How to understand the relationship between the individual and the environment
The Earth is warming and so are we.
As we become increasingly aware of rising temperatures around the globe, we are left wondering how we've come to this and why. With this knowledge, we keep steering the wheel towards the precipice. I have had a long standing interest in both Chinese Medicine and Environmental studies. The two seem unrelated, but when I came across the work TCM expert Brendan Kelly, I saw how the two brilliantly go hand in hand.
“What’s happening within us is intimately connected to what’s happening around us. Rather than being two separate issues, our health and the well-being of the planet is the same issue happening on different scales.” - Brendan Kelly
Chinese Medicine looks at the world through the lens of Yin and Yang. These are opposing, complementary forces. For instance, Yin represents rest, cold, darkness, the old/used, the female aspect. Opposingly, Yang represents activity, heat, light, the new, the male aspect. To have harmony, these elements need to be in balance. When either is overpowering, the other is lacking, causing a state of balance. Looking at the world through this Chinese Medicine lens, it is possible to make some useful observations. As the world is heating, so are we. We lead busy lives, spend more of our time thinking of what new gadget we need in our lives. We think rest is for the weak, we think productivity and work must always come first, we are unable to simply stop. This is what we could call Yin deficiency, or more precisely, Yin deficient heat.
The Individual Level
What we see happening in the world with rising temperatures (heat), dramatic weather conditions (activity) and general hyperactivity of systems is a reflection of what's happening within us. Looking at Climate Change thorough this lens can be key in seeing how everything is interconnected. This, in turn, can offer us great solutions.
“Embedded in the long history of Chinese medicine is the understanding of connection. Rather than looking through the lens of separation, Chinese medicine sees the world as a whole. This includes the recognition that what happens on a large scale can happen on a small scale, and vice versa.” - Brendan Kelly
Helping individuals in all age groups means helping them to find in themselves the Yin aspects, and learning that
Rest is good: doing is not alway better than not doing. The contact with Nature can help us wind down, and by observing it, we can learn to stop, contemplate, observe, cultivate silence in us and around us. This can bring great peace to the heart and the mind.
Old things are just as good as new things, if not better: we have enough in our lives, and it can be surprising to go back to what we already have, rediscover its uses, up-cycle it into something else.
Less is better than more: we keep adding things to our days, and feel guilty whenever we have not used each and every single second in a productive way. It's important to experience the beauty of doing less in a more meaningful way. This means giving our full attention to what we are doing and giving it the needed space. A good place to start is giving our meals enough space. You will be amazed by the change in energy when you take time to notice the food you're eating, concentrating on the goodness and nurturing you are giving yourself.
Climate Change is more interconnected with us than we imagine. A good place to start is bringing the focus back to the individual, giving ourselves space to explore all Yin aspects of life. Winding down, realising we don't need as much as we think we do, can represent a major turning point in reducing all the activities behind climate change. Everything is connected, we are part of Nature, Nature is part of us.