By Bernardo Marçolla, author of Me and You and the Universe
Today we are experiencing an unprecedented phenomenon on a worldwide scale related to the wide spread of COVID-19. In many countries, strict quarantines have been adopted, with profound impacts on the daily routines of our personal lives and on the dynamics of our economies—regardless of whether we are sick.
In addition to the great challenges imposed by this moment, we are also faced with unique opportunities. The first and most obvious being that we have living proof before us that as humanity we are ONE, deeply interconnected. In fact, this awareness that we are one imposes itself. In this time of uncertainty, we have the opportunity to rethink our habits and relationships, which can translate into very positive changes for our future.
Therefore, I believe that in this time, we must not succumb to feelings of fear and despair. This moment—and even the restrictive contact measures adopted in it—invite us to dive deeper into ourselves. From that dive, we can emerge transformed.
Earth Hour appears to be synergistically connected to this same moment. In recent years, Earth Hour has been an important symbolic event in which people from all over the world can come together around a common goal, which is to awaken to the awareness of practices that are more in tune with the survival and health of our planet. By turning off the lights at the same time, we demonstrate how we are able to overcome our tendency to individualism and go beyond ourselves, connected to Earth and to all humanity for the common good.
In addition to simply turning off a light switch, this event is a great opportunity for us to seriously connect to something greater than ourselves.
This year, Earth Hour will be on Saturday, March 28, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. your local time. When you participate this year, I suggest you try something new. Choose a place where you feel comfortable and won’t be interrupted. If you are not alone, make sure that the other people are also willing to go through this practice (but all must do it individually, since it is very personal). If you are in the company of children, it would be very interesting to lead them through the process.
There are no strict rules. After turning off the lights, try to follow the sequence below in the way you feel most comfortable.
1. Close your eyes and try to feel and connect with your own body. Feel every part of yourself; feel your breathing and your pulse. Feel the contact of your body with the place where it rests. You can do this sitting or lying down, whatever you prefer. Choose a color and assign it to your body. Be aware that your body is your first and foremost contact with Nature itself.
2. Try to identify how you are feeling. What emotions are coming up? Always remember to breathe and stay connected to your body. Assign a color to your emotional life as a whole.
3. Try to identify what you are thinking while remaining connected with your body and your emotions,—what are the ideas and concepts that come to you at this moment? It doesn’t matter what they are. Look at them like you’re watching a movie. Assign a color to your thoughts.
4. Take a few minutes—as long as necessary—to just breathe, trying to feel relaxed where you are. When you feel like it’s the moment, mentally try to mix the three colors you assigned to your body, your emotions, and your thinking. Imagine a watercolor palette and see how these colors mix to form a new color. This new color symbolically represents the totality of your being.
5. Now try to remember a time or experience when you felt really open and empathetically connected to someone else. It may have been with someone who has been important in your life or it may have been a casual experience. Look for experiences like love, trust, gratitude, or forgiveness. The important thing is that you try to rescue the positive feeling of truly being in contact with someone else. Assign a color to the sensation of being empathetically connected to another human being.
6. Try to remember an experience in which you felt emotionally connected to some other (nonhuman) living being or element of Nature. It could be a plant, a pet from your childhood, a celestial object, a landscape. It may simply be the feeling of water on your body when you take a dip or the sun warming you in winter. All that matters is that it really touched you. Assign a color to this feeling of being connected to another living being or element of Nature.
7. Take a few more minutes—again, as long as necessary—to just breathe. When you feel that it is the moment, mentally try to mix the last three colors you assigned to the totality of your being, the feeling of being connected to another human being, and the feeling of being connected to an element of Nature. Just like the other time, imagine a watercolor palette and see how these three colors can blend to form a new color. This new color symbolically represents your being in full connection to yourself, to other people, and to Earth.
8. When the time comes to turn the lights on again, I suggest you use the final color to make a small drawing that represents the connection you achieved. You don’t have to be an artist: Just do a little sketch or draw a symbol. It is a very good way to integrate and conclude the experience.
Finally, I would like to add that I believe that a connection with Earth must be nurtured from an early age, when we are still children. It is important to stress that this is a kind of knowledge that is not only intellectual, but encompasses the construction of a differentiated sensitivity to the world, to other people, and to ourselves. For that goal, it is not enough to learn the theoretical foundations that connect us to all humanity and to Earth. We must effectively learn to see and feel ourselves as part of a whole that is beautiful—and almost magical.
So, during Earth Hour this year, don’t just turn off the lights in your home. Close your eyes, open your heart, breathe deeply, and really feel how everything is connected. When the lights come on again, your world will not be the same.
Bernardo Marçolla is an author and illustrator who holds degrees in psychology and literature and has over 10 years of experience as a professor of psychology. Since 2012, he has been an analyst in the human resources area of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, and in 2017, he published the book Psychology and Ecology: Nature, Subjectivity, and Its Intersections. Inspired to adapt the ideas in that book for children, Marçolla created Me and You and the Universe. He loves chocolate and still has not given up on learning to draw a little better. He lives in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, with his wife and two cats.
Bernardo is the author of Me and You and the Universe
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