Inside Out

Climate Action as Practice?

“The class helped me so much to gauge where I’m at as a climate engager, how I still struggle and take on too much guilt, but also where I can nurture my sources of strength as a budding activist. I’m so happy my mindfulness can infuse all my work from here on out.”

Three years ago the phrase “Climate Action as Practice” appeared as I pondered how to prioritize both my meditation practice and engaging the climate crisis. I wondered if there was a way I could make action on climate my practice. Was it possible to fuse the two despite the obvious polarity?

The One Small Planet: Climate Action as Practice workshops emerged from this question and have taught me and those who participated a lot about how mindfulness practices can support taking action. One participant signed up for the class so he could take action on climate “from the inside out.”  Another found that as a result of the workshop she now had “tools that I can always refer back to and use to deepen my climate engagement in a practical and authentic way.”

Many of us turn to meditation and mindfulness practices to find balance and centering. We know meditation works because we feel better (more whole, more balanced) when we do it. It’s clear that meditation supports us.

What may be less obvious is that engaging in climate action (at any level) is also personally supportive.  Just as we sometimes meditate to find center, we sometimes need to consciously “be with” a planet that is out of balance.  When we turn towards the today’s environmental reality we align with an inner need to recognize and respond to what is happening. It’s when we don’t acknowledge this need that we get stressed out.

Practices that orient us towards climate change and its impacts help ground us in the reality of what is happening in the world while reminding us that we are “earthlings” (as Wes Nisker would say).  In this way we simultaneously “navel gaze” and gaze at the earth. In the One Small Planet workshop these practices include: awareness in nature, of our ecological footprints, of what’s happening, and compassion practice.

Awareness is the key. When we focus on the reality of the mess (in any context), we enter a more real (true) relationship to that mess. We recognize we’re in a relationship with the earth and that it doesn’t work to pretend otherwise. And with this awareness comes an understanding that we are choosing to respond: to act, to not act, to prioritize something else, to take a break, etc. 

In my experience all of the practices help lessen the sense of never doing enough, and of feeling overwhelmed, guilty and uncertain about choices I make around what to do. Doing these practices make me feel more hopeful.  Climate Action looks like a “big” practice, but it is also as simple as reading one email, recycling one piece of paper, attending one rally.

Awareness itself has an element of forgiveness in it as we recognize the enormity of the problem and that we must accept our limited capacity to act and understand as individuals. Awareness helps us see how doing a little is indeed doing enough.