Stress, fatigue, burnouts and disconnection have become quite relatable feelings in our hectic and fast-paced lives. And that is the reason a lot of people are moving towards holistic lifestyle choices. But when living a fast-paced, conventional lifestyle is the norm, living a conscious lifestyle and committing to make everyday choices considering their larger impact requires a lot of dedication and discipline.
Bahraini Environmentalist Mashael Fakhro believes in living a simple, creative and sustainable lifestyle and supporting others who want to do the same. Through her website, Conscious Living and the Simple Pleasures initiative, Mashael aims to promote the concept of simple living, combining nature and wellness. Mashael is extremely passionate about leading a conscious and sustainable lifestyle, and here’s what she has to say about what drives her to make these small but impactful choices every day.
Making an Impact
When I was discussing future career ideas with my music teacher back in college, he said, “You know, you have to always ask yourself what it is that you are actually doing.” That made me think about what sort of impact I wanted to make in life and that led me to pursue an environmental master’s degree. I worked for about 3 years after that in the corporate sustainability field.
But that didn’t feel like enough. I didn’t want to go to a job where I was helping the environment but come home and not have the time to live sustainably or my health is compromised or I can’t even sustain my energy. I wanted to live a lifestyle that is nourishing and balanced so that I could replenish my energy to pursue the projects I wanted to. For me, it’s not about the size of the impact, if it’s the kind of impact you want to make, it will be fulfilling. The impact I wanted to make was to help people to realize that their everyday lifestyle choices change their lives, their communities and the world.
While studying abroad, I was exposed to people living simple and meaningful lifestyles, and to experiences such as farmers' markets that filled me with joy, inspiration, and nourishment. I remember telling my college roommate that I wanted to be a part of a movement in Bahrain to make those simple experiences accessible to others.
I started an Instagram about 6 months after I came back where I would share my own experiences of places and products in Bahrain, which later also shifted to experiences. About a year ago, after I left my job, I got the idea to develop the Conscious Living platform, to be able to share a guide to natural, balanced and simple living all in one place, from natural skincare and home cleaning products, to services and experiences that promote wellbeing such as meditation centers, art studios and public parks. I also wanted to bring awareness about the local options we have available here and to help people realize that there is much more here than it seems.
When I define conscious living, I define it as how our everyday choices impact our wellbeing, our communities, and the earth. It’s not just limited to an individuals’ benefit only but is more about making compassionate choices. All your choices make an impact. So imagine with that power how much impact would you be able to create from your everyday choices when they are made consciously instead of by default.
For instance, when you use a certain natural soap you don’t just use it because it is good for or gentle on your skin, but because it’s made of simple ingredients that after going down the drain won’t harm the environment, it supports the community and local businesses especially by women, it doesn’t require a whole extraction or chemical process to make. The benefits are endless. It more of an approach to life rather than simply buying a product, and is experience based because for example, using natural products with scents from nature can be a sensory experience.
For me, it started when I was living abroad simply with using natural products, eating local, fresh, seasonal produce from farmers’ markets, and exploring parks and nature. I also got drawn to explore and understand more about meditation, starting with a simple mobile app. As a student, my lifestyle wasn’t very balanced and these changes felt good. But what I only realized after I moved to Bahrain is that I was also living a simple lifestyle - not as many belongings, and that felt much easier to manage. Here, simplifying my life and decluttering have also had a really positive impact on how I feel in my room and have completely changed my desire to buy things I don’t use. Over the past year, I’ve also made room for creativity in my life mainly through writing and sharing poetry because I believe that expressing ourselves improves wellbeing by giving us a sense of freedom, self-acceptance, connection with others and perspective on what matters.
For others, I recommend making small changes that feel good and move them towards the lifestyle they imagine for themselves. You may have to try different things and see what works for you and what you enjoy, because we all need different things. It is still a gradual change for me and I definitely don’t recommend anyone to change their lifestyle overnight, it takes time.
As an environmentalist, I do hold myself more accountable for the choices that I make, but I also understand that this lifestyle may not be for all and that’s okay.
For those on a budget, which is most of us, spending time outdoors is I would say one of the biggest and simplest changes one could make that could have a direct positive impact on their lives. For me ever since the weather cooled, walking regularly around my house and in our neighborhood has given me fresh air, movement, surprising experiences like interacting with neighbors and a stronger connection with where I live. In Bahrain, I think we have more than enough spots that people could enjoy outdoors, but not many are aware of these spots or simply overlook them. I have many of these places listed on my website and it’s all about exploring for yourself.
When we experience stress or burnout, it is because things have become too complicated or unmanageable.
From my personal experience of living a complicated, fast-paced lifestyle, my natural reaction would be to resolve how I’m feeling by planning and seeking out events that I believe would make me feel better momentarily. But now I know that times when that happens, it just a symptom telling me that I need to slow down. The response to that should not be to speed up even more by planning and scheduling ‘experiences’ but to have ongoing grounding and centering routines as part of everyday life. What I’ve experienced is that that’s the true gift of living a conscious lifestyle - more moments of slowing down, being present for experiences, and being connected with oneself, nature and others.
You could do all things that may seem right. You could go to yoga, meditate, read books or take courses about wellness, but you could still not feel mentally and emotionally balanced, which is something I experienced. Because it’s still filling your life up with things ‘to do’. Whether your schedule is filled with work and errands or with yoga and meditation, it is still rigid and rushed. You are still operating around a rigid system, and you haven’t stepped out of the modern lifestyle. What I really hope to make accessible to others is a shift from the conventional lifestyle to a conscious lifestyle. To not need to travel or go to a retreat to feel it, but to feel it at home.
There will always be an aspect of ‘doing’ things, but the ‘living’ and being present is just as important. We live a fast-paced society and that is why people are drawn to real-life experiences that slow them down. I’ve been focused on two types of experiences to make accessible to the community. One is Poetivity, a women’s creative circle that a friend and I created last year to allow women to have soulful conversations through poetry and art, and the other is Simple Pleasures, a series of community events this fall and winter reminding us that some of life’s greatest pleasures are free.
One of the things I wanted to do with my website most of all is to share with people that there is a community in Bahrain that cares about living a sustainable and conscious lifestyle. I’ve met a lot of people here during my several voluntary experiences and would see similar people come to these events. You come across people with similar interests, as they are drawn to the same things.
What I want to do with Simple Pleasure is try to bring these people and others together through curated experiences. Bahrain is very small and has a tight-knit community and there is no reason why people with similar interests and passions couldn’t come together and share uplifting experiences.
A few months ago, I reached out to people who are community minded to co-create and coordinate public outdoor events to bring together people of all backgrounds interested in learning and exploring new experiences. So far, we have been to Alghous Park, a beautiful seaside park in Muharraq which we explored quietly then gathered to share what moved us, Bahrain Fort for a guided visualization based on the actual beautiful natural landscape of this land in Dilmun-era, another seaside park to play traditional games that we realized exist in many cultures like hopscotch and catching stones, and another park for an acoustic jam.
The more I’ve met people through my experiences, the more I get to learn and explore how they live their lives which helps me to expand my own experiences. Seeing how others live, like meeting people who bike to a friend in their neighborhood or walk to their local juice shop, inspires me and reminds me that with our actions we create our own narrative of what’s possible to do in Bahrain. Most of all, I hope Simple Pleasures makes people realize that with a couple of friends, they can gather and recreate any of those experiences and more.