We have a interdependent relationship with the earth – a relationship that provides food, shelter, and adventure. Regardless of your scientific beliefs, having a conscious and respectful relationship with the Earth can only be of benefit and requires very few sacrifices, if any at all. It is hard to deny the blissful feeling of the sun on your face on a warm, sunny day or the breathtaking beauty and calm walking through the woods. But, this relationship doesn't end here. How about the satisfaction of cooking a delicious and nutritious meal with freshly picked produce from the market, or even better, from vegetables you grew yourself?
According to Yogagaia and teacher Hasita Nadai, we must begin to move into the ”Ecozoic Era,” an era in which humans will live in a sustainable and mutualistic relationship with the full community of life, with a full and heart-full awareness for their actions.
In yoga, we observe our habits and tendencies – both bad and good – and identify how to appropriately react, how to create space for change and growth, and how we can begin to move with an open heart. This begins with mindfulness, and, from this state of awareness, we can find a more conscious and balanced approach to life. We learn that at the core we are sentient beings and seek to give and receive love. Our needs are based on relationships with others and the environment, not material items. As we get wrapped up in materialism and a world of “things” we lose sight of what is important. When we remind ourselves of our relationship with the planet, we rediscover what essentially matters.
Author Ethan Nichtern writes, “As ignorant participants in complicated processes of global production and consumption, we have had precisely this contextual awareness stripped from us. This ignorance isn’t anyone’s fault, but it means most of us have developed some deeply grooved mental habits regarding how we impulsively interact with the world of objects.”
Nichtern continues, “If we really want to “go green,” we need a methodology for compassionately understanding the mechanisms of our own minds, because we’ve become way too habituated to the fake, styrofoam convenience of ignoring how our minds really work. The mind is at the root of all of our actions in the external world.”
“In asana practice, we are learning to balance and recycle our bodies’ energies so they become more sustainable, less grasping. In mindfulness meditation, we are learning how our thoughts actually function, how those thoughts lead us into action, and how those actions positively or negatively affect us and our planet. In meditation, we are nurturing the very root of the tree of sustainability, which is a healthy and contented relationship to our own mind.”
I invite you to take your practice outdoors. Feel the grass and dirt between your toes, grow and extend from the earth to the sun, and flow with the living energy that surrounds you. Feel for those comparisons between postures and their earthly titles - can you ground and be steady through your trunk and roots while your arms flow and move with wind in tree pose?
I further encourage you to also take this time to examine your ecological footprint on the earth. Where can you be more mindful in how you interact with the earth. Maybe consider the life cycle of the products you purchase and use, or consider the footprint and environment in which your food was grown or processed. Even the smallest changes can make a difference.
Sources and Additional Resources:
“Bamboo Planet” by Tresca Weinstein
“The Psychology of Ecology” by Ethan Nichtern
“Connecting to the Earth” by Tamar Samir
Green Yoga Association