The Mindfulness Practices
The world has changed. Much that once was has been lost. Change is continuing and more will be lost. It is the nature of existence that change happens. Everything changes. Whatever arises, will one day cease.
Change is neither good nor bad, it simply is. We can choose to look at change positively: change is what allows our children to grow up and mature. Change allows flowers to bloom and fruits to ripen. We could not live without change. We can choose to look at change negatively: we resent having to grow old and get sick. We die because of change. Since we cannot stop change, why waste any time or energy on moaning about our lot. Instead we can embrace impermanence. We cannot stop things from changing, but we can affect how, and how fast change occurs.
Every action we take, and every action we do not take, creates change. We can blindly act and be surprised by the changes that occur as a consequence of our action, or we can act with awareness, mindful of what will happen. Karma is one of the words used to describe the consequences of our actions or inactions. We get to choose our future karma, by being attentive to our current actions. We can make things change for the better.
One day our civilization will end. It does not have to end today, or in our lifetime, or even in our grandchildren's lifetime. We can choose how our environment will change. We have chosen how our environment is changing. We have not made that choice consciously, however. It is time now to do so. It is time now to begin living mindfully, to be aware of how our choices affect our planet and our chances of surviving. And it is time to make wiser choices, through being more aware of the karma, the consequences, of our past actions.
Mindfulness means to be aware, to be awake. In ancient scriptures we find that our biggest enemy is not the darkness of the night, but the darkness in our own minds. It is called by many names, and one telling name is "ignorance". It is our own ignorance that keeps us in the dark. To shine a light in the midst of darkness is to wake up.
We need to wake up to what is happening before it is too late. Too many people do not wish us to wake up. Many other people have no desire to awaken, for they fear that facing what really is will require them to make a sacrifice. This is the generational challenge that Al Gore says we are facing. We must awaken. We must gather our courage and strengthen our wills. We must face what is and commit to ending the peril that faces our generation so that it will not be the last generation of the current age.
There are books that offer a "green tip" for each week of the year. Web sites abound that provide hundreds of actions we can take to tread lightly on the planet. We can subscribe to daily emails that offer even more ways to reduce our impact on the environment. There are so many things we can do; so much information coming at us; in fact there are too many suggestions crowding in upon us. How can we make sense of all these suggestions? Do we need to do them all? Which ones are the really important actions?
When we analyse all the suggestions and proposed actions we should be doing to help end the great greenhouse gamble we are taking, they eventually fall into one of three categories. If we just keep in mind three mindfulness practices, we will know all the practices. The three practises are:
- Be mindful of what we consume
- Be mindful of how we vote
- Mindfully communicate to others
Mindful living is the key to health and happiness. This works whether we are talking about the big issues of the day, like global warming, or if we are talking about just how to get through the day. Eating mindfully will ensure we consume only healthy foods and not ingest junk food that harms our body. Working mindfully will ensure that we take on jobs and challenges that nourish or heal our society. Living mindfully will ensure that our relationships with our family and friends are harmonious and joyful.
For centuries, spiritual teachers, and more recently therapists, have taught techniques and tools that help us to learn mindfulness. There are many modern masters of mindful living and one in particular has written almost 100 books on this topic. His name is Thich Nhat Hanh
. He is a Zen master from Vietnam, who was exiled from his homeland during the Vietnam War. The 3 Mindfulness Practices offered here are based on his teachings
, but his teachings are not unique. Many masters have offered the same sage advise.
[I would like to be clear: what I am offering is not Thich Nhat Hanh's direct teaching. While I have been and continue to be inspired by him, these practices are my attempts to say in his voice what we need to do. Any clumsiness in wording or inconsistencies are my faults not his.]
The Big Easy
Here is some good news! Each one of these mindfulness practices is easy. Anyone can do these. And, even better news, each one will have a big impact on the climate. These are big and they are easy.
We are going to look deeply at each practice. You will see why each practice has such a big impact on the environment. They are big! And, you will discover just how easy it is to do each practice. Saving the world, it turns out, is not so hard!
(There is always a "but!") You have to do the work. Even easy things still need to be done. It does take some discipline to get started. If you find yourself wavering, just remember what is at stake and why you are doing this. If you have children or grandchildren, or if you plan to have children and grandchildren, remember that you are doing this for them. If you don't have kids, do it for other people's kids. Remembering your intention will help you pay attention.
Ready? Start by visiting the first practice of Mindful Eating
. Then move on to each one in turn.
To download a PDF summarizing all the practices on one page, suitable for printing, click here