by Kenton Whitman
What if the best thing you could do for Earth had nothing to do with recycling your aluminum cans or reusing plastic bags? In our personal lives and as a culture, we’ve made enormous strides in cleaning up, reducing our consumption, and recycling our plastic, glass, and metal. Yet many of us feel as if we’re still on a downward spiral, with national and international policies that aren’t aggressive enough, with our environment continuing to be destroyed to produce enough energy and goods to keep up with an insatiable demand. What is the answer? Is there no other choice but to give up our quality of life in order to save the environment?
You Can Have It All
What if you could increase your quality of life and also improve the health of the environment? If we’re stuck in the human vs. nature mentality, this doesn’t make much sense. But we’re beginning to rediscover an ancient truth – that humans are not actually separate from the environment. It’s not just about every action having an impact. It runs deeper. It’s about recognizing that you are as much “the environment” as the eagle or the river. We’re so used to thinking of the Amazon rainforest as something “out there” that we can forget we’re intimately integrated into Earth’s entire ecosystem. It’s not just about how we treat the environment. It’s about how we treat ourselves.
You as the Earth
When we apply the same principles that guide our treatment of the environment to ourselves, something amazing begins to happen. Take pollution. We all want to be conscious of how much trash we personally create, and we care about the toxins that industry is pouring into our lakes, rivers, and atmosphere. When we apply those same principles to ourselves, we’re asked to become conscious of what foods and chemicals we’re bringing into our bodies.
Wait a minute. This is more of that talk about reducing our quality of life! You’re about to be asked to stop drinking drive-through coffee, right? And none of us really wants to look at these things. If we’re smokers, we just want to smoke. If we drive a car that gets ten miles per gallon, we tell ourselves we’re doing it because the vehicle is “safe.” The last thing we want is more people telling us not to enjoy life!
Yet reports from the field, from people who have begun to treat themselves as they would treat Earth, tell a different story. They cut back on their drive-through coffee, make powerful shifts in their diet, and suddenly they’re excited about their tastebuds re-awakening. They’re filled with new energy and vitality. They get their blood profile back from their annual check-up and find that their health is at an all-time high. Whoa. It seemed like they were giving up things they enjoyed. But in hindsight, they didn’t really enjoy those things very much, and the increased sense of well-being and vitality makes the trade-off a no-brainer.
The Golden Rule
Really, this is just the golden rule. If we treat Earth as we treat ourselves, it brings about a better situation for everyone. If we honor ourselves as part of nature, and treat our bodies, minds, and spirits accordingly, we’ll have a strong “heart” from which to cultivate the compassion, wisdom, and consciousness that will allow us to more effectively care for Earth.
4 Ways to Treat Yourself Like the Earth
Want to give it a try? Here are four ways that we typically do damage to our internal environment. Make shifts in these areas, and each one will reward you with increased quality of life as well as the ability to make positive changes in the world you perceive around you.
1. Become Conscious of News Consumption The constant influx of news stories has profound effects on our mood and mentality. The world has always had good things and bad things happening, but now we have the choice to intake as much of the world’s “story” as we want. Make a conscious choice of how much you want to hear, and whose stories you’re going to listen to. Every story you take in becomes a part of your inner environment. Want something different? Try www.dailygood.org or www.happynews.com.
2. Go on an Advertisement Diet Advertisements also pack a powerful punch, giving us the message that we’re lacking physically and emotionally. Every time we watch or read one, we’re invoking that message, and it’s little wonder that most of us fill ad-created needs by buying stuff that doesn’t add anything real to our lives. Learn to recognize where you come into contact with ads, and explore ways to remove them from your life.
3. Take Up Meditation Drenched in distraction, most of us are unaware of our internal landscape, the thought-forms and emotional patterns that can make life seem boring, frustrating, or meaningless. Meditation brings us into contact with that landscape, and once we develop awareness, our natural wisdom will begin shifting our thoughts into positive forms. It can start with the simplest of meditations. Just sit down and become aware of one, single breath. If that felt good, try a second one, and go from there.
4. Listen We’ve been taught that we need to be loud to be heard, and it’s easy to fall into the ego-trap of always trying to push our opinions. Yet when we develop a capacity for listening, our entire life shifts. People enjoy our company more, we become more compassionate, and we constantly grow in wisdom. How do you listen well? When someone else is talking, hear with awareness, without trying to formulate a response. Trust that your natural intelligence will be able to respond appropriately when they’re finished talking. If you want to take this to the next level, take it outside and experiment with hearing the “languages” of nature. Listening to the wind, birdsong, or flowing water will bring a deep sense of serenity and joy that will carry into every other aspect of your life.
Kenton Whitman is the co-founder of ReWild University, a Menomonie, WI-based nature school helping people to reconnect with nature and their natural wisdom, fitness, and health. He is also the nature columnist for the Dunn County News. You can learn more at www.rewildu.com.