Dr Jan Goss

Leonardo DiCaprio, Novak Djokovic & Perceptions

I’m feeling inspired by these two!

I have just watched DiCaprio’s Oscar acceptance speech and wonder if his ‘political’ (aka humanitarian) leanings have prevented him winning an Oscar sooner. I’m sure his courage to choose the words he did will have ruffled some feathers here and there. I googled the speech and was interested to note the different perspectives of those who reported it – it was described as ‘cringe-worthy’ by one of the sources. Certainly some of the audience seemed slightly bemused, whilst others cheered in support.

I am reading a book by Thich Nhat Hanh called Understanding Our Mind, in preparation for a 5-day retreat I am attending in a few weeks time. In it he talks a lot about perceptions, which of course formulate the basis of how we make sense of events, our self, and others. Our conditioning from an early age is a great influence on how we approach and live our life, and in order to find greater peace of mind, it is often necessary to increase our understanding of how the past influences the present and how the present influences the future. Nothing happens in isolation, ‘randomly’, there is always a chain of cause and effect. With awareness we can track the thoughts and actions that have brought us to this particular moment. With this mindful awareness life then ceases to be as ‘mysterious’ as we sometimes perceive it to be. We can see clearly that ‘this led to that’. Nhat Hanh states:

In Buddhism, action (karma) takes three forms: actions of body, speech, and mind. When our actions of body, speech, and mind are brought together, they create the qualities of our happiness or suffering. We are the author of our destiny. The quality of our being depends upon the quality of our prior actions (p.181, my emphasis).

Mindfulness enables us to develop the habit of looking without judgment at what has gone before, to be less dogmatic and more open minded. When we are able to approach life with openness and acceptance we find that our view becomes more objective and reasoned, and we enjoy greater peace of mind. We are able to see the bigger picture and integrate all of the learning we have had along the way – if we are able to let go of our judgments about it – therefore, no experience is ‘wasted’, everything provides us with the opportunity to learn and grow and ‘author our destiny’.

DiCaprio is authoring the destiny of millions through the work of his Foundation LDF, founded in 1998. In the past few years he has donated $30 million to tackling a wide range of global humanitarian and ecological causes (listed here) and he has the courage to speak out on these issues, to change perceptions, whenever he has the opportunity.

So what does this have to do with mindfulness, with us? I figure, with this information we can choose to be overwhelmed – or we can choose to be inspired to act. We may not have millions to offer, but we all have the capacity to contribute in even the smallest of ways: not buying more ‘stuff’; reducing the amount of packaging (especially plastic) we ‘buy’; recycling; sourcing ethical manufacturers, banks, and suppliers (including energy and phone/broadband suppliers); buying organic; or even just picking up litter! We can all contribute something positive to our collective destiny.

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