Coming into April 2021, the month of Earth Day, a little more than a year after the world pandemic began, we may feel more than a little "tapped" emotionally, physically, and/or financially (and too many other ways to list here!) The theme of Earth Day this year is "Restore the Earth." What better timing to reflect on the benefits of restoration?
What??? Restore after we've been cooped up for a year? We've got to make up for lost time! Right? Yes, and no. If reconnecting to others, returning to our daily routines, and establishing a new appreciation for things previously taken for granted fills us up and brings
us joy, then let's live in the moment and take those things in. However, if we've returned back to the "daily grind" and are completely ignoring that our body systems have undergone a stressful event without taking care of ourselves, then we might take some time to give ourselves a much needed break. Even a few moments can change the chemicals which our body is releasing. (Click here for more in-depth articles about the science of yoga and meditation from Yoga Journal.) Even if we do not consciously acknowledge stress, our bodies know and respond with chemicals designed to "survive" life-threatening situations. Sometimes we react to that stress by over-scheduling ourselves, again, to keep the brain busy and distracted. Sometimes we react to stress by under-scheduling, retreating away from interactions, and "hiding" by isolating ourselves and/or sleeping more.
So how do we take care of ourselves, and find the resilience we need to help others, including the Earth? We rediscover ourselves in mindfulness, stillness, and quiet. We practice non-attachment. We "don't just do something, stand there." A traditional meditation session is certainly beneficial, but so is a quiet, undisturbed walk, taking a few moments to just breathe and be quiet before we open our eyes in the morning, or mindfully petting our fur babies. A restorative or gentle yoga class can do wonders.
These can all begin or enhance our restoration process. Thich Nhat Hanh has written a short, beautiful book on the varying ways to meditate and how it can enhance our lives called "The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation." It changed my limited perspective about meditation.
It's taken me a few years, but yes, I now realize taking time for restoration is "doing something." In fact, it can be the "reset" my body and mind need which affects all my other body systems and brings me to center, to serenity, and back to myself. It's the power of restoration which refills my "bucket," and allows me to act out of love and compassion rather than obligation and resentment. Restore ourselves, restore the Earth, restore each other.