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Can Yoga and Meditation Help Us to Connect With Nature?
By Anne-Sophie Brändlin
If, this time last year, the world had been told it would spend much of the coming months in lockdown, few might have believed it. But that reality came, and it did so almost overnight, bringing with it a crashing end to the busy flow of life, which sees billions rushing from one appointment to the next without much time to think. Left to their own devices at home, people have had to find new ways to spend their time, and deal with anxiety and silence.
While some have taken to endurance sports in tiny spaces or been drawn to walk in nature or just breathe in fresh air, others have turned to practices like meditation, yoga, Tai Chi and shiatsu to calm their minds and decrease stress levels.
Seasoned practitioners believe these ancient mind and bodywork traditions offer an opportunity to better deal with crises such as the coronavirus pandemic. This doesn't only have a positive impact on our health and immune systems, but potentially on society and even the environment.
"These practices help to bring us into the present moment and help to connect us to the reality of the situation," said Jenny White, a British shiatsu practitioner who has been meditating for over two decades.
Creating an Awareness, One Breath at a Time
Though White says that doesn't mean living in constant state of bliss and harmony. Rather, it allows people to acknowledge why they might be feeling scared, overwhelmed, stressed or lonely. It can also prevent them from running away from those emotions and looking for distraction in alcohol, Netflix, food or spending sprees.
In short, White explains, traditions such as yoga and meditation help create an awareness of what is happening in our world and allow us to tackle difficult situations and our reactions to them.
"Our body response to big crisis situations, like climate change, and now the pandemic, is often to freeze, be numb and to run away," she said.
"The more we can connect with our body responses, the more we can tune into our own personal and collective responsibility to a crisis, whether it's the pandemic or climate change, without going into that trauma response."
The coronavirus pandemic and climate change are two of the biggest issues facing humanity at this point in history. Whether it's the global quest for a COVID-19 vaccine or the world pulling together to slash greenhouse gas emissions, solutions to both require an effort from the international community.
This is where the ancient Indian concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam comes in. Rooted in yoga, it means the world is one family and has to act as such. And in times of crisis, collaboration becomes more essential than ever.
"Yogis believe that all life is connected, that we are all one and should live in harmony with each other," said Alexander Bütow, who runs a yoga and meditation studio in Berlin.
"The problem is that many humans take themselves out of that and create divisions, groups, and start disconnecting — from themselves, from others, from the world around them. Once we stop this disconnect, we can overcome crises together."
'We Are Part of Nature'
He, like others who practice regularly, sees meditation and yoga as a means to slowing down, emptying our minds and calming our thoughts. And that, so the thinking goes, facilitates a connection not only to ourselves, but to the world around us.
"Every human being is intrinsically connected to every other human being and also to nature, animals, plants, everything on this planet. But you are often not aware of it because you are too busy with too many things. When that stops for a moment, when you calm down, you realize these connections," said A.G. Ramakrishnan, a professor for electrical engineering at the Indian Institute of Science, who also researches in the fields of meditation and breathing exercises.
"The concept of yoga, for instance, is holistic. It teaches you that we can't live without others, we cannot live without animals, we cannot live without nature." Ramakrishnan continued.
Yet that, says Bütow, is not in keeping with the way we live.
"It has become a bad habit these days that we take ourselves out of nature. We are part of nature way more than we pretend to be. Nature is where we came from. But we have totally detached ourselves from that."
He says breathing exercises can help us reconnect, because through our breath we are in constant contact with the outside world.
"We just have to remember this connection, which will help us to see ourselves as part of nature."
Slowing Down to Help the Planet
For many, the pandemic has also brought our mortality into sharp relief. It has served as a reminder that life as we know it is susceptible to massive disruption.
In restricting what we can do, where we can go and how we can keep ourselves occupied, it has also made our worlds smaller, forced us not only to slow down, but in many cases to take a genuine pause. And that, says Jenny White, can reap rewards.
"Once you give yourself that time to pause and breathe, you will become kinder and softer and more understanding when it comes to your own shortcomings and difficulties. And this will make you more compassionate and understanding when it comes to other people and their needs and ultimately also our planet's needs."
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
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