A Deeper Truth Beneath the ‘Dash for Gas’?

‘How we work with ourselves is how the shift will come about.’ Pema Chodron

What is the dash for gas, superficially? It appears to me to be a desperate quest for short term gain at the expense of our long term wellbeing and in particular the health of our life support system – this planet.

There’s an interesting parallel that can appear in our personal lives. I notice that when I’m starting to feel tired and that feeling is an ‘inconvenient truth’ for me, I’ll reach for some high energy food, for example chocolate, in order to ‘keep going’ at the same pace.

With the benefit of hindsight, I realise that it would be more supportive to my longer term health if I were to:
a)    be present to the dip in my personal energy supply and
b)    reduce my energy consumption for a while in order to redress the balance – i.e. to take a rest.

In order to find a more sustainable solution to our collective energy dilemma, I believe we need to look more deeply than the superficial urges to just ‘keep going at the same pace whatever the cost.’ What is the deeper truth beneath the temptation to indulge in a dash for gas? What are the signals from our collective physical form and our planetary life support system that inform us as to what’s really going on?

We might notice first of all that we are experiencing a dip in energy supply in relation to demand. Then, that our life support system is feeling tired and needs time and attention paid to recuperation.

What are our needs? I would suggest some might be:
•    To restore energetic balance
•    To gain a better understanding of how we’re using and sourcing our energy
•    To create intent to find a way through this situation that meets the needs of individuals, humanity as a whole and the rest of life on earth.

One of my favourite stories about Gandhi concerns a child who loved to eat sweets. The child’s mother was worried that the child’s sweet-eating habit would be detrimental to his dental health. Unfortunately, she had been unable to persuade him to stop eating sweets and, in her desperation took him to see Gandhi in the hope that the child would listen to a master. The mother approached Gandhi and said: ‘Please would you convince my child to stop eating sweets.’ And to her surprise and frustration, Gandhi replied: ‘Ah! – bring him back in 2 weeks and ask me again.’

Despite the inconvenience, the mother and her child did indeed return 2 weeks later. Again she asked Gandhi: ‘Please would you tell my child to stop eating sweets.’ Gandhi addressed the child this time and said emphatically: ‘Listen to your mother. Stop eating sweets!’ The mother was astounded. ‘Why didn’t you say that 2 weeks ago?’ she asked Gandhi. ‘Because 2 weeks ago, I was still eating sweets!,’ he replied.

In the same spirit, if I do not want our government to support extreme energy, then I need to radically reduce my personal gas and coal consumption, otherwise I’m aware that I’m becoming hypocritical about the issue. I’m guessing that it would’ve been a lot easier for Gandhi to just speak with the child on his first visit, but instead he chose to address the issue in himself first.

Why was that important? Making intent to behave with that degree of integrity requires us to reflect much more deeply on our motives and our values – what really matters to us and what drives us. This goes beyond money, beyond keeping up appearances, winning the approval of others, saving face or any other superficial driver of behaviour.

I believe he had a deep, experiencial understanding that happiness can never be achieved through depending on what’s external to us. It only happens from within and by choosing to act in alignment with our core values, what’s deeply true for us, rather than in response to outer manipulation.

What happens in life, what we create, achieve, the problems we solve, the relationships we cultivate, begin in our hearts and minds with insights, intentions, beliefs and thoughts. Karmic seeds in Buddhist philosophy terms – the seeds we sow now in our hearts and minds and through our actions – will see fruit in 700 years time according to the Dalai Lama ( and in 7 generations’ time, according to Native American  philosophy).This can seem like an intolerably long-term view and challenging to bear in mind in the heat of the moment. It can be easier to motivate ourselves to change our lifestyle if we relate it to our more immediate family – what will become of our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren etc.

A truth about the dash for gas, in my view, is that our desperation around energy supply is the collective result of our individual approaches to energy management. It originates in our individual minds and hearts and so it’s there that we will find the insight and motivation to prevent the damage: to take a different, more sustainable path…if we so choose.

7 Responses to A Deeper Truth Beneath the ‘Dash for Gas’?

  1. Pete Rawlings March 22, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    Wise words and a keen linking between self and society Sally! I have just read that Gove wants to eliminate teaching about climate change in schools, so how are we to help each of us become such responsible citizens as you suggest when there is such a staunch response from a government keen to keep their (and our) heads under the sand? Ghandhi’s response to life questions was deeply personal yet entirely connected to the macro realities of the planet and human societies populating it. A wisdom far beyond the self/other divide that generally dominates the consciousness of those in power who are determined to limit any extension of wisdom such as his – or indeed, yours! The power IS within us, in a myriad ways. You helpfully articulate one way in your piece, here. Thank you.

  2. Sally March 22, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    Thanks for your insights, Pete. The proposed changes to the geography curriculum in state schools in the UK is just one example of why it doesn’t make sense, in my opinion, to wholly rely on, or make it a responsibility of, the state to educate children.

  3. Jamie March 22, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    Sally, this is one of the best posts you have ever made on your site!!!! Humans have basically created a non-living machine, which is reflected and visible to us as our government, business, the economy, even technology. As great as these words/concepts are, they are interacting and intertwined into a process and system that overall, does not share the same primary goals of life. “It” now has a life of its own and is going to keep doing its things, so to speak, according to its own internal rules.

    I do not think we really understand the rules of the very systems we work within. Perhaps no one has control of those collective rules or processes anymore… at least at some “top-level”. In order to make change, we have to break this cycle of automated control we have set up. We essentially have to take control of our lives.

    The problem as I see it personally, is that we are all playing inside the system, so when the economy tanks, or the only “alternative” for our energy is to suck up more gas and oil and coal, then we play. It is similar to the bullying on schools, where we all sit at the lunchroom table and smile awkwardly (or outright laugh), or turn and look away, while someone is getting bullied. Our planet and our future is being destroyed and we seem to me smiling. People in the 1920′s were smiling before the crash. People were smiling before WW2. I think we have a huge capacity for looking away. Let’s figure out a way to really look at what we are and what we are doing.

    I have a personal intention to make a difference… in a positive way… and make a change.

    I learned a great lesson here years ago from my best friend – Alan Wright – who passed away about 5 years ago. He was our River Planner, in charge of all the planning efforts for a single river here in Florida, the Hillsborough River. We even called him Mr River. It runs thru Tampa. It is not a very long river, though it has some very natural parts and some urban parts. It is a major drinking water source for us here, but has boating, wildlife, and pollution problems. He and I used to talk about Climate Change for years…I was always hot to do some big global thing (being an Engineer), but Alan always told me this: “I only work on one single river, but if somehow this one river has less pollution, a little more wildlife, better water quality, then somehow that means the whole world has to be a little bit better.”. That is very profound, as the REAL natural world is a continuous system, not a machine like the human created world. Alan was right. He made a difference every single day for that river. Somehow, I hope we can all find the corner of nature and ourselves, where we can make the same intentional difference.

    So I will step off my soap-box Sally :) Thanks again for all you do, and I hope someday we can meet.

  4. Sally March 25, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    Jamie – it sounds like your friend Alan was a very wise man and it’s heartening to read that he influenced you in that way, and indeed shone his light in one corner of the world. It’s only very recently that I’ve started to understand, experiencially, some of that connectivity you speak of and how the scale of what we do is not actually so important. It seems to be more important that we simply do the right thing, whatever we feel that to be in each moment, at each choice point. From what you say, its sounds like Alan really ‘got’ that.

    At a personal level, refraining from ‘playing inside the system’ from a position of denial of the alternatives is what I would call living in our unconscious – from our habits. Living from this place is like being a slave to the machine. One alternative, when we are aware of it, is to use any machines we’ve created as tools in service to others or to the greater good, in my opinion. Using those machines as tools in this way might mean dismantling them and recycling the parts, or it might simply mean turning them to face in a different direction, to transfer their skills to something more lifeserving.

    The crux is to wake up to the choices available to us. Another alternative is to become aware of the interfaces we have with the systems and machines. These are the choicepoints where we can decide to climb out of denial and do something different that involves refusing to engage with the machine. Instead we can choose to align with a parallel system that serves life.

    Some interfaces that occur to me right now are:

    i) Supermarkets (interface with the food machine)
    ii) Banks (interface with the money machine)
    iii) Heating, lighting, cooking (interface with the energy machine)
    iv) Transport (interface with the energy and raw materials machines)
    v) Retails outlets (HIgh Street/Mall or online) (interface with the raw materials and energy machines)

    There are life-serving alternatives to each of these systems – as I expect most people reading this will be at least vaguely aware.

    This is one of the reasons why I’ve decided to provide a resources section on this website – to demonstrate a little of the wide range of alternatives that are available to us right now.

    Maybe you can think of some more interfaces? In which case, please do share.

    I see these as constant reminders – like ‘mindfulness bells’, as Thich Nhat Hahn would call them – to come back to ourselves, remember our true nature and what we’re *really* here to do. The more opportunities we can become aware of the better, in my view!

    The test of character, as I see it, is then to consistently and courageously take action on these opportunities – to work on changing our internal habits from ‘slavery to the machine’ to using the tools available to us in service of life itself.

  5. Sally March 25, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    Don’t you just love little synchronicities? This just fell into my inbox – from Friends of the Earth:

    ‘Move your money

    In the first half of 2012, 500,000 people moved their money from the big banks to more ethical or socially useful alternatives. If you want to help build a better banking system, move your money and then tell your MP. Find out how to switch and tell – http://www.moveyourmoney.org.uk/

    Jamie – is there a similar website to this in the US?

  6. Jamie March 25, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    Hi Sally,
    I like the concept of the interfaces. I will have to dwell upon that for awhile. It is interesting that we think this way, when in real (good) human-human relationships we don’t think of things that way. In fact, we probably tend to blend our ‘self’ in with the ‘self’ of another. Also, I would hope that people try to reach a spiritual peace or place by blending , more so that praying to an interface. Perhaps a return to some organic frame of thinking and feeling would help us unplug those interfaces?

    I have not see that website or anything like it here. We have the craziest banking systems here. It is dominated by some very big banks, like Bank of America. We have had an account there for decades, and at first you could actually go to the bank and see bank employees that you knew or that could make decisions. We actually were downtown and needed to deposit something… I honestly hadn’t stepped foot inside the main bank for like 3-4 years. Last time I went, I was handed a phone to talk to a corporate person in a another city… so I figured I could have done that on my own.

    In the US we have always had more local ‘banks’ called Savings and Loans. I have accounts at 2 different ones here too. They tend to be much more local and personable. I am not sure what the big difference between a real bank and a S&L, but I am sure there is a technical difference. I know that depositors in a S&L are viewed much more as kind of owning shares in the organization, but again I don’t know for sure the difference. Have you ever watched the Jimmy Stewart old movie, “Its a wonderful life”? That was a typical S&L that his father ran and Stewart’s character ended up running and defending against the corrupt powers that be. I think the S&L idea here is ingrained back to those old days (depression times).

    Interesting side note, I don’t know about in the UK but here in the US we have something even more horrible and sinister than BIG banks… and I mean, they make even the worst bank look like heaven. I am referring to the check cashing and payday loan companies, Amscot being one of many. These places have sprung up in garish yellow buildings every mile or so here. I am NOT exaggerating when I say they are everywhere. I know many young people and working people who do not have any bank or S&L account for whatever reason (fear, lack of financial knowledge, no $$$ to even keep on deposit) and they use Amscot to cash paychecks and even get loans based on the next paycheck. Of course they pay a fee and high interest. It is deplorable, and I can only relate it to some form of loan-shark operation, but totally legal and institutionalized at a mega scale here.

    I swear, if they could figure out how to scale it up to a corporate level, we would have indentured servitude or workhouses.

  7. Sally March 27, 2013 at 5:15 pm #


    We do have similar finance companies here who seem to benefit unduly and unfairly from the least well off and those who are not so well educated in money matters. Yes, I agree that it is very sad that that type of operation is legal. Thankfully, there are also some very successful credit unions.

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