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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Continuing the Theme of Personal Sustainability

A few years ago I began experimenting, in small ways, with personal sustainability: I deliberately downsized my holiday “to-do” list. I wanted to savor the holidays rather than just survive them.

Sure enough, taking this approach paid off. I took time off from work, decided not to send holiday cards, put up a tree (my first in six years!), celebrated at home rather than traveling out of town, went to the movies, and generally lived in the moment. It felt great—and more importantly, sane.

I first learned about personal sustainability when I interviewed John Engels for a story I was writing on how teachers stay passionate about their craft ("Reinvigorating Your Passion for Teaching," NBEA Keying In, November 2004). Engels directs Life Migrations in Boulder, Colorado. “Personal sustainability” is his twist on the ecological concept of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.

Engels says we are all ecosystems nested in other ecosystems (families, schools, communities, nations, the world). High-functioning ecosystems are open, interconnected, adaptive, and self- regulating; energy flows freely, and "energy out" never exceeds "energy in." To practice personal sustainability, Engel recommends spending time observing where you get and lose energy, and where energy may be out of balance.

"[Just by doing this] your level of awareness skyrockets," Engel says.

So that is my wish for you this holiday: that you, too, will practice personal sustainability in a way that makes your energy free-flowing. So you can live in the present moment, energy out equal to or less than energy in.

Julia Cameron writes about a similar concept, Artist Dates, in her book, The Artist's Way. But that's another post, for another day.

Happy holidays!


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