Environmentalism, Spirituality and Activism

The following is a guest post from Guzel Gjenasaj, nature lover, permaculturist, youth advocate and a lover of life; disclaimer: she’s one of my long time friends :-) and an ally in our work with inner city youth … her post was originally written for the Burbank Green Alliance.


Guzel taking a breather, doing sustainable gardening


Environmentalism, Spirituality and Activism
by Guzel Gjenasaj

Recently, I read an article about Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, spiritual leader and humanitarian. In it he references historical Vedic religion. According to this ancient knowledge, human beings have five sheaths or layers to their existence – the environment, the physical body, the mind, the intuitive sheath, and the innermost blissful self. “The environment is our first body”, says Sri Sri, “it is only when we start moving away from nature we start polluting nature.”
One of the more important trends in human (pre)history is the repeated emergence and development of an urban way of life. Industrialization, wealth and the pursuit of a “civilized” life style have been at the forefront in society. In fact, this is the dominant global paradigm – to be rich and abundant in material possessions. This pursuit is leading us away from nature and contributing to the destruction of nature to attain our goals.

Often times I find myself in discussion about the “climate crisis” and the pervading belief is that we are depleting the earth of resources that are necessary of our existence.  Being bombarded with statistics such as predictions that oil reserves will be exhausted between 2025 and 2040. And only 3% of the earth’s water is fresh water and of that only 1% of that is drinkable – and available to the 20% of the world’s population that has access to clean water. According to GOOD magazine’s 2011 energy issue, we waste 54.5 quadrillion BTU’s annually while we use 40 quadrillion BTU’s.  There’s much more that I could list here, however, it’s disempowering to consider how little one person can do to change it all. This is often the sentiment of so many and I have personally felt this helplessness as well.  

According to Sri Sri, “there is one influence on the environment … we should be paying more attention to – the effect of negative emotions and vibrations we carry with us.” How then can we create great change surrounded by such negativity? One solution is to tend to your inner garden first.  What are the things that you can do to nourish yourself? Mediation, yoga, walks in nature, releasing past traumas, volunteering for a cause you are passionate about, feeding yourself with organic and non-gmo food that you grew yourself, or taking the afternoon off to play. Whatever it may be for you it’s a commitment that one can make in their daily life.

2005 was a pivotal year for me.  It was the first time I was empowered to shift my habits of consumption and become a more conscious earth being. I also learned how thoughts become reality.  And I went about changing my old habits to form new ones.  In the last six years, my life has become exponentially richer, however, I own less material possessions. My connection to myself, the earth and people around me has deepened. When I listen to a news feed that highlights fear and the depletion of resources, I am empowered to know that I am doing the best that I can to counter it. No longer allowing the negativity to deplete me of hope that we can shift.

If the object of informing us about resource depletion is to open the mind to new ways of seeing and thinking, there is no more central course of action than to shift our lifestyles and adapt to those changes.  What better way to do that than to first shift the negative feelings and emotions.  Do not let the preponderance of bad news deprive you of the will to make positive change. Through this shift we can create such a positive and harmonious vibration within ourselves that will affect everyone around us. Ultimately, affecting the world. This is true activism!