Happiness Break: Contemplating our Interdependence…

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Take ten minutes to renew your connection to the Earth through this guided meditation on our interdependence with the ecosystem.

How to Do This Practice:
Today’s Happiness Break host:

  1. Find a comfortable place to do this practice, relax into your body.

  2. Wherever you are, start to acknowledge your surroundings, noticing the living and inanimate things around you.

  3. Focus your attention on your breath, and how your breathing is interdependent on other life forms, and other life forms are dependent on your breath.

  4. Contemplate the Earth’s compassion, and how it provides you with unconditional support.

  5. Finish this practice by acknowledging your connection to the natural world.

Dekila Chungyalpa is the founder and head of the Loka Initiative, which brings together faith leaders and cultural keepers of indigenous traditions on environmental and climate issues.

Learn More About Dekila Chungyalpa’s work: https://centerhealthyminds.org/about/people/dekila-chungyalpa

Learn about the Loka Initiative: https://centerhealthyminds.org/programs/loka-initiative

Follow Dekila on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dchungyalpa/?hl=en

Follow Dekila on Twitter: https://twitter.com/dchungyalpa?lang=en

More resources from The Greater Good Science Center:

What Happens When We Reconnect With Nature: https://tinyurl.com/553xwm47

How Nature Helps Us Heal: https://tinyurl.com/2p93682j

Why Is Nature So Good for Your Mental Health? https://tinyurl.com/ycx9ns4p

How Nature Can Make You Kinder, Happier and More Creative: https://tinyurl.com/d2vzpsaj

How Being in Nature Can Spur Personal Growth: https://tinyurl.com/2p822nyj

How Modern Life Became Disconnected from Nature: https://tinyurl.com/bdzzy6pc

Being Around Nature Helps You Love Your Body: https://tinyurl.com/34m7tfre

We love hearing from you! How do you connect with nature? Email us at happinesspod@berkeley.edu or use the hashtag #happinesspod.

Find us on Apple Podcasts: https://tinyurl.com/2p9h5aap

Help us share Happiness Break! Leave us a 5-star review and copy and share this link: https://tinyurl.com/2p9h5aap

We’re living through a mental health crisis. Between the stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, burnout — we all could use a break to feel better. That’s where Happiness Break comes in. In each biweekly podcast episode, instructors guide you through research-backed practices and meditations that you can do in real-time. These relaxing and uplifting practices have been shown in a lab to help you cultivate calm, compassion, connection, mindfulness, and more — what the latest science says will directly support your well-being. All in less than ten minutes. A little break in your day.

This Happiness Break is part of our special series, Climate, Hope & Science. In it, we explore the intersection of environmental well-being and our own well-being, where taking care of ourselves and the planet are one in the same and feeling good is not only possible, it’s helpful. We find the links between crisis, hope, happiness, and action.

Look for the third and final episode on May 11. Plus, we’ll share another climate-focused Happiness Break on May 18.


Dacher Keltner: I’m Dacher Keltner. Welcome to Happiness Break, a series by Science of Happiness where we take a little break in our day to try practices to improve ourselves and our relationships. Today’s Happiness Break is part of our special series called Climate, Hope, and Science.

We’re going to do a meditation in which we reflect upon our interconnectedness with nature. We are guided in this meditation by Dekila Chungyalpa.

She’s the founder and head of the Loka Initiative at the University of Wisconsin, which brings together faith leaders and cultural keepers of indigenous traditions on environmental and climate issues.

Over 100 empirical studies have found that being in nature, immersing ourselves in the outdoors, or even viewing nature in paintings and videos can have powerful impacts upon our brains, our bodies, our emotions, and our relationships with others.

When we feel connected with nature, research shows very importantly we’re also more likely to act to protect our environment. Nature immersion and the feelings that accompany it fuel climate action.

For those of you who identify as environmentalists, I hope this brief meditation adds to your reserves and commitment to protecting life.

For those of you who simply want a moment of peace to connect with nature, I hope this practice provides that as well.

Here’s Dekila.

Dekila Chungyalpa: Hello everyone. Kuzu Zangpo and Tashi Delek. I come from a tiny place in the Eastern Himalayas called Sikkim. And I belong to a devout Tibetan Buddhist family. And I’m part of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. This lineage, which is a thousand years old, is known especially for great meditation masters who spent a lot of time in the wilderness.

I am not a meditation teacher. I am very fortunate in that I have received a lot of instruction and experience, through my Lamas and my Root teachers.

Whatever I offer here, is really a variation of practice that was taught to me, and I offer it in fellowship rather than as an instruction. All right. Having said all of that, let’s get started.

So the first thing is that I want you to get comfortable in your seat. Wiggle around if you need to roll your shoulders back. Clench, unclench your hands.

Loosen up. It doesn’t matter how you’re sitting, if you’re sitting on a chair or on the floor. But whatever it is, I want you to start straightening up your spine. Imagine a string is pulling your spine up and so you come erect straight spine, and then imagine that you let the string go and so you settle, you relax into your own body.

And as you’re relaxing into your own body, I want you to be aware of what surrounds you. What do you see? What do you hear? What is in the room with you, in the community you are in? It is enough to be just gently conscious of all these life forms that are around you. Let them enter your consciousness now.

As we get comfortable, let’s bring our awareness back to our bodies and to the top of our heads. Allow your attention to descend gently down your body to wherever you are touching the earth. However your body is pressed to the ground. It can be through the seat of a chair, through the floor, even the soles of your feet. No matter how many stories you may be up in a building, no matter how you are seated, the earth is holding you up. There is a relationship here. There is awareness here, there is compassion here.

Bring your awareness to the breath that is coming in. It’s expanding your chest. Contracting your diaphragm, all that combination of the nitrogen and the oxygen and carbon dioxide that’s moving through your bloodstream right now, entering all those different parts of your body. And as you exhale, imagine all of those gases leaving your body and entering the surroundings.

That carbon dioxide is being used by all the plants near you during photosynthesis. This is harmony. This is what interdependence looks like.

All of that oxygen that keeps us alive comes from the plankton in oceans, forests, plants, lakes around you. Just as the carbon dioxide we exhale nourishes so many lifeforms. Imagine all the places near and far where the oxygen has come from.

The Amazon, the Pacific Ocean, the Great Lakes, Congo Forest, all the nearby parks and vegetation where we live. Your beloved house plants. We could not survive without oxygen and it is provided to us unconditionally. Effortlessly by the earth. The very source of life comes from outside of ourselves.

Along with that, the water we drink, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, all of these things are provided by the planet in a pure display of interdependence. And understanding that what we take and give back contributes to this larger cycle of interdependence.

Humans are loved, but all of the species that make home on this incredible planet receive the same care and nourishment. Tigers, whales, bees, orchids. Some of us inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, and some of us do the reverse, and yet here we all are receiving life as we inhale, offering life as we exhale. Whether we mean to or not, all of us transfer energy and nutrients to one another.

We participate effortlessly as part of this vast ecosystem. Relax and allow yourself to intentionally be part of it.

Now as you inhale, imagine you’re breathing the earth’s compassion, and as you exhale, exhale, any softness, tenderness, gratitude you may have experienced during this practice.

Inhale, compassion, exhale, gratitude.

We humans are part of nature. We belong here and the earth holds us up unconditionally.

Thank you. May this practice help you and through you may it heal the earth.

Dacher Keltner: That was Dekila Chungyalpa, the founder and head of the Loka Initiative at the University of Wisconsin at the Center for Healthy Minds.

I’m Dacher Keltner, thanks for taking this Happiness Break with us.

Check out our show notes to learn more about Dekila’s work and to hear more episodes from our series Climate, Hope and Science.

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