Ecopsychology and Mindfulness, Which Has More Value?
It is a trick question. They have equal value. You cannot have mindfulness without oxygen in your brain. You cannot have air to breathe without your inner body awareness recognizing you need to breathe. Your unconscious, automated body, or your “You-ness” has an inner version of mindfulness, too.
Some people think you need to meditate to have full mindfulness. Maybe for some this is true. However, many people who have never even studied mindfulness or ecopsychology can remember times when immersion in nature allowed them to feel part of a greater whole.
Ecopsychology requires your senses and your attention, and so does mindfulness.
All of us know our senses have value. You can tune into one, or all, of your senses in the present moment. It is not about blocking out the external world. It is not about listening only to your inner dialogue.
True mindfulness is about experiencing the present moment.
True ecopsychology is about experiencing the present moment.
Volumes and books, videos and courses have offered up thousands of ways to experience and gain from the value of mindfulness, whether through meditation, or through yoga, or even through your chocolate ice cream addiction. Although ecopsychology is not as well known, it is just as important.
Ecopsychology, in my mindfulness, is simply this:
Everything has everything to do with everything.
Yes, that does sound like either too much to take in, or too vague for serious consideration. But go outside, try to catch the song of a bird, the sway of a tree, or the taste of an apple or orange, and think about it for a moment.
Just as Neil deGrasse Tyson confirms that we are indeed star stuff — carbon life forms born from the Big Bang — you are also related to the latest Trump Tweet, and/or the historic weather disasters surging through the Caribbean. Don’t let that truth cause you despair. You are also related to every solution, every compassion, and every hope for a better, greener world.
This is true. Political punditry and blame — in other words complaining — should not matter so much as doing. Self examination with the goal of gaining insight is not self indulgent if it is done honestly. It is the first step in doing.
Take Climate Change for example. Fighting about the cause is not nearly so important as helping one another with the outcomes. We can be the right people empowered to do better. We could spend countless hours blaming each other, or we can pollute less, spur green economy innovations, demand equality and justice, and/or just plant some trees.
We spend too much time hurting one another, and thereby, our own planet, and not enough time remembering we are connected. Mindfulness requires we sense the connections. Ecopsychology requires that we belong.
We are connected. Your mindfulness should never block out the external world, even as you do sometimes listen to your inner dialogue.
Some concepts to think about while meditating with mindfulness or while considering ecopsychology through your senses, are similar questions. What is the self? What sounds, sights, scents and sensations are part of me? Is my perception an accurate description of reality? What does my consciousness mean to the rest of the world? What is life, and what is it for? What parts of nature internally and externally should I be grateful for and acknowledge? What can I do today that improves the world? What does every living being do for me?
Once you begin to tune into the living biosphere and see your belonging within it, you will become more mindful, as well. Once you accept that every essence of what we are is connected to the reality and acknowledgement of the whole creation you can begin to assert that alienation and separateness is inaccurate. The feeling is real, but the physical reality displays, as Einstein noted, that our separation from nature is an illusion.
Here are some insights gained by actual clients who have employed both mindfulness and ecopsychology.
“It’s not about inner peace, or inner calm. I am more mindful when I open my senses even to distracting sights and sounds. I can detach from unpleasant thoughts if I choose, but only by letting them come and go.”
“Mindfulness was confusing to me until I gave myself permission to feel more like a conduit than a controlling force.”
“You can be in nature, and become disturbed. Thinking about poached elephants for instance. But it seems to me that emotion [of loss] was already within me, I was just letting it come to the surface, where the only space to actually care-or do — something is an option.”
“In my last mindfulness practice, I felt imperfect. Too distracted. Not in touch with an “inner spaciousness.” I was not able to focus. Now I realize I don’t have to focus. I just need to accept.”
Mindfulness is so many things to so many people, it can become confusing. So far, however, ecopsychology described as your connection to the living world is not so misunderstood.
There are some who see meditation itself as related to Buddhism, Zen, or new age influenced hype. This tendency is a good example of our inborn human nature that often will focus on the otherism of any new custom or idea. Your sense of otherness, too, must be part of any experiment with mindfulness or ecopsychology.
There are people who see a dark side to examining the self, or contemplating the unknown. After all, you might open up your mind to inner stress you have repressed, or resentments and anger you have not allowed yourself to acknowledge and thereby dissipate.
But just as with addiction, facing the truth is empowering. You can’t ever feel better by being a victim. You can only do better by owning that you can, and do, make a difference with every choice you make, be it big or small.
In the final analysis, mindfulness and ecopsychology are just a way to be honest in the living world. You can fake it on your Facebook page. You can disengage from humanity on your device. You can hide in Netflix, or online games. But, until we are completely downloaded onto robots and data-bases, we are dependent upon one another and the living biosphere.
Reconnect to nature by tuning her in. Reconnect to your food, your air, your water and your neighbors. Realize we are animals who need the birds, bees and manatees. Even as humans, we are more alike than we are different. Don’t let life slip by while you are distracted and churning away to get ahead.
Be part of it. Open up your mind and let life flow through you.