The Light of Awareness + Altruistic Action


By Maxine Iharosy

A sharp bolt of fearless reckoning, this is what I felt watching Greta Thunberg’s address at the UN Climate Change Conference. Greta embodied presence and compassionate action with her fierce gaze. Listen to the full speech here.

This 15 year old spoke on behalf of us all, calling on world leaders to take seriously our environmental crisis that threatens sustainability for future generations. She asks us to pay attention to what is truly happening and to take action.

But taking action means showing up and showing up means being with my own thoughts and feelings about what is happening to our planet. How do you really feel about it?

You might relate to the many different ways I felt about myself while watching Greta’s speech. I was thankful for her, even proud. I was aware that I too want to be heard in this way, that I too don’t feel okay with this idling ignorance. Then halfway through, I felt a momentary heaviness in my body, as my mind did what minds are so good at: reminding me of the immensity of my own shortcomings. Then I felt challenged by her words, belittled by my own self criticism. Then this feeling of insignificance came over me, it didn’t last, but I did entertain it for awhile, and watched it grow until I chose to pause and connect to my breath.  

Then I began to reflect more deeply. I wondered: We are all interconnected, we are interbeings, myself and all life. And then I considered: Being kind to myself is important. 

When we as individuals take direct action, when we let our hearts light the fire of what is truly important to us, it benefits others we care for, even all life. Those who have attended any of our Mindfulness + Compassion training programs are especially aware that taking care of ourselves means we are still caring for others. This is the practice of self-compassion. Mindfulness is the lamp that lights our awareness. And both illuminate our capacity to realize our interconnectivity. This realization can lead to altruistic action, by increasing our generosity and fearlessness in supporting causes that alleviate suffering for others.

Paul Hawken, an environmentalist, entrepreneur, author, and activist, suggests that our altruism is a direct response to problems, like wounds and infections, on our planet. He reflects on the unprecedented rise in Social Caring and Justice, Indigenous and Environmental organizations and believes this is Largest World Movement….just that nobody noticed it. He suggests that our response to the suffering of humanity and the environment is the “immune response” of Earth protecting itself. He writes: “To save our own life, we have to save all life…Our primordial connection to all forms of life links us inseparably to our common fate…. to ask what is behind this movement, we have to look inward.” Paul’s key note address here.

So I ask you, in spirit of the winter solstice as the light is returning, and in our embracing of the darkness so present, where sight can be narrow: How do you light the lamp of your compassionate awareness? What do you care most about?  Our caring can ignite our inspirations, like gathering wood to stoke a winter fire. The world needs our flames right now to burn brightly.

We appreciate any way you can support the fire here too at Sarana Institute.

With a grateful heart, warmed by this work,
Maxine Iharosy

Maxine Iharosy is an embodied movement coach and certified yoga teacher based in Owen Sound, Ont. She facilitates classes, workshops, and retreats that empower inner focus and a heartfelt connection to the physical body as home.

She is the Program Coordinator and Faculty Member for the Mindfulness in Nature Program along with being Office Administrator for Sarana Institute.

Her work is nature inspired and holistically spirited, to encourage well being and a sense of true belonging in ones skin.

“Curiosity engages us to be present, and presence is the spark that ignites self-compassion.” Find out more about Maxine here.