Mindful practice is something that I’ve tried to practice many times in my life, but never quite succeeded in. Having experimented with meditation to quell my anxiety, I can be the first one to admit that I’m not necessarily “good” at it. I simply didn’t have the resources and knowledge to get to a place where it was actually helpful for me. But that changed this week. I had no idea that the few meditation practices that we were taught this week would actually work! I was pessimistic. However, I found myself experiencing a feeling I had never before had: weightlessness. I’m the kind of person who is always worrying or stressing out about something. It’s just habitual at this point, but for the first time I felt at peace. It was bliss. The exercise in which we wrote with our non-dominant hand was also eye opening. It was easy to pick an unpleasant memory for the exercise because there was something that had happened recently that I couldn’t seem to stop thinking about or let go of. As soon as we did the practice, I forgot all about it. That was honestly the first time in days that I had stopped thinking about it. I’ve actually done this practice outside of class since the day we learned it, and it’s been so helpful in relieving stress from school.
The practice that moved me the most was the “Love and Kindness” meditation. I was thinking about my niece who we recently lost because she was only 1 year old and my relationship, while understandably uncomplicated, was deep. I found myself having this feeling of warmth spreading all over me, and tears actually came to my eyes. The part where we imagine them expressing positive things towards us is what really got me. It was like I was getting to see and hear her again. I think it’s easy to say that mindful practices are going to take a permanent place in my life now. They are immensely beneficial and I am truly grateful that I learned different techniques that actually work for me. I was skeptical, but I am changed.
In regards to our discussion, and my reading on consumerism, I must say I took away a lot from it. I, like nearly every American, realize how bad our consumerism is. I also know that it’s doing permanent damage to the environment. However, I don’t think I realized how bad the problem really was. I had no idea how much resources we were using. I just knew it was a lot. Learning that we extract the equivalent of 112 empire state buildings worth of resources from the planet every day is so hard for me to grasp. When I read this, I thought of the time I got to go to the top of the Empire State Building and look down. I felt so small. Thinking of us even extracting the equivalent of one Empire State Building is too much to really comprehend. Something else I learned that was believable, and yet still terrifying, was that we are using the resources of 1.3 Earths. Obviously, the math doesn’t add up in our favor. We will run out of resources. I truly believe we can somewhat combat this. As discussed in our debate, for this to happen we all need to shift out perspective to one that is geared towards always doing right by the Earth. My part in that can be taking real action, getting involved with environmental groups, and on a small scale simply sharing what I know now with those around me. These things can’t guarantee success, but it’s a step in the right direction.
A topic that I was unfamiliar with completely, and yet was fascinating to me, was the topic of paradigms and the way they shift our perspective on the world. It’s interesting to me because most people can say they got their beliefs and values from their parents, but my dad passed away and my mom and I have completely opposite beliefs on just about everything. I care about things that the rest of my family simply doesn’t (like the environment, animal welfare, etc.) I want to learn more about how I was shaped into the person I am today when no one around me seems to share the belief system I do, or care about things that I do. Learning about the way our paradigm is formed was insightful for me because it makes me more understanding of other people’s differing opinions. Some people simply don’t care about the environment or animal cruelty, and that’s hard for me to grasp sometimes but having the understanding that we’re really all seeing the same world through different lenses makes it an easier truth to accept. What I can do with this knowledge is not judge others for caring about different things, but rather take action to change the things I think ought to be changed and do my part for the causes I think are important. Some specific example of this are the fact that I only buy cruelty free beauty and hygiene products and I consume little to no animal products. I’m also adamant about recycling. I do these things because it makes me feel like I’m making a difference, however small it may be, for causes I care about. It’s okay if everyone doesn’t find these to be as important as I do, because perhaps they have their own passions in life that they are actively engaged in. We can all make a difference in our own way.
Combining my new knowledge on paradigms and mindfulness can be extremely beneficial in understanding sustainability challenges. Not all of us have the same view on the world. We all come from different places and backgrounds. Accepting everyone’s different views on the world is a step in understanding how vast the challenge is in shifting people’s perspectives to care about the environment. Because of that, it can help us come up with solutions based on dominant social paradigms in different parts of the world. Practicing mindfulness helps with the challenges we face because it can keep us from becoming overwhelmed, and instead helps us focus on solutions and steps we can take to make a difference. So what are some solutions to our differing views on the world that are keeping us from having sustainable societies? Well there’s no perfect solution that works for everyone in the world, but with continued research and a more intimate understanding of different cultures, we can start to make plans for a better future.