The other day I had the pleasure to hold a mindfulness meditation for a company on their conference day. They squeezed me in during their health and wellbeing hour that they had during this conference. And it was beautiful to see the change and impact that 15 minutes of meditation, stillness and inner observation had on a group of 60 people. From being a very charged up intense energy, the vibe of the room slowly morphed into being more grounded and focused.
Prior to the event, I was informed that the subject for the conference day was “acting sustainably” and they asked me if I could weave that topic in and give my 2 cents about how meditation and mindfulness can be an act of sustainability.
The Link Between Mindfulness & Sustainability
When I first got asked the question of correlating meditation and sustainability, I didn’t know how to respond. When we think of sustainability, we often think of environmental issues and things regarding recycling or reducing waste and pollution.
But then it dawned on me how meditation and mindfulness really are acts of sustainability all by themselves.
The two different things I’m about to mention are the same letters but have almost opposite meanings. It is one thing to be mindful and a completely different thing to having your mind full.
When we are mindful of our actions, we are less likely to make rash decisions. When we are more aware of the actions we take we usually have a higher perspective on things, and we are also more likely to think things through more thoroughly before plunging in.
From Full Mind to Mindful
On the other hand, we already have our minds full with all sorts of things like what to buy for dinner tonight, how to resolve the conflict with our partners while at the same time trying to meet the deadline for work that is coming up at a rapid pace. If we also add another element on top of that mind that is already full, that’s when a meltdown or an emotional outburst can come “unexpectedly.” When we operate from this frame of mind, we can sometimes make mistakes because of the stress we’re under which in the long term can create a spiral of even more stress.
And right now we are living in a world where almost every mind is full these days. Even though we’ve never had a faster and more effective and timesaving society we still strive to progress even more, we’re constantly trying to push the boundaries. That was something that became very apparent when I talked with the employees at the conference. Just talking with some of them made me stressed.
Nervous System Overload
We are living in an overstimulated world where the demand to always be available on our phones is high. We are constantly activating our sympathetic nervous system (the fight/flight/freeze part of our NS). We are always picking up new information and impressions. It’s socially acceptable to work long hours, be effective, an achiever, all the while sacrificing our leisure time. I’m not saying it’s wrong to work your ass off if you want to make a change or make great progress in any aspect of your life. You have to be willing to put in the work. But we also need the balance.
A lot of the convenient benefits that we have in today’s society are related to the capitalistic culture driven by consumerism. And while I enjoy it as much as everybody else does, this constant strive for more, more growth, more development can in the long term do us more harm than good. What good does all improvement do if our earth becomes sick and uninhabitable?
By trying to constantly grow each year we go against natural law, everything in nature is cyclical, not linear. Just look at the seasons. A seed needs it time underground before it can emerge. If we are constantly digging up the seed and asking it: Are you growing? It will soon die instead of growing on its own.
What we are lacking is the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest part of our NS). To give time and space to what we need. To recover and do nothing, sometimes when we do nothing, that’s when we give time and space for everything. To breathe deeply and let things unfold on its own without us having to interfere with the process.
Creating Space for Meditation
A lot of big companies like the one I did my meditation for strives for growth and success, and of course, that’s fine, but we also have to ask ourselves at what cost? Is it worth it if people get burnt out in the process? I salute these companies that understand the value of their employees and start to realize that things along the lines of meditation are good to implement.
Because for me, meditation can very much be seen as emptying our cup. Making space for other things to take place instead of having the cup overflow. When we meditate, we can tap more into the parasympathetic nervous system. We need more PNS activation activities in a world which spins faster and faster by the day. We need to become more mindful and observant of what the fuck is going on both on the outside and more importantly what’s going on inside.
To recycle and do your best to reduce your carbon footprint in this world is an act of sustainability but to give yourself the time and respect for meditation and observation of one’s self is the greatest act of sustainability. Why? Because the world needs you.
So are you mindful or are you having your mind full?
May you act sustainably.
Love & Light.