Can one person make a difference?

Wooden panel on Fife Coastal Path

I really liked this phrase etched into a wooden panel on Fife’s coastal path (just by Dalgety Bay) following a recent mindful walk there. It made me think of the difference that just one person can do to make a place beautiful.

In mindfulness, we start with ourselves. How can we start anywhere else? Through the practice, I’ve seen clearly what’s been in my mind, what’s made me my own ‘unique blend’ of life, and I see that my life has gone through lots of suffering: I’ve had illnesses, I’ve been mentally depressed, I’ve gone through anxious times, I’ve had relationship break-ups and numerous other human interactions that have wounded me or caused me pain. These, have, over the years, manifested in me as anger, frustration, shyness, nervousness, anxiety, sadness, loneliness…you name it, I’ve had it.

With the wonder that is mindfulness, all of these things are treated without judgment. So, whatever I’ve endured, whatever I’ve done, I can wipe the slate clean and look at how I’m doing right now. In fact, every time I get challenged or feel an emotion, I look at it with the light of mindfulness, bathing each challenge/feeling with loving-kindness for myself. Once I accept these things are part of me, have been part of me, and are continuing to be a part of me, then I start to change.

No longer beating myself up, or judging what comes, I let it be, give it warm affection and it passes (as does everything). In doing so, I transform my mind from a head filled with suffering, hurt, anguish etc. (all related to thoughts and memories from the past that no longer exist except in the mind/body) to simply being with what is happening now. My mind starts to ease its thinking, its patterns, its holding on to the past, its judgments. Freedom starts to coalesce and form. This is truly beautiful, and joy ensues as a result.

Then, because I’m in more a place of joy, a place of stillness and calmness through my mindful practice, I start looking outward, away from just myself, into the situation of other people, events, even the planet.

Yesterday, I saw thousands upon thousand of people, young and old alike, take to the streets to demonstrate about the Climate Emergency we’re all facing, and the whole thing gave me huge hope for the future: that we’re not restricted by our own, internal mind chatter, but that we’re working together as a community to help save ourselves. We are the planet.

So, this echoes for me the path with mindfulness at its core. If we are all joyful, happy humans, letting go of our past suffering, learning from the past to enable peace in the present, then we can have peace in our future. If we were all living in such a way that we took away OUR THINKING of how awful we are, how horrible we are as a species, how corrupt and despicable we all are, but came back to what’s going on now and how we can help solve that, then we will solve it without all the anger, sorrow and blame that we inflict on each other (and especially, ourselves).

And a world without anger, blame and judgment? That is truly, truly beautiful. By making ourselves beautiful, we make the place beautiful too. In this way, one little action we do for ourselves – letting go of an old thought pattern, letting go of blaming someone, letting go of our own internal struggle, is an act of real courage and brings us closer to our real self – a being of love and understanding. That is making a huge difference not only to our own life, but to those in our circles.

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