Meditation, Mindfulness, and Transforming the Environment

mindfulness in meditation grimsantos flickr

Mindfulness is a word that became popular last year. Its meaning is to be non-judgementally present in the moment. Everyone from Oprah to Kobe Bryant is mentioning this practice in the media. The principle of mindfulness is being applied to all areas of life, including dealing with challenging situations at work, healthcare, and even urgent global problems like climate change. With the New Year here, mindfulness offers a great opportunity to aid us in times of stress.

Cultivating mindfulness is perhaps achieved best through meditation. Not only relaxing, meditation reduces stress, and improves the overall sense of wellbeing. Research confirms the benefits that meditation can bring to overall feelings of wellbeing.

Mindfulness, Meditation, and Buddhism

Mindfulness as a concept has its roots in Buddhism. It is an ancient concept that can be honed through mediation. Freeing the senses in order to be still in the moment and then consciously directing the sense of awareness, Mindfulness helps bring us back to ourselves.

With this renewed awareness, balance is achieved and focus is in tune with the environment. This is accompanied by a sense of peace, reduced stress, and relief from emotional burdens. Thich Nhat Hanh, the famed Buddhist monk, is a master of mindfulness. He describes it in a simple, but eloquent manner. “In mindfulness one is not only restful and happy, but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.”

Meditation can be Practiced Anywhere

Some ways to facilitate mindfulness include paying attention to your breathing, being aware of your senses, and feeling your emotions. In this crazy world with all of its demands and encroaching ties to technology, meditation can help us slow down when we feel overwhelmed. Calming the mind and nurturing the soul, meditation restores peace once again in your world.

Meditation can be practiced in the office, at home, or outside to restore balance and feel more centered. Perhaps one of the best places for meditation is in nature. The environment has transformative power, it provides serenity helping us find ourselves again.

Sit down in a forest, on a beach, or in a garden, and take in the surroundings. Or if you want to move, you can take a walk; some prefer meditation while walking, rather than sitting. The stillness and beauty of natural surroundings is perfect for finding balance and harmony.

image (Image note and source: A meditation garden, Rebecca Selah, flickr

Mindfulness on Buddhism’s Eightfold Path to Enlightenment

Being one with nature is at the core of Buddhist philosophy. Buddhism teaches us that we are a part of nature, not separate. Having compassion for nature and all living things is key to finding the way to peace. In the Eightfold Path to Enlightenment, mindfulness is number seven.

Mindfulness is a form of mental development enhancing our state of being. It also offers a way in which we can help the planet. With so many crises occurring on Earth, it can feel overwhelming searching for and applying good solutions. Yes, science, economics, and technology play huge roles in this search, but it may also require something more profound, more transcendent.

Eco-Buddhism and Mindfulness

One advocate for climate justice, Dr. Antwi Akon, recently gave a lecture on eco-Buddhism and mindfulness. Dr. Antwi points out, “For climate change to become a global priority, for it to become everybody’s movement, a stronger connection must be made against global warming and people’s daily lives.”

A major factor contributing to today’s crises is that many of us are not recognizing our connection to the environment. Many do not recognize the benefit of establishing a better relationship with nature. With mindfulness and meditation, enlightened consciousness can lead to a better understanding of our surroundings.

Transforming the Internal Environment First

First we must sit and listen, applying mindfulness to our meditation and allowing empathy to transform us. It is in this moment of waking consciousness that we recognize the connections we have with each other, and also with the planet. We comprehend the significance of these connections in our daily lives.

By being present in the moment, we are able to transform our internal environment. Compassion is invited in, and peace is welcomed happily. Perhaps with our internal environments transformed, we can turn next to transforming the external.

image(Image note and source: The dawn of a new environment. H. Koppdelaney, flickr)

(Top image note and source: Meditation, mindfulness, and the Environment. Santos Gonzalez, flickr )
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About the Author

Gina Merlino is a freelance writer who cares about environmental issues. She has a Bachelor's in Philosophy, a Master's in Engaged Humanities, and is an avid reader of the news. You can find me on Twitter.