Can current western and climate activism go hand in hand?

It has already been almost four years since I started practising yoga and meditation. However, since last year I feel a bit disappointed about the mainstream western mindfulness and yogi communities. I wondered if it was maybe simply jealousy or envy from my side resulting from my insecurities (which, by the way, we all have), which are possibly exacerbated through social media. 

Recently, I had an ‘aha’ moment after finishing the book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg. This book helped me realize how I have been communicating to myself and others; it also taught me to be more mindful about social media communication in general. It has been elucidating to see how self-absorbed so many Instagram accounts of yoga teachers, mindfulness, and sustainability advocates that I follow are, especially in the pandemic we are currently facing. What they write sometimes sounds like:

I have been working on myself, and I know what is important in life, and I must not deal with your BS.

You have to live, travel, and be happy and not worry about Corona.

At the same time, people who have suffered from mental health issues or lost jobs or loved ones due to the pandemic feel discouraged.

Maybe I have the wrong mindset? Perhaps I am not ‘optimistic’ enough?

I do meditate regularly and, do sport regularly every week, but I still feel overwhelmed with what is happening, especially in my home country, Colombia, which has been hit hard by Corona. I used to have a lot of negative thoughts, which worsened my depression and increased anxiety related to my Ph.D. Project and my tasks within CHH – as if worrying about climate change was not enough.

However, it is not all so bad. I believe that in such a crisis, you get to know yourself better and others by realizing what is essential and matters the most. And I am not talking about the shortage of toilet paper, spaghetti, and pesto at most supermarkets (which might be the end of the world to some people); I was referring to a lack of empathy for others who are struggling with difficult circumstances, and also to lack of understanding that most people do not live in conditions that could allow them to be more fit, ’happier,’ to do some yoga, to have a plant-based – or even a more ‘sustainable’ – diet.

Yoga 101: Empathy and union

I am aware that we are not fully responsible for the feelings that others have but our actions and decisions, both online and offline, perpetuate stereotypes about such unprivileged groups and encourage violent communication among all of us; this is against the teachings of yoga, which promotes a union not only with ourselves but with all beings that coexist with us, putting acceptance, respect, and compassion at the center.

To me, being mindful is not only about what your body and mind tell you but also about being aware of what our coexisting living beings may require and need, which  – and you may be surprised –  is that we all sometimes have the exact needs regardless of where we come from.

This self-centering in this ‘western-mindfulness bubble’ and communicating with a selfish attitude is not helping others; contrarily, it strengthens our current consumption-oriented economic system in which we buy more and more products, masterclasses, services with better-edited pictures, and videos to keep our existing lifestyles unchanged.

Do we need all of this to be happy and to feel fulfilled with our lives? And if we are to be more mindful of all social and environmental issues that we face, do we need to buy more things that put even more pressure on our resources and planetary boundaries?

Instead, we could spend more time learning what happens in other geographical locations that are maybe not that popular in our social media feeds. 

Since I have been practicing yoga and meditation, I have been more mindful about my needs, what makes me feel good and bad, which has helped me of course with my mental health issues. Yet, I am aware that I am privileged by having acquired this knowledge and this is not because I am smarter, or even because I am somewhat “illuminated” (by no means I am!).

Likewise, I have learned that now I have more responsibility to treat the rest with more compassion – especially those who are struggling more than I am. Empathy is shown only when we are authentic, humble, and kind, but respecting our boundaries. 

I do not need to buy ‘yogi specialized products’ and follow the new ‘mindfulness trends’ to develop a real sense of consciousness of everything that surrounds me. I do not mean with this you shouldn’t buy anything that is recommended by these influencers (that is your decision!). With that, I want to say that you cannot replace invested hours of self-growth with an expensive product. This will not make you better nor more empathetic to people suffering

Are values important?

True personal values are translated into a wake-up call to ourselves that makes us take action in situations we deeply care about. In this sense, we as CHH spent the last couple of months discussing our core values. These serve us as a baseline for everything we do, but firstly and foremost we are aware that the work starts with ourselves. We keep learning and growing to be more prepared to serve others. We cannot help others when we do not help ourselves. Remember to put on your oxygen mask first. That is what we strive for!

What about you? Have you had similar experiences? Tag us on our Instagram account @climatehubhh or with our Twitter handle @ClimateHH.

We are happy to hear from you.


Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg (Book)