Politics and Spirituality – 010

Today we are talking about Politics and Spirituality. This episode deals with whether spirituality should inform our political action, the problem of voting the lesser of two evils, and introduces the Green Party.

I believe in the separation of Church and State. I also think it would be a good thing to have the separation of Business and State as well. Big money has a vested interest in controling our elections, and many times they don’t have the interest of the public at heart. They just want to make more money.

Spirituality is the cultivation of a deeper or expanded awareness of our union and interconnection with nature, and one another, because we are nature as well. This kind of consciousness is vital for politics to become healthy and focus on important values. For me, the environment is something that ought to be protected and respected.

Although I mention the Libertarian Party, the Justice Party, and the Constitution Party, I focus on the Green Party in this episode. This is because I believe that they have an important message and I appreciate their Platform. The following are their Four Pillars, taken from their website at http://www.gp.org/

Peace: “Our country’s long wars and worldwide military presence are immoral and unsustainable. Our military budget must be cut dramatically.”

Ecology: “The human cost of climate change is too high. We need to get off fossil fuels and on to renewable energy.”

Social Justice: “Falling wages and rising bills are hitting most of us, and the most vulnerable are hit the hardest. We demand a living wage and a real safety net.”

Democracy: “We demand public financing of elections, open debates, and more representative voting systems.”

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Forest Bathing (Shinrin Yoku) – 009

Today we are talking about Forest Bathing, from the Japanese Shinrin Yoku. This episode deals with the benefits of Shinrin Yoku and then gives you instructions on how to practice it.

Shinrin Yoku is a Japanese term that literally means “forest bathing.” It is a short, leisurely visit to a forest. It is about open and mindful sensory immersion in the midst of a natural environment.

First, let’s look at the benefits of practicing Shinrin Yoku. “The scientifically-proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku include: Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body’s Natural Killer (NK) cells. Reduced blood pressure. Reduced stress. Improved mood. Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD. Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness. Increased energy level. Improved sleep.” (http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/shinrin-yoku.html)

Second, I want to give you some basic instructions on how to do Shinrin Yoku. You may want to begin with some breathing meditation to bring yourself into the present moment. The point is to be where you are.

We want to get into nature and then become fully mindful of it. As Jon Kabat-Zinn has said, mindfulness is cultivated, “by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

Then you may want to sit and/or begin walking slowly. Taking it all in. You want to have an open awareness, rather than a focused awareness, like in mindfulness of the breath. You want to take it all in.

Sensory immersion means using all of your senses. Using your sense of sight you want to have an unfocused wide vision. This is a relaxed looking that tries to take it all in. Bathing your eyes in all the beauties of the natural surrounding.

Using your sense of hearing, you want to be aware of the birds chirping, leaves rustling, and the water running. This is an open and receptive auditory immersion in the sounds that usually go unnoticed. You may even want to close your eyes so that you can focus on the different sounds. Try to notice the difference in the song the birds sing.

Using your sense of smell, see how many different scents you can detect. Can you smell the pine trees, the flowers, or even the leaves on the ground.

Using your sense of touch, see if you can feel the wind on your body. You might want to the touch ground with hands. Notice how it feels. You also might want to touch the trees. Notice how they feel.

As you’re walking, you might want to notice your feet touching the ground. Notice how grounding it is. Don’t do a walking meditation, which focuses too much on the inner mind states. You are wanting to reconnect with nature. Keep your focus on being with nature.

As you walk, walk without a destination. The idea is to freely wander, follow any pull you feel. Focus on the environment.

Afterward, I suggest you do a personal debriefing. When you get home, find a comfortable chair and reflect for a moment. Note how you felt while you were doing Shinrin Yoku. And then note any differences in body, mind, and emotions. You may even want to use a journal to help you keep track of your experiences.

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Ecology and Spirituality – 008

Today we are talking about Ecology and Spirituality. In this episode, I define ecology, explore some of our environmental problems, and show what spirituality is important to it.

Ecology is a branch of biology that studies the relationship between organisms and their environment. Humankind is just one organism in this web of life. But we have the biggest impact.

I name just a few of our environmental issues that we are facing today. Issues such as global warming, the decline in biodiversity, the problem of deforestation, and pollution. We have not been good citizens of this planet. We are literally killing our own life support system.

So what does spirituality have to do we this? The problem is that our worldview is self-serving and not in accord with the way things are. We continue to consume as if nature didn’t matter. In fact, we are identified as consumers. This human-centered paradigm is the problem.

Spirituality is the cultivation of a deeper or expanded awareness of our union and interconnection with nature, and one another, because we are nature as well. This is our best hope to save the human species from killing itself.

Next time you go outside, I challenge you to look at a tree. Truly be aware of the tree. Realize that as you breathe out carbon dioxide, the tree breathes it in. And as the tree breathes out oxygen, you breathe that in. The tree is, in a sense, the reciprocal lung that makes your life possible.

When we truly love nature it will make a difference in how we live. And until there is a difference in the way we live, the human species is in jeopardy. Make it your goal to reconnect with nature and begin to really be aware of the interconnection of all things. It will be a truly spiritual experience.

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