by Justin Standfield
Today marks another annual Earth Day, which is a global event with more than a billion people taking part in events, petitions and clean-up projects to protect the environment. Every year on 22nd April, Earth Day has a different theme and 2019’s theme is ‘Protect Our Species’ – you can find out more on the official Earth Day website.
I grew up in the countryside and I’m lucky enough to live in a rural area again as an adult. Ever since my childhood, I’ve felt an innate sense of belonging when I’m outside in nature – whether this be walking along a remote hilltop, exploring a rock pool on the beach or sitting in silence in the woods. The only thing that’s changed as an adult is that it sometimes takes a more concerted effort for me to really experience the natural world; like most people, I can all too easily become caught up in dwelling on the past or planning for the future. Neither of these activities are inherently ‘bad’, but they can stop us connecting with the here and now. When was the last time you stopped for a moment and opened up to life as it is right now, in front of us?
People who practise mindfulness develop enhanced sensory perception through focussing on the here and now. When we’re being mindful, we’re essentially slowing down and noticing the simpler things in life; not only does this contribute to the development of a healthy stress-free state, it helps us to reconnect with the world around us. Employees who take part in Incendo’s ‘Developing Mindfulness at Work‘ corporate mindfulness programme often undertake either sitting or walking meditation outdoors, which increases their appreciation of the natural world and often inspires them to do more to protect it. The concept of ‘ahimsa’ or non-harming was part of the original philosophy of mindfulness, which many people find relevant today in their aim to live and work in a more sustainable world.
“Coming back to life here and now is at the heart of enhancing the wellbeing of all life on Earth, including our own.” – Claire Thompson
Make a commitment to yourself on this Earth Day to live in a way that honours your connection to the Earth. Firstly, try the following Earth Day mindfulness meditation which I’ve created to help us become a bit more in touch with the natural world around us:
- Choose a grassy location where you won’t be disturbed and where you’ll feel safe to sit for a while; for example, a field, a park or a garden.
- If you’re able to do so, lie down on the grass (if you cannot, just sit on the grass and place your hands next to you on the ground).
- Close your eyes and start to become aware of your breath. In mindfulness, we don’t try and force our breathing or changing the breath in any way – just stick with your everyday, natural pace/depth of breathing.
- With an attitude of curiosity, just notice what your breathing is like.
- Without judgement, move your attention away from your breathing and towards each part of your body that’s in contact with the ground – how does it feel?
- Feel the air that is passing across your skin, perhaps the warmth of the sun on your face too.
- Hear whatever sounds there are around you. Take amount to breathe in any scents.
- Just allow yourself to experience this moment and gradually become more aware of your connection to the earth.
As well as using mindfulness to notice the beauty of our world around us, you can take this appreciation a step further with some of these practical ideas and actions:
- Prevent the creation of microplastics by being careful not to throw plastic products in water ways, beaches or open spaces.
- Pick up some litter – especially plastics – whenever you see it in ponds, streams, fields, beaches etc.
- Take part in some organised clean-up activities whenever you can.
- Consider buying clothes, bedding and kitchen cloths made of natural fibres, whenever possible.
- You know that fluffy lint stuff that collects in your tumble dryer? Don’t ever wash it down the drain – dispose of it in your rubbish instead.
- Look up products online and choose not to buy toiletries containing microbeads (pick products that have natural exfoliators instead). Tropic is an amazing range that we highly recommend – you can buy their products via my good friend Hayley Litster’s online shop.