This post was originally published to my email list on March 25, 2014. (Edited and revised for the blog.)
I’ve been thinking a lot about a video I recently watched on the topic of why some people take massive action and others don’t.
In it, Tony Robbins shares a simple diagram that fascinates and intrigues me — and that I find powerful and useful.
And as I sat with these concepts I remembered an article I wrote, originally published to my list in September 2009 (and re-posted to this blog in February 2012), called “Mind Matters Most and You Reap What You Sow,” that also relates directly to this video.
I’ve updated the article and included it below, along with a link to the video. (Disclaimer: I don’t agree with every opinion, point of view, or lifestyle choice of the people in the video.)
I’m sharing these with you because I think there’s something remarkable here — both in the video and the article — for those of us committed to positive change.
Would you leave me a comment there telling me what comes up for you when you read and/or watch? I’d love to be in conversation.
Mind Matters Most and You Reap What You Sow
Average reading time: less than 3 minutes
“Become the change you want to see in the world.”
— Mahatma Gandhi
If you’re not getting the results you want — in your relationships or in your social change efforts — be intentional while planting seeds at the level of mind.
Inspired by S.N. Goenka
Part 1: Mind Matters Most
In our culture there is a general understanding that physical action has the most importance, verbal action has some importance, and mental action has virtually no importance.
My experience is otherwise, and this relates especially to the work that we do in trying to make the world a better place than we found it.
In fact, verbal and physical actions are nothing but indicators of the level of intensity of what I’m calling “mental action.”
Two examples to illustrate my point:
Suppose I see someone with whom I am angry & upset — someone I would consider my enemy. First my mental action starts: my upset and anger come to the surface. I begin thinking, You jerk! You had no right to do what you did. You are so wrong!, etc. This begins just in my mind.
If the intensity increases, only then will I say something. I’ll insult them, perhaps call them a name, or criticize or blame them.
If the intensity reaches a certain point, only then will I perform a physical action: I try to beat them up, physically hurt them, try to get them in trouble in some way, or worse.
(If you are a student of NVC, you’ll realize how intense my need for empathy is at this point, and how useful it might have been to address that earlier.)
I see someone in a very downcast or dismal condition, someone really down-and-out; perhaps it’s someone who is homeless and struggling with addiction, or perhaps it is a different circumstance.
My mental action starts: Compassion; I hope things work out for you; May you not only be given fish, but learn how to fish and be relieved of your suffering; May you find and develop the internal resources to help yourself, but also May we effect the structural changes necessary in society to reduce homelessness, and help lift people out of poverty.
If the internal intensity of my compassion and care increases, then I say something: some kind words, words of encouragement; I engage and connect in some way (vocal action).
Only after the intensity in mind reaches a certain point will I actually do something on the physical level: I may give them some food, or some money, or I’ll give them a ride to where they need to go, or I’ll bring them home so they can use my shower, something, but now at the physical level.
Vocal and physical actions are only “yardsticks” or indicators of the intensity of what is already happening in my mind and heart.
Part 2: You Reap What You Sow
Some people call it Karma, some people call it the law of cause-and-effect. Or as some might say, “plant a ‘tater, get a ‘tater.” It doesn’t matter to me what you call it. The fact is, that throughout our lives we want positive harvests, but we so often fail to be mindful while planting the seeds.
We sow seeds of fear, anger, and bitterness, and yet we want to be happy, or we want people to treat us with more respect, consideration and caring.
If I plant poisonous baneberry I will not harvest sweet blueberries, no matter how much I blame my spouse, the system, the man, the patriarchy, my boss, or the industrial growth society. If I want to harvest sweet blueberries, I need to be intentional while planting.
And what is the seed I’m planting? Is it my physical, vocal, or mental actions? This was exactly my point in part 1. Our physical and vocal actions are only an indicator of the intensity of our mental actions. This is why the saints, sages, shamans, and spiritual leaders have always said: Know thyself!
This is crucial in our work to make the world a better place. As long as our efforts are characterized by a lack of consciousness regarding our deepest intentions and motivations, we may not be very pleased with the results! Our work to create positive change in the world is not separate from our work to improve ourselves as human beings.
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