What if we replaced the smell of burning forests with the scent of a sea breeze, the hustle and bustle of rush hour with the quietness of the mountains? What if we exchanged our headaches and heartaches for the warmth of an embrace? What if we left the bitterness of times past for the taste of altruism?

Without turning a blind eye on the alarming consequences of environmental disruption, Karuna-Shechen encourages you to admire what is beautiful and majestic in us and around us. This is how we can become aware of the interdependence of human beings relying on each other and on plants, animals, and natural resources. And thus, understand that our existence should not come at the cost of the destruction of the planet and the species that inhabit it.

Karuna-Shechen invites you to take a fresh look at life, to rediscover its rhythm and preciousness: to marvel. 

Wonder experienced as an adult is at the heart of humanity. It is the fullness behind the emptiness; yet  it is necessary to accept that one must first  go through emptiness… those who are able to marvel are formidable living beings who become wonderful indignant rebels and indomitable opponents of injustice

Bertrand Vergely, french philosopher and essayist

To wonder

To marvel is to take the time to contemplate landscapes or living beings and to become aware of sensations that we tend to neglect.
The manifestations of wonder are not identical for everyone; besides it cannot always be explained by logic. It is more of a feeling, an uncontrollable thrill or a smile, a  sudden sensation of fullness,  a heartbeat that feels stronger than usual.

We can marvel at the best in others as well as the most sublime in nature.

Matthieu Ricard

In the midst of economic, diplomatic, climate, and social crises, there are many reasons to be anxious, and the future environmental state of the world is one of them. It is estimated that between 17 and 29% of the population and 60% of 16-25 year-olds suffer from eco-anxiety, and wonder appears to be a remedy for anxiety and isolation. Many answers to eco-anxiety and ways to cultivate wonder are actually the same. They include spending time in nature, exercising, meditating, or taking part in meaningful discussions with loved ones.

Many studies show that wonder has many short- and long-term benefits, including reduced stress and anxiety, a lower heart rate, a reduced risk of diseases, as well as an increased level of well-being and energy, and a renewed creativity. Wonder is also at the origin of a phenomenon called “unselfing“, ie selflessness, which limit ruminations and the exclusive focus on oneself and on one’s problems. It also translates into a desire to reach out to others, to build relationships, and help them. It is therefore an excellent gateway to discover altruism.
Moreover, letting young children marvel – by regularly bringing them into contact with nature, allowing them to explore their environment at their own pace, and spontaneously rediscover what fills their daily lives –  enhances their cognitive and sensory development.

→ Share your photos and sources of wonder with the Karuna Shechen community with #KarunaWonderment

Cultivating Wonderment

Monk meditating at the gate of the Citadel of the Tiger – TIbet, 2001.

The best thing about wonderment is that it is something simple, accessible,  and uniquely personal that can be cultivated easily. You don’t have to travel half-way around the world or engage in unusual activities to feel it. Be it the view from your window, the routine singing of birds, the caressing of animals, the music that never fails to thrill you, a cherished memory, or the spontaneous act of selflessness you witnessed, there is no shortage of sources of beauty and admiration. What’s more, they can vary or multiply over time. The important thing is to find the  ones that resonate with you.

This positive and resolute approach is different from the more reflexive, alarmist, and guilt-inducing ones we are used to hearing, although wonder does not exclude indignation, which is a legitimate reaction.

By experiencing admiration, we long to regularly recreate this sensation of dazzlement, which allows us to get information, then evaluate,  and cultivate it. Wonder is therefore a prelude to a passion that animates us so much that it pushes us to share it with others, to make sure that they can know it, and to act to preserve its source. Although everyone does not experience marvel in the same situations everyone can recognize in themselves this flame of passion that echoes the one that burns within us.

In this way wonderment, followed by passion, can be a persuasive solution to convince those who are neutral,  indolent, and skeptical, thereby transforming indifference and defeatism. When we are amazed, we dwell on the beauty and harmony of all species and elements. We acquire not only hope but the conviction that it is possible to participate in change and we believe that our actions are not in vain. This emulation,  which emerges from wonder, allows one to overcome their fear, apprehension, and doubts.

We must dare to open up to others, to the vast interdependence of all beings and of nature, and we must take to heart the fate of future generations and all other species, who also strive to avoid suffering and live their lives  to their natural end just as we do.

Matthieu Ricard

Obviously, simply marveling is not enough to change the world. Rather, it is a starting point to becoming aware of our interdependence with living things and changing our behaviors, for the better.

Acting in Care of the Living

How can we contemplate waterfalls and starry skies, hear the buzz of bees foraging and the laughter of children breathed in the fresh air, roll around in the immaculate white snow and run through green meadows, without ensuring that future generations can also do the same?

To marvel, according to Jean-Pierre Bouillard, is to “love and watch“. Loving and watching over what allows us to live, over the people who live next to us, thousands of kilometers away or a future generation away. In this, we all have a responsibility and many opportunities to get involved. And while reforming our daily lives and habits may seem frightening, these changes are nonetheless essential

Contrary to what may be implied, daily actions and individual decisions count. On the one hand, each gesture is a potential model of inspiration and each discussion a seed that will eventually germinate, and on the other hand, it is indeed possible, on a human scale, to reduce one’s carbon footprint and adopt a responsible lifestyle. Rest assured, you don’t have to be Greta Thunberg to be able to take action.

Freeing ourselves from self-centeredness gives us greater freedom of action. The past has played out, the future has not.

Jean-François Revel
Jeunes femmes conteplant la nature – Népal, 2021.

First of all, we should ask ourselves the right questions, especially before making crucial decisions, such as the choice of our studies or our profession. The “Call For Desertion” by AgroParisTech students at their graduation ceremony in May 2022 left a lasting impression. Like them, nearly 30,000 students have joined the “Ecological Awakening collective since 2018, which advocates for the inclusion of environmental issues in school programs and higher education training. The collective provides a variety of resources to inform and “wake up” those around them.

It is then essential to question our consumption and travel patterns. Turning off the lights, yes, but also limiting car and air travel, not wasting but also replacing “fast-fashion” with “slow-fashion“, recycling, and above all limiting our meat consumption and buying local, seasonal, and bulk products. In the same way, the “Small Steps Method” allows us to implement simple actions, by asking ourselves “What is the Smallest Possible Step I can take to act and change things?”. Cumulatively, these small actions make a considerable difference.

Of course, the climate crisis (and all the others, which are intrinsically linked), will not find a solution without the action of institutional and transnational actors. Here again, we have a role to play as individuals. The effectiveness of dialogue and citizen commitment should not be underestimated. Thus, a first step can be to inform ourselves before sensitizing the people around us to good practices and denouncing the inequalities and disastrous consequences created by the overexploitation of natural and human resources. Finally, the various mobilization movements have proven their effectiveness in challenging governments, companies, and major decision-makers.

Now that we know the answers to the current problems, acting for the environment is not only a personal choice, it is a question of social justice, equality, and humanity, an immediate responsibility that falls to all of us.

Wat if, together, we transformed the present to beautify the future?

Support our programs to raise awareness of eco-responsible practices in India and Nepal

Resources to go further