I am reading a wonderful book by Zoe Weil called Most Good Least Harm. The premise is obvious but the content is not. What I have taken away from it so far is that there are so many ways to do good in this world. We all have a composite image of a “do gooder” in our heads. The characteristics of this person probably resemble what we have been told a good person does by family, media, or community. However, the idea is not to be just this one thing, but to be who you want to be and, more importantly, do what brings you joy.
Zoe talks about living your epitaph (yes, she is talking about what you would like on your gravestone, or how you would like to be remembered). What struck me is how I have never really thought about that. How would I like to be remembered? How would you like to be remembered? It is an interesting question that leads to a very challenging exploration of dharma, or your path. Not to be confused with fate, dharma is staying true to what you believe is right, sometimes called right action.
From “Living Your Epitaph”
‘Imagine that you are very old, approaching the end of your life. You are sitting on a park bench, remembering a time when we humans killed and exploited one another, despoiled our planet, abused animals, and allowed our neighbors around the world to go hungry. While you are breathing the clean air on our now safe and healthy planet, and thinking about that dark period from your past, a child comes up to you. This child has learned about this dangerous destructive time in history class and asks you, ‘What role did you play in helping to bring about the world we have today?’ What will you tell this child?”
Each day, you have the choice to do less harm and more good. Every day of your life you are contributing to the future of every creature on this planet and the planet itself. What an incredible responsibility, but also what a thrilling thought. The thought that we each actually have power to make something wonderful happen! Most of the time I am truly a consummate optimist, but optimism won’t make things happen. What we each need is to be empowered with joy.
I am asked on many occasions for advice on life and work. In yoga, we talk a lot about the energetic centers of the body called the chakras. The chakras are said to be to be connected to certain points of physical, emotional, and spiritual development. At the base of the chakras are mula chakra and swadistana chakra. These 2 chakras are connected with survival and trust. Without food on the table or a roof over your heard you cannot begin to develop as a community builder and joyous action taker. The point is, once your basic needs are met, the next step in spiritual development is to start taking care of others in some way. This does not need to be in any particular form, but we all should be thinking about our impact on the world around us. In my mind, this is not just a choice we make but a responsibility that all of us with warm houses, and plenty of food and clothing have to the planet and to each other. The cool thing is that there are so many options. Just imagine what would happen if each one of us just did one thing that made things better and continued it for the rest of our lives. Imagine that then do it!