Friday, September 11, 2009

Samadhi and our Planet

Today I had a moment of pulling my head out of the sand.... or something similar. Why did I begin this journey of sharing my thoughts with regards to being an "eco" yogi/ni? Recently I've been feeling quite overwhelmed about the entire subject and unsure about my role as an individual in the entire process. Is it really something that should garner this much of my attention, my energy and my thoughts? (Outside of Saint John NB)

Yes. Often I feel like we get sucked into the little details, the microcosm as opposed to the "big picture" macrocosms of how our actions and lives affect each other. Although I try not to become some kind of "preaching", ranting stereotype, I feel there is a sort of line where realistically it becomes more a matter of common sense than radical concepts.

We have one planet, balanced in a precious, delicate, complex system of air, water, plants and earth. All interconnected and all intricately and dynamically bound. Our oceans are not a separate entity from our trees, our earth or the air we breathe. One incomprehensibly layered system that has evolved over billions of years to sustain human life. We, as humans, are pumping billions of chemicals into the ocean, earth and air forever altering this vulnerable balance that we depend on in order to live. Doesn't that sound just a tad ridiculous? Who would believe that our atmosphere, so perfectly synced to provide the perfect amount of oxygen and CO2, could handle an indefinite increase in carbon+chemicals?

I think we have this strange sense of permanency, as if the world will stay stagnant and all our indulgences and ridiculous wasteful way of life will continue indefinitely without consequence. Truly, it's such a weird way of thinking and completely irrational. Our planet can and will change, with a tipping point arriving much sooner than we think (8 years by some climatologists). It's funny how quickly we can come to think of things as being necessity, akin to a human right. Like eating fruits and vegetables at all times of the year, having an air conditioner, television, a car, a cell phone...

What will these things matter if we didn't have a planet to live in?

Now, of course huge changes come from giant corporations who spew zillions of carbon and pollution into the atmosphere. However, this consumer culture, this culture of want-need-have, fuels these corporations. We fuel the system, buying plastic products made from petroleum, using energy and water as if the source is indefinite. These all have an impact.

The neat thing is that a culture is malleable. Culture can change and HAS changed fairly quickly. David Suzuki has a fantastic example of how just fifty years ago there were signs everywhere informing people that it was illegal to hawk a loogie in public. The municipalities and government actually had to put up signage to stop people from spitting all over bus and store floors, in the street, on the sidewalk... Now simply the cultural norms of what is socially acceptable prohibits this act (Sacred Balance). In fifty years the body type "ideal" has changed from a size 16 (Marilyn Monroe), to Twiggy, to below zero and just recently slightly above. Just under 100 years ago women weren't legally considered human beings and had no rights as citizens. Such as tiny blip in the eons of humanity.

Colin, from No Impact Man gave a fantastic interview with Beth from Fake Plastic Fish recently. It was what made me think of the macro-big picture. We CAN change the way we live without decreasing the quality of life. We can choose to eat local and healthy, to walk to work, the park, the bookstore, to friends houses, to unplug from our televisions, stop buying bottled water, grow our own food. He points out that North Americans produce the largest per capita carbon emissions in the world... a statistic that is extremely individual and can only change at the one person level.

Of course, there are some things that are unrealistic in "opting" out of the societal systems. Like "opting out" of having electricity. However, I find it funny that when I tell my clients' parents that I don't have a TV (which is why I have no idea who the "wiggles" are) they tell me all will change once I have children. Since when does having children equate needing a television? Or video games? Do you really want to be a part of the 100 billion of plastic bags being produced and added to landfills and oceans each year? Bringing your own bag may require some energy and commitment initially, but is it something that's really "too hard"? Considering that plastic bag will actually last for thousands of years.

No Impact Man has a nice "top ten eco-changes" that can help start your change in lifestyle. I especially like the first one: "stop eating beef". Andrew and I are not vegetarians by any stretch of the imagination, but we've significantly decreased our beef eating habits. We mostly eat chicken and sometimes pork. Buying sustainable and healthy (for the planet and you) beef is such a difficult and convoluted process right now that I can delegate beef to special occasion only. I don't NEED steak every night.

Here are a few of my changes that I like and am trying to work into my life:

1. Stop buying bottled water. Water is a right, not a commodity to be sold in petroleum based plastic bottles.
2. Bringing my own bags. This includes produce bags as well; my pog-sacs from lioli which I LOVE. They keep produce fresher for longer than those nasty plastic bags and encourage me to buy bulk. You could also easily make your own from old fabric.
3. Walk-don't drive. This one has been difficult in Halifax as their public transit sucks. I've been carpooling to work which is great and we are still working on this one.
4. Stop. Buying. Things.
5. No Television. When we had a TV it was on for hours and I can't even count how many evenings we just zoned out. Now that we don't have one, we sit and read together, I play the guitar, we play cards or hang out with friends. Whenever we visit friends and the TV is on, I find it detracts so much from the social aspect.
6. Use glass containers instead of ziploc bags and plastic containers.
7. Stop using paper towel... even the recycled paper kind. Totally possible.
8. Buy in season local fruits and vegetables. Also totally possible.
9. Participate in environmental awareness activities. Now this one I'm working on. I'm planning on attending the demonstration (worldwide) in Halifax on October 24th this year. I've also been planning on creating a pretty poster with some fantastic ways to reuse your yoga mat and see if the local studios will put them up (even lulu!). They sell so many yoga mats, and encouraging consumers to be responsible with their old mats could be that simple.
10. Vote.

I cannot separate the teaching of Yoga or my personal beliefs in the Goddess, with an inherent responsibility to protect what is sacred. One meaning of the word "yoga" is "to unite", with samadhi implying we are all one, all connected. Our planet is worth it. :)



  1. so much of what you say resonates me and helps me feel not crazy when other ppl do make me feel crazy for not needing/wanting "normal" way of life. sigh.

  2. I think the key here is culture and what we consider to be "normal" behavior. if there is a fundamental shift from using paper towels to cloth, industry will eventually have to scale back their production (and waste). if enough people get upset about the needless production and distribution of single-use plastic bags, lawmakers will be in a much better position to regulate it.

    I'm not saying a change in people's habits is a silver bullet--deciding to not buy paper towels or accept plastic bags ain't gonna save the forest or the ocean by itself. but I don't think it should be written off either, as I've noticed some eco-minded people tend to do. individual change leads to community change, plain and simple. gandhi did it, MLK did it, women did it. we're next!

  3. Lovely post! Your points about the cultural changes in the past 50-100 years are so on point, and the perfect response to someone who says 'what can I do? culture changes so slowly.'

    I love the list of habits to change. I went to an outlet mall this afternoon for some work clothes, and ended up feeling so depressed. It seemed that everything was poorly made, from petroleum products, and just stopping briefly in the store, before heading to the landfill. ugh. I'm going to try to return to thrifting/ consignment shops - more time intensive, but much more sustainable.

  4. Oh, the anger I get from people around me when I dare mention that their habits create the corporate habits that they think are the WHOLE problem. The barbs from their eyes could kill me!

    Individual change is the only change. Individuals are the basis for all other human enterprise...whether it be communal or corporate.

    We have not owned a car for over 8 years now. We dumb lucked into the house we own, since we had a car when we bought it, but it then ended up being perfectly located for this no car "experiment."

    I very occasionally will eat beef -- but it's locally produced, organic, etc.

    But that's what we're really talking about here, isn't it? CONSCIOUS, well thought out, educated CHOICES. NOT RULES...but better choices. :)

  5. Inspiring! I love your voice and your role as an "eco/yogini." Your blog makes me feel like I'm on your journey with you, as you learn and explore and come up against bumps. We're blessed that you're so willing to share everything with us, and that you're forthcoming and informative without being preachy or self-righteous. Your commitment to change inspires me to make more change in my own life. Thanks, sugar!

  6. Yet another fab post (I'm desperately behind...again).

    You know, it occurs to me that way back when I was a kid - I remember there NOT being so much disposable crap and *convenience* food. There weren't any disposable disinfecting wipes or plastic-packed insta-food. And we all seemed to manage just fine. So I really don't see it being a tremendous issue to go back to that... grandparents still use cloth handkerchiefs...why not? We kids were all were diapered with cloth...why not? Just because we have the technology to make this shite, doesn't mean we have to use it....

  7. What more can I say than that I agree whole-heartedly?! :) Enough with the disposable world!

  8. Such a great list! It helps to remember that little things can make a big difference. And if you want to try going vegan, I got your back! ;)

  9. whenever i feel overwhelmed by green guilt, not doing enough, not being adequately ascetic, etc. i just try to focus on one thing i can do - one choice i can make right now to do a better job and be a better steward and citizen. just reducing your own consumption is huge. collecting rainwater is huge. not wasting food is huge. then i feel like it's all more manageable. thanks for a great post, kitty.


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