Mindful living to go

Keep your “new year, new you” resolutions on track with five apps that boost your mind-body-planet connection


PLANET GOODWILL

No GPS restaurant directions or angry birds here, just a feel-good app with 365 ways to “share the love.” Tap into simple daily actions that won’t alter your itinerary but may pull you out of your comfort zone. Some are goofy, many are green. Either way, you’ll be prompted to join this force for good as it “spreads radical kindness,” fosters compassion and saves “yo mama” Earth, all with a revolutionary joie de vivre. $2.99.

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iVEGGIEGARDEN

There’s no quicker way to connect to the earth than to, well, dig in it. A little tricky when the ground is frozen, granted, but there’s no harm in getting a head start on planning for your ultra-local backyard bounty. There are apps for troubleshooting urban chickens, picking out bee-friendly or companion plants, moon gardening in line with the lunar cycles, you name it. iVeggieGarden is one of the most well-rounded, with growing info for over 500 varieties, mostly eco disease- and pest-control tips (just ignore pesticide mentions), and it handily lets you track ‘n’ snap your own garden. $.99.

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HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING VEGETARIAN

Whether weighing karma, colonic well-being or carbon footprints, we could all use more meat-free meals (the planet included). This app based on the bestselling cookbook by Mark Bittman has more than 2,000 vegan and vegetarian recipes – minus the dead trees (cookbooks rarely have recycled content). Slow down to thoroughly savour each bite, and send a little gratitude to the sun, rain, soil and calloused hands that made it all possible. Since mindful eating has actually been tied to weight loss, you may be tackling two resolutions in one. (Yep, there are apps for that.) $4.99.

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SKIN DEEP/BUYCOTT

You can detox your diet all you want, but what, pray tell, are you putting on your skin, and just how dirty is the company making it? Luckily, there are a lot of handy mindful consumerism apps to help us shop in peace with a quick phone scan, including Skin Deep, Buycott and GoodGuide Purchase Analyzer. None give a complete picture (ecologically destructive ingredients don’t get bad scores on Skin Deep and GoodGuide the way carcinogenic ones do), but they’re a healthy start. And free.

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BUDDHIFY

Designed to bring mindfulness to busy urbanites, this mobile meditation app has an easy, affable approach to quieting your mind and cueing your awareness to the present without the spacey New Age music or higher price tags of other apps. Bonus: mindfulness tends to boost earth-friendly decision-making. (See article below.) All you have to do is tell Buddhify whether you’re at your desk, in a park, in transit, at the gym or just plain sitting in silence. $1.99.

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Meditating on the new year

It’s the first morning of the new year and I’m lying in bed shaking off the bubbly cobwebs of last night’s impromptu kitchen-party countdown. Every year right about now I join the chorus of North Americans committing to some sort of personal betterment. I’ve tried more winter cycling (sorry, I gave up below -10°C), breaking up with my laptop (ended up marrying my smartphone instead). Should I renew the same old fear-fuelled vows that swell membership rolls at gyms and wellness centres? Get fit, eat healthier, detox. Sure, but it’s not quite… enough.

Lying there with a gauzy haze of white light filtering through the window, I ask myself on loop, “What… do… I… want?” Two words keep seeping in: more love. Hmm. Really? I’ve got that nailed, don’t I? Loving partner, loving family, loving tribe of friends. But the phrase keeps coming back, all aglow like Michael Landon in Highway To Heaven about to walk into the frame dressed up as Buddha. Wait, that’s it.

I throw off the sheets and proclaim to my startled partner of 16 years: 2014 is the year of love! He looks a little bewildered but game. “Good idea!”

See, everything we take for granted withers and eventually dies, right? Our relationships, our bodies, our planet. What, then, is the antidote to that disconnection that creeps in and lets us treat ourselves and our environment like shit? Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, in his recent book, Love Letter To The Earth, says it all comes down to mindfulness, and being truly present in the here and now, without judgment.

That means getting quiet and being more aware of everything around us and inside us. Take it all in with more compassion, gratitude and, yeah, love: the trees outside your window, the breath filling your lungs, the guy strumming in the subway, the fresh lake water in your glass.

It may sound far out, but the whole mindfulness concept is no longer just the notion of temple dwellers and hippies. It’s turning up in Fortune 500 boardrooms and lunchrooms and on psych 100 curricula. JWT, one of the world’s largest marketing agencies, named mindful living one of the top 10 trends shaping our world.

Says the JWT agency’s trend-spotting blog, “Consumers are developing a quasi-Zen desire to experience everything in a more present, conscious way. Once the domain of the spiritual set, mindful living is filtering into the mainstream, with more people drawn to the idea of shutting out distractions and focusing on the moment.”

If that’s true and mindful living sticks around longer than the decade-long resurgence of skinny jeans, then enviros, CEOs and politicians alike better get on board. As Hanh says, “Mindfulness is a truly healing balm that can help put an end to our sense of alienation and help us heal both ourselves and the planet.”

With that kind of balm, apply liberally and repeat.


Nature Notes

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ORIGINAL CHEERIOS GO GMO-FREE

After 40,000 consumer Facebook posts demanding Cheerios dump its GMOs, General Mills has now started manufacturing its original Cheerios formula without genetically modified corn or sugar. “This is a huge victory for the non-GMO movement,” says John W. Roulac, co-founder of GMO Inside, the coalition behind the social media campaign. The change won’t apply to Honey Nut Cheerios or other General Mills cereals. Said the company in a statement: “The widespread use of GM seed in crops such as corn, soy or beet sugar would make reliably moving to non-GMO ingredients difficult, if not impossible.” Activists, however, note: General Mills offers more GMO-free options in Europe.

QUEBEC AND CALI KICK OFF CARBON TRADING

Quebec has now officially hitched its cap-and-trade wagon to California’s. The two regions started regulating major greenhouse gas emitters last year, but with the systems linked up, Quebec polluters can now buy credits from California. Cali and Quebec are the only two members of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) actually moving forward with the scheme. Ontario, still technically a member of the WCI, is apparently waiting for a few more glaciers to melt before it rolls up its sleeves on this one.

ecoholic@nowtoronto.com

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