Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Breaking Out of the Cocoon

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Mason Brown

Professor Miller

Contemplative Learning Seminar Sec. F

Preparation Paper 4--Breaking Out of the Cocoon


When confronted with the environmental degradation of the natural world, we aresometimes tempted to enclose ourselves in a cocoon of selfishness and denial. Referring to chapters 7 & 8 in The Sacred Path of the Warrior, and to either the article by Joanna Macy or the one by David Abram, how will you break out of the cocoon and become more “green?” What will you do to heal our relationship with the sacredness of the natural world?

The cocoon is a very powerful image that Trungpa uses to describe the cowardly tendency of human beings to protect themselves. He says:

The way of cowardice is to embed ourselves in this cocoon, in which we perpetuate our habitual patterns. When we are constantly recreating our basic patterns of behavior and thought, we never have to leap into fresh air or onto fresh ground. Instead, we wrap ourselves in our own dark environment, where our only companion is the smell of our own sweat.(52)

In terms of the environment, many of us are in cocoons of consumption and flamboyant selfishness. The Hummer, and other giant SUV's, are good examples of people wrapping themselves in a vehicle, inside of which it is warm, comfortable, and safe, while outside is the dangerous world of others: the enemy. Only when they look out side the windows of their SUV's will they have the possibility to see the suffering of others, and to consider how their actions affect the world. Trungpa says:

We realize that there is an alternative to to our cocoon: we discover that we could be free from that trap. With that longing for fresh air,for a breeze of delight, we open our eyes, and we begin to look for an alternative environment to our cocoon. And to our surprise,we begin to see light, even though it may be hazy at first.(53)

At this point, the Hummer will begin to seem disgusting, and will naturally be abandoned.

Joanna Macy describes a similar situation:

What Alan Watts called ʻthe skin-encapsulated egoʼand Gregory Bateson referred to as ʻthe epistemological error of Occidental civilizationʼ is being unhinged, peeled off. It is being replaced by wider constructs of identity and self-interest—by what you might call the ecological self or the eco-self, co-extensive with other beings and the life of our planet. It is what I will call ʻthe greening of the self.ʼ(183)

For my own part, simply moving from rural Missouri to Boulder, CO, in order to attend Naropa University has done a lot to improve my impact on the environment, and my awareness of it. In Missouri for instance, it is not made easy to recycle. I made a strong effort to do so, but the materials which are allowed are limited, and it is necessary to haul them many miles to the recycling center. Here in Boulder, recycling is made convenient by having a single stream, and by having bins conveniently located everywhere. Also, the miles per week I travel in my vehicle have been reduced by a factor of ten. In Missouri, I commonly had to drive 40 miles one way to get to where the work was. There was also no public transportation available where I was. In Boulder I live within the city, within 5 miles of school, and I often take advantage of the fine public transit system.

In addition to these somewhat automatic changes, which occurred largely as a result of moving here, I aspire to increase my awareness of my impact on the environment and other beings. I hope to reduce my consumption even further by taking only what I need. I also want to renew my intention to refrain from eating other beings. With the support of my fellow students, teachers, and benefactors, I will continue to progress along the Path.

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Work cited:

Trungpa, Chögyam. Shambala: the Sacred Path of the Warrior. Boston: Shambala, 2007.

Macy, Joanna. World as Lover, World as Self. Chapter 17, “The Greening of the Self”. PGW,2007(Publishing information not available)

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