Conscious Living Yoga with Jaime Silverstein
Jaime Silverstein is a brilliant example of living your yoga. Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Jaime's built her career and lifestyle around applying the yoga and contemplative practices she learned through Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and the Metta Earth Institute to help support sustainable food systems. As a crop specialist for a sustainable food start-up, Freight Farms, and advisor for Metta Earth, and a local yoga teacher, Jaime's yoga transcends her mat. We can't all be like Jaime and change careers to work hands-on in the food system, but we can learn about living a more eco-conscious life through the teachings and practice of yoga.
I sat down with Jaime to learn more about her experience, philosophy, and vision for how we can combine yoga and sustainable practices in our daily lives.
YFH: Can you talk a bit about how you got involved with Metta Earth?
Jaime: I've always been interested in sustainability and food and farming. At the time I was working at a small nonprofit doing research in responsible investing, and I realized that I wanted to switch careers to the more sustainable food systems side. I was looking for a farm internship that I could apply to and an old yoga teacher told me about Metta Earth. I applied and I decided to move there for seven months during growing season. Not only was I able to learn about local food systems in Vermont in New England and also work on a farm with animals, but I was also able to practice yoga, teach yoga, and have a contemplative practice while I was there. I also hosted lots of yoga retreats and retreats on sustainable food system and social activism. So it was a very holistic approach, and very encompassing of all my different interests combined together.
YFH: What is Metta Earth all about?
Jaime: The word 'metta' in Pali (the ancient language of Buddhism) means compassion. So Metta Earth means compassion for the earth. It’s very much rooted in community, environmentalism, and that we are all interconnected. We have a relationship with other human beings, but also the animals and the plants and the rocks and the dirt. It's encompassing and honoring those relationships. This teaching can also be practiced in farming - the many relationships of growing and feeding people.
Metta Earth is located in Lincoln, Vermont and it has three parts to it. It's a working farm, a retreat and educational nonprofit center, and a cooperative community. All of these parts work together to be a self-sustaining organization.
YFH: In your perspective, what are the kinds of connections that those elements have with each other? Why does it make sense to have yoga and agriculture, the farm, and sustainability all of these elements together?
Jaime: If you look back at ancient yoga texts, it's very much rooted in nature, rooted in the cosmos, and rooted in this interconnection with humans, animals, and plants. The practice of Metta Earth Yoga is not only practicing physical asana on the mat but taking the practice off the mat - and not only into nature where you actually work with trees and rocks and dirt - but when you're on a farm, when you're growing, cultivating plants. Bringing that contemplative practice into that experience of growing food, so when you're seeding, that's a relationship and the connection of that seed with the dirt surrounding it, with all the microbes and fungus and bacteria in the soil that you're working with. And as that plant grows you take care of it, you transplant, and harvest it. You're tuning into the needs of that plan and therefore creating connection. You're actually trying to work with nature and grow the food that can nourish you. How do you do that in an environmentally sustainable way, but also in a way that nourishes the soul and that relationship with the plant is what Metta Earth is all about.
YFH: It reminds me of an article that I read (The Intelligent Plant by Michael Pollan in The New Yorker) that was actually about root systems, and how root systems talk to each other saying that there's scientific evidence of root systems communicating with each other energetically, and it's in order to protect the ecosystem as a whole.
Jaime: Yes. Exactly. What Metta Earth tries to do is learn from that. That's a lesson that we can take in and use in our own lives. How can we be in the community and connect with other humans and communicate better, learn from nature, and then when we actually interact with nature, can we not destroy it or interrupt it and can we value and honor those systems maybe by simply practicing gratitude? When we're walking in the forest can we have the understanding that we're not just walking on dirt that’s not living, that there's a lot more to it.
YFH: What does living sustainably mean to you?
Jaime: It means living a life that's fulfilling and nourishing for everyone. Living in a way that you get the most fulfilling experience, whether that be interactions with community and nature or eating, or eating food grown by friends, but without depleting non-renewable resources and the life force that drives those experiences.
To learn more about Jaime and her offerings, check out her website: http://www.jaimesilversteinyoga.com. She teaches yoga in Somerville and Cambridge and frequently returns to Metta Earth to lead retreats and workshops.