Is Your Mind the Key to a Sustainable Future?

Think about your what your thoughts are in a normal day for a moment.  Can you recall what they might be, or have they completely disappeared from your memory like an ice cube sitting outside on a hot summer day?  I can tell you only very few things, if any, about where my mind has travelled within the past hour, let alone an entire day.  Is it even possible to be more aware of your thoughts, though?  With the practice of mindfulness, it is very possible!

Now, before a more thorough explanation of what mindfulness is, I always believed it was simply sitting still and thinking happy thoughts.  You would never think about the negative areas in your life because mindfulness is all about becoming a happier person with a better life…right?  Wrong.  I quickly found out through reading the article about mindfulness and sustainability that I am not alone in this thought process.  I look at mindfulness so differently now that I practice being aware of all types of thoughts and sorting through them.  After experiencing it for a moment in class, I immediately decided that mindfulness should and will be a part of my daily routine.  Not just as another box to check in my to-do list, but it is rather a time that I look forward to each day to grow closer to myself and my thoughts.

The mind is so much more powerful than we can possibly realize, yet through mindfulness we can help it reach even closer to its full potential.  If one mind is powerful on its own, how powerful can 10 billion minds working together be?  In his TED Talk, Marc Cohen described how this number of minds is enough to create a “global consciousness.”  This power just might be enough to really make a change in our environment and push sustainability efforts into overdrive.  If we all choose to focus on pronoia about our world instead of paranoia, we can turn these positive thoughts into reality.  Mindfulness is the only tool needed for this earth-shattering transformation, and it costs us nothing!  We can only gain wellness from it, and…I don’t know about you, but I would definitely like to have true wellness in my life!

If we are completely content and well in our life simply from the use of mindfulness, we can begin to tackle the wicked problems we face in sustainability.  For example, the wicked problem of gentrification is one that has a significantly negative human impact and environmental impact.  Through mindfulness over this problem, I realized it hits closer to home than I would have originally believed.  I’ve seen some friends be removed by cities’ “urban beautification efforts” because of struggling to keep up with the explosively rising expenses for that area.  Gentrification happens more locations than I originally thought as well.

Eventually, I would love if the world did come together in the effort of mindfulness to make our communities across the globe much more sustainable.  The two together are an unstoppable force, and all it takes to get started is a moment of silence and focus. Now that you have the key, the only question left is….Are you going to use it?

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Megan's Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a great way to help reduce stress and improve mental health. Mindfulness can bring about great social change and is related to sustainability. I think it is important to think about your thinking and daily meditation is a great way to do this. Everyone can easily spend at least a few minutes everyday just breathing and meditating. While practicing mindfulness, you need to focus your attention on your breath coming in and going out and try not to let your mind wander. Mindfulness can help society become more sustainable as well. Mindfulness helps us relate to ourselves, others and our environment with compassion and we can all practice it. This can help us change how we think about the social and environmental crises that affect our world and can also help us take actions needed to build a more sustainable society. 

The “Mindfulness and Sustainability” reading was very eye-opening. Ecosystems are under extreme pressure due to high levels of material consumption and mindfulness can help people have higher sustainable behavior. Being mindful basically means being aware of what is going on within ourselves and outside in the world. Meditation can help enhance and train mindfulness and this has positive effects on both well-being and empathy. 

For Activity 1, I turned in a Problem Statement as it related to the Wicked Problem I wanted to pursue as part of my Investigation Report for the class. The problem I chose was the material usage in housing and how it is going to waste in the housing industry. This is a wicked problem because there is not just one solution on how to solve this and many people have different views on this topic. One of the articles I am using that relates to my problem is from the Journal of Architectural Engineering Technology. This article discusses sustainable building materials for low-cost housing. There is a huge demand for affordable urban housing and using locally available building materials for housing can reduce the buildings impact on the environment. I am learning that bamboo, compressed earth blocks, interlocking blocks of recycled materials, and improved concrete panels are all possible sustainable building materials. 

I have been trying hard to practice daily mindfulness meditation. It is very relaxing and helps me cope with my high stress levels. I am very busy with my major, soccer, social life and community service events so I am always on the go and feel as if I never caught a break. I now take a moment during my day to stop and meditate. I focus on my breathing and clear my mind of all thoughts. I always leave meditation less stressed and not as worried about the future. I become more focused on the present moment. 

My sustainability journey has been going well. I have placed a recycle bin in my dorm so I have started to recycle cans, paper, and glass. I have tried to go through my clothes and things I own and donate items to Goodwill or thrift stores in Stillwater. I have tried to reduce it by only buying what I need so I don’t waste anything later on. I have tried to reuse by making double-sided copies when printing homework, worksheets, or syllabus for classes and tutors. It is very easy for me to recycle by living at Bennett Hall on campus. They have a huge recycle bin right outside of my room so I can easily walk down and recycle. 

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Blog 2

Mindfulness is more than just a term. For some, it means more than others. For some, it means nothing. However, for the majority of people mindfulness takes place in their every day life and has for years. Mindfulness is the psychological process of purposely bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training. In other words, it suggests that the mind is fully drawn into what is happening around you, what you’re doing, and the space around you. This also means to care what is going on with other people’s lives around you and become concerned with their well being. Overall, it is becoming aware and concerned with your surroundings and wellbeing.

This is something we all can work on each and every day. It is always a good idea to become more mindful of what is going on around you and with others. Mindfulness intensifies experiences with the natural environment, which may foster a stronger connection with the natural world, and in turn, may regulate behavior by making sustainable options more salient. These two terms relate to each other in a way that mindfulness is a way of staying sustainable. Marc Cohen’s TED talk relates to this topic very well. He talks about how important it is to make time and put forth effort into becoming mindful. Not only for yourself, but for others. He also talks about the term “namaste”. This means the practice of a respectable greeting. You can practice mindfulness by doing meditation, yoga, being around others, becoming active in social events, and many other ways.

During activity 2 we looked over our problem we decided on, looked over why it was such a big deal, why it means something to you, and what was our solution. For me, my problem was the excessive waste of apparel and what we should do with it. This is important to me because not only do I love fashion and clothing, but I believe it is terrible to watch good fabric and clothing pieces go to waste because of un proper use and excessive waste. The cause of this problem is that when a piece of fabric rips or tears on a clothing piece, most people decide to throw the whole entire piece of clothing away. When the better answer to the problem is to recycle the clothing piece and use it for another outfit, or fix the ripped piece. This would be a way more efficient solution than just throwing the fabric and already made clothing piece away. I am currently learning on how to recycle and reuse the fabric that is thrown away in trash cans. Also, locations that these clothing pieces can be dropped off to reuse the fabric.

I meditate usually on a daily basis. So the meditating exercise we practiced in class was very helpful and calming. I am a firm believer on taking time out of your life to really focus on self care and focus on the bigger picture. This exercise was extremely helpful and I hope it was for others as well.

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How Mindfulness Can Save Yourself and Others

I think mindfulness is so important to acquire in our everyday lives. This can be succeeded by the practice of being aware of how our brain, heart and soul works, but it is also obtained by being aware of what is going on around us. Being mindful can benefit so many aspects in our life such as, mental health, caring less about yourself and more about other things. This will benefit you and the people around you.

When humans care less about themselves and more about helping the earth’s health, we also become more inclined to care about sustainability. When we care less about getting a coffee that is contained by pollution causing plastics and paper that kills more trees every day, we can begin to change what is important to us. There are many links between mindfulness and sustainability. The more mindfulness we have the more empathy we have for other things.   

Marc Cohen talked about how he wants to create wellness in academic environments. He explained wellness as experiencing fulfillment. He explained how different types of medicines around the world want to achieve different goals. For example, he said that western medicine wants to help people only enough so that they will stop complaining. It’s like they just want to put a band-aid on the problem instead of healing deeper down. I like how he explains how we should not be separate from the universe but a part of it. It is important to be well, because when humans are ill, they make things about themselves. But when they are healthy physically and mentally they are more inclined to have a we mentality.

When Raskin says, “A transition to sustainability through new technologies, resources, and production processes, in a world with a growing population with increasing demand for consumption, would be like climbing up a down escalator” (Paragraph 2). It’s scary to think that because of our species, population growth and being irresponsible is causing irreversible harm to the environment. I like how he says, we should be one. Energy and matter cannot be destroyed. It means how we are cohesive and should one with the environment. It is a beautiful concept if we can achieve it.

In activity 2, I want to research how textile waste affects the environment and how consumers or companies can change their ways. It’s a big deal because, people buy way too many clothes and also companies don’t dispose of clothes properly. If we value saving the earth’s environment we all should be more conscientious about what we buy and how we get rid of the items. This can be a major cause of pollution.

In class, we exercised different types of breathing meditations. We did coffee breathing, whiskey breathing and water breathing. We closed our eyes and focused on a simple task, but it was still very effective to my mind. It made my thoughts feel sharp and I began to relax. I plan to continue practicing these exercises each day and continue being mindful.

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Get Educated on Our Earths Health

This semester I’m taking a course on wicked problems. It’s a class that I don’t have any prior experience in, but I’m eager to learn more about how I can contribute to the earths’ health. I view sustainability as being the way we can continue to thrive and grow constantly. It is a concept that means keeping balance in our world. A wicked problem is unique and can be hard to understand. This is because that type of problem is very hard to solve, if we can solve it at all. Most of the time wicked problems are on contradictory topics where one side is not willing to change their perspective. On the other hand, a tame problem is the opposite. It is a problem that has a formula and it can be solved with less effort. It’s like a math problem, there is always a correct answer.

There are 6 characteristics of a wicked problem and why they are so hard to be solved. The characteristics include, Vague Problem Definitions which means there are multiple and diverse groups that all think uniquely and won’t agree. The next problem is called Variable Solutions, which encompasses the idea that there are various ways we can solve a problem, so not only one way will work. Next, we have Solutions that Have No Endpoint. These problems are like running on a treadmill, it keeps going, progressing, with no end in sight. This occurs when new problems keep arising without solutions to fix them. The fourth characteristic is, Solutions Pose Irreversible Effects. For example, this could be when animals become extinct and there is no possible way that we can fix that. What’s done is done unfortunately. Then there are, Solutions Require Unique Approaches. This causes trouble because depending on the people, culture and the environment, the specific solution may not work. Last, we have Urgent! This is when you may have to throw out a solution that you aren’t 100% sure about yet, but if you don’t do anything at that moment, then very bad things will occur. I think as our generation is passing through and more generations follow, that we need to take responsibility and take action. If each generation gets better at helping our environment flourish, then we could possibly make a turn for the better. We should be teaching classes that are focused on environmental sustainability and how we can help. I think most people are either not aware, they do not think about the long-term effects, or they just chose to not change their lifestyle.

Easter Island “Is a striking example of the dependence of human societies on their environments and the consequences of irreversibly damaging that environment.” (Diamond. 2) The settlers had very little resources to work with, but they ended up having one of the most advanced societies for what technological level was. The island only had a few plant and animal species, not leaving the people to very many options to survive off of. The people also began to use too man resources and cut down too many trees and eventually there was nothing left. Hitting on their culture, they held elaborate rituals and other religious ceremonies. They were the people who set up the giant stone statues that are still standing and talked about today. Jared Diamond says, “The cause of the collapse and the key to understanding the ‘mysteries’ of Easter island was massive environmental degradation brought on by deforestation of the whole island.” This disaster can be compared to our present-day issues and where we maybe headed. If we continue to use up our resources rapidly with our growing population, we may find ourselves in some irreversible damage done by our own people. Most people think that we will never get to a point where our water runs out, the trees are all cut down and most animals become extinct. But in reality, we could be closer to those events than we think.

The 11th hour video and activity 1 was an eye-opening experience. It was certainly a good way to be introduced into the course and what we will be learning about. The videos and the activity focused on the problems of climate change, biodiversity loss, population growth, deforestation, and nonrenewable resources. We didn’t not only take notes about the video, but we brainstormed ways we can benefit and change our regular actions. It made me realize how big of a problem we will have on our hands if we do not educate ourselves and the future generations. In class we learned about self-narrative and paradigms. I took away that self-narrative is when you have a personal story attached to a situation. For example, if you or a loved one is personally affected by problem, it hits close to home and most often you are more passionate about the cause. Paradigm is the collective mental mode made up of our beliefs, assumptions, etc. It’s the lens through which we perceive the world. Everyone has different views and opinions, but I think we should come together and find a common solution. But that in itself is a wicked problem. We have done many class activities for example, the Wildest Thing Activity, where were had to think about ways we can change our behavior and make a difference. Talking and thinking about a problem will not solve anything in the long run. You can’t just imagine change and expect results.

I did my carbon footprint and granted, I did not know every fact about how much of each resource my house in Texas uses, but I did my best to estimate the numbers. My carbon footprint was a score of 5.58 metric tons CO2e. My ranking is higher than the world target but a decent amount lower than the average American. Now that I’m being educated, I want to continue being conscientious and keep lowering my carbon footprint number. I love learning about this matter, because it is something that can actually make a difference in our world.  

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Path to find absolute understanding of Mindfulness

Mindfulness can be interpreted in a number of ways. One way could be about being mindful about other people around you at all times during the day. Another way could be being mindful about yourself and about the way you live your life on a day to day basis. Or even mindfulness could be about the Earth. Every definition of mindfulness all comes to the conclusion and end result of the Earth and how every little thing we do in our daily lives affects the Earth in various ways, good and bad. 

Being mindful about how we treat the Earth is key in our survival in later years. If we as human beings do not learn how to be mindful, we may not be able to survive as a species. Our actions impact everything in the world. That small piece of gum wrapper that was let go in the wind could get caught in an animal’s throat and they may die, or it could get blown into the ocean and never decompose. Driving diesel cars puts emissions into the atmosphere that causes those gaps that lets in more sunlight than our Earth can handle. Take the time out of your day to experience the environment around you, use all of your senses to do so, sight, touch, smell, sight, and taste. Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness. Being aware of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding things around us. When we practice mindfulness, the thoughts that we have become in tune with everything that we are sensing in the present time rather than rehearsing the past or daydreaming about the future. Living in the now and focusing on what is right in front of us is the whole idea of mindfulness. 

In my degree, one of the biggest ecological issues that we sadly help grow, is the dumping of excess chemical dyes. Textile dyes are substances used to color fabrics. Today, more than 10,000 substances are classified as textile dyes and different kinds of textile dyes work better with different kinds of fabrics. Synthetic dyes are heavily relied on in the fashion industry, it makes our clothing colorful and inexpensive and lasts for a while, sadly the side effects of using synthetic dyes contribute to the destruction of our planet. Synthetic dyes use a lot of water and there are quite a few places that do not know how to properly clean the water before it goes back into the environment. Wastewater from these dyes is a heavy pollutant around the world. A lot of these dyes will never degrade in the water. The ones that do degrade will produce harmful substances as they decompose. Some of the additives that are used during the dyeing process include alkalis and acid. Many substances that are produced from these dyes will decrease photosynthesis, which is how plants get nutrients to grow and help the environment. 

In conclusion, chemical dyes have a long long history of usage and there are so many more reasons as to why they are so harmful to the environment. The main take-away is how we can be mindful enough to not support big companies that don’t care about the side effects of using these dyes and their only concern is how they can make more money and produce more items. Being mindful takes a lot of things we love doing everyday out of the picture. It is hard work to realize what the difference in the environment will be when we decide between what is right and what is wrong and what is easy versus what is hard. Being mindful takes a long while to be perfected, but the easiest way to begin that journey is to start practicing the art of mindfulness.

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To do list: Be mindful

Mindfulness can mean many different things to people, but the definition of mindfulness for me is being aware of what is around you. A great way to practice mindfulness is to mediate. Meditation helps you to connect with what is going on around you. Setting aside 10 minutes of your day to meditate slows you down and helps you have a better day. During classes we meditated, and it was nice to have a few minutes to myself relaxed. Being mindful is more than meditating. In the article it talks about how being mindful rubs off on people. The more mindful we are the more mindful people are. Being mindful ties into sustainability. If we are being mindful and aware of our surrounding and aware of our earth, we will notice that our earth is dying. Being mindful allows us to live a more stainable life which will influence others to do the same. 

After reading the “Mindfulness and Sustainability” article I realized that we can use mindfulness to be sustainable. In the article it says that “studies suggest that happiness is correlated with several forms of sustainable behavior.” Being mindful leads to well-being which then leads to sustainable behavior. After reading this article I believe that everyone should start practicing being mindful. This leads to better health which makes you feel better overall. “Having better health and wellbeing is beneficial to ourselves and to those around us.” When I read this, I realized I have the power to make people feel happier…why would I not want to do that? This article helped me realize the important of meditation and that it is not just a silly thing people do. Another example is in the TED talk we watched in class, Marc Cohen’s talked about the difference between wealth and health. Basically, what he is saying is that to be happy we must surround ourselves with happy people. He talked about how our world is not balanced therefore we do not feel balanced but being mindful can lead us to a balanced life. Overall this reading and TED talk helped me better understand the importance of mindfulness. 

After learning about sustainability and mindfulness I started to realize that everything around us is hurting our earth. For the investigative report I wanted to choose a topic that related to me and my major. I learned through an Instagram page that most of the earths waste is coming from the fashion industry. After learning about this I decided I wanted to learn more. For my activity 2 I chose to write about textile waste in factories. After reading about textile waste my eyes were opened. I realized that this is a wicked problem because there is no end in sight. Most people do not know that most of earth’s waste comes from the fashion industry. I also learned that there is only a small group of people who are trying to reduce textile fabric. This made me want to choose this topic for my investigative report. 

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