How To ‘Mind The Gap’: Inner Transformation For The Greater Good
I’m no fortune teller, but 20+ years in the environmental game suggests we need a pretty radical transformation of society to meet the current and future environmental challenges. While I get there is no silver bullet, I believe finding more novel, contemplative, and mindful approaches to not only cope, but to move forward in these challenging times is needed.
Does mindfulness have the potential to bridge the gap from where we are to where we need to be? Can it lay down the foundations of inner transformation, awareness, and action for the greater good?
We can start to answer this question by understanding the ancient art of mindfulness which formed part of many eastern religions for hundreds if not thousands of years. With our western culture cottoning on more recently. Today, mindfulness is a popular method in clinical psychology and a fashionable way of approaching mental health and well-being and for reducing stress, anxiety and depression.
Through our news feed and social media posts, we can appreciate mindfulness as being deeply ingrained in the zeitgeist of our time. This is largely thanks to Jon Kabat-Zinn, who brought mindfulness to the west and uses this well-known simplified definition: “awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”.
I have personally found benefit in practicing mindfulness (particularly during lockdown) which has helped me cultivate awareness, not identify with negative thoughts (as much) plus find more room for self-compassion. However, I admit that mindfulness is not a universal remedy and will not be for everybody – especially if it is taught or guided incorrectly it can end up having adverse effects.
But, it has much promise in the ability to allow people to be more open-minded, compassionate and empathetic – key elements we need to transform personally and globally to a more socially and environmentally just world.
If you want to read about what happens to us and our brains during mindfulness meditation, check out these resources. But here I want to touch on what the eco-psychology research has to say on mindfulness, inner transformation and being a more environmentally conscious person.
Mindfulness and inner transformation
We have a good handle on the importance of nature connection in people and how this leads to pro-environmental behaviours. But, there is much to explore in the world of mindfulness and inner transformation which may lead to more environmentally friendly ways.
The practice of mindfulness provides insight into how inner transformation occurs as it expands a persons consciousness, including self-awareness, empathy, and compassion. This has been found to result in strengthening our capacity to be more aware of our relationship with the natural world and shift our ways of living.
We have a good handle on the importance of nature connection in people and how this leads to pro-environmental behaviours. Yet, there is much to explore in the world of mindfulness and inner transformation which may lead to more environmentally friendly ways.
The practice of mindfulness provides insight into how inner transformation occurs; as it expands a persons’ consciousness, including self-awareness, empathy, and compassion. This has been found to result in strengthening our capacity to be more aware of our relationship with the natural world and shift our ways of living.
How does it work?
These studies have shown that being able to contemplate our own lives through the simple practice of paying attention, noticing, and cultivating awareness enables us to make more sustainable choices. In one study, people were questioned about their existing tendency towards mindfulness and environmental behaviours, and it showed people with a more mindful attitude were more likely to notice and purposely manage their choices according to their environmental impact.
Even in the face of social norms, when we have a more mindful outlook it allows us to engage more critically with our choices as consumers.
While mindfulness isn’t for everybody and it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to encouraging pro-environmental behaviours. I see great potential in a collective mindful society to cope with the challenges, show resilience and take action for our planet.
Some mindfulness meditations to try:
Body Scan Meditation:
RAIN (Recognise, Allow, Investigate, Nurture) Mediation with Tara Brach
Loving Kindness and Self Compassion Meditation with Kristin Neff