06/11/2014 09:00 am ET

Greening My Mind And The World With Love And Compassion

We live in what sometimes seems to be a maddening world filled with distress, disarray and decay. The natural harmony of our planet's ecosystem has become destabilized, people hurt themselves and each other in unimaginably terrible ways, and worst of all we often feel powerless to change the course of these destructive cycles.

This depressing state of the world has a negative impact on our mental health and well being. One in four Americans, nearly 60 million people, suffer from mental illness. While mental illness can and does originate from within, it can also be exacerbated by overwhelming external conditions and circumstances that strain our ability to cope.

While the environment in which we live significantly contributes to our individual and collective emotional health, we fortunately have the ability to choose the extent to which we are impacted by external forces and even to change the direction of our planet's destructive cycles at any moment. Regardless of the level of stress in our lives, we do have the power to make truly a difference.

Mental illness can either be an additional burden, or it can be a window through which we discover a renewed commitment to transformation and freedom. As someone who has lived with mental illness for over 25 years, I have slowly moved along this continuum to find more peace, compassion and love not only within my own heart, but throughout the world.

For me, mental illness has never been an excuse to hurt or to hate; it has been a continual process of progressive self-understanding, acceptance, compassion and appreciation. It is through my mental illness that I have been able to discover deep, purposeful empathy and develop authentic connections that have helped me to transform myself and my community. Mental illness has become, for me, a resource that enriches my life rather than a deficit that detracts from my ability to make a meaningful contribution.

Like the world around me, my mind was once in a state of decay. For a time in my life, my mind was plagued with darkness, destructive thoughts and diminished agility. I became overwhelmed by the circumstances in my life, and I further damaged my environment by reflecting back its worst features. I was caught in a negative spiral, and one from which escape seemed nearly impossible.

Rather than escape, I drew further and further within. When I got to the very inner core of my soul, I finally found love in my heart. From this safe place, I was able to start replacing the oppressive negativity that had ruled my life with openness, optimism and resilience.
It is these characteristics that have defined my career as a community leader and writer. With an open mind and a hopeful heart, I have been able to flourish both professionally and as a human being.

We can green the parts of our mind that are decaying, transforming them into inviting, lush, blossoming spaces, by sowing seeds of love. Every thought that passes through our minds, every word that slips through our lips, and every action we take is an opportunity to revitalize and to become fortified with the potential of fertile possibilities. Love isn't just something we feel in our hearts, it is something we express through our everyday intentions and actions. When we become greener and more alive on the inside, the outside world responds. We shine a light onto the darkness of the world, creating an illuminating sense of hope and peace. A healthy mind makes a healthy world.

The capacity of our minds and hearts to heal ourselves and the world is unlimited. When we discover and share the love within, we are planting lovely fields of opportunity within others' hearts. If we all share our seeds of love with each other and cross-pollinate the most beautiful expressions of peace and joy that emerge, regardless of our life circumstances and mental disposition, we will together create a more compassionate world -- a world where we can all blossom and flourish.