Mindful Minimalism

This week I experienced even more revelations when it comes to mindful practices. More specifically, I learned that not every practice works for me. For example, the object focused meditation was phenomenal. I really focused in on what was making me anxious before I analyzed the object in my hands. Then when I opened my eyes, I really made an effort to see my leaf with a sense of discovery and unknowingness. By the time we closed our eyes for the second time, I had completely forgotten what I had been so consumed with before. Since class, I have tried this meditation on my own time and it’s proven to work really well for me. But with some successes, come some failures. The outdoor meditation was really difficult for me because I knew people were watching all of us, and when you know you’re being judged, it’s really hard to concentrate and focus on the present. I also found myself getting distracted by almost everything. However, it was still a learning experience for me. You simply won’t know if something will work for you until you try it, but at least I have found plenty that do work for me.

In regards to our discussions on environmental degradation, I don’t think it can be linked to any one cause or any one type of people (poor, non-poor). It stems from a few things: lack of knowledge, lack of resources, and an insatiable greed. So many people around the world simply don’t have knowledge on the subject of environmental protection. It is not just impoverished people. Even people in this very class, including myself, didn’t know the scope of the matter until taking this class. When we don’t know better, we don’t do better. What we really need is to invest in education programs across the globe that can further our understanding on the fragility of our planet. We only get one Earth, and it is essential that we all learn how to take care of it.

A lack of resources is a problem for so many more people than we often realize. Not having access to the basic resources needed for healthy living (clean water, food, shelter) can indeed force people to resort to using up what little resources they have and degrading the environment around them. However, this does not mean environmental degradation as a whole can be solely linked to poverty. Poverty is simply one of many means in which an area can reach the state of being degraded. Finally, a reason for environmental degradation that hits close to home is greed. It is undeniable that in our current society we are borderline obsessed with materialism. We so often ignore the cost our new item has on the planet, and instead focus on that immediate positive feeling we get from getting something new. It is true that some people may not know what the real cost it, but I’d wager that more often than not, we simply turn a blind eye to it.

I don’t believe we should dwell in the reality of environmental degradation, though. The key to overcoming this is good leadership. What is good leadership exactly. Well the truth is that the answer to that is locally specific. What works in one place may not work in another. By understanding other cultures, we can begin to decipher what kind of leadership roles different cultures are more receptive to. For example, in a smaller country where the government may not play an important role in the everyday lives of its people, a local leader within the community that can bring them together to reach a common goal may work better than their government coming in and acting like they know what’s best. It’s important to remember that in most cases, the people living in an area know what their land and their people need better than anyone else. Strong leaders coming forward, in whatever role is best for a community, is essential to begin the process of implementing sustainable practices. From there, we can take what people know about their land and teach them practices and give them the tools they need to take care of it in a way that isn’t harmful to the planet.

A way I find that I am, at least in a very small way, contributing to the effort to avoid environmental degradation is trying minimalistic living practices. About a year ago, I started reading different books (Simple Matters by Erin Boyle and the works of Marie Kondo are personal favorites) on minimalism and the importance of implementing it in our lives to help the planet and our well being. Ever since then I’ve been taking steps to live in such a way. It represents how little steps and changes in our lives, if we all make them, can have a huge impact on the Earth and our lives. It’s almost a mindful practice within itself. Some of the small things I do now is I only buy a new item of clothing when I absolutely need it(which is usually once every 3 months), I donated a lot of my books and clothes to shelters, I use reusable bags when I shop, I recycle religiously, and I no longer use plastic bottles. Overall, I simply rarely shop and I have learned to live happier with less. These are just a few of the many very small and probably insignificant things I do, but I implement them in my life in the hopes that I am making some kind of positive difference in the world. If we all implemented even a couple of these small changes into our lives we would be heading in the right direction towards a more sustainable future. 

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