Why small acts of mindfulness can change everything

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I recently started recycling. I used to love to clear up, throw away what I no longer needed and start fresh.

I was basically a high consumer who aimed for visual minimalism. Not a good combination for effective waste reduction. Now I can see my environmental footprint decrease with every item I choose to recycle. Plastics in the plastic bin, paper with the paper. It’s a nuanced and positive place from which to operate: Every positive action, no matter how small, has value.

I remember as I child being keenly aware of my lack of autonomy. I couldn’t wait to grow up and take up ‘real and valuable’ space in the adult world. I would argue for the sake of arguing and speak to fill any gap in the conversation. I think my family would argue that this hasn’t changed much, but I really am trying to refine this into something closer to my new project of recycling. Every one has value, but I can’t hear what you have to say if I talk more than I listen. And most importantly; I can take up less space in this world and still add value.

In fact, taking up less space allows a freedom to operate and hopefully conveys a humility and willingness to see the potential value of everything. Smaller ships have smaller turning circles and can move faster in an ever-changing world. I want to make sure I take more time to listen, so that I can hear the ideas that already exist in this world that I need to help me develop.

When I brought the concept of recycling into our home my daughters took it a step further, as young, fresh minds are want to do. They didn’t just see the environmental value of recycling. Plastics in the plastic bin, paper with the paper. They saw the potential to turn this stuff into something entirely different. Plastic lids into doll’s house plates, paper into Chinese lanterns. I have really learned from them through this process. Not only the value of recycling, but of upcycling too.

I think it’s amazing how taking one small step in a direction you wouldn’t choose normally can take you on a journey and expose you to ideas you didn’t even know were possible.

You can download TED talks onto your phone and listen to one a day, on random. This week I learned about oceanography, parenting, business management and literature, disparate subjects, I know. But all facinating.
You can talk to someone you would never usually talk to, and spend most of the time really listening, instead of waiting for your turn to speak.
You could sit down and create something that could never have existed before you made it so. Find something you think needs your input in this world and instead of talking, take that extra step and get involved.

My own journey of small steps to mindfulness has taken me from meat-free Monday to meat-free May to meat-free-forever, to running a kosher home, to mainly plant-based eating to recycling to exploring cruelty free, every step something new and yet connected to what came before. Your journey could be anything! Just be sure to start it if you haven’t already.
Perhaps we can repurpose, reuse and recycle all the great ideas that came before us?

There is so much value that exists in the world already and I think we can travel so much further in life if we tread gently. With the planet and with other people.

This column was inspired by a one minute ‘where I’m coming from’ speech I gave at the Eliot Osrin Leadership Institute’s first module for 2018.

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