Benevolent Disinterest

by Jul 28, 2019

There is a guiding principle from ancient Hinduism – neti neti – not this, not that. We’ve really grown fond of this ancient method of inquiry. Like Hindu sages have suggested for thousands of years, it can be a reliable prompt for freeing ourselves from traps of the mind.

This is how we see it applying in Full Ecology.

Among the eight instructions, the first is to connect. To see a much bigger measure of your relationships, to look directly at the fact that the realities of life on Earth make you unquestionably a part of nature. You gain benefit from the nutrients in the food you eat because millions of other life forms known as microbes have set up shop in your stomach and intestines – many that weren’t there when you were born. Your next breath comes only because the planet’s green plants are exuding oxygen, while you’re tossing off the carbon dioxide they need. Your ability to deal with the stress in your life depends significantly on a pineal gland that releases cortisol on a sequence determined by the coming and going of the sun. And as you may know, you’re merely the latest employer of the carbon molecules in your body; they were first held in the stars, and once on this planet were recycled for eons from life to life, from dinosaurs to fish to panda bears to you. 

So starting with this truth – I am connected – apply the neti neti inquiry. In this case, am I separate from this? From that? Feel the breeze. Ask the question, Am I separate from the air in that breeze? Let your eyes settle on something, say a leaf. Ask the question, Am I separate from that leaf? That robin? That apple tree?

We understand that at first these can sound like questions from the most fanciful of kindergarten teachers. But look again. Are you separate from the air? The soil? The algae in the ocean? The atmospheric cycle that brings water to your kitchen faucet?

Most of us are simply not accustomed to taking a serious empirical eye to such questions. Questions of inquiry that start from relationship – from the fact of interdependence. Check deeply. Is there really a line where you end, and the rest of the world begins? Pursue the investigation. 

You may just find that your entire existence relies on a vast network of intelligent and mutually beneficial – though not necessarily intentional – relationships. Your existence and that of any other thing you see, hear, taste or feel thrive in a condition we like to think of as benevolent disinterest. Your nature, like all nature, is deeply supportive when it comes to helping you thrive. Deeply supportive and entirely detached.

Weird. And weirdly comforting, nonetheless.


~ The inquiry of neti neti is something we’ll consider in the September 2019 retreat – Uncertainty is Your Superpower. We’ll have our homebase at the northern edge of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Our food will be locally sourced and prepared by Chef Michael Rhuland. The Elk River Lodge and Gallery is exceptionally beautiful. You can tell that artists own and designed the space to take maximum advantage of the unobstructed views out into Yellowstone country. We hope you can make it. Get more information here.