This quote from Jane Goodall struck a chord with me. She said,
You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.
There have been times in my life when I’ve turned my eyes away and decided that my choices didn’t really matter in the big scheme of things. Sometimes I convince myself that it doesn’t really matter if I buy water in plastic bottles or don’t send a thank you note or don’t vote in all the elections. There are so many people and the world is so big, what difference can it possibly make if I leave the lights on or don’t write to my senator about the latest injustice? So I throw up my hands and figure it doesn’t matter.
On the other side, there have been times when I have poured myself, dedicated myself, committed myself to what feels like skillful and right action. My choice, for example, to eat a whole food plant-based diet and not to eat meat or factory-farmed eggs is grounded in my understanding of the catastrophic impact of livestock farming on the environment and that meat is unnecessary for good health. I know that the diet I choose is better for the earth, for my body and it’s definitely better for the animals but when I see that well over 90% of Americans eat meat and a lot of it, I feel the utter futility of my choices. Why bother recycling or writing a blog every week or being kind to strangers?
I’m a drop in the ocean. A grain of sand in the desert. Nothing I do or don’t do can possibly make any difference whatsoever.
And yet my body knows this isn’t true. The small choices I make every day to move mindfully, to drink plenty of water, to sleep and breathe and take care of myself does make a difference. Just one week of sitting in a car and not eating / sleeping / hydrating / moving as I usually do showed up in all kinds of discomforts.
My mind knows this isn’t true. The daily choice to meditate even for a few minutes ripples out in how I approach the world and myself.
My heart knows this isn’t true. My intention to connect with people — my family and friends, my students, my co-workers, cashiers and waiters and delivery folks — has a powerful impact on my sense of my community and my place in it.
I am a drop in the ocean and at the same time I am, as the 13th Century Persian poet Rumi said, “[I am] the entire ocean in a drop.”
I know in my bones and breath and heart that I am connected to everything. My choices matter. This is why I set an intention at the beginning of every class. This is why I choose One Word at the beginning of every year. I know I can’t help but have an impact on the world around me. I get to decide the kind of difference I want to make.
IMPORTANT NOTE: All of this is not to say that I’ve got all this figured out and that when I set an intention I always do it all the time. In fact, that’s absolutely not the case and that’s actually a great thing. We’ll dance with that, my friends, next week.