When I think about harm, I am generally trying to ward off the harm others or circumstances might do to me.
The human species has evolved through a continuous onslaught of external threats from the natural world that have taught us to avoid, remove, reduce or prevent harm in a thousand ways.
However, as we have evolved other sources of harm have also always been with us – namely the harms that we do to ourselves and that reside internally in our individual and collective lives.
The wisdom traditions all invoke some version of the golden rule – that we do no harm to others, and that no harm is done to us. This injunction has universal power.
I have written in depth about the stratification of threats that human actions have unwittingly released upon the world, and how they destroy human security. The exposure to these interdependent threats has become a fact of life for all life (not just human life) on this planet.
What’s more, the potential external impact of our internal creative capacity is now so huge, we may have the power to do more damage to life on this planet, than the whole stack of external natural threats combined.
I want to believe this is not my problem. My individual capacity for doing harm is so small as not to make much or any difference on the rest of life. But if I aspire to be the enlightened being who is the Shambhala warrior, I must carry the swords of insight and compassion … and at the same time do no harm. So perhaps noticing my potential for causing harm is a discipline and a responsibility that I must practice?
Where to start? Start anywhere and follow where it leads. Ok I will start with basic questions that I can ask myself every day to expand my awareness of the harm I might have caused in my everyday life. And I will listen for the still small voice that whispers the PRACTICE THAT OPENS THE DOOR TO MITIGATING THE HARM.
- How did I protect the water I used to drink, cook, bathe, recycle? What do I know about how the basic foodstuffs I consumed are produced, processed, delivered, prepared? How did I reduce my eco-footprint? BE GRATEFUL
- How do I belong to the place where I live? How did I connect my person to my place in Earth’s environment, eco-region, cycles, seasons and resources? How did I belong and offer support to my family, tribes, culture, neighbourhood? BE KIND
- How did I express my natural voice, inspire others and find freedom without infringing on the voice, actions or freedoms of others? BREATHE, SING
- How did I respect order and authority that provides structures that align mine and others’ purposes, values, beliefs and commitments? LISTEN
- How did I obtain results in my work, play and life that were fair to all and sustainable in the long term? How did I share my good fortune? How did I leave the world better than I found it? BE GENEROUS
- How did I tolerate those who were different than me – older, younger, richer, poorer, sicker, happier, sadder, angrier, more loving, different culture/gender/ethnicity? How was I happy despite the differences and how did I create conditions for others to be happy? ACCEPT
- How flexible was I with the people, ideas, circumstances and the complexities of life? How did I negotiate the barriers I faced? How did I choose non-violence as an option? FLOW
- How did I think like a planetary citizen? When did I zoom out to get a bigger picture? Where did I contract to protect my vulnerability? BLESS