Wake Up and Find Out that You are the Eyes of the World

Wake Up and Find Out that You are the Eyes of the World

Naropa University combines Western academics with Eastern wisdom practices, so it’s only natural that their sustainability department would approach sustainability with a touch of mystical flair.

CultureNovember 07, 2022 By Cassandra Smith and Kendall Higgins

Many institutions and universities today are taking steps to make their systems more sustainable, but Naropa University is taking it a step further and exploring how they can help students cultivate the inner resilience needed to make sustainable changes.

Naropa combines Western academics with Eastern wisdom practices, so it’s only natural that their sustainability department would approach sustainability with a touch of mystical flair.

It’s not every day you come across a college campus that has a student-built greenhouse, a bike shack to repair or build your own bike, pollinator habitats, edible landscaping, and a healing garden—but this is what walking the talk around sustainability looks like at Naropa.

The department that leads the sustainability efforts is called the Joanna Macy Center for Resilience and Regeneration (JMCR). The JMCR is dedicated to advancing the vision and legacy of Dr. Joanna Macy in order to empower present and future generations in building a more resilient world that works for all.

The JMCR works to make Naropa’s systems more sustainable with the goal of becoming climate neutral in 2040. Naropa was one of the first universities in the country to divest from fossil fuels and in recent years, they lowered their electricity and natural gas related emissions by 8.56% due to the implementation of numerous energy conservation and efficiency measures. But there is clearly more work to do.

In addition to the practical steps needed, the scholars and scientists within the JMCR explore how compassion and consciousness realized through contemplative practice may be the key that unlocks the next phase of the sustainability movement.

Sustainable behavior and cultural change will require individuals to fully recognize and embrace their interconnectedness with each other and the natural world. It will require humans to wake up and remember that ‘we are the eyes of our world’.

Michael Bauer, the Director of the JMCR, shares:

“The feedback that we’re getting now—in terms of political polarization, economic disparity, and of course, biodiversity loss, habitat degradation, and climate change—is a signal that we have to do something different if we want to maintain long term complex life on this planet.”

Dr. Travis Cox, Chair of the Ecopsychology Department at Naropa and Faculty Lead of the JMCR, speaks to the way expanded states of consciousness help short circuit culturally conditioned patterns and “inspire folx to recognize our inextricable connection.” 

This remembrance of connection and experience of deep love through contemplative practice is the key that will ultimately inspire humans to take care of each other and make sustainable changes.

That “shift in consciousness,” Bauer shares, “is a particular strength of a Naropa education”. 

Science is there to show us what changes are needed, but the contemplative question to ask is “do we have the room in our hearts to make these changes with each other?”