“Practical Sanskrit” just did a post on its Facebook page that discusses the nyaya (maxim) of watering the mango tree. When we water a tree with the intention to honor our ancestors and the earth for its gracious offering, we are simultaneously taking care of the tree and honoring our ancestors, the earth, and the tree. The post continues by inviting us to be more conscious of trees, especially in the city, and to be more engaged in caring for them.
Practical Sanskrit’s post reminded me of a comment on this blog a couple of weeks ago. A commenter on stated that most of the things that I write about doing to live more lightly on the planet require substantial financial means and education. That is true in certain cases–obviously, if I wasn’t blogging, I would not have any need to try and go “carbon neutral” with the blog (although it is no more expensive to have a carbon-neutral web host than one that is not). And as I explained yesterday when chatting with a cabinet-maker who was at the Amicus Green stand at the Green Festival yesterday, with the grant programs, tax credits, and loans available, we can now put solar on our houses with virtually no cash outlay in Maryland and the District (other states may not make it so easy). In that case, one still needs to be a homeowner, but can still do it without significant money to burn.
But most of the things I do to try and live more lightly, while still being comfortable, I learned in the years when I was truly poor (and I didn’t much like having always to worry about how I was going to pay the bills): not having a car; not having cable tv; turning off the water while I soap the dishes and brush my teeth; taking short showers and turning the water off while lathering; keeping the thermostat between 59-63 in the winter and dressing warmly; keeping the thermostat between 78-82 in the summer and dressing and eating lightly; shopping for clothes at the consignment shop; furnishing my house from flea markets, auctions, and neighborhood sales; doing my own sprouts on the kitchen counter; having much of my diet be dried grains and pulses bought in bulk; turning off all the lights in the house except for the one I am using at the moment; bringing my own lunch to work as a regular activity and saving eating out for special occasions; avoiding buying and wearing clothes that require regular dry cleaning.
What is nice about being financially comfortable is I now can do all those things with loving intention, rather than feeling constrained by my lack of material well-being. I am not forced to do them. Tantric yoga, with its emphasis on being in the world, invites us always to act with intention, to make all of living an offering and a recognition of spirit. It is easier to do when we are educated, aware, and yearning for spirit, than when we are forced to do something out of material poverty. It is also easier to do when we do it for love rather than a sense of guilt or obligation. Being able to live with intention, picking and choosing how we live and what we consume, can truly enhance grace in our lives. I am sure there are those who grumble about having to go out and water the mango tree to make sure it fruits when they would rather be watching tv. How much more life-enhancing to water with love for the tree.