This April 22 marks the 51st anniversary of Earth Day. We have made some significant changes since this movement commenced in 1970. But we still have a lot of work to do to save our planet.
Earth Day is about engaging global leaders to see that climate change is an urgent political matter and to affect change.
AND Earth Day is also a reminder that each of us has an opportunity to be leaders in our own communities --- we can lead by example. This is equally critical to our survival.
How do we go about affecting change in our communities? As a yoga lover, I turn to the teachings within the yoga philosophy for inspiration and guidance. There are two concepts within this practice that I think are very relevant and powerful to support our cause to take care of our planet:
Concept #1 - Everything is interconnected
Concept #2 – The practice of non-violence---to ourselves, to others and to our planet.
Everything is interconnected
Yoga teaches us about the interconnectedness of all of life. In fact, the word yoga is Sanskrit for yoking or union. It is the main teaching of yoga. When we truly know that everything is interconnected the way we interact with ourselves, others and our planet changes. We realize that our actions really do matter. Therefore, we are more mindful of what we think, say and do.
But how do we really understand that everything is interconnected? How do we get emotionally connected to this concept? Because it’s our emotional connection to something that fuels us to follow through on our dreams, goals and causes. I often question why so many people don’t understand the urgency of climate change. I think partly it’s because we are so consumed with our own busy lives that we are disconnected from the issue, and, more importantly, we are disconnected from nature. It’s this disconnectedness that depletes the motivation. Also, I think a lot of people believe our actions won’t really make a difference anyway.
How do we get people emotionally connected to this cause? I relate it to Simon Sinek’s concept of finding your “why.” His research concluded that our “why” is what really inspires action, commitment, and perseverance. So, before we---as individuals---figure out HOW we want to incorporate sustainable practices in our daily lives, we first need to really understand WHY we want to help solve climate change.
Logically, we know that climate change is destroying our planet in an accelerated manner. Scientists have proven the devastation that is happening in ecosystems all over the world. But logic doesn’t necessarily motivate us to change. Think about other areas of your life where this may be true---for me, I logically know I shouldn’t have that extra glass of wine at dinner, but I do.
How do we stay connected to our why? One way is to constantly remind ourselves. It’s like anything else we want to cultivate in our lives---for a healthy body we have to exercise and eat right on a consistent basis. What I find helpful to stay connected to caring for our planet is to:
1. Maintain a consistent mindfulness practice – my go to is a daily meditation practice. It puts me in the right frame of mind, I’m calmer, less reactive, and it expands my awareness of all of life.
2. Find Ways to Connect with nature – Remembering that our lives depend on the clean air and water and an abundance of nutrient-rich food that we obtain from our beautiful planet. We ARE literally made up of these precious resources---80% of our bodies are comprised of water.
Get out in nature on a consistent basis so we can remember how wonderful it feels to be around plants and animals---it’s so soothing for our body, mind and spirit.
Here’s a wonderful story I want to share with you about really connecting with nature. Years ago, I teamed up with this amazing organization, Farm to Yoga to host a farm-to-yoga event for kids and their adoptive parents. The event was held at a 140-acre USDA-certified organic farm in San Diego County where they participated in a family-friendly yoga class, toured the farm’s vegetable gardens and chicken coops, and had a vegan organic lunch. The intent was to connect them with nature and educate them on the importance of taking care of the environment because the quality of the environment directly affects the quality of their lives.
The yoga instructor guided the families through a slow flow vinyasa practice sprinkling in words of wisdom that articulated how they were interconnected with the nature they were in. As she guided the group to take a slow inhale of breath, she shared that they were breathing in the co2 given by the eucalyptus trees that were surrounding them. They were breathing in part of the trees into their bodies and the breath they exhaled mingled with the chickens on the farm. As the chickens breathed in the air from them, a part of them would merge with the chickens. In turn, the chickens would lay the eggs that would feed us, they would also fertilize the vegetables gardens, which we would also eat. Connecting the families back to the earth with their breath the instructor eloquently illustrated the importance of taking care of our earth so we can continue to grow healthy produce in order to nourish our bodies. It was such a great experience for everyone---we even had one kid say it one of the best days of their lives!
Once we are able to tap into our why, then we can develop what actions we want to commit to in order to support the health of our planet. Embodying the practice of ahimsā, the principle of non-violence, can guide us on our mission. Ahimsā is the first teaching in the practice of the 8 Limbs of Yoga. The 8 Limbs of Yoga are found in the ancient text, the Yoga Sūtra, and is basically a roadmap or guide for our we live our lives rightly. Ahimsā is the 1st teaching in the roadmap because it is the ethos that guides our overall actions and flows through all of the practices within the 8-limbed path.
Ahimsā is having the intent of causing the lease amount of harm, to ourselves, others, and the planet. That includes animals, plants, and our entire environment. Because everything is interconnected, when we cause harm to our planet, we are hurting ourselves. When you embody this perspective, you walk through your life a little more mindful of your impact on our planet. You are aware that what you do matters.
But let’s be realistic, there is no way we can go through life without causing any harm to the planet. It is inherent in being human, we need to feed ourselves and we need to protect ourselves. Ahimsā doesn’t ask us to be saints, it simply asks us to have the intention to cause the least amount of harm as possible. Any adjustments we can make in our daily life that will help improve the environment, we are encouraged to make big or small. OUR ACTIONS MATTER
One way we can do this is to be a leader within your community. This is simply leading by example---be the change you want to see in the world. This should be focused on your why. What you are passionate about changing? For me, I’m a firm believer of taking care of my household, neighborhood and community. But you may be passionate about helping communities in other parts of the world with their sustainability efforts, or you may be passionate about educating others on using ecofriendly products. The point is, focus on making a difference in the area you are emotionally connected to.
My goal is that my family, friends, neighbors, business associates and customers will learn from me and then implement these some of these practices within their communities. And the ripple affect begins. Some sustainability practices I’ve implemented at home and business include:
Recycle glass, plastic, cardboard and paper products,
Bring my own bags to do any kind of shopping (grocery store, pharmacies, shopping mall, etc.),
Reuse glass jars as storage containers or to take lunch to work,
Use a water filter system instead of plastic water bottles,
Use cloth napkins instead of paper,
Cloth towels instead of paper towels,
Buy produce from local, organic farmers,
Eat meat and eggs that are from free range, hormone free, organic farms,
Pick up trash in our neighborhood---we have a bucket and trash picker tool and will spend an hour once a month picking up trash,
We live in a walkable area, so I drive less and walk or ride my bike to get around.
Also, in my business I have adopted what I call my “Ahimsā Promise.” My intent for OM Matters is to create a business that exemplifies the teachings of yoga, including ahimsā. I committed to:
Source, manufacture, and package all of my yoga products in the USA, reducing the carbon footprint by avoiding shipments from an overseas manufacturer.
Use eco-friendly products made with natural, synthetic-free, and biodegradable materials.
Use recycled materials to package all our products.
I hope this discussion has inspired you to reconnect with nature and motivate you to make positive changes to support our planet. I encourage you to explore finding your “why” for wanting to be kinder to our planet. Then I challenge you to 1) connect with nature on a regular basis; 2) develop a consistent meditation practice; and 3) pick 2-3 new ways you can support our planet and take action.