From Mindfulness To Sustainability: A Conscious Journey

“It’s only the same old things over and over again; there is nothing in this world that is really unique, exceptional, or special in any way. In the end, it’s all just seeing, tasting, feeling, and thinking.”

The practice of mindfulness, focusing on the present moment without judgment, is deeply inspired by Buddhist philosophy, which emphasizes observing reality as it is, to foster understanding and peace in one’s life.

Mindfulness means paying attention to what is happening right now without trying to change it or judge it. It’s like watching a movie and just observing what’s happening without getting caught up in the story.

The idea is to see things as they are, not as we want them to be. This means looking at our lives and the world around us with an open mind.

For example, when we eat, we often do it without thinking. We might be talking, consuming content on a screen, or thinking about something else. 

But using the above approach, we are encouraged to really pay attention to eating. What does the food taste like? How does it feel in our mouths? We observe the reality of eating as it is. 

Also, it’s important to do so without getting attached to it, or to the sensory pleasure of the food. 

The same goes for our feelings and thoughts. Instead of getting lost in them, we just observe them. We see that they come and go. We understand that they don’t define who we are.

Observing reality as it helps us see that life is always changing, that wanting things to stay the same can cause pain and that our ‘self’ is not fixed or permanent. This can bring a sense of peace and help us live in a more balanced and relaxed way.

The actual practice of observing reality as it is can be deep and life-changing. But the idea is to start simple and just pay more attention to life as it is happening right now.

Here are a few examples of how the concept of mindfulness, can be applied to everyday urban life to make it more sustainable:

Morning Commute: Rush hours in cities like Mumbai or Delhi can be quite stressful. Instead of getting irritated in traffic or crowded trains, we could use this time to practice mindfulness. We can observe the sounds, the sights, and our own feelings, without reacting or judging them. It can help us stay calm and patient.

Work: Whether it’s a high-pressure corporate job in Bengaluru or a small business in Kolkata, work can often be stressful. During our work day, we can take small mindfulness breaks. Just taking a few moments to observe our breath or paying full attention to what we’re doing can also help reduce stress and increase focus.

Eating: Our food, whether it’s a thali from Gujarat or biryani from Hyderabad, is incredibly diverse and flavorful. Instead of eating in a rush or while looking at the screen, we could try to eat mindfully. Paying attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of the food, although without getting too attached to it. It can make the meal more enjoyable and also help us eat in a healthier way.

Evening Chai: Drinking chai is a daily ritual for many of us. It’s also a great opportunity for mindfulness. Instead of drinking our chai while scrolling through the phone, we could try just enjoying the chai. Noticing the warmth of the cup, the smell of the tea, and the taste. It can be a small but refreshing mindfulness moment in our day.

Family Time: Whether it’s a big joint family in Chennai or a small nuclear family in Pune, family dynamics can be complex. Using mindfulness during family interactions can help one respond rather than react. It helps to listen fully when someone is speaking. It’s important to notice our own feelings without judgment.

Mindfulness at Work

In our fast-paced work environment, we often encounter stress and the risk of burnout.

Mindfulness is the practice of staying present and attentive to the task at hand, without judgment or distraction. In the workplace, mindfulness can be a powerful tool to enhance focus, improve communication, and manage stress. 

From mindful meetings to mindful responses to challenges, the application of mindfulness at work can create a more productive and positive work environment.:

Starting Our Day Mindfully: When we arrive at our desks, instead of diving straight into our emails or tasks, we could take a few moments to settle in. We can notice our surroundings, take a few deep breaths, and set an intention for our day.

Mindful Meetings: During meetings, we can try to genuinely listen to what others are saying, rather than focusing on what we’re going to say next. This can lead to better understanding and more effective communication.

Mindful Emailing: Before sending an email, we can take a moment to review it. Are we communicating clearly? Is our tone respectful and professional? This brief pause can prevent misunderstandings or conflicts.

Mindful Breaks: Instead of using our breaks to scroll through social media or chat with colleagues, we could opt for something mindful. This could be taking a walk, doing some deep breathing, or simply enjoying our tea or coffee without distractions.

Mindful Responses: Work can often be stressful, and conflicts may arise. Instead of immediately reacting to a challenging situation, we can take a moment to observe our feelings. This pause can give us the space to respond in a more balanced and calm way.

Ending Our Day Mindfully: Before leaving work, we can take a few minutes to reflect on our day. What went well? What could we do differently? This can help us learn from our experiences and effectively “leave work at work.” At the end of the day, reflecting on the day’s events can provide valuable insights for the future, and allow us to mentally “clock out” from work.

Mindfulness can significantly contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle. 

By being fully present and aware, we can make more conscious decisions about our consumption habits, reducing waste and promoting sustainability. 

We can appreciate the resources we have, consume what we need, and minimize excess. Additionally, mindfulness can enhance our connection with nature, prompting us to make choices that are in harmony with the environment and self. 

– By Saurabh Gupta, Founder and CEO, Earth5R. Saurabh Gupta is an environmentalist and a former monk.