When times feel dark and chaotic, I turn to The World We Have, A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology by Thich Nhat Hanh for guidance.
You don’t have to be a Buddhist to follow the 5 Mindfulness Trainings Hanh shares in this guide. They provide a non-sectarian global ethic, not associated with a particular religion, race, or ideology, relevant to everyone.
The bells of mindfulness are sounding. All over the Earth, we are experiencing floods, droughts, and massive wildfires. Sea ice is melting in the Arctic and hurricanes and heat waves are killing thousands. The forests are fast disappearing, the deserts are growing, species are becoming extinct every day, and yet we continue to consume, ignoring the ringing bells.
All of us know that our beautiful green planet is in danger. Our way of walking on the Earth has a great influence on animals and plants. Yet we act as if our daily lives have nothing to do with the condition of the world. We are like sleepwalkers, not knowing what we are doing or where we are heading. Whether we can wake up or not depends on whether we can walk mindfully on our Mother Earth. The future of all life, including our own, depends on our mindful steps. We have to hear the bells of mindfulness that are sounding all across our planet. We have to start learning how to live in a way that a future will be possible for our children and our grandchildren.
Hanh’s message feels more important than ever, especially given the new U. S. administration, which denies climate change as a hoax and is determined to dismantle environmental protections at lightening speed.
The new administration removed the White House climate change website on its first day in office. It took steps to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency web pages on climate change, but they remain for the moment. Trump signed an executive order to expedite approvals for the Keystone and Dakota pipelines. Read more about other environment protections the administration plans to dismantle in this New Yorker article.
Do they think we’re stupid? These steps are contrary to popular opinion. And, these outrageous denials of climate change will only accelerate death and destruction, while further lining the pockets of the already wealthy.
According to NASA, Earth’s 2016 surface temperatures set new records:
Earth’s 2016 surface temperatures were the warmest since modern recordkeeping began in 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Globally-averaged temperatures in 2016 were 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit (0.99 degrees Celsius) warmer than the mid-20th century mean. This makes 2016 the third year in a row to set a new record for global average surface temperatures.
The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.
Let’s underline “human-made emissions” in that last sentence.
What Can You Do to Avert Climate Change?
What can you do? Continue marching. Continue protesting. Continue political action. #Resist.
Also consider embracing the Fifth Mindfulness Training, which addresses the suffering caused by unmindful consumption. External actions will always be limited if they are not rooted in a deep change in individual and collective consciousness.
Thich Nhat Hanh says the Fifth Mindfulness Training is the way we can avert global warming, heal ourselves, and heal the world. If we stop consuming unnecessary and harmful products, corporations will be forced to stop producing them.
Here is the Fifth Mindfulness Training:
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.
Elements of this training may sound puritanical. Give up alcohol? Stop watching some of my favorite TV programs and miss long anticipated films? (Does that include Star Wars?) Betray my ancestors?
But it’s only puritanical if you subscribe to it in that manner.
The Fifth Mindfulness Training isn’t asking you to become a rigid fanatic. Rather, it invites you to make conscious choices each time you consume by asking, “Will this harm or help me and others?”
This is a deep contemplation and a “training” meant to change our consciousness at the deepest levels. Don’t expect you can accomplish it perfectly off the bat. Consider what you can do. Then do whatever you can. If you disagree with some elements, like refraining from alcohol, focus on the others instead.
I know you’re probably already doing your part. But it’s easy to forget, get discouraged, or let go. So here are some suggestions of how you could begin or re-enter into more mindful consumption.
Every time you purchase or consume food or drink, you are making a choice that will help or harm the planet and all the beings that live upon it. If you eat and drink indiscriminately, you will also harm your own body and cloud your own mind. Generally, people who consume in moderation are healthier and happier too.
Hear are three ways you can eat more mindfully:
1. If you eat red meat, cut your consumption in half or eliminate it entirely. Eat more fruits and vegetables instead, which contain powerful health promoting substances. Because eating less meat is essential to curbing climate change:
The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined, but a worldwide survey by Ipsos MORI in the report finds twice as many people think transport is the bigger contributor to global warming.
2. Buy locally produced food as much as possible. Shop at your local farmers’ market. This cuts down on long distance transportation, which contributes to global warming as well.
3. Cut back on packaged foods, which require several more layers of production and often are not health-promoting.
As you eat each meal, bring to mind all the people who participated in producing and bringing this food to you. This practice of awareness will help you appreciate the interconnectedness of all life and make better decisions.
Mindful Selection of Sensory Impressions
We are constantly consuming through our five senses and our consciousness. Thich Nhat Hanh points out:
By the time the average child in the U. S. Has finished elementary school, she has watched over 8,000 murders and over 300,000 violent acts on television.
We might take violence on TV as part and parcel of everyday life. But Thich Nhat Hanh says these negative impression penetrate our consciousness for the worse.
You can see what he means if you find that fragments of television stories regularly enter your dreamscape. And whether or not they do, they still influence the state of your mind.
No one can control all sensory input, but we do have choices. We can walk away from conversations that center on gossip, complaining, or negativity. We can be selective about the films we watch. We can turn off music with hateful lyrics. We can fill ourselves with uplifting music, inspirational talks, and inspiring films instead.
You can also simplify your life, which will naturally lessen harmful inputs. Here are 11 ways I embraced simplicity and you can too.
Mindful Consumption of Oil
Any step you take—large or small—toward reducing your personal consumption of oil is a positive step for the world. Here are 11 ways to reduce your oil use, plus an interesting list of everyday items that get their start from oil and gas.
Mindful consumption is a deep practice. It means pausing before you purchase, cook, or consume to ask, “Will this be harmful or healthy for me and others?”
We can’t rely on the government alone to put an end to climate change. If we collectively consume massive amounts of beef, the livestock industry will eagerly provide it. If we want to individually drive our own gasoline-powered car instead of car pooling, the automakers will eagerly make more cars. If we want to buy packaged foods that must travel thousands of miles to reach us, the food industry will happily comply.
On the other hand, we can choose mindful consumption and in so doing choose life.
What are your thoughts on the Fifth Mindfulness Training? What aspects resonate for you. Are there any aspects that don’t? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious! Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free resources in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always. With love, Sandra