Are you walking through life unconsciously or with eyes wide open? What are the downstream implications of your actions? Sustainability is the ability to live fully in the present without compromising the future. This applies to the environment as well as your own personal habits. It involves cultivating a practice of mindfulness in your everyday living. It also requires developing a knowledge base which allows you to minimize your individual toxic load and "footprint," while maximizing your own health and sense of joy.
We each have "spheres of environments" like the layers of an onion. It starts with how you treat yourself and your Source (whatever you consider to be a higher good). How you cultivate this inner world will then affect what radiates out to your personal space and family. Your choices within your intimate circle will then extend further to your friends and work relationships. Finally, your external actions will affect your community and our shared world.
My yoga guru Sri Swami Satchidananda once said, "To understand, we should stand under... then go a little deeper." Mindfulness is about being present and aware of what is happening in this very moment. It requires you to open your eyes and live with all of your senses -- to become an observer to your self and your surroundings. In relation to sustainability, it involves developing a consciousness of cause and effect. In other words, being aware of how your behavior affects the current situation, as well as being aware of future implications. It is similar to the practices of ahimsa and karma in yoga philosophy.
Ahimsa is often described as non-violence, though it is really about compassion and being mindful of your thoughts, words and actions. For example, even if you're a vegetarian because you don't believe in killing animals, you could still be violating the principle of ahimsa if you treat people in a rude and compassionless manner.
The Sanskrit term karma means actions and reactions. No action goes without its reaction. Every action will leave its result; every cause will bear its effect. In other words, you reap what you sow. For example, if you've been consistently rude and thoughtless during your life, it will come back to you in some way in the future -- or, as many believe, even in your next life. However, don't let this concept depress you. If your actions and resulting karma have been not-so-good in the past, you can start taking positive action now to turn it around! There is always hope.
Both of these concepts -- ahimsa and karma -- speak to personal responsibility. Everything you do actively creates your experience, in the past, now and in the future. Practicing mindfulness in your everyday living and adopting a mindset of sustainability allows you to live in harmony with yourself and the world around you... now and for years to come.
In order to use mindfulness as a path to sustainability, ask yourself:
- What is my individual "footprint" on my relationships, my living space, my work environment, and the larger world around me?
- Do I live in a manner that makes the people and places I touch better for me being there, or do I leave my own physical and emotional "trash" wherever I go?
- Are my relationships sustainable or are they toxic?
- Do I have toxic relationships that need to be "recycled"?
- Do I tune my mind to the positive, or is my default mode negative?
- Am I a toxic force in other peoples' lives?
Asking these questions is the first step; answering honestly is the real task. Practicing mindfulness may then lead you to take the next step and continue consistently on this path toward sustainability with a deeper sense of commitment. If everybody pondered these questions sincerely, we would have a better world. As Albert Einstein said, "We cannot solve problems at the same level of awareness that created them."
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