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Mindfulness & Earth Day

On April 22 we celebrate Earth Day. Earth day began in 1970 as a way of bringing awareness to environmental issues… From “Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962, Senator Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from Wisconsin, was determined to convince the federal government that the planet was at risk. In 1969, Nelson, considered one of the leaders of the modern environmental movement, developed the idea for Earth Day after being inspired by the anti-Vietnam War “teach-ins” that were taking place on college campuses around the United States. According to Nelson, he envisioned a large-scale, grassroots environmental demonstration “to shake up the political establishment and force this issue onto the national agenda.”
The ancient practice of Yoga together with Ayurveda emphasizes living in harmony with the earth and our natural circadian rhythms. Today, we hear about the practice of “mindfulness” and there are numerous classes that promise to teach us how to be mindful. There is a burgeoning field of research showing the positive effects of this practice on stress and anxiety. Mindfulness is also an important practice for enhancing our connection with the Earth. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, "Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally." The Earth has never needed us to “pay attention on purpose” more than she does today. One way we can begin to enhance our connection to Earth and practice mindfulness is to take a walk in nature – being fully present and taking in your surroundings. Another is by going outside in your yard, or to a park or other quiet place in nature. Sit for at least 10 minutes (and preferably longer) and experience everything around you that is Nature. Get down close to the earth. Look at all the different plants growing there that are NOT grass. Notice the diversity of plant life native to your area. Most of these plants are edible and/or medicinal (I don’t suggest eating them unless you know what you are doing or have a teacher). Getting to know plants introduces us to the magic of our interconnectedness with Earth. She literally provides all the conditions we need for life. Ecology is the science that deals with the relationship of organisms with each other and to their surroundings. When we practice mindfulness in Nature, we begin to understand the complexities of how all of us are interconnected and the whole is greater than any one individual species. David Hoffman talks about herbalism and ecology in an interview on

“Herbalism is ecology in practice,” David explains. “If the World Health Organization defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,’ health is not about the absence of anything; it’s an active state, so you have to work at it.” The same is true in ecology, and the state of the environment is not only about the trees, but also the organisms that rely on each other to survive and thrive. If one is sick, the whole of the environment is said to suffer. Using this rationale, David continues:

“It turns out that the active ingredients in plants are important to the health of the soil, to fungi, and they’re essential to insects. Herbs, then, are not just for us. In their unique pharmacology, they are a way in which the environment integrates itself—not feeds itself, not genetically makes itself, but integrates itself so that it’s not animals and plants fighting all the time…There is mutual support and synergy going on, and the new biology suggests that. One of my real joys is reading that the new science is confirming all of our New Age mumbo-jumbo. The whole really is greater than the sum of the parts. Science has shown us to be right.” Practicing green habits is practicing kindness to the Earth that sustains us – it is part of Karma Yoga. The Earth is our home which we share with millions of people across the globe. We are interconnected and when we live in disharmony with the Earth, we are doing harm to other living beings – plants, animals and humans who also depend on clean air, water, soil and food to survive. It is my hope that we start honoring the Earth not just on Earth day, but every day. Some ways you can honor our Mother Earth: 1) Reduce your use of plastics 2) Reduce dependence on Fossil Fuels. 3) Plant Trees! 4) Raise bees! 5) Plant a butterfly, bee and bird friendly garden. 6) Switch to a plant based or mostly plant based diet. Know where your food comes from. 7) Vote for representation both locally and nationally who respect our connection to Earth, who understand the drastic effects climate change will have on all of us, and who will appoint Earth-centered people to care for our Natural Resources who are dedicated to finding creative and innovative ways to save our planet.

On this Earth Day and EVERY DAY, may we cherish her, as she has given us all the conditions we need for life. Namaste.

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