For the first time in the history of human civilization, we have reached a point where four distinct “mega-factors” are altering our planet’s ability to sustain life. These powerful mega-factors, affecting all human activity, are:
The combined effect of these four interrelated mega-factors has damaged our fragile planet. This damage is now posing a threat to many forms of life on Earth – including, ironically, human life.
Furthermore, human population-levels in the world today have already crossed the 7.83 billion mark. This unprecedented increase has occurred in just the past 170 years, compared to the last 300,000 years since human ancestors have been on earth! Our burgeoning population is placing extraordinary pressures on our lands and oceans, which have to be ‘flogged’ to produce additional food for feeding the highest number of people that have our planet has ever had at the same time. As a consequence of this, our oceans are being over-exploited for fish, kelp and other edible resources. The land, in turn, is being dumped with toxic chemicals; while water is drawn from deep aquifers to ensure higher yields of food grains to feed billions of additional mouths.
The visible consequences of the damage to our environment are already apparent. We are experiencing one of the world’s severest pandemics in over a century. Across the globe there’s evidence of the increasing severity of weather conditions.The frequency of droughts and famines has increased. The diminishing availability of fresh water sources, shrinking perennial glaciers, the increasing load of toxic chemicals and plastics found in lakes, aquifers and in farmlands – that have also been ruined from an overuse of pesticides and weed-killers – are well-documented. These cataclysmic changes in our only abode – planet Earth – is forcing people to leave their homes in search of more sustainable livelihoods. The influx of people into regions already populated, causes tensions and friction. A clamour for a greater share of resources results in violent conflict.
These examples, show that in our quest for a better quality of life, we have not only wantonly exploited nature, way beyond earth’s capacity to “recharge” itself, but have also brought suffering upon millions of people – especially the ones who depended on traditional methods of agriculture, fishing, and using farm animals, to eke out a livelihood. We are therefore, depriving all such people, and even generations yet unborn, of the ability to live a healthy and wholesome life.
Many people, who live in urbanized cities, are caught up in jobs that give them little joy, and often, no sense of purpose. The pandemic, and the lockdowns, which made it possible for some people to work from home, has resulted in people getting over-worked because the distinction between work and home has become blurred. Closing work at the end of the day is not happening anymore, making the work-hours longer, tiresome and stressful. As a wit said recently: “We no longer work from home; we sleep at work.”
For semi-skilled workers, who found themselves out of work due to the lockdowns, the travail has been even greater. Many returned back to their villages, unsure of how they would sustain themselves and their families.
Why are we even mentioning all these points? Our intention is not to paint a picture of hopelessness and despair. Our intention is to drive home the point that if we together wish to make a change in the trajectory of human-development, we have to consciously change our approach to life itself, and to the manner in which we look at, and relate with, all others.
A fundamental truth about existence is that all of life is interconnected. Our thoughts, which are precursors toour actions, create the conditions which manifest in our lives. The outcomes that we are currently witnessing,are the results of our collective thoughts and actions. We have sown the thought-seeds of our current “reality”, and are simply harvesting what we have all sown.
Fortunately, changing the way we think about life and our interconnectedness with one another, and with other living beings, including flora and fauna, can have profound and far-reaching impact on our own lives.As Dr. Wayne Dyer has wisely said:When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.
What, then, do we need to change in our thinking and in the way we relate to others, if we wish to alter the trajectory that we are on?
We suggest a two-pronged change. The first: becoming constantly aware of the fact that we are an integral part of life itself; and demonstrating this fact by constantly appreciating it, and expressing our gratitude to life for the invaluable bounties that are all provided to us in abundance, for free! Water, food, oxygen (that our country was till recently unable to provide to Covid patients in the desired quantities), sunshine, and greenery,are all gifts to us! We need to be constantly aware of these gifts and show our gratitude.
The second aspect of our mind-change is to relate to one another with kindness and compassion.
These are powerful mental orientations, that can make a profound difference to the world.
Why do you think there are people who are ever-complaining? This might surprise you, but people who are in the habit of finding fault and being peevish, are simply living out a bad habit! They complain because they have not learned to be mindful of the many things in life that are uplifting and joyful. They are completely unaware that while there could be some things which are not the way they expect them to be, there are thousands of other things that can be appreciated for the way they are. This also includes the many things that we already have, but rarely notice. Our health, for instance. Or the fact that we have food to eat, clean water to drink, a home to live in, and friends and family to share our joys and sorrows with. When we complain, we are mentally blocking the goodness of life from our minds. Conversely, by paying grateful attention to the things that we have, we become aware of them, and something magical happens. We begin to see things differently. We become appreciative.
This shift, from being completely unaware of the abundant blessings we have tonoticing things to appreciate and be grateful for, is the starting point for breaking the habit of grumbling and judging all the time. We also learn how to express gratitude for whatever blessings we have. Hence, a continuous emphasis on Awareness, Appreciation and Gratitude, – or AAG for brevity – can make a big difference to one’s life. Incidentally, AAG in Hindustani stands for fire! So, we get a mnemonic: the only way in which we can change our collective trajectory is by burning our old habits in the fire of awareness, appreciation and gratitude!
Most of the challenges and problems that humanity needs to address, can be resolved with the technologies, and the skills and capabilities that we currently possess. But an essential ingredient -the secret sauce – that would bring the right talent together, is for people from diverse disciplines and regions of the world to come together, and have respectful and open hearted conversations. It is such generative conversations that encourage and yield collaboration. Collaboration, and working together with diverse people, in turn is so essential for problem-solving and innovation.
Furthermore, if we can divert precious resources spent on armaments and war, towards creating a world where every child is educated, has clean drinking water to drink, and has access to nutritious food and health care, we would definitely be on the way to manifesting a better world for all.
Yet, in all this the most difficult point of all is to get diverse people to talk to one another! This is where kindness and compassion play a key role.
As humans, we have the habit of looking at those who are different from us with suspicion. We allow irrational prejudices to harden, and that makes us intolerant. Meaningful conversations and collaboration become difficult.
Kindness stems from the understanding that irrespective of how differently we might look, or speak; or how varied the ways in which we dress up, we are all – without exception – a part of one single, undivided life. As humans we also have the same needs. We all thrive on love, forgiveness, peace, and like to do meaningful work. Cultivating kindness, is our way of acknowledging this.
With a heart full of kindness, when we listen to others without judgement, and accept how they feel, and empathise with their situation, we exhibit compassion. Together, kindness and compassion can heal the world, and bring humanity together – with renewed motivation – to resolve even our most intractable concerns.
As you would have noticed, awareness, appreciation, gratitude, as well as kindness and compassion, are all states that emanate from our own minds. Which is why some of the wisest, spiritual souls in Kashmir, like Lalleshwari (Lalla Dyed) and Nunde-Reshi (Sheikh Nuruddin Wali sahib) have said that the fastest route to understanding the Divine, is to expand and purify our own minds. Simultaneously, we need to remove from our minds the constrictions and blemishes that limit the magnificent fullness and celebration of Life, that the Most High has intended for each one of us!
Arun Wakhlu and Bharat Wakhlu are world-renowned Leadership Consultants and Business professionals, who are also the founders of the Foundation for Peace and Compassionate Leadership (fpacl.com)