If you’ve followed along with my blog so far, you’re probably beginning to get the sense that I construe the topic of “sustainability” in a broad fashion (which is why I chose the genre “conscious lifestyle,” with a focus on the many facets of joy). Remember last week how I talked about action curing fear? Today I want to talk about two activities, which I see as similar in certain ways, and how they bring calm into my days. My hope is that reading this entry will bring you closer to your own balance and groundedness. Precisely because many things are imploding in the world right now, it feels so important to breathe and center. Even if you aren’t into meditation. Even if mindfulness really isn’t your thing. I want to invite you to find a little bit of quiet amidst the (understandable and important) tumult of whatever difficult emotions you are doing the work of holding.
Now… What do poetry and zen towers have in common, you ask? Each is built piece by piece, and takes a lot of patience. Sometimes a word must be traded out for another, just as one stone must occasionally be swapped, in order to continue until the task is complete. Or as complete as possible. Some are never done. Each process requires presence, attention, care…or the final product will topple. And, last but not least, each activity has the potential to connect the maker with a larger community.
Today I had a book launch party for a collection of poems I wrote. It took, literally, several years to construct the text. There were times when I wanted to abandon the project, because I felt so frustrated. But sitting today in a room of loving faces, where I and others shared our creative inspirations, it all felt worth it. Likewise, when I pass by a zen rock tower someone has built, I appreciate the effort put into it, and feel connected with whoever left it.
These elements that I have just named — step by step process, patience, focus, quiet moments within a storm, community involvement — are also necessary in any kind of quest for sustainability. I see practicing one kind of sustainability as strengthening other kinds of sustainability, within us as individuals and within humanity as a whole. Whether your work is with ethical clothing brands, organic farming, permaculture education, policy advocacy for social change, interior design with eco-friendly components, responsible travel, or any other slow-living niche…or whether you are working a big corporate job and trying to figure out how to organize and create in your spare time… finding what makes one’s work sustainable helps us all continue. This isn’t to suggest you shouldn’t be out there holding protest signs and yelling chants and being justifiably angry at injustice. It is to suggest that creating change — real, deep, long-lasting change — requires balance. Poetry and zen towers are two of my ways…
What are your favorite practices to maintain and regain calm?