Much of our culture—and especially the self-improvement niche (which I’m in btw), has an emphasis on ourselves. And I think it’s great to want to improve….to an extent. Certainly my first 12 years of yoga and meditation practice was centered around answering the question: What can I do to be happier and healthier?
There were all kinds of things I worked on…gaining confidence, setting boundaries, quitting my day job as a research chemist (wahoo!), learning how to become financially stable, to name a few. My teachers early on fed me the idea what was good for me was good for the whole. I think in the deepest sense this is true, but it can get convoluted.
I don’t regret focussing on myself and I think this process was good for me. But, I got to a point (recently) where I realized it wasn’t about me. My actions (and all of ours) have significant effect on other people, the environment, and the global community.
I want to dig into the question: What impact do our daily decisions have on people and the planet?
Think about the food we eat…where does it come from? Who grew it? How was it grown? What processes were involved?
Think about how the transportation we’re using is impacting others and the planet. What about the work we do for a living? What about the products we purchase?
These questions are not easy.
In ancient texts based in Buddhism and yoga, there is a concept of “ahimsa” or non-harming. The idea is—there is enough suffering in the world and let’s not add to it.
Granted we’re humans and will have impact, but this is something to be explored.
It may seem overwhelming at first, and maybe feel like the only way to “do no harm” would be to live in a tent in the woods and forage. But we'll start with the here and now.
Start simple (and perhaps start with things that you see an immediate “win”)
Using reusable bags when grocery shopping.
Walking or biking to places that are close to reduce air pollution.
Finding ways to buy things with less packaging. At food co-ops and certain grocery stores you can bring your own reusable containers.
Support local and sustainable farming by buying a CSA (this is one of my favorites!). You reduce pollution from transportation of food, and know exactly where your food comes from. You also get the freshest highest quality food possible. For local folks, my favorite CSA is Driftless Organics.
Integrating local and/or organic foods into your diet (better for you and the environment).
Compost (food goes directly back into the Earth instead of a landfill). I recently learned that where I live in St Paul has a compost site where you can bring food scraps and I've been bringing our compostables to the site each week. It has been awesome to see all the food go back to the Earth (and not take up space in the landfill).
Don’t try to be perfect (impossible), but practice being aware of your impact.
My challenge to you is to choose one to commit to for a week and see what you notice. Also, when you consciously practice non-harming really feel what you are doing, why, and what the benefit will be.