If you're reading this, you probably know about carbon in the atmosphere and multiple frog species extinctions and fires and famine and drought and flooding and... Oh my. These times are on par with Biblical level destruction, confusion, and despair. It's reasonable to feel discouraged, helpless, and overwhelmed by it all.
You may be dizzy with the question "What can I do to make the biggest difference?" Or imagining, "There's nothing I can do!" Or wondering, "How can any action I take help the planet really?" These are all valid thoughts and questions.
Some experts say we’re past the point of no return and the amount of ruination we are facing is vast. That may be true.
But the other truth is we're still here. This moment now, you're reading this.
That means there's hope.
And the best thing any of us can do is shake off our frozen confusion and clarify what is important.
This guide is as much for me as it is for you. I was swirling in the enormity of ALL the problems, feeling completely stupefied. Taking these three steps helped me get back on my feet and into the right mind to be part of the worldwide community focusing on solutions.
Solutions are what we desperately need: Mechanical, chemical, and engineering solutions; social and administrative solutions; policy solutions and cultural shift catalysts. Each of these is necessary and no player is too small to make a difference.
The planet needs you (pronto!) to be your best self and take action.
This guide is dedicated to the well being of the planet; including you, us, Her, and all beneficent beings.
As the voices for hate clang louder we must refine our clarity and attune to the frequencies of peace. Here's a practical, step by step guide for doing just that.
Step One: Mindful Self Care
Self care is practices to keep individuals functioning at the highest possible level and capable of inner peace. Any time you feel confused, lost, or disempowered, practice compassion with yourself first and foremost. Feeling unsettled is a natural part of the cycle between chaos and confidence. Consider what type of self care would help you get back to peace. You are more valuable as an ally when you are well. Plus you will navigate with your loved ones with more skill and grace.
Mindful self care considers the supply chain and end cycle consequences of your self care choices. This doesn't necessarily mean you sacrifice, but it does mean you are informed. If you choose to eat meat for personal health reasons, selecting a family farm with low impact practices is likely preferable to factory farm sourced beef. It's about weighing the variables and making peace with your means and capacity. As you’re able, transition to an economy and resources that are regenerative rather than destructive in nature.
Another example is taking a bath. I'm aware it's not the best thing ever for the environment. But it helps me return to my right mind. I don't do it often. I bless and thank the water.
Try to be considerate of everything you touch. Where did it come from? Where is it going? If you don't know the impact of the products, do research or ask the company. Companies need buy-in from their consumers - Literally! Ask for information and make known your commitment for planet-conscious choices.
Until companies make planned obsolescence obsolete, how can you choose wisely from technology offerings? Do you participate in community recycling programs in an informed way?
Remember to be compassionate with yourself regarding your capacity as an individual. What is ecological for your lifestyle and balanced for you personally? It's a balance; striving to grow and feeling good about where you are. Ultimately, a healthy relationship with both peace and dissonance is imperative for thriving.
Two frequently overlooked but crucial elements of self care are wonder and beauty. There is little substitute for the ways these states nourish us. Relish in wonder. Remind yourself what it is we're trying to save here; eco diversity and the wonder and balance of the natural world. If you see a butterfly, someone you adore, or anything that takes your breath away, pause and give yourself time time to feel it fully. It’s not a waste of time. It’s nourishment.
Opportunities for embodying mindful self care include (but are not limited to) the following: Nutrition, products and services (anything you spend money on), wellness and exercise, spiritual practices, immersion in nature, participation in communities and the topic of the following section, healthy intimacy.
Step Two: Cultivate Healthy Intimacy
Step One is designed to help you establish an intimate and honest connection with yourself. This is necessary before cultivating healthy intimacy with others.
Intimacy is sometimes described as "Into Me See" - the art and skill of letting yourself be deeply seen and deeply seeing others. One of my teachers described intimacy as, "When I can be me, and you can be you, and we can be close."
Closeness is crucial for human well being. There is a nourishment that happens during intimacy that one can talk about in terms of hormones, the soul, or many levels in between.
In order to create the world we want, we must cultivate healthy communication, intimacy and community. To successfully share the planet with all life, let's begin by developing skills to amicably coexist with one another in homesteads, companies, and world changing initiatives.
Another consideration is that during (increasingly frequent) natural disasters, closeness isn't always voluntary. If it’s so hot the pavement outside is melting, or if there is a flood and we are in a shelter, we need to know how to create positive interactions together.
How do we cultivate healthy intimacy so that, whatever comes, we can continue to have clarity, clear boundaries, and kindness at the heart of our interactions?
The truth is that many people don't know how to live harmoniously with others. Then they try to live with a romantic partner and lament all the ways that person is impossible to live with. Well... maybe you or they are impossible to live with. Or maybe there is a gap in knowledge and skill around healthy intimacy.
One of my favorite tools for cultivating healthy intimacy is Nonviolent Communication (NVC), sometimes called Compassionate Communication, founded by author and teacher Marshall Rosenberg. NVC is a skill set that encourages communicating feelings and needs.
A person can share about their experience without giving their power away. Giving your power away sounds like, "You make me...." followed by anything. Empowered language sounds something like "When you (leave the front door unlocked) I feel (angry) because my needs (for security and to matter) aren’t getting met."
This is a gross oversimplification of a rich and wonderful body of work I highly recommend you check out for yourself.
If you don't yet have one, I hope that you will consider cultivating a close community. It is important for well being, and also for the kind of growth that only comes when people who care about each other give and receive feedback in supportive ways. People who hold you to your highest and call you on your "stuff" are especially important for growing your leadership, which brings us to the next section.
Step Three: Strategic Action
Now that you're taking good care of yourself and have a community or close friends, it's time to take action. Mind you, you don't need to have the first two steps totally handled before embarking on the third. In fact, all three will be ever growing and evolving. But making some progress in the first two, at least enough to hold the intentions, will be the rich soil and roots that your strategic action can grow from.
As you experience the world around you, what is something you feel strongly about? It can be helpful to begin locally. Maybe it's poverty, homelessness, education, water quality, or nutrition. Is there a project happening that you can contribute toward? Are you inspired to begin a new endeavor?
If you believe in a higher power, you may want to ask for guidance. Marianne Williamson quotes from A Course in Miracles with some version of, "Where would you have me go, what would you have me do, what would you have me say and to whom?" She also reminds readers and listeners of her lectures that, "You're the lamp not the electricity, you're the faucet, not the water. It's not about you."
I find this both humbling and celebratory. I may not be the electricity, but the way it flows through me is unique. Though I am only as unique as everybody is, I am still offering my flavors to the mix. You can too, and you’re important. If handling the first two steps is what you have bandwidth for right now, don't make yourself wrong. Do what you can where you can and let that be enough.
Whatever you do, don't go back to sleep. Per step one, take care of yourself. Get good rest. Give yourself space when you need it. But don't succumb to going numb or unconscious. Some say the opposite of addiction is connection.
Give yourself permission to Care. And then Care Loudly.
To survive, thrive and "turn this ship around" we need shifts in technology, behavioral and cultural change, and transformations in public policy and political will. Any of these areas will benefit from your grounded and empowered contribution.
Your attention and participation can amplify the signal of others. You may have a special way of expressing that will help bring truth to power. Don't give up. Do what you can. Ask for help and support from your loved ones and community when you need it, and provide it when you have energy to share.
You matter, and your participation in this great time of change makes a difference.
I hope this three step guide helps make changing the world a sustainable and effective habit. Self care, intimacy, and ecological systems care are interminably interlinked. Authentic self care is planet care. Here's a new mantra for you:
"Planetary viability starts with me."
Thanks for taking the time to read this little ebook.
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Wishing you blessings!
With warmth and appreciation,
May all beings be happy and free.
About the Author
Marna Schwartz is a systems thinker, facilitator and regenerative mindset coach. She is a straight-talking gentle guide who helps individuals and groups cultivate well being, connect with their intuition and thrive. Marna has been teaching Kripalu yoga (a practice of kind compassion) since 2006, and has been a Reiki and energy balancing practitioner since 1998. Favored teaching topics include interpersonal resilience, relating yoga, and pleasure. She is passionately committed to Planetary Viability.