Yesterday, Allie wrote about the problem of keeping hydrated while traveling. Not realizing she could carry her Kleen Kanteen through security, she ended up purchasing bottled water. And apparently, she is far from alone. A couple of days ago, USA Today published an article about the environmental issues around bottled water production and waste that begins with the author’s troubles at the airport.
Last night, I encountered this dilemma in a very unexpected place: a meditation hall. My friend Nancy and I went to sit with and hear a talk by teacher Pamela Wilson, given at a Unitarian Church in Berkeley. I’d had a stressful cab ride over and was happy to sit and relax into the moment, take a breath, and slowly open my eyes as Wilson began to speak with the audience. Her voice was calm and serene.
And then… oh my god!
She pull out a disposable plastic water bottle and…
holy crap! drank from it!!!!
What do you do when reality is right up in your face like that? I talked to myself (silently) saying, “Self, it’s okay. She must have a good reason. I’m sure she has a good reason. She must not have had any choice. Oh, but Self, of course she had a choice. She’s a meditation teacher. She’s supposed to be enlightened. So how can she be doing this? Shhhh! Listen, she’s saying something. What’s that? Words? But… but… but… plastic water bottle! Plastic water bottle! Plastic water bottle!
PLASTIC WATER BOTTLE!!!!!”
It was a great practice, actually. My plastic practice. Because this is the world we live in. And because the point of Pamela’s whole talk was about welcoming the voices that we hear in our heads, not shutting them up, but honoring reality in all its forms and in all the ways that it presents itself to us.
So, I honored the reality that was screaming in my left ear. (Don’t know why my internal voice seemed to be coming from the left side. It just did.) And when I had a chance to ask a question, I took the microphone and smiled and gave voice to the little freak screaming “Plastic water bottle! Plastic water bottle!” except the voice I used to describe it to the group was much softer and calmer than the one in my head.
As soon as the words were out, I felt better. And Pamela Wilson laughed and looked at the bottle and said, “Oh I know! Isn’t it awful?” And she admitted how she had been traveling and was really thirsty and didn’t have anything to drink and needed water, and oh how good this water tasted, and yet still, the plastic will last forever, except that she will recycle it. And the whole time, we were smiling and connecting on this genuine heart level.
I don’t know what happened to that bottle afterwards. But I do know that once I honored the screaming in my head by giving it loving attention, it transformed into something that could actually be a positive force in the world. Both the message and the medium were one.
I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m realizing all the time how important it is to forgive each other and ourselves as we work to protect the planet and make the world a better place. Because really, the world is already perfect. Isn’t it?