How Mindfulness Can Support You in Ethical Living
This post is a sponsored collaboration with the Will Williams Meditation Centre in London. The post was written by Holly Ashby, a writer who works with the London meditation centre Will Williams Meditation, a meditation company which can help people achieve present moment awareness through an alternative to mindfulness – reducing their stress and providing a form of self-care.
Choosing to live ethically is far from easy. Trying to fight against prevailing tides is a huge challenge, especially as the temptation not to care can sometimes be hard to resist. Being concerned about the fate of the planet, your fellow humans and the world’s wildlife means you may have plenty more to carry than those who turn a blind eye. But if you ever feel like you’re struggling, then mindfulness can help – both as a form of self-care and by cultivating the ideals that drive your commitment to sustainable living.
A quick introduction to mindfulness.
Mindfulness has become more culturally visible over the last few years, gaining in popularity and being discussed widely across various blogs and newspapers. This change has been a positive one, allowing people access to information and the opportunity to introduce mindfulness into their lives. But the fact the word “mindfulness” has become so ubiquitous means that people often think it needs no introduction. “What actually is mindfulness?” is still a question that’s well worth answering.
Rather than being a catch-all term for meditation, mindfulness refers to a particular style of “open monitoring” meditation. This means that rather than focusing on a particular thing (perhaps a mantra, or object), in mindfulness you keep your attention open – allowing thoughts, feelings, memories, smells and sounds to wash over you with acknowledgement, but without reaction. You may begin by noticing the feeling of breath entering and leaving your lungs, for example.
Mindfulness can also refer to a state of mind (achieved by many different forms of meditation) that’s best summed up by the phrase “present moment awareness”; rather than becoming lost in anxieties and trivial concerns, you exist comfortably in the moment, thinking with a clarity that’s impossible to achieve if your mind is busy with preconceptions and judgement.
How meditation can help you live sustainably?
On your journey towards ethical living, there are bound to be some bumps in the road. We live in such a complex and interconnected system, and it implicates us all, to one extent or another, in global injustices. Trying to make the best choices in this context takes an awful lot of time and research. On a baser level, it can also be hard to resist the trappings of a unsustainable consumerist lifestyle, especially when convenient but damaging options surround us at all times. Creating a lifestyle which will “do no harm” requires huge amounts of thoughtfulness, and near-constant motivation.
Meditation is a way to realign our thinking, pulling apart deeply-set fears, attachments and bad habits. Scans have revealed that meditation has the effect of physically transforming our brain, and the way it makes us feel more than reflects this. We’ve all grown up with certain messages explicitly or implicitly driven into us, evoking insecurities and social anxiety that we’re told can only be solved through materialism. What’s more, we’ve all got so used to consuming without thinking, and everyday habits are hard to break, whether it’s picking up bottled water or sending rubbish to landfill.
Mindfulness can help you untangle yourself from all this, and really think – without the pressures and expectations placed upon you by marketing and prevalent social attitudes. For people having difficulty staying sustainable despite their best intentions, taking a step back and aiming to be more mindful before further commitments can be a great basis from which to build an ethical life.
Activists burnout and self-care
Another advantage of meditation and present moment awareness is its role in self-care. Ethical living requires more effort from individuals, placing increased responsibility and a sometimes uncomfortable amount of awareness on their shoulders. Looking after the world around us is important, but it’s impossible if we don’t give any thought to our own wellbeing. Activist’s burnout is something many caring people have to consider, whether they face the emotional toll of volunteering with vulnerable people or the extra burden of going ‘zero waste’.
The task can feel insurmountable, and other people’s indifference is occasionally overwhelming. Being mindful helps you recognise the moments when you need to prioritise your own health and happiness, and also helps to balance out any extra stress you may experience through sustainability. Direct some of the natural compassion you display in your thoughtful choices towards yourself through mindful living, and you’ll be able to live in the best way possible for years to come.
Thanks to Holly for writing this useful introduction to mindfulness and what it can offer us in our sustainable living journey.1