In the 1950s, Einstein predicted that if humankind is to survive, we will need a substantially new manner of thinking. He believed that our task in life must be to widen our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its infinite beauty. The combined disciplines of mindfulness, ecopsychology, and sustainability education offer humanity a chance to develop this new way of thinking and being in the world. In this chapter, I describe my experience of teaching and designing curriculum that integrates contemplative practices with sustainability education in the space of higher education. The course I will be discussing, where nature-based mindfulness activities are offered, is called “MindBody Wellness.” As a part of the course, it is hoped that students will cultivate an expanded vision of the self—one known as the “ecological self”—a term coined in the 1980s. The ecological self is perceived to be a wide, expansive, or field-like sense of self, which ultimately includes all life forms, ecosystems, and the Earth. Preliminary research in the field indicates that cultivating loving-kindness and practicing mindfulness leads to a greater level of nature connectedness and need to care for and protect the natural world. However, my colleagues and I did not find this to be the case and needed to explicitly give students instructions to care for the environment.
Albrecht, N.J. (2020), "Nature-based Mindfulness and the Development of the Ecological Self When Teaching in Higher Education", Ergas, O. and Ritter, J.K. (Ed.) Exploring Self Toward Expanding Teaching, Teacher Education and Practitioner Research (Advances in Research on Teaching, Vol. 34), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 157-177. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-368720200000034010
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