No Impact Week: An Exercise in Mindfulness

When I received my Guidelines for participation in Huffpo’s No Impact Week, I opened it with some trepidation. What had I gotten myself into? I conjured up visions of juggling groceries in reusable string bags on bicycles while wearing multi layers of thrift store fashion. In other words, I would be transforming myself into a politically correct bag lady. Sure, I had done this before back in the early seventies- recycling newspapers into roll your own fireplace logs or holiday wrapping paper, making my own goat yogurt, starting an organic garden. That was a long time ago. Thrift store fashion was actually chic and the differences between an eco-balanced life and that of a young post grad were on the surface marginal. But in the many intervening years, I had certainly gotten off track as the comforts and material possessions of my life began possessing me. So I was intrigued and inspired by Colin Beavan’s work and Huffpo’s Green Page lead in bringing it to their readers. Why not?

As I read through the guidelines my spirit lightened. There were in fact dozens of great concrete suggestions for trying to do things differently- planning your meals ahead, exploring bus and bike routes, assembling all your personal trash for a whole week. But underlying the tactile and physical actions was the philosophy of mindfulness. We were being asked to show up, pay attention, be honest with ourselves and our responses and let go of preconceived notions, routines and even our concept of what we need to make ourselves happy and comfortable. Suddenly this exercise seemed more like a weeklong spiritual retreat. We even would put aside time to take a day off from our compulsive doing and set aside time for volunteering and building community.

I had often felt that the sustainability movement was actually the ultimate expression of spirituality in daily life. Sustainability grows from awareness of our impact on the world around us and our deep interconnectedness to all of life and the rhythms of nature. And here was a beginner’s guide to that practice-like focusing on the breath and watching our thoughts in meditation. In this practice we are being asked to pay attention to what we are doing each moment, like washing the dishes or showering and being aware of how much water we are using. That simple.

Like any practice, the changes in our lives might seem small or non- existent while we are doing it. And simple practices are not necessarily easy to do or to remember to do. But that is where a little faith and a lot of community support can help. Sometimes we can only see looking back how a stream of small moments can create profound changes. But it all begins with awareness and intent. No Impact Week is an invitation to embrace our every moment of aliveness and action in a conscious way. That ultimately is not a path for the faint of heart. But it is a path that each of us can embrace where we are and at our own level of commitment, one step, one breath, one bag of trash at time.


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