Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Yoga Means You Do It

I have been in the beautiful Philippines for the past few days. Comprised of over 7,000 islands and home to many different ethnic groups and non-human animal species, the Philippines is a beautiful place. I am currently on an small island called Boracay south of Manila. I flew in via a small plane into another island called Caticlan. From there you take what is called a pump boat another 10 minutes to Boracay. The sight of approaching an island is incredible but this one especially. Sheer cliffs on one side and a huge palm tree lined beach on the other. On the ride over i noticed many signs that said please keep Boracay clean.
I did not grow up with much access to the beach so i was excited to spend some time there. The water so blue and warm it was as if from a movie. As i walked down the beach i began to notice small pieces of trash, just a few at first but the more i started to look the more i saw it. Everywhere there was steyrafoam, plactic cups, candy wrappers and empty tissue packages. As I was noticing this i was chanting something you may have heard in a Jivamukti class before, Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu and planning out my class for later in the day. I started to think that I would speak to my host about how he should organize a day trip of students to the beach to do some karma yoga and clean for an hour or so. I was thinking about how it would be beautiful to host a retreat here focused on environmental accountability and each day some time would go to, hiking, plant identification and cleaning up the beach.
All these things were going through my mind, how some other people at some other time should go come to where I already was to make a difference; all the while i was chanting. It took a little a while but i finally understood that there were no others and no other time just me and now. How rediculous was it that i would project this onto someone else. I started immediately to pick uo the garbage that i walked by. I was carrying my back-pack which had two pockets on either side for water bottles. I started filling them up. It did not take long, a few steps and they were already full. I would also need to empty my bag so that i cpuld it fill again. Emptying the contents of my pack was the strangest part. People saw me throwing away the strangest and most decrepit things.
I first i felt very self conscious. What were the people thinking when they saw me, did they think i was collecting garbage? Did they think i was crazy or poor or both? It did not take long for that to turn into judgement. Philippinos walked by me asking to take me on a sail boat or a jet ski or zip line as they watched me picking up the garbage that littered the beach on the island they called home. Then of course were the tourist, most of them westerners sprinkled with people from other asian countries many koreans and japanese. Lying on their backs drinking cocktails and smoking cigarettes. I saw them watch me or try not to watch me as perhaps i was picking up something they had walked by or just thrown down themselves.
I was not picking it up for them but for mother nature, for the fish in the sea and the small amount of life left on the beach in the form of crabs or birds. All i could think about was how many fish die from eating plastic. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a mass of plastic and toxic sludge in the Pacific Gyre that is about twice the size of Texas (that is huge) and ranging from a few inches to a few feet deep. The Pacific Gyres (please look it up) western most side is very close to the Philippines. I would look from the signs not to litter and then back to the shore with all the garbage and was perplexed. We do need to stop littering but what we also need is to find ways to deal with the devastation we have already caused.
After a while of feeling frustrated and ashamed to be a human being I realzied i was still chanting. I realized that of course if people really knew how much harm they were doing they would at least think twice before polluting the earth. I thought about what the chant really meant, that all beings regardless of what they do are trying to find happiness, but that their view is focused on the happiness of an individual seperate from the rest of the world. The more i contemplated this the more i saw that i needed to be patient with myself and those around me. We are all doing the best that we can. May my thoughts words and actions contribute in some small and humble way to happiness and wellbeing for all.
I was not able to collect all the garbage (although i am going back today) nor did anyone really seem inspired by what i did; but i was. The beach and the world as a whole is in a state of decline but not because of me, i choose to let my actions come from a place of wanting happiness but not just for me but for as many as possible, even if that means i have spend my two days off picking up trash. Who knows maybe those that saw me or will see me will think about all the garbage they are walking by and choose not to ignore it but instead to take an active part in the world for the happiness of all.

Peace, Love and Vegetables