One Among Many

“The presence of one cell in the body implies the presence of all the others, since they cannot exist independently, separate of the others. A Vietnamese Zen master once said, 'If this speck of dust did not exist, the entire universe could not exist.' Looking at a speck of dust, an awakened person sees the universe.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, The Sun Is My Heart

The young woman reflected upon her place in the world. She thought, “There are six billion people on earth. I feel so insignificant.” It is a common thought and feeling, but it misses the truth that each of those six billion people is significant. That is six billion individuals with six billion brains connected to six billion nervous systems. Six billion people perceiving the same world in six billion ways—each one generating unique collections of thoughts and feelings. That gives us 6 billion opportunities to change the world at any given moment. We have 6 billion unique opportunities to share a moment of caring and kindness—six billion people who might help us if we are in need.

No one of us is without value. No one of us is irredeemable. No one of us could not use a little more loving kindness in our lives.

Count yourself as one. Tell yourself that your life is significant, even if you find that difficult to perceive.

Open your heart and mind to the reality that this world is filled with human beings with thoughts and feelings much like your own. Each person has his or her own node of consciousness, an intersection in the web of life. Each of us, from the big time capitalist to the subsistence farmer to the beggar on the street, has needs and aspirations. The beauty on the many magazine covers and the hungry baby in a dry land each has a heart that beats, has yearnings, fears, and a need for love. We cannot know each person on earth as individuals, but we can love each of them. We can check our own hearts for fear, hatred, and prejudice. We can pray, and we can direct our compassionate thoughts even to those we fear may be beyond the pale of human decency.

Connect with yourself now. Get a sense of your body as it exists now in this time and place. Feel your body, and take a few slower and deeper breaths.

Become conscious of the sensations in the area of your heart. Allow a softening and warming to occur in your heart. As you inhale, draw energy to your heart center. Let it flow out from your heart to fill your whole body. Give yourself the gift of self-kindness. Acknowledge your own significance as a point of consciousness in the vast web of life. You, no more nor less than anyone else, are a part of the whole.

Continue to draw energy from your breath through your heart and let it expand out into the world. Flow your loving energy out to those closest to you. Let the power of love burn through any anger, resentment, guilt or shame that may be an obstacle between you and those people who most directly affect your life.

Continue to expand your heart and mind so that the intention to honor the humanity of each person on this planet sends your compassion to the ends of the earth. Let it flow across the land, not stopping at national boundaries, but flowing across rivers, over mountains, across the sea until it covers the whole world.

Take another step and expand your caring to all sentient beings. Grant your good will to all creatures under the sun and the moon.

How many is six billion?

The current world population estimate at the U.S. Census Bureau

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© 2001 Tom Barrett