Day 8 – Mindfulness Year and a Day
I learned something over the last 18 or so hours… something that has changed since my kids were babies. That’s less than a decade ago, just for reference. I realized it when I went to a few different stores looking for the (sold out everywhere) formula my nephew needs.
Stores now have theft-deterrent devices in place to protect… baby formula.
Seeing those plastic barriers in front of baby food stirred a pretty visceral anger within me. It was one of those, “what have we become” moments. Not that I advocate stealing… but we’re at a point in our evolutionary history where it’s okay for an infant to go hungry as long as a multi-billion-dollar enterprise like Fry’s Foods doesn’t lose $18. It’s so vital to protect that purchase… those dollars… those bits in an electronic account somewhere… that it’s worth depriving a baby of nutrients.
What kind of fucked up world have we created?
Now, before I dive too deep into toxic thought land, I’m going to bring this back around to the concept of awareness. We’ve become vastly unaware of the suffering of others, especially when we, ourselves, are doing well.
There’s a video on YouTube produced by Coby Persin where he created a suit of free money. He walked the streets of New York with a sign that said, “Take what you need.” Take a moment and watch this:
If you skipped the three minutes that it takes to watch the video… go back and watch it NOW.
Okay… you ready?
A few years ago, I volunteered at St. Mary’s Food Bank. My team bagged 1500 lbs of pasta over the course of a morning. Half way through our shift, the staff gave us a tour. It was July, and their shelves were extremely low. When we came to a completely empty shelf, our tour guide waved a hand and said, “This is where the baby formula should be,” I lost it. Huge tears streamed down my face. After our shift, I went to Costco, purchased a flat of formula, and took it back to help fill that shelf.
I told myself, “I’m going to do this again.”
I never did… even though I still cry when I think about that shelf.
I’m not wealthy by society’s definition, even though what I have is beyond sufficient. I know that I only lack for what I desire, and not for what I need. That hasn’t always been the case, but still… even in my deepest state of poverty, I really was fine.
In this life, we all struggle. We all face dis-ease and hardship. The deep realization here is that in times of struggle, in our society, we still place our attention on the wrong forms of “wealth.” We strive for this monetary, material prowess, and we call that state of being “wealthy.” But is it?
There’s a Buddhist parable that I’ll share with you that fits here…
The Robber and the Moon
Once, an old monk woke in the night to the sound of a robber in his home. He lit his lamp, donned his tattered robe, and went out to greet the man, who he found hastily shoving what little possessions the monk owned into a sack.
“Greetings,” the Monk said. “Welcome to my home. Would you like a cup of tea?”
The robber stopped and stood still, watching the monk as he put a kettle on the fire.
“Maybe a bite to eat?” the Monk asked, continuing his task.
Still the robber said nothing.
“I can’t let you come into my home and leave empty-handed. I must give you a gift of some kind,” the Monk said.
With that, he removed his robe and handed it to the robber. The robber shoved the robe in his sack, jumped through the window and ran off into the night.
The monk poured his tea and went out his back door. He climbed the hill beside his house and sat in the light of the full moon.
“Pity,” he said, “that my guest couldn’t stay. He’s missing out on the best gift of all… this lovely night, and the beauty of the moon.”
When our lives are filled with material wealth, we often forget what’s really important… our surroundings, the people in our community, the land we walk on, the water we drink, the air we breathe… We’ve attached so much importance to material wealth in this society. We idolize the “rich” to the point where we allow them to commit atrocities, and we just look the other way. They have money… we want to be them, so we forgive their transgressions on society.
We value material wealth above all else… so much so, that we’ll barricade baby formula at the stores while the donation shelves run dry. So much so, that we’ll take dollars off a jacket just because they are there, even though we don’t need them.
And yet, those who know lack can be some of the most generous among us. They understand need more deeply than any of us may ever comprehend.
Today, I’m inviting myself (and you) to determine how you can “give the moon” to those who need it. Whether it’s making a donation to your local food bank or signing up to volunteer with you favorite organization. Remember: if you can’t give money, give time.
The only way to combat what we’ve become as a society… is to mindfully become something else. It starts with me, and it starts with you. It starts with remembering what’s truly important, and letting those ideals lead us to true wealth.