I realized the other morning that there may be folks who wonder why meditation is something I’ve started mentioning at One Green Generation. Meditation in our society is sometimes perceived as selfish, intangible, hippy-like silliness, time-wasting or… there are many other terms that could work here. I’ll admit that I, too, had some of these misconceptions not too long ago.
But since I started a meditation practice a few months ago, I have come to understand how much it can play a role in our daily lives as we strive to be as sustainable as we can be.
If any of you are starting to wonder what meditation is and how it can play a role, or if you’re struggling to make it a part of your lifestyle, I hope this will help encourage you!!
How Mediation is Green, Frugal, Healthy and Sustainable
- It can take the place of or reduce medications that cost money, support the pharmaceutical industry and can become hazardous to our waterways and fish habitats. This includes pain medication, antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, asthma and heart medications, and more. (Obviously make sure to work with your doctor on this!)
- It brings about compassion within yourself that radiates far beyond you to other people and other living beings. I personally believe compassion is one of the keys to people chosing to live sustainably.
- It increases productivity at work, at home, during daily tasks and in daily thoughts. I’ve heard it several times, and I believe it’s true: meditation actually puts more time into your day. If you put 30 minutes into meditation, you get at least 30 minutes back via increased productivity. It’s shocking (and makes “I don’t have time for meditation” a weak excuse!)
- It strengthens relationships as you learn to pause before letting anger blindly strike, to listen more effectively and compassionately, and to become more intuitive and caring in your actions and reactions.
- You are more likely to think about the honest consequences before doing something – which can affect your health, your relationships, and the environment.
- It’s free psychotherapy – meditation can help you break through anxiety, depression, childhood issues, and, I’m finding, so much more…!
- It can make your community stronger. If you meditate with other people in your community, it ties you with stronger bonds to those around you, it brings you together so your compassion ripples outward with stronger effect, and it strengthens, deepens and helps sustain your own practice.
- It can reduce your desires for material things, and heighten desires for non-material experiences. This may be a personal effect on me alone, but it is a strong effect: material things don’t seem to matter as much. Plus I’m more likely to read a book, go for a walk, chat with my husband or do other energy-saving activities – rather than watch tv or do something that requires driving and/or money.
- It makes you more thankful for the beauty and insight around you, more aware of your surroundings, and happier while doing every day chores. Being present in the moment has made it more fulfilling, calming and meditating as I do the dishes, make dinner, bake bread, even do my taxes.
- It facilitates becoming more involved in your community, even in small ways like saying “hello” as you walk by someone on the street, going into a local shop instead of a large chain store, gardening or going for a walk, volunteering, or finding your own other route for becoming involved. Because you have more time in your day, different priorities for your time, and more devotion to well-being.
- There is one more big one for me: it has helped me transcend my every day labors to understand my own potential, where I want to head with my life and my work, and how I might best go about it. This doesn’t happen so much while meditating as it does afterward, in the open spaces in my mind that meditation has cleared for just such important thoughts.
My meditation practice is truly becoming richer by the day. This is my personal list of ways I believe meditation strengthens our sustainable lifestyle – there are several other resources and studies out there that show the health benefits of meditation. When you start to delve into it, it’s pretty incredible what you’ll find!
What about you?
Did I miss anything? Do you have a meditation practice of your own?
I’ve spent a lifetime of working to help others and save the world, often to the detriment of my own health and well-being. So in retrospect, I can’t believe I thought I’d be able to dedicate one full year to myself… and then feel completed.
It seems that this will be year two of the “year about me”!
To be clear, I don’t want to change my dedication to helping others and making a large impact. In fact, if there is one thing I’ve learned in the last year, it’s that taking care of myself makes my work with and for others MORE effective.
2011 The Year About Me: Nurturing and healing my body
I made vast improvements to my health, the result of which is that I am only taking one asthma medication (from a high of seven medications at one point), I am gluten free, I have significantly decreased my waist size, I have fewer migraine headaches, I am regularly exercising and doing breathing exercises (pranayama) to increase lung capacity and decrease stress. I’m also finally learning how to relax. These are among many other improvements.
This quest for bodily awareness, nurturing, and healing is of course not over – but several things are put into motion so that I can focus on the next layer of my own well-being.
2012 The Year About Me: Nurturing and opening my mind
In the beginning of this year, I picked an outgoing word and an incoming word that help describe my vision for 2012. The outgoing word: judgment. The incoming word: compassion. Out with judgment, in with compassion.
As I began thinking and reading more about compassion, I quickly realized that compassion has a solid root and foundation in self-compassion. Without self-compassion, compassion for others falls flat. Without self-empathy, I don’t believe you can feel deep empathy for another being. (There are likely many layers to this equation – for instance, self-knowledge is a large part of self-empathy…. and so on.)
Already I’ve noticed that in devoting time to nurturing my mind – namely with meditation and “breath walking” – I have been able to work more efficiently, and I have been able to see the bigger (strategic) picture of my work more readily. I’ve become a better interviewer when I’m creating documentary films. I’ve become a better strategic thinker when I’m working with my startup clients. I’ve become more creatively inspired when working on graphic design or brand storytelling. And I’ve even become a more pleasant person in basic interactions with strangers – like at the grocery store, at a networking event or just walking down the street.
They are little changes: it’s not like I’ve become fundamentally different person! But many things that I do take a little bit less effort to accomplish, and I feel like I’m accomplishing them just a little bit better than I was even a few months ago.
By nurturing my mind, I believe I’m becoming more effective at nurturing the world. This is similar to last year: by nurturing my body, I found I was less focused on pain, pharmaceuticals and just getting through the day.
And the most amazing thing is that my pain has improved even more as I nurture my mind. Half of meditation for me at the moment is exploring the many layers of bodily relaxation. (The other half is exploring mind relaxation.) As a result, there have been a few moments when I’ve realized that I am feeling no pain at all – anywhere in my body. It’s incredible, almost surreal.
How does this impact One Green Generation?
I don’t know what this year has in store, but I will share it with you! One of the ways I’ve found throughout the years to nurture and open my mind, is to write. I am a writer, and the times in my life when I have regularly fed my writing instincts are the times when I have transformed most.
Thank you for your encouragement!
I still receive regular emails asking me questions, thanking me for writing, and hoping I’ll return soon. Without my writing much lately, each day there are still about 2,500-3,000 of you who visit to look through the archives! So this is a community I hope to more actively nurture again. It would be amazing if we could help one another more along our sustainable journeys.
It will be a process getting back to it: letting myself have the time for writing regularly again. But I believe it will happen. Feel free to prod me via email or comments if you see I’m absent for a while here. :)
And thank you all for your continued emails and comments. They mean a great deal, and I’m glad to have helped some of you along your own journeys.
And how are you?
How is your year going? How are you progressing with your hopes and dreams for the year, and for your life? Are you on a path that nurtures you?
All those of you who have done some of this self-exploration and self-nurturing, please recommend any resources that have helped you! I may benefit from your recommendations, as may other readers here.
I was at a beautiful vineyard hotel overlooking the Columbia River Gorge for a weekend retreat. There, midway through a hot stone massage session, I found myself thinking, “boy, she’s not the greatest massage therapist.” And internally I gasped.
Here I am splurging for myself on my 40th birthday, so that I can get some much needed R&R… and I’m not even letting myself enjoy it. I’m judging it. I’m wondering if I should have picked a different massage. I’m thinking over and over about my disappointment in myself, the massage therapist, and the situation.
And then I looked around. The place was beautiful, candles were lit all around me, there was a faint scent of clay and aroma therapy oils. I was about to have an amazing dinner with an amazing husband in a beautiful little winery with a fabulous view.
I’ve worked very hard over the last 3 years just to make ends meet. Finally my hard work was beginning to pay off – socially, enivornmentally and economically. At long last I was able to reward myself and recharge.
And, well it’s high time to reward myself and recharge!
So I stopped my thoughts and repeated a few times in my head, “Just be… without judgement.” After which I proceeded to just be, where I was right then, receiving a pretty good massage from a very nice woman.
And I relaxed. I enjoyed the moment for the good things it had to offer. I accepted the massage she was offering me and allowed it to heal me in whatever way it could.
Leaving Judgement Behind
When I was in the Arizona desert this winter, I found myself standing between a horse and a world reknowned psychotherapist. I was judging this man’s cowboy boots and hat, his aloof mannner, his psychotherapy jargon, his way of trying to get under my skin. And then I realized he had – he was under my skin, digging up details I needed to surface, uncovering things about myself that I needed to face. He was, in fact, quite brilliant.
I falsely judged a good man. The guilt I felt afterwards was shocking.
An hour later I walked a labyrinth as a meditation practice. This particular practice involved picking a rock from outside the labyrinth, mentally attaching to it something you were ready to leave behind, walking the labyrinth in meditation, leaving that rock in center, and mentally bringing something out in its place.
It’s a very simple but very powerful practice. I didn’t know what I wanted to take back in its place, but I knew I wanted to leave judgement behind. As I meditated around the labyrinth, it came to me so very clearly: I wanted to replace judgement with compassion.
Judgement’s counterpart for me is compassion. In the case above, this means compassion for the cowboy therapist who was trying desperately to relate to me – a city girl with a chip on her shoulder – so that he could help me, and do his job well.
And compassion for myself. Self-compassion. Because I could really use this man’s help to get to the next stage in my own awareness and happiness. Because as much as I devote my life and work to helping others, I need to make sure I’m healthy as well – I need to nourish myself so that I can nourish others.
It isn’t easy to give up judgement. I can probably never completely get rid of it, nor would I want to. But I can get much closer, I can be much healthier in my relationship with people and with the present moment.
And it takes time because you have to retrain yourself.
I read recently that you judge yourself the way you were judged by others when you were young. It’s just how you learn.
So maybe you were never quite good enough, never made the right decisions, were always in danger of getting fat… Maybe this will help you as it has helped me: think for a moment about how you were judged when growing up, ask yourself whether or not it might still be the way you judge yourself today.
I believe we also develop early habits of judging others as well, and they’re often very similar to how we judge ourselves. That other person isn’t good enough at what they do, they don’t make the right decisions, they are in danger of getting fat,… whatever it is for you, see if you judge others that way also.
I’ve found that the key to beginning to change is to be present in the moment, so that I can observe my thoughts and actions – plus learn and grow from what is happening now. This requires presence without judgement, of course (you can’t fight judgment with judgement!) – and presence with compassion.
My personal mantra has changed for me a bit since my 40th birthday. It is now, proudly:
Just be present… with compassion.