Mindfulness is the concept of living in the present, and becoming more conscious of how we think and how we feel.
This post was a difficult one to write, because the theme is so vast. But I think there's a lot to the idea that living mindfully can help us, and even will lead us, to living conscientiously.
As the psychologist, Daniel Siegel puts it:
Instead of being on automatic and mindless, mindfulness helps us awaken, and by reflecting on the mind we are enabled to make choices and thus change becomes possible.
If you've ever made a change towards what is called 'zero waste' living, or quite simply, taking responsibility for the waste you take into your home and put into the world, then you too might have found yourself reflecting on your everyday choices.
Looking back, how many of us have bought a disposable coffee cup a day, used plastic straws, not thought twice about single-use packaging?
I count myself in that group. And yet here we are, becoming more mindful about the impact our daily lives have on the planet.
Working towards zero waste is a form of mindfulness. As you make your way on this journey, you'll start to think about why you buy what you buy, how you use and keep food, the objects you surround yourself at home...
And it's becoming aware of these patterns in your life, perhaps the consumer itches that make you just want to buy sometimes, that can help you come to a better understanding of yourself - and make the important changes we need to protect our planet.
Meditation goes hand in hand with mindfulness. If you've never tried it, I would really recommend you have a go.
So, as we relate mindfulness to zero waste, I thought I'd share with you some lessons I've learnt from guided meditations and how you can practice what you learn through sustainable living. I've included links to the meditation recordings if you'd like to try them:
1. Ground yourself in the present
Awake in the morning, maybe you're your most peaceful self, before you plug into social media and think about the day ahead. This is a morning meditation, to help you settle into the present moment before you start the day, so you can go about the rest of your day in the present, appreciating each experience. The question is, are you in this world to enjoy life, or just to get through it?
When you look at your household supplies from before, how many of these did you just buy in a rush? How many are recyclable, biodegradable? It's easy to come out of the supermarket with plastic sponges and bleach, which add nothing to your day to day and do a lot of damage to the environment, particularly marine life in this case.
When you first move towards zero waste, shopping can become a new experience and a deliberate one as you look for products without single-use plastic, or you invest in a handmade, reusable item from an ethical business, like a beeswax wrap. New experiences help us slow down to appreciate the moment and, beautiful in themselves, the useful eco-friendly supplies you begin to gather around you will start to turn your everyday into points of time you can enjoy, from the washing up to brushing your teeth!
2. Be kind to yourself first
Being self-sacrificing won't work in the long run. I do believe you can't be genuinely kind to the world, unless you're kind to yourself first.
So when you approach your zero waste journey, approach it as though it is for you. Buying less, surrounding yourself with only with what you use and what you love, reducing waste - these can all contribute to a happier, more purposeful life. Just take the care and craft that goes into a biodegradable wipe from an ethical business, that will last longer and give you more joy than a yellow plastic wipe ever could.
Once you've mastered the art of looking after yourself, conscientiously, you'll be ready to go further in protecting our world. You'll have already started.
3. Find the root of what worries you
Did you ever have a drink or eat some chocolate because you were feeling bad? Or maybe feel the urge to just go out and buy something?
We all have these feelings from time to time, and they're normal. As you practice mindfulness, though, you might start to become aware of the thoughts and feelings that come through your mind before these impulses emerge.
It's a start breaking from the automatic buying patterns we've grown up with, adverts and promotions encouraging us to scratch our itches by the spending on our pounds. Maybe you'll edge closer to understanding the root cause of your worries and tending to yourself in a healthier way.
That's what zero waste living invites you to do anyway, to question whether you need something before you buy it. It'll take you from addictive purchases, from processed food in single-use packets to cheap fast fashion, and on to healthier, more ethical choices.
This video by Brené Brown tells a lot about vulnerability, and connecting to life's pains so as not to numb life's joys:
4. Affirming what matters
In hard moments, it's easy to forget that you are everything you need in life. You have the capacity to know what's right and to find a way to do it.
Zero waste living starts at home, preventing wasteful packaging from entering it and reusing what you have. When taken step by step, it's easy. At home, unlike so many other areas in life, you and your family have control. You can make the differences you want to make.
The experience of living sustainably in our day to day is what prepares us to go out in life and take an active part for what we believe in - to sign petitions, to influence changes in your workplace, to ask companies to do better.
And sometimes you need a boost to remember that you can do all this, which is where this affirmation meditation comes in.
I hope you've enjoyed this post. Mindfulness and zero waste is a theme I'm only really beginning to get my own head around as I try to apply both within my everyday life. Certainly one of the biggest illusions we need to challenge nowadays is that we're too busy to protect our planet. But that fact you're here shows you're conscious of this, shows we're making a start.
What have been your experiences of mindfulness and or reducing waste at home? How do you think the two relate? I'd love to hear what you think.