Excuse me, may I have some coherence please?

11 02 2010

Our journey exploring alternative ways of living has taken us to an ecologically-oriented farm near Bogota, Colombia. They were hosting an event to celebrate the full moon with kundalini yoga, sacred healing fires and lots of uplifting spiritual vibrations. The purpose of this evening was to heal the Earth and ourselves. Curious about this invitation we prepared a vegetarian dish to share, as all attendees were asked, and decided to go and check it out.

 

Context

As we can read in its mission statement, this place is: “a green-oriented farm, retreat and educational center […] we want to set an example of how to live in harmony with nature by recycling, using alternative energy, responsibly managing waste and water residues, and implementing organic agriculture and farming […] we offer a unique space for contemplation and self enrichment, filling a void in Colombia’s ecoturism market while contributing to outreach programs in the local community.”

Once there, we were very impressed by the imposing colonial house and the more than 2 centuries old tree in the front yard. We were offered some tchai and ginger tea to warm up a bit. And guess what? They were being served in one-use plastic cups. Then, followed the styrofoam plates, the plastic forks and the paper towels.

As conscious individuals we were gathered to sing hindi mantras, light sacred fires and heal the Earth, yet at the same time we were leaving behind paper, plastic and styrofoam! So, on one level we were participating in a healing ceremony for the Earth and on another level – simultaneously – we were polluting it. We cannot say that our actions on one level are more important than the other, we believe both are as important. Far from wanting to judge this place, we want to use this experience to address a general issue:

Conscious people: let’s be coherent!

 

If we talk green, let’s do green

There is a lot of talk about protecting the planet. International organizations have come up with the concept of ‘sustainability’ in order to enforce holistic thinking and the respect towards nature. As a consequence, it has become ‘cool’ to be green. Riding a bicycle to work, cutting-out our meat consumption, and even taking care of ourselves by doing yoga or practicing meditation is seen as trendy. That is great! Now let’s make it more than just a matter of fashion. Let’s make it real!

Courtesy of mortimer - mortimeriadas.com - all rights reserved

In our trip, we have been to eco-zones that use toxic soap directly in the river, ecovillages where there are more water-polluting toilets than dry ones, and lots of ‘holistic’ stores where plastic bags and containers are used systematically. We have come up with the conclusion that such concepts as ‘green’, ‘healthy’, ‘spiritual’ and ‘eco’ have become very popular, and that the market is fulfilling those needs. It seems we are consuming those concepts without paying attention to what they mean. How can we heal the Earth by chanting and meditating if at the same time we are destroying and polluting it?

“The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.” – Carl Sagan

 

What can we do?

In a previous article, we discussed the importance of reducing our consumption of plastics and changing our consuming habits. More than recycling and managing waste, the point we developed was to avoid wasting. When hosting an event like this, organizers can easily ask the attendees to bring their own plates, glasses, forks and reusable napkins. Another possibility is to provide all necessary dishes and utensils, if one regularly hosts events like this. If worried about cleaning, we can set up a washing station and ask people to clean their dishes after using them. Two or three bassins with water and vinegar are enough. Not only will we be reducing the environmental impact of the event, we will also be creating a sense of personal responsibility amongst the participants. If you have any other ideas, please leave a comment!

 

Spiritual beings in a concrete world

Yes, we are spiritual beings. Which means we have a spirit, an essence or spark that makes us unique. That spirit (or however you want to call it) is capable of being conscious and thus choosing, which is called ‘free will’. But, we live in a material world where our actions have consequences. So, our free will is to be used in this material, concrete world.

The word concrete comes from the latin roots cum and crescere literally translating ‘to grow with’. As spiritual beings we need to be aware that our inner growth is achieved through concrete actions, we need to grow with matter. Ideas, words and wishes have an impact only through action. So, it is great to talk about the environment. It is great to raise awareness around us about protecting the planet. Now imagine how powerful it is to act according to such values.

We don’t mean that our inner realities do not count. They are crucial, and being in touch with them allows us to be in harmony with ourselves. But that interior world has to generate actions in the exterior world in order to be expressed and fully lived.

Our thoughts have an impact on ourselves and they determine the way we feel. Our words have an impact on each other and they determine the way we are perceived by our peers. But it is our actions that have an impact on our planet, and we have come to the point where they determine our future. The more we find a balance between our several facets, the more coherent our lives become and the easier it is to create our realities.

 

21st century: consuming and… what else?

Let’s think about our interactions in society. They are mostly gravitating around consumption. Even the most personal individual-to-individual interaction is linked with consumption. Dates happen in bars, coffee places or restaurants. Birthdays involve food for the guests, gifts, and special clothes. Newborns have become extremely expensive these days, and even passing away is a great business. Those are just a few caricatural examples, but think about all the things we consume in one day. Our everyday actions have become consuming habits. The challenge is to make those habits conscious.

Courtesy of polyp.org.uk (all rights reserved)

 

T.T.A.

Our goal with this post is to encourage all of us to act according to our values and principles. To simplify things, we have come up with T.T.A. which stands for think = talk = act.

1) Think: In advance. Our current consuming habits involve buying, using and throwing away, without even worrying about our garbage and what happens to it. Let’s have it in our minds at all times that we need to reduce our impact on the planet. Even better, let’s remember we can have a positive impact on our environment. Let’s think in advance of what we need. Are we going to need bags for shopping? Did we put our reusable mug in our bags? Will we need plates, utensils and napkins at the event?

2) Talk: When necessary. Our speech is a very powerful tool when used appropriately. Often, we tend to criticize and judge and we get lost in long explanations and debates where different opinions try to overpower each other. We loose our power. To help us, we can privilege words that invite us to action. As Ghandi said, let’s “be the change”, not talk about it.

3) Act: Consciously, so we brake the habits we have created through time. Every action is an opportunity to have a concrete impact on our world. When our actions reflect our values, they give us strength. It’s simple, if we go against our values we are sending the message to ourselves that they are not important. By acting according to our principles we are sending the message that “Yes, our values are dear to us, and yes, we can do something about the issues we’re concerned with”. We can act.

 

Judge a tree by its fruit and a human by its actions

How many times do we hear people say something and do the opposite? How many times have we said something and done something else? Many, and we all do. So the best way to stick to our word is to say as little as possible and act. How strange is it that we need to talk about the things we are going to do… Doing them is enough!

To finish, here’s a quote we find to be very valuable:

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” – Author unknown

 

Take it further!

To estimate your personal impact on the Earth, also called ‘ecological footprint’ go to: myfootprint.org/en/

There several movements that want to rethink our relationship to consumption. Here are some links to learn about the most popular ones:

To learn more about actions, habits and how to brake them, try it for yourself and please let us know how it goes!

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6 responses

11 02 2010
fran

😉

11 02 2010
steph

Totally agree with you!!!

…by the way I had myself to complain against some companies who were promoting eco stuff/activities/.. but on the other hand they kept on sending me (as thousand others people) colorful propaganda and sometimes with plastic… one of them was almost everyday and twice moreover as they had twice my name (1 with an error)!! SURREALIST! After 1 year of telling them to stop such non-ecological propaganda, the only solution left to make them change their mind was to return ALL that s%$t to them spread all over their counters threatening them that next time I would be back with some ecological activists… since, they suddenly and at last stopped and apparently also to others who used to received such propaganda ..Happy End! :-))

Thank you
Steph (french in Madrid)

12 02 2010
lookingfortherainbow

Steph, thanks for sharing!

It’s great you managed to be heard.
Your experience is a powerful example of ‘response-hability’, and how we are able to take action and change things. By the way, very creative!

Cheers,

lisa and juan 🙂

11 02 2010
Luiza

Hey, great article! I feel deeply about your points with regards to consumption, and i gotta say that it’s not easy to become conscious of your habits overnight… Fortunately there’s excitement surrounding a shift of perspective, because when you expose yourself to alternative lifestyles (like you guys, or like i did when i went tree planting), that’s when you become aware of how your old ways contrast with the new learning.

The theory is nice, and opening up to it is a first step, but then the actual implementation (read: changes) take a bit longer and challenges your day-to-day choices. I find myself coming up with new ways of living a lifestyle that approximates more and more the way i feel about the earth and spirituality, and though it might seem a drag to change, i just get all excited about what healthier, more ecological way to go about something i can find.

It’s a creative process that also involves attracting all kinds of interesting individuals in one’s life, that become sources of inspiration, or even mentors! I agree that actions speak louder than words and i’m all for it, but i also remember a time when i was “all talk no action”, and i think it’s a necessary phase one must go through on the way to action. It’s like a prepping phase, just gotta make sure you don’t get stuck in it too long…

And here’s a question for you guys: i want to reduce container consumption, but a lot of the foods i buy come in plastic tupperware, glass jars or paper cartons. Also i’m aware that i could make my own kefir, pickles or soy milk, but i really don’t have that kind of time… The health food stores where i buy these products from don’t offer the “bring your own container” option, because they don’t make these things themselves… So what to do?

I mean, i’m all too aware of the massive amounts of recycling that my dad and i generate every week, but city life doesn’t leave much room for reducing. Any ideas on the matter?? My rule of thumb is never buy more than 40% pre-packaged foods, since my diet consists of about 60% fruits and veggies, nuts, cereals and legumes that i can get “en vrac”. But that 40% is still huge, and for every pot of apple sauce or can of potato curry i get, i always think “you should make this from scratch”. I think i could make a career in some commune just making food! Who knows maybe one day i will 😛

Love you guys!! Write soon 🙂

19 02 2010
lookingfortherainbow

Luiza,
Your comment made us smile, mostly because you seem to know the answer to your question : )

I´m quoting you when you say “you should make this from scratch”. It´s not always possible, and certainly it will be difficult at first. But thanks to yur comment we had an idea. What if you pick one article form your grocery list and try to do it yourself. The point would be to give yourself time to achieve your goal, so how about giving yourself a month to be able to replace such product. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn´t and you´ll have to pick another one. In the process, you could even invite some friends over and have a sort of workshop. With practice it will be much easier, right? And even though it make take you a bit of extra time, it usually tastes a lot better : ) Here´s a website that provides thousands of vegan recipies for food and more! (www.vegweb.com)

On another hand, Lisa brought up the point that some of those articles may just be eliminated, since they are not essential. That´s completely up to each one of us to determine. But who knows…

Also, it would be helpful to find locally made products that can be bought straight from the person making them. These people might help, in Quebec (www.sansemballage.org). You can write and ask them about shops “en vrac” and other smaller producers.

Finally, please let your health stores know your concerns. Ask to speak to the manager, write an email, leave a suggestion in their comments box. It is important that customers express themselves. Plus, it is often appreciated by these stores.

Thanks Luiza, it is very nice to read you. Keep it up!

lisa and juan : )

ps: let us know how it goes, and share any discoveries please

27 02 2010
Narcisa

Your experiences are very valuable and ecouraging.
With guys like you, the world is going to be a better place, no doubt.
Keep ip tyhe good work and be happy.
Love you.

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