A Mindful Way Forward

Climate change is one of many converging crises in 2020. Stress, sadness, and anxiety are all reasonable responses as we continue to navigate these uncertain times. We hope the prompts below, meant to be enjoyed throughout Elon’s beautiful campus*, will help to manage your mental health. These stops may be completed in any order that you wish.

*Though these prompts are ideally meant to be enjoyed throughout campus, they can also be completed in your own home if preferable.

Complete at least four of the five stops throughout the week of November 8-14 and email the Office of Sustainability to enter a raffle drawing for a hammock!  

STOP 1      STOP 2     STOP 3     STOP 4     STOP 5

STOP 1: Moseley Wall (near fireplace, Moseley Center)

Sometimes, especially during this challenging semester, it can be difficult to find hope. Hope is an important part of finding solutions to climate change. When we have hope, we’re placing our trust in the potential for something positive to happen. Hope helps us see that there are many positive possibilities ahead. When we feel hopeful for the future, we are more prepared to overcome the obstacles that we face.

Given this, what brings you hope about overcoming climate change? Are there specific solutions you’ve heard about that give you hope? A person that inspires you? A sustainable habit you’ve recently embraced? Write down what brings you hope on a post-it note and place it on the Moseley Wall to encourage others!

STOP 2 : Labyrinth (Outside Holt Chapel, South Campus)

Labyrinths have been used since ancient times for spiritual centering, contemplation, and prayer. As a symbol, the labyrinth combines imagery of a circle and a spiral to relate to the meandering, yet purposeful path. It is not meant as a maze in which you can get lost. For some, it represents a journey to our own center and back out again. It takes you inward and outward as you walk.

We invite you to walk slowly through the winding paths in this quiet, sacred space. You may choose to bring your climate fears, your eco-anxiety, and your fatigue into the space. Meditate on the systems which have been unchanged for too long and cause our Earth to groan. May the walk be an act of resistance or a kind of contemplative activism. A reminder of the power within the self and a relighting of the working path toward climate justice. This moment for contemplation grounds and prepares us for action, for deeper connection, and for conscious living.

Walking the labyrinth reminds us that we are all becoming, as individuals and as a community. The path awakens us to the work we still need to do, encourages us to tend to our journey with compassion and courage, and calls us to live with greater awareness and purpose.

In your walk, we hope you find rest. We hope you find a new conversation brewing within yourself and set an intention to continue in deep contemplation. We hope you become grounded in what propels you forward on the path. We hope that you find a connection to what can truly come to be as we seek to protect our planet and allow the natural world to thrive.

Before entering, consider your contemplative question or image that you will carry with you on the journey. We invite you to think of the ground you step on, prayers, questions, and the pains of the current environmental moment.

While walking, simply follow the path ahead of you, with steady and unrushed steps, focusing on the present experience of your feet and body walking. Let this walk be enough to lead you into contemplation.

When you reach the center, take a moment of pause. For some, this is a place to engage with the divine, to return to the center of yourself and your connection to the universe, or to simply escape the outside world. Perhaps you can picture what the future can look like, and what the world will look like when we take the climate crisis seriously. As you breathe, create a new intention. What new hope or purpose or action will you carry with you when you return to the world?

STOP 3 : Mindful Meditation (Lake Mary Nell)

Mindfulness is a way of being in the present moment with both awareness and acceptance. All too often, we are tossed about by busy anxious thoughts, rehearsing the past, worried about the future, or simply distracted by all we have to do, and we forget to be in the moment in mind and body together.

Exercises like meditation can help us re-center in the present moment, as well as serve as an intentional activity that helps us return to the present moment. A growing body of research demonstrates the benefits of mindful practices for physical health and personal well-being, as well as learning and cognition. Mindfulness is especially helpful for managing stress and anxiety and for increasing compassion for self and others.

Please enjoy this guided meditation from Elon Alumna Lara Struckman. 

Remembering Interbeing

Not able to get outdoors? Check out this Grounding in Gratitude video instead!

STOP 4 : Eco-Grief Tending (Elon Community Garden, near Sklut Hillel Center)

A landmark 2018 paper by Ashlee Cunsolo and Neville Ellis uses the term “ecological grief” to describe the “grief, pain, sadness, or suffering” people feel due to the loss or anticipated loss of beloved ecosystems, landscapes, seascapes, species, and places. These losses can arise from both acute events (such as storms or wildfires) and gradual environmental changes (like rising ocean temperatures). They can be felt as both individual losses, as well as collective losses of a group.

Choose one or two of the following prompts to contemplate. Feel free to write your thoughts if you’d prefer.

  • What breaks my heart is…
  • It is not ok…
  • My heart is heavy with…
  • I fear…
  • I am so sad…

STOP 5: Indigenous Wisdom (Choose your favorite spot on campus)

The land where Elon currently sits is land stolen and manipulated from indigenous tribes by white colonists – specifically this land is that of Shakori, Catawba, Saponi, Sissipahaw, & Occaneechi people. Diverse Indigenous peoples are still connected to this land.

Indigenous nations each have their own versions of origin stories — narratives of how the world began and how people first came to inhabit it. They view the earth as their Mother and the animals as their spiritual kin. There is an interconnectedness between all living things and we are all part of a greater whole which is called life. Below you will find the creation story of the Saponi nation, local to Northeastern Alamance County. Thank you to the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation Tribal Administrator, Vickie Jeffries, for sharing this story.

Saponi Creation Story

God and the Creation of the Universe

Long ago, before what we call time began, there was MOHONI (Creator) who created all things. In the beginning, the MOHONI told the stars, the moon(s), the planet(s) and the sun their business and what their purpose would be, and they have faithfully performed them ever since. That same power that created all things in the beginning has always been present and has continued to keep all things and the principles that govern them in constant motion and in the same method. (Byrd, 1733).

Before the creation of this world, the life-giver made many other worlds. MOHONI, who is very just and good, is pleased with those beings that possess such God-like qualities as justice, honesty, and goodness. However, in time those ancient worlds had either grown old and or had become ruinous. Many forgot the teachings and the way of the creator, making war upon one another and upon MOHONI’S creation. MOHONI was not pleased and decided to punish the evildoers. Some worlds were destroyed due to the dishonesty of their inhabitants. In time, the creator made this world, AMAI (earth), and put all the living creatures upon her and filled her with great beauty.

The Creation of Humankind

In time, the Creator decided to put sentient life upon AMAI. In achieving this, Ahone (Creator) created four women, her/his daughters. The names of these four sisters were PASH, SEPOY, ASKARIN, and MARASKARIN (Lederer, 1672). After their creation, these four sisters were placed upon Amai and in time gave birth to the race of humankind. The children of these four sisters were divided into four tribes, from which all of humanity descends today. These four tribes of humankind dwell all over Amai and are distinguished under several names and colors. As a result of the origin of humankind coming from these four women, the line of decent travels through females since women today continue to bring forth the next generation of humankind as their foremothers did.

The Creators relationship with Humankind

The Creator controls and influences all things in the universe. God is very just and good and desires that all people be as such. Those that are good, the Creator protects and makes rich and healthy providing them with plenty to eat and with protection from their enemies. On the other hand, those who do evil are severely punished. Such people can suffer poverty, hunger, and sickness and fall prey to the tortures of their enemies.