Mindfulness and Sustainability
Being mindful and maintaining a sustainable lifestyle are synergistic. There is an important knowing that emerges from looking inward, from pondering deeply and from engaging in the contents of your consciousness.
Living a sustainable lifestyle is not only about attaining a goal ‘out there’ but also about a process ‘in here’ of continuous research and awareness; asking questions, making decisions, questioning our assumptions and listening to our own inner dialogue — a dialogue that includes not only your intellect (critical inquiry) but also your sensations (six senses) as well as your emotions (anger, fear, sadness and joy).
Maintaining a sustainable lifestyle emerges from our own decision-making about how we choose to be in the world. Through mindfulness practice we can investigate what it means to ‘breathe and be with’ ourselves in conscious presence.
Who am I and what can I discover about what is important to me and to future generations? How do I activate and prioritise my own concerns for myself, for my family and for the planet in my daily life?
Through mindful contemplation we are in a better position to consider 1) our inter-connectedness with the world around us, and 2) how our intentions and our actions impact others and the planet. In addition, and through an understanding of 3) non-duality we can begin to investigate a certain tyranny that underlies the practice of sustainable living in the form of what we consider ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.
A realisation of non-duality rooted in the practice of compassion means transcending the tyranny of dualism, particularly as this tyranny manifests in the form of judgements leading to hopelessness, despair and even condemnation.
As we consider what is entailed in building a sustainable lifestyle without succumbing to hopelessness and despair, we need to be able to work through the constant stream of judgements of what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ that line this path.
Practicing sustainability — if is is to be sustainable — needs to feel good.
The practice of equanimity and resilience are closely intertwined. And resilient thinking is a key component to sustainability practice.
Lastly, 4) impermanence is an important realisation derived from mindfulness practice that supports our desire to change misguided processes that we encounter continuously in the world around us. Our rising awareness of the changes we make to develop a sustainable lifestyle is supported by our understanding that change is an absolute reality.
Inter-connectedness, intentionality, non-duality and impermanence are not only realisable through inner contemplation (mindfulness practice), but are also characteristic of systems theory — a type of thinking that underlies thinking about Sustainable Development Goals.
One way to begin the project of developing a sustainable lifestyle is with a 10-minute mindfulness practice. As a result of our silent tending to ourselves we develop an awareness of our own (felt) being-in-the-world.
These periods of silence can involve contemplative inquiry as well. How do I realize my interconnection with others in my daily life? Just observe. What does this interconnectedness feel like? What are my intentions for this life? What are my intentions for the planet?
Mindfulness practice is an opportunity for each us to get in touch with our own authenticity.
As you deepen your practice of mindfulness and get to know yourself, you can use contemplative silence to attend to a critical inquiry about what it means to build a sustainable lifestyle. This inquiry is done amidst compassion and understanding, in full knowledge that we are all trying to do the best we can at anygiven moment.
Go easy. Start small. Keep it real and be humble. Start with breakfast.
What am I eating? Can I slow down long enough to use all six of my senses to find joy and satisfaction in feeding myself? Can I find joy and satisfaction in acquiring this food in the first place? As I chew this food, am I receiving nutrients for which I can feel gratitude? Can I begin to contemplate where this food comes from? Can I imagine the people involved? And if I do not know who is involved, can I make an effort to find out?
Can I be aware of the number of times I drive my car to work? Can I think about alternatives that bring me joy? Can I ride my bike? Where can I find joy in my day? How can I realize more joy in my life as I explore the truth of my interconnection with humanity and with the planet?
This inquiry sets the stage to begin to make decisions about what you consume: when, where, why and how. This decision-making begins a process of empowerment — not only for you, but for the people who produce the food you decide to consume.
Your very existence is powerful. You can use your existence in powerful ways - just by living.
The synergistic project of using mindfulness practice in combination with building a sustainable lifestyle engages all of us (teachers, students, children, and adults) in a co-creative enterprise through which we put all of our hearts and minds into beginning the process of building a sustainable lifestyle that is not only authentic and realisable for each one of us, but is also enjoyable and deeply informed.