When I was a little girl, my Great Aunt Lu took care of my brother and me. She was well into her 70s yet she ran circles around the two of us. She had a knowing, wisdom, and groundedness beyond the reach of and yet intriguing to her young charges.
Aunt Lu was quite aware of a human tendency in our culture to find fault in others, to see where someone else “should” do something different. She helped us see one more piece of the puzzle and it was a big one. “Remember, when you point a finger at someone else, you have 3 fingers pointing at yourself.” I would look at her seasoned hand with her clipped off middle finger and then my own stubby childhood hand. Pointing that index finger into the world left three fingers pointing at me. Sure enough she was right.
I have chewed on this little teaching for 5 decades. Over the years, it has become a “theme”, “a mantra” for my life. Rather than focusing on the other, I question: “What do I need to do?” As I look at the world around me, it is easy to see things that are wrong. Very wrong. In my earlier years, I would reflect at length about what others should do. As the years went on, I began to conclude the only person upon whom I had any control was me.
In the mid nineties, I noted many people (including my family and me) knew something was wrong, but seemed quite stuck in our ability to do anything about it. It was someone else’s fault after all, while we sat complacently in a space of not doing much about it themselves. After all, what could one person do to make a dent in some huge problems?
One more piece of the puzzle emerged as I examined those 3 fingers pointing their way to the heart of me. Deep inside, we each know we have to do something. We just need to listen to that inner voice, which for me became the knowing of the heart. The closer we are to the wishes of our hearts, the more peaceful our actions become in the world. We become centered and grounded in what we are supposed to do.
As the years have unfolded, I note some distinct changes in myself, my family, and a host of nameless others. Instead of pushing the solution off upon another, we are listening to that inner voice and taking charge of our own aspects of the problem. “I just have to do something.” “What kind of world am I leaving to the kids?” “I want to do the least damage to the Earth.” Those myriads of others, my family and I are checking out of a material culture. We are buying organic, buying local and growing more of our own food. I see people leaving empty jobs that pay big bucks for fulfilling work that pays less but rewards more. We are taking on more energy efficient practices. More and more are volunteering. We are recycling because we cannot stand sending something unnecessarily to the landfill. Some are helping at soup kitchens or wherever they are needed. We have reduced holiday giving; this year we gave money to the local soup kitchen as a prayer “that all may eat.” I heard recently of two young people on the Colorado Front Range who gave up their cars. (I am sure the air and all who breathe it are grateful.) Many are turning off television; we turned off ours in 1996. We moved back to our home county after 38 years of being away. Many such wanderers are finding their way home.
This little missive honors those people who are on their own journeys of the heart, actively showing they care about the world around them. It honors what we are doing: them, my family and me. It isn’t easy and our practice isn’t perfect. We are dropping out of a me-centered world and opening our hearts to a world future generations will be quite proud of. It’s a quiet revolution tucked away from the glaring lights and blaring sounds of that outer world. Aunt Lu knew we could do it. We are doing these very essential things of our time just as we were intended.