Written by Jo
As Yogis, we are constantly seeking opportunities to live more intentionally, and to create a more balanced, peaceful and joyful existence for all. As a community of explorers and adventurers, we are blessed to participate in incredible retreats and trainings to bask in the majesty of beautiful lands and the cultures, foods and other Worldly delights of those places while deepening our personal practices of wellness and mindfulness. We know that our health is intrinsically linked to the health of the planet and all beings; Environmental Stewardship is an essential practice that allows us to give back to these special places and communities that enrich our lives so much.
With April’s focus on Earthly holidays -- Earth Day, Arbor Day, Bike to Work Day, Adventures in Nourishment invites you to join in a celebration of Earth Day, Everyday -- an opportunity to honor the mending and growing of our relationship to our home Planet, and develop practices to carry beyond this month into all our days, for the benefit of all life.
Aligning with the wise teachings of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the guiding principles of the Yamas & Niyamas meant to support our journey toward transcendence and true and lasting Union with the very soul of existence, we can apply these teachings toward living our Yoga through our actions off the mat, and on the Earth.
- - Daily Rituals for Ecological Mindfulness - -
Real change requires consistency. Developing habits that have a lasting, positive impact on our Earth takes time, patience, forgiveness and compassion -- the very skills our work on the mat and on the cushion are designed to cultivate. Environmental Stewardship rituals may not appear glamorous; it may seem difficult at first to remember to bring our own bags and containers; it may seem inconvenient to research the origins of the items we purchase or the values and practices of the companies we support; it may even seem rude to request the establishments we visit ditch the straws, styrofoam and/or single-use plastics, but as we’ve learned from showing up to practice after a long day at the office, sitting in meditation for 20 minutes, or standing in Virabhadrasana II for 2 minutes -- the really good, deeply rewarding stuff doesn’t often come easily, and it is as we work along the difficult edges of our experience that life’s greatest rewards reveal themselves.
The following rituals are meant to support us on the journey toward Zero Waste -- toward cultivating a deeper relationship to what we use and depend upon -- where things comes from and where they go -- and to ultimately repair and strengthen our connection to the source of life.
For most of us, it’s simple to understand that creating less waste is a good thing. But really understanding how much waste we currently produce through our systems and practices — and the implications — can be difficult. In most cases, waste has been designed to be out of sight, out of mind. When we analyze our choices with authenticity, humility and curiosity, we open up the possibility of becoming informed consumers and leaders in a global movement toward health and happiness for all beings.
From the moment we wake, until we lay our head down to rest at each day’s end, there are infinite opportunities to bring ritual into our actions to enrich our lives on every level. Just as we practice the cultivation of presence with each breath, we can extend this awareness to the blessing of each ray of sunshine warming our body, each drop of life-giving rain that falls and the divine energy that flows within and throughout all things, making its way to us in infinite ways and forms.
-- Source Gratitude // A ritual of inquiry and acknowledgement --
The ritual of Source Gratitude can be immense in scope, or narrow in focus. Robin Kimmerer describes the practice of the Honorable Harvest in her magnificent work, Braiding Sweetgrass;
“The Honorable Harvest asks us to give back, in reciprocity, for what we have been given. Reciprocity helps resolve the moral tension of taking a life by giving in return something of value that sustains us. One of our responsibilities as human people is to find ways to enter into reciprocity with the more-than-human world. We can do it through gratitude, through ceremony, through land stewardship, science, art, and in everyday acts of practical reverence.” (190)
No matter how it feels appropriate, the act of giving thanks is ever welcome and ever beneficial on our journey to a more vibrant life for all beings. A significant way to give thanks is the acknowledgement of the life force required in the creation of that which we consume.
Many of us are in the good habit of reading nutrition labels, making sure what we are putting on and in our bodies is safe and familiar. The same practice is powerful and impactful when we use this ritual of inquiry to investigate and determine the ecological impact of the products we buy. What is your Yoga mat made of? Does the company who designed the clothes do so using reused, organic and/or sustainable fabrics? Do they implement Fair Trade and safe labor practices in their manufacturing process? Do the bananas you eat come from a farm where the workers and land are treated with respect and gratitude? How much water and how many pollinators were required to produce the almond milk in your smoothie? The label may say “Natural”, “Organic” or “Sustainable”, but what does that really mean? Demanding transparency from the companies we buy from takes a little extra care and effort; so does flossing -- we all know the significance and importance of the rituals that ask us to be more mindful, present and honest.
There is an unparalleled empowered and loving feeling that accompanies sitting down to a meal, drinking a cup of tea, or dressing in an outfit when we know the story of the place it came from, the energy and materials used to make it, and the beings who gave their time, skill and life to produce it. Tracing this journey from seed to self is a richly illuminating ritual that allows us to tangibly experience the interconnection of all things and honor all the life energy to which we owe our every breath.
-- Resource Recovery // A ritual of renewal --
Perhaps the least glamorous aspect of Ecological Mindfulness, it is an immensely important practice to consciously participate in the cycle of production. Just as we can make the act of acquiring things sacred, we can practice letting go of things in a ceremonial way. In this ritual, we have acquired something mindfully through Source Gratitude, so when it is time for us to let go of this thing, we have the ability to offer it to be Reused — as a gift, a donation or perhaps to be up-cycled or Recycled.
Imagine what a different reality we would live in if each human on Earth approached the discarding of things as a ritual. From kitchen scraps to uneaten portions, from last year’s fashions to the books we’ve finished reading, to that thing we purchased that we never got around to using, and to, despite our best efforts to avoid acquiring, the plastic film and styrofoam packaging from what we had to buy new.
Most of us recall the old adage, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” — and most of us have a basic idea in the value of these practices, but it’s more difficult to truly understand the time, energy and resources embedded in producing materials and what happens once they’ve been used and discarded, whether they are sent to a landfill or converted into new materials through recycling.
While consumers have much less power over producing waste, and creating a Zero Waste society ultimately falls on producers, manufacturers, and lawmakers, each of us can take small steps to eliminate waste from our life by looking closely at our choices.
-- Perpetuate the Cycle // Rituals for New Life --
There is reconciliation and redemption from the inevitable moments in which we absorb the life of other beings for our own survival and wellbeing (and please, consider the reality that even a vegan lifestyle requires the life force and death of other beings). This cycle of birth and death, and the extraordinary exchange of energy that takes place from water —> soil —> producer —> consumer —> decomposer —> soil … over and over again is the fundamental foundation of our Earthly experience.
We are in a unique position to observe, contemplate and honor this great energy cycle in beautiful ways.
- - Tread Lightly - -
Whether enjoying the bike path in our hometown that we’ve ridden a hundred times, or sauntering along a remote trail in a foreign land we’ve never seen before, we always have the opportunity to leave places in better shape than we found them. Ecological Mindfulness allows us to show reciprocity and reverence for our Earth no matter where we go.
Stay On Trail
We’ve all been tempted to veer off course to cut out time and distance from a tough section of trail, or to snap the perfect photograph in a patch of blooming wildflowers — and we are all familiar with the “social trails” and imprints created by those who’ve given in to such temptations. The accompanying serious consequences of soil compaction can be detrimental to plants, mycelium (mushrooms), soil microbes and even amphibians. By staying on trail we prevent damage to the places we cherish, and ensure we’ll be able to enjoy them and take those beautiful photographs for generations to come.
Pack it in, Pack it Out & Pack More Out
While we’re on the subject of enjoying our Earth for generations to come;
Give a Hoot — Don’t Pollute! We all know littering is unacceptable, but it’s important to remember that this seemingly obvious ethic is very often forgotten, and that landfills and dumpsters aren’t effective solutions for preventing waste’s negative impacts on our home Planet.
Most of us have stood in the middle of a beautiful forest, on the banks of a gorgeous flowing stream, or on top of an immense mountain peak only to notice a plastic bag stuck on a tree branch, a burst balloon washed up on the shore, or a can of beer poking out from under a rock.
These days, loving and venturing out into the World responsibly asks of us that we leave no trace not just by carrying out everything we bring with us, but that we bring an extra bag to pick up the waste we will undoubtedly find left behind by others.
The compassion, patience and courage we develop on the mat reminds us that we must be the change we wish to see in the World; the old saying is true,
We’re All in This Together.
- - Demanding Ethics in Industry - -
The Wellness and Yoga industry are big business these days, and while it’s wonderful to see these practices becoming more widely accessible, shared and implemented, growth -- especially when attached to profit -- can often come at a steep ecological price.
In a time when there are more humans on the planet than ever, our waters, skies, lands, and fellow beings face constant threat of pollution, habitat loss and extinction. Though a cup of Yerba Matè or Kava may be delicious and nourishing; though the divine scent of White Sage wafting through the air may be cleansing and inspiring; and though lavender and frankincense oil may make Śvasana downright heavenly, it is imperative that we evaluate the true costs associated with these products. In largely unregulated marketplaces, determining whether these products are legitimately sustainably, ethically or safely produced can be immensely difficult.
This can be the most challenging aspect of implementing change, but the results are far-reaching and immense. The bottom line is, as consumers, we are the ones who hold the power. Through our rituals of Source Gratitude, we become informed, empowered individuals and communities capable of voting in the most powerful way — with our wallets. What we choose to buy or not buy is a direct statement about the values and practices we are willing to support. When we hold accountable the companies who make our clothes and accessories, craft our beauty products and medicines, produce our food and beverages, and organize our trips and festivals, we elevate the standards for what it means to be profitable, reminding us all that
real wealth is life itself.
We’re honored and excited to be taking a lot of steps toward environmental stewardship this year. It takes great care and effort to achieve a culture of Ecological Mindfulness, and we are immensely grateful to our community for all the time, energy and attention dedicated toward these efforts. It’s true that every little bit makes a difference.
Molly Jo Stanley
Educating for Mindfulness and Sustainability