Written by: Amanda Whittal
You must be the change you wish to see in the world. Mahatma Gandhi
These influential words acknowledge a timeless truth, one relevant at any stage of human life and evolution. It is especially inspiring when we are able to see this philosophy put into practice. As individuals seeking to improve ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally through yogic or other lifestyles, we are indeed engaging in the first crucial step towards making our world a better place.
As I've mentioned many times before, yoga uses asana (postures), breathing and meditation to expand awareness of the body and mind. We are cultivating an understanding of how one impacts the other, recognizing and letting go of nonsupporting habits, while building and fostering supportive ones.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of seeing one aspect of such awareness shining its positive impact on a wider scale, as the knowledge of unsupportive societal habits led to actions towards more supportive ones.
I attended the 30th annual Guelph Organic Conference, a four-day event featuring an array of education on organic living and farming, its impact on the environment, and a seemingly endless list of valuable tips and ideas for both inexperienced and experienced organic farmers and consumers.
The individuals providing seminars, as well as a number of the attendees, were involved with organic living or farming in some way, at a varying degree of levels. Some had dedicated their entire lives to organic farming, others had integrated the lifestyle as much as possible, and still others had chosen one facet to focus on exclusively.
Colouring the factual tips being presented were stories of all kinds: what drove the motivation to embrace a life focused on quality of care for both people and the environment; the incomparable satisfaction arising from preparing one's own jams, cheeses, syrups; the sense of community gained from working together in nature, for the good of the planet and its inhabitants.
It quickly became clear that many of these people had, in changing their own ways of living and enjoying the positive effects, chosen to reach out and spread their knowledge, creating a larger impact on society as a whole.
This was my second year attending the conference, but a friend who has been regularly for the past 10 years commented on a marked difference from the beginning of his participation. Previously, the emphasis had been on providing information for the individual consumer: educating about organic products, humane treatment of animals, etc. He had noticed a shift this year in the focus being geared towards organic farming and living itself: how to do it, ideas, tips, tricks.
This could easily be interpreted as a movement from individual interest, towards community and global interest. People have taken the time to expand their knowledge in this area, to make personal changes, and they are now growing in number, sharing and influencing those around them to make similar strides in consciously caring for ourselves and the planet.
The degrading state of the world, in terms of climate and environment is not news. Nor is the negative impact of our fast-paced, consumer-driven lifestyles that find us eating convenient processed foods, consumed by stress, and disconnected from our environment and community as we struggle to achieve 'success'. Given that the majority of our population still lives this way, the considerable number of active participants in the movement towards healthy sustainable living is quite remarkable.
As I reflected on this thought, it's relevance to the yogic and holistic lifestyle became so evident, it may be argued that they're nearly one in the same.
Conversations with some of the active organic farmers on the weekend revealed an impressive understanding of humanity and its impact on the earth, coupled with a genuine care and concern for the state we are now in. In yoga, we seek to become aware of a similar interplay between the mind and body, noticing, without judgement, how one influences the other. If something is not working, it is to be acknowledged and changed with a spirit of compassion, without wasting time dwelling on what is wrong. This was precisely the attitude I encountered, one of:
society's going down the wrong path, we don't want to see ourselves or future generations suffer from it, so we're going to do what we can to change it.
This open-hearted approach, with the sincerest intentions, is the ideal state of mind in a yogic lifestyle. It is a position of acceptance for the present moment conditions, but also a willingness to recognize and take steps toward the possibility of action when necessary. There was no hint of suggestion that they were going to visibly alter the world overnight. Rather, it was a steady, dedicated commitment to playing their role in making whatever positive movements are possible.
May this example bring you inspiration to continue your journey to grow as a human being, knowing that by taking the time through yoga, healthier living, environmental changes, or whatever it may be, you are by this very action contributing to the world in a positive way. Find comfort in the knowledge that by changing yourself, you truly do help change the world.
To your health,
**It is worth noting that much of this organic farming and living nicely sets the stage for a meditative atmosphere. If you're interested in pursuing these types of activities, it may be helpful to keep this in mind. Growing one's own fruits and vegetables, making homemade jams, etc., all require one-pointed focus on a single, often repetitive task**