I’ve just returned from my 2009 sabbatical desert journey – a time of reflection, peace, centeredness.  A time to find Me.  (How is it that I keep getting lost?)

I learn so much just by observing the world that is around me at any given moment. It’s all one big metaphor. This time it was trash that got me to thinking. The way I treat the earth is the way I treat you, and myself, too.  What an interesting observation.

The Fine Art of Looking Back

What is it about humans leaving their mark on the world?  Sometimes it is harmless.  Sometimes it is even useful. Most of the time this desire to leave a mark improves the world in some way. Maybe it directly impacts humankind as in ministry and other humanitarian efforts.  Sometimes it raises global consciousness as with political activists or spiritual teachers.  Often the impact is more indirect as in great architecture or brilliantly designed roads, or the expressions of art and music.  Yay for those positive expressions.

Out in the open spaces however, when a mark is left it’s a beer can or shotgun shells or graffiti on a rock or carved into a tree. The drive is the same. The impact is different. Big dreams. No dreams. The high road. The low road. More and more it seems people live life as they want without thought or concern for what they leave behind… old tires, broken whatever that they don’t want to lug home, dog poop in a little plastic bag… left for… the poop fairy I guess.

Relationship with Self, Others, and the Planet

It is true that everywhere I go there I am. The way we treat the planet is a reflection of the way we treat others… and ourselves. If I will abuse the planet, I am fully capable of abusing you when I am in relationship with you.  I have been shocked to see how true these parallels are as I’ve reviewed some of my own significant relationships. Early in my life I was with a guy was into shoplifting. He couldn’t come back from his favorite store without something he didn’t buy.  Once I got into a more serious relationship with him he continually stole from me also.  What was his was his and what was mine was also his. Whether it was my food, my time, or my body. Yikes.

People are powerful.We impact the planet; we impact each other. If you’ve ever seen someone carrying skis on their shoulder through a crowd, bopping people left and right completely oblivious to the damage in their wake, you know how important looking back can be.  It is in relationship with others that we are required to look behind. “Hey, come back here!  Look what you did.”  Our behavior has consequences – whether we are aware of it or not. For the most part we’ve forgotten that, or think we are somehow exempt from the consequences.  Looking back is an art – life’s great improvement plan.

•    Who is impacted when you lash out in anger?  Look back to see.
•    Who cleans up after you?  Look behind you.
•    Who are you letting off the hook when you do more than your share?  How is that working out?
•    What does your body feel like when you eat that third piece of pie?  Check in.
•    What happens for your kids when you are on your 70th hour in a workweek?
•    Who picks up your trash along the way?  Why would you expect them to?
•    Who pays the prices? Looking back is the only way to know.

It is in looking behind us that we become aware of our impact on others. When we are aware, we can make changes and directly improve the quality of our relationships, and the quality of the environments in which we live.