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What does mindfulness mean to you?

AH: Mindfulness is an expanded awareness. It’s being conscious of more than just what is on the surface. The more I practice mindfulness in all areas of life, the more my mind has expanded to encompass the depth and underlying truth within myself and the external world. Mindfulness is about being aware of the interconnectedness of life and underlying oneness. The aim is to have this state of awareness in every action.

 

How do you integrate mindfulness into your own life?

AH: Through mindful practices like yoga, meditation, journaling, clean eating, self-study and by fueling myself with teachings. Ultimately, these practices allow me to be more aware — pure in body, mind and presence. The calmer and clearer I am, the more connected and mind-full I am able to be. Every moment is an opportunity to practice mindfulness. I try to take a more mindful approach to understanding myself and the world around me by asking questions:

Where does this food come from? What hands has it touched to get to my plate?
Where does this dress come from? How was it made?
Where has this thought come from? Is it a story I’ve just made up?
Where has this person’s anger come from? Maybe it’s not about me?
What effects do my actions, words and thoughts have on myself, others and the Earth?
Who and what am I at the core of my being?

One of my greatest teachers in regard to mindfulness is suffering. When sickness, pain or discomfort comes up in any life situation, it can serve as a reminder to get present. Discomfort can awaken us and shine a light on something that needs to be seen or addressed. I believe our work as human beings is to discover our deepest truth, and sometimes we must face discomfort or fear in order to do that — like breaking a habit, not reacting, and letting go of our conditioning, ego and desires. In this case, mindfulness becomes an essential tool to determine our ultimate truth, direction and purpose.

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What is your view on the relationship between mindfulness and sustainability?

AH: Sustainability is a fairly new word to me. I had always heard it but left it to the greenies to handle. I didn’t really consider myself one of them (for lack of better knowledge or awareness), yet my experience with mindfulness has made me look more deeply into sources of everything that I consume and indulge in.

An example is food. I used to think that being organic was enough, that I could eat meat as long as it worked for my system and it was grass-fed and organic. But now I have a deeper knowledge and understanding that the way most mainstream meat and dairy is mass produced and raised is terrible for the environment. The gases that the cows create are worse for the environment than those created by the oil industry. And so much water is used to grow the grains which feed the cows. It made me stop and think that every action I make has a reaction, and I want it to be a positive one, not a negative one. I have to think past what works for my body personally and understand what effect my action has on the environment and all aspects of life.

I also had a huge awakening in regard to the fashion industry. I was blissfully ignorant about it for 15 years while modeling, as I was working for brands that I loved but didn’t realize they were also creating products in unethical ways. I had heard the term “fast fashion” but didn’t really understand it until I started taking the steps to create my own line. The creation of many fabrics has such a negative impact on the environment, and so many of these cheaply made clothes just end up in landfills. It can be a damaging, unsustainable industry, from polluting the water supply and air, to slave labor and unfair trade. It’s so important to understand the consumer chain.

Personally, I have stopped buying clothes from or working for brands that do not consider the environment, both ethically and sustainably. I am spending a lot more at second-hand shops. It’s been fun doing clothing-swap parties and discovering new ways to get creative.

 

What are your sustainable practices?

AH:

  • Not buying anything new unless it’s produced ethically and sustainably
  • Discovering and supporting designers who use recycled fabrics
  • Hanging my clothes instead of using the dryer
  • Using my local tailor to fix damaged clothing or change the look
  • Learning how to sew
  • Purchasing vintage clothing
  • Supporting farmers markets and buying local, organic food that is not sprayed
  • Growing my own herbs
  • Researching and supporting local small farms and farmers that are practicing sustainable meat and dairy production
  • Using chemical-free hair and beauty products
  • Never using plastic — bags, bottles, containers, straws, etc.
  • Always carrying my own water bottle and reusable shopping bags
  • Continuing a mindful practice of yoga and meditation
  • Reading scriptures that allow me to be more aware of the interconnectedness of all things
  • Constantly educating myself
  • Choosing consciously and thinking holistically about the future impact of my actions

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Tell us about Change of Threads.

AH: It’s my new social media platform. My passion is within the fashion industry, and after realizing how unsustainable it is, it became very important to me to not only change my actions, but to start being part of the conversation. I started this social media awareness project mainly to educate myself and hopefully inspire others. The idea is to collaborate with the brands that are leading the way in this space and share their stories of how they are finding ways to be ethical and sustainable in the consumer chain. It’s also about celebrating brands that are making small changes along the way. Hopefully, this will encourage others to create more conscious brands and keep the fashion industry thriving in a sustainable way. We cannot continue with our unconscious consumption. I want my children’s children’s children to live with fresh air and clean water and be connected to nature. For us to create a more sustainable world, I really do believe it starts with being more consciously aware, present and deeply mindful in every action. It’s not just about the changing the threads of our clothes. We also have to change the threads of our thinking.

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Journalist Ann Wycoff has written about wellness, fitness, longevity, travel, spas, food and wine for the past 20 years for magazines like Shape, Fitness, Spa, Outside, Travel + Leisure, Coastal Living, Redbook, Modern Luxury, San Diego Magazine, Redbook, Marin Magazine and more. She lives in Encinitas, California.