house. Nobody’s forcing me to put Nicholas in preschool. And if I care enough, I can try to find someone to carpool with.

How often do we take time to look critically at our own lives and identify places that could or should be adjusted? We work very hard to protect the status quo, because we can’t imagine what we would do if we had to change our habits. And yet things happen, and we do have to change. The car breaks down, and you figure out how to make do without it. Prices go up, and you adjust your purchasing habits accordingly. We always think we can’t change, but we can. We just don’t think.

I’ve been reciting this like a mantra lately: doing religious writing is like a nonstop examination of conscience. And I’m so thankful. I’m never, ever comfortable–I’m always squirming–but it means I’m also living mindfully. And that has to be a good thing.

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