The Gist

  • Hello, I’m Aidan Walker. I’ve been working in design and architecture for more than 20 years, but I’m not a designer or an architect. I’m a Cambridge History MA, a musician, I’ve been a cabinetmaker, I’ve studied yoga for 30 years, I write, I sail, I ride motorcycles as fast as I possibly can. All of these things have brought me here.
  • (NB – Just for now, clicking on the pictures won’t lead you anywhere. The site is under constant construction, with loads more content to come, links and all that good mullarkey.)


  • As the eco agenda has gained importance over the last generation, it has become increasingly clear to me (and many others much cleverer than me) that the key is in behaviour. Eco-Mentalism deals practically with behaviour change in two ways: designing or re-designing ourselves for survival, and if it is too late, which it probably is, remaking ourselves to suit the ‘new  world’, in which new cultural and commercial priorities apply.


  • Let’s be sure what Eco-Mentalism is not. It’s not for the mishy mashy or the wishy washy. It does have a spiritual angle, but we’ll come to that. It’s practical and does not involve navel gazing or even star gazing. Not to say those activities are forbidden, but they are not germane to the project. Obviously first thing you do when you have an idea that you think will work, you check the web to see who else has had it. I couldn’t find much on eco-mentalism – nothing at all actually – but I did find stuff on ecomentalists, a favourite breed with Jeremy Clarkson, among others. What I like about this little slug from the Urban Dictionary is how rabidly aggressive and vituperative to the point of paranoia the writer is. Poor girl, her great crime was not to know that trees absorb CO2.


  • It came from working with architects and designers on the ‘eco agenda’, let’s call it. Those who know my columns in FX magazine know that I rant on about it more or less all the time, and also know that, with many other far cleverer people than me, we conclude that if it ain’t sustainable behaviour, it ain’t sustainable. Ben Humphries, an architect with admirable green practice Architype, pointed this out to me a couple years ago in the context of their super-sustainable community building on Southwark Bridge Road. If the people don’t throw the paper in the right bin or turn off their computers, however sustainable a building is designed, it isn’t sustainable if people don’t act sustainable. As Kevin McCloud says: ‘There’s no such thing as an eco home. It’s our use of these things that determines not how environmentally friendly they are but how environmentally friendly we are.’ (Kevin McCloud’s 43 Principles of Home, p9).


  • Doh, how simple can this be? The behaviour we’re talking about is HABIT. Seems much more accessible, do-able, when we think about our habits. Change behaviour? Where do we start? Change habits? Pick them off one by one. Create new ones.


  • Couldn’t resist this. You’ll see a few more of these, because being a words guy I like to dig into what words mean, and find links that occur to me, even though they may not be etymologically sound. Ecology, for instance: an interesting one, coming up. Here, HABIT and HABITAT; Habitat means ‘he she or it inhabits’. Could there be a connection between where we live and the way we live –  what we do, how we go about our daily business? Could there just possibly be?


  • Most people  have a ‘disconnect’, a sense of mild dissatisfaction, disappointment or discontentment with themselves, because there’s a gap between what they would like to be or do, and what they actually are or do. This is familiar as applied to others, for example when your partner, wife, husband, lover or cohort has a different behavioural pattern to yours. We sort of recycle. We occasionally make a sustainable choice when it comes to travel, even if it’s only giving Easyjet an extra couple of quid to plant a tree or something. Conscience salver. I used bio diesel in my truck for a while, but the guy went out of business. Did I look elsewhere? Well, I want to and I know I should, but…. That’s called weakness. Nothing to beat yourself up about, but essentially it’s habit and force of circumstance that stop us making change. What do we need to make the changes we need to make? – (Point to the word POWER).
    But how are we going to get it?


  • The process, the business of design (or architecture) helps to find a way in which these ideas make sense. It seems simple, to me anyway. It’s demonstrable that people don’t change when they’re told to, or only slowly. Even legislation is painfully slow. Too slow, actually. And the change we are talking about – we have to be talking about – is nothing less than a complete overhaul of western society’s chief drivers. You know, getting and spending, wanting more, wanting better, taking it from the little guy, having wars…  The basis of all capitalistic enterprise is growth, may it go on for ever. You’re only doing well if you’re expanding. It’s a suitable philosophy for a world of infinite natural resource; but, as most of us know, our particular material world is finite. Endless growth is the most destructive and dangerous myth we have ever embraced. Stuff runs out, and no one – even governments – has the power to change that. But you do have the power to…


  • …Change yourself, or actually to redesign yourself. There’s a system inside you – an ecosystem, because you’re a living thing – and you can find it, and put it back in balance. If you think you’re fine and everything is fine, thank you very much, then I guess you don’t need Eco-Mentalism. The point about power – and this is where my own personal experience as a meditator boy in white pyjamas comes in handy – is that you ALREADY have it. You don’t have to go out and find it; all you have to do is go in and find it. Then nourish it, nurture it.


  • So. At last, the definition. At least, today’s. Tomorrow it will probably be different, but you can see where I’m going with it. Design yourself, design the world.


  • 7 Powers, because 7 is a magic number, and also the number of days in the week.  7 powers, 7 sub-powers (the order has changed since I made this presentation – see the post on the Powers and Chakras). Give them a week each, we have more or less a year’s worth of work re-discovering and re-creating yourself.  Most of them you already have, in some way, shape or form; it’s just a matter of nurturing your nature. Changing the world, or creating a new one, are so far from possible for an ordinary person like you or me that they don’t compute in our consciousness at all. Daunting is an understatement. But change yourself? That sounds do-able. Not even change, actually. More like a tune-up, a clear-out, a spring clean. Polish those powers until they shine.


  • Creativity. Number 1. What better project to exercise your creativity on than yourself? And remember that this is not a strictly selfish exercise. Yes, it focuses on the self; but you’re part of the whole world project. Building block. People who think of themselves as ‘creative’ are inclined to see it as setting them apart. But the fact is, everyone is creative. Every single human being on this planet dreams; everyone has wishes, desires, goals, even if it’s just to get enough water to survive another day. Everyone makes something; a joke, a sandwich, a whittled stick, a multi-million dollar company, a computer program. It’s as simple as that. Human beings are creative. It’s our nature. (Nature? We’ll come back to that one.)


  • Communication. This is two ways, ladies and gents. Many ways in which listen is more important than speak. There’s conversation, colloquy; we share a moment, our minds meet (or lock horns). But we also have to speak, to get our point across, to persuade… for which, to do effectively, we have to connect with our listener’s mental world. Which brings us back to listening; to reading people. Amazing how you can have a conversation where no one is listening to anyone else. Almost more important is listening to yourself; something that can not be said to be a widespread habit. For that you need silence.


  • Passion. Should be familiar to most of us, and I’m not just talking about a bottle of good wine, scented candles and massage oils. It’s caring, it’s commitment. You notice ‘spirit’ and ‘energy’ are both here; what makes you tick, what makes you get up in the morning. What you love.  Vision – your imagination, your dream, your goal; also, it’s the way you see the world. What’s your vision? Notice – here is also where ownership and responsibility come in: commitment from a different angle. If you are passionate about something, it sets up a responsibility in you to serve that passion.



  • Community. Where you confirm that it isn’t all about yourself. Where you realize that paying attention to your own behaviour benefits the community, because communities are after all made up of individuals. Surprise surprise, it also has a strong link to ‘Communication’. Two nice things here – ‘Abundant mentality’ (or Abundance Mentality, more correctly) is an attitude that says there’s enough for everyone, you don’t have to think you’re deprived if someone else has more than you. Or even enough. It comes from Stephen Covey’s ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People‘, which has sold something like 15 million copies. Of course, water, medical supplies, vitamins etc aren’t abundant in most parts of the world; but mostly we’re dealing with the prosperous west, right here right now. It’s our ‘civilised’ values that need an overhaul. Which is why, down at the bottom, we have eco=home (it’s Greek), in the sense of our earth, our world, our home. Big mental stretch to see the whole world, the whole human race, as one community.



  • Power of Concentration. Mindfulness, accuracy, focus, absorption, applying the considerable power of your mind to whatever you happen to be doing. Most of us ‘coast’ most of the time, hardly aware of what we’re doing. Pay sweet attention. We have to call it ‘craftspersonship’ now, but ‘craftsmanship’ has a better ring. It’s essentially about caring (which is about Passion, see above). Caring not just about what you do, but about how you do it. Total focus, absorption, getting it right, attention to detail. Ever thought how liberating this is? You don’t have to waste time and mental energy wandering round the house looking for your keys because they’re always in the same place. Anal? Not a bit of it. True power, truly a powerful habit. Even more powerful when it’s someone else wandering round the house looking for the keys you left somewhere else, cursing you. Drains their mental energy as well as yours.



  • Sustain-ability, ie the ability – the Power – to sustain, or make it last (not just cheesy reference to aforesaid underwear and scented candles). We have to have the Power to cope. We have to have the Power to accept, otherwise Reconciliation and the peace that goes with it escape us. We have to have the Power of endurance. Feels like hard work, a long way away for most people, until you come up against real hardship. Then, it seems to me, you discover your Power of endurance. But there are other ways to tap in to it.



  • And here we are, good people, at the Power of Nature – arguably the most important Power of the lot; because like it or not, we are nature. We are Nature, but Nature is not Us. Amazes me how easily and (apparently) thoughtlessly we’ve gone through our recent time in the ‘civilised’ world behaving as if it’s all there for us to fuck, frankly. Scientists poo-poohed James Lovelock and his Gaia idea because he tried to prove it scientifically – the world is an organism, we are part of it. Makes perfect sense to me, and I don’t need science to prove or disprove it. Why don’t we Westerners understand that we are part of this whole picture, not up above it controlling and exploiting it? Many many cultures have based their belief systems on this ‘Part of Nature’ idea; most of them got whacked by greedy men with big guns. Your stomach rumbles, right? We wee and poo. We do that thing with the scented candles, and then give birth (half of us). How can we not be nature? And wouldn’t it be great if we had all those things we associate with nature? Power, resilience, self organising, self healing… (also merciless, but I guess we can try and rise above it sometimes…) the greatest of which is ‘Transformational’. It’s Nature’s nature to change.



  • Prana. Another way of looking at us as part of nature. Consider energy. In eco terms, it’s one of the major issues. Creation, generation, use – profligate or otherwise: waste. The ancients had a word for the human version, and still do: Prana. It’s not consciousness; it’s natural energy, life force, essence, call it what you will. Some call it God: I don’t. If you do yoga, you can feel it flowing up your spine. You can feel it flowing up your spine if you don’t do yoga, but the focus that yoga teaches on what’s happening inside you  is helpful. In fact, your daily ‘E-M Power Pill’ (see below) might include some simple yoga positions. Just to help you turn inside.



  • More word games. Love this one. Pretty in Greek aren’t they? Ekos and Logos. Note ‘habits’ comes up again.



  • So – the ‘ecology of behaviour’ equals ‘the wisdom of home’. Home as in Earth, home as in 22 Privet Drive, ground source heat pumps or your vegetable patch, home as in OM, the endless resonance of the soul. Understanding it like this helps us see that profound connection between the wellbeing of us human beings and the wellbeing of planet Earth. It’s a matter of wisdom, of study.



  • Look at the basic building blocks of the eco-agenda and make parallels with what’s inside; your internal ecology, the knowledge or wisdom of your self. Don’t waste your powers; be efficient with your energy; your natural powers are your natural resources. Of course I’m not suggesting this is a route to eliminate all weakness; one of the good things about Eco-Mentalism is that it gives you tolerance, the power to pace yourself, to accept your failures (or let’s call them unattained goals), to know that change is accessible and hence not fearful.



  • Aha. $68million question.



  • What? What kind of pill? Is this some kind of drug salesmanship? Er, no…



  • …It’s some kind of mental / spiritual power seed, designed to grow within you, generating power, uncovering power. Half now, half later. This is where it gets practical; the whole point is putting it into practice, not just preaching from some cyber-pulpit. Enabling. E-Mpowering.



  • This is what you give yourself. Powerful gift, journey to an unfamiliar place. How many of us routinely opt for silence, even for a measly uninterrupted 60 seconds? Can you find a minute in a day? One single, tiny, insignificant minute? Or even two? No music, no phone, no radio, no looking around and about yourself, no wandering thoughts, no distractions. Ideally first thing in the morning, but as long as you can find an uninterrupted minute (or two), it can be any time and anywhere. Waiting for a train or bus; sitting on said train or bus; in a traffic block; on your private – very private – throne. Go inside; give your Eco-Mentalism pill, your Power Seed (see below), some deep thought, doing absolutely nothing else – in silence – for a minute. Or two. Can’t be hard can it? Shut up a minute. I mean it. I’ll be silent, you be silent. For a minute.



  • And here we are, back to behaviour, to habit, to habitat. Think about your little seed for half the time you’ve given yourself, then for the other half visualise your day and work out where you can put that lesson into action. Next time it comes around, do it again. Next time, again. You need to do it for about two months, the experts say. Then it’s a habit. It works bit by bit, step by step. This self-transformation thing doesn’t happen all in one go, obviously. You’ve changed one habit, you’ve already changed yourself. Congratulations! Now for the next one!



  • Here’s a few EMpowering seeds. Give them thought, put them into action. Day by day, one by one, step by step. More, many more, to come. Email me from here and I’ll put you on a daily EMpowers seed distribution list. None of your RSS feeds or endless news; just a few words, worth thinking about for a minute. Or two. Make a habit of it. What’s that, sustain-ability?

About Aidan

The Ecology of the Soul is the culmination of a lifetime of study and practice of hatha yoga and Raj Yoga. Aidan studied with BKS Iyengar, and was a dedicated member of the Brahma Kumaris, teachers of Raja Yoga, during his 20s. The basic understanding of the Soul and God is pure Raja Yoga, but it is the 'ecology' principle that drives the system's emphasis on balancing our spiritual powers. We return to our natural state of happiness, contentment, peace – and power.
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