Showing posts with label sustainability. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sustainability. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012: a Year to be Remembered

In some quarters the new year, 2012 is awaited with great expectations. Some are hopeful; others, well, not! Perhaps the weight of expectations alone will precipitate something dramatic.

I think we can expect that 2012 will not be boring, whatever twists and turns lay ahead of us. The pace and intensity of change and the volume level of uncertainty continues to rise, and not just steadily but exponentially.

What better time to get one's life together. What better time to grow up; get real; get a life; and share a life. What better time to think more deeply about the gift and the meaning of our lives.

Time to "occupy" your own life with substance, rather than fluff. I have lived nearly 35 years (most of my adult life) in an Ananda Community (first Ananda Village, near Nevada City, CA), and, since 1993, here at Ananda Community, north of Seattle, WA. I've been privileged to live among and to serve together with literally hundreds of high-minded, idealistic, sincere, unique, creative, and energetic pioneers in the practice of meditation and intentional community. So, I have some suggestions drawn from my (somewhat) unique life to offer:

1.)  Break the mold of daily habit and drudgery. Find some way to view and motivate your daily duties with inspiration and purpose. To make every act of the day an act of devotion to God is perhaps a bit too high for some, although it, too, is only a steppingstone to feeling divine consciousness flowing through you. But short of such lofty heights, remind yourself that your work is service, whether humble or "great," to others. Feel gratitude for the health and vitality that permit you to perform your duties; the intelligence to be focused, productive and creative; and for the harmony and beauty that results when we perform even simple tasks with conscious attention to detail and to excellence.

2.)  Pay attention to the world around you. Pay attention to your every act, words, thoughts, and movements. Just .... pay attention! Start with your own family or whomever you live with. Notice, appreciate and help in simple ways: many unnoticed by others and others by open expression. Add to that close circle your neighbors, your neighborhood, your town. Go from there to your country and around the world. Show sincere interest in life: science, nature, art, community, yes, even politics and religion. Notice and then get involved. Interest and mobility reinforce the flow of vitality, energy, and creativity into your life. I remember discovering in college that if I affirmed that I was interested in a subject I was having to take in class, that the interest would follow and would actually be stimulated. By interest, questions would arise; I would listen in class; ask questions and when time came for exams, it was just all "right there" as if it were the easiest thing in the world.

3.) Look ahead, don't hide in the sand. Are you spending more than you earn? Are going further in debt? Using up your savings? Rein in your spending if necessary. At the same time, expand your spending to include the well being of other people and worthy causes. No one, not even the "poor widow" (in the Bible), can afford NOT give something to help someone else. If you are not doing anything for others, something is terribly wrong in your life and resolve to open your heart and help. How secure is your job or other source of income? Don't wait for life to happen to you. Each household should have ample supplies for emergencies and something more for periods of unemployment, or even just to help others in such conditions. Do you have a place or know someone who does (friend, family, etc.) in the country (if you live in a city) where you could go if necessary? What if there's no food in the stores? Rioting? Looting? Can you grow some food in your yard or deck? Do you have food storage? Seeds? Develop your handy skills and make sure you have basic tools around your home. Learn how to turn off water, gas, and electricity.

4.) I have written about it before on this blog, but there is an economic tsunami coming to the shore of your life and your town very soon. Yes, like the Depression of the 1930's, some won't even be touched; some will prosper; many, however, will be devastated. What if our dollar currency became worthless? What if your bank fails? Why not obtain some hard currency or items you can barter. (There's lots of info on this sort of thing on the internet.)

5.) Do you have a faith practice? If you don't, you can meditate or approach God (or ?) on your own. But it is more powerful to share your faith with others, even just a few others. Faith brings courage, inspiration, and opens the heart. You can demonstrate to yourself a higher power if you have the courage and will to experiment. Put aside skepticism (or fear or resentment), and try it. Share your inner thoughts, aspirations; ask for inner guidance; ask yourself why things happen (good or "bad") and what the higher purpose might be? Be self-honest; willing to change; willing to know the truth and be guided by the truth. Consider that truth may be something you can mentally ask to know, but then, having asked, "be still and know." You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

6.) If everything we have become accustomed to disappears, can you handle that? Your health; family; financial security. Someday these will all be taken from you, but it could happen much sooner and not merely by death, which would be a relief comparatively speaking. Prepare yourself in body, mind, and soul to live courageously and "amidst the crash of breaking worlds." (a quote from Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the world renowned spiritual classic, "Autobiography of a Yogi")

In short, pledge to grow taller and stronger this year and to include in your life and needs the life and needs of others.

May 2012 shower upon you blessings of wisdom, courage, and true soul joy!

Nayaswami Hriman

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Voice of America

Now that the mid-term election has (finally) come and gone, we hear talk of the American people wanting fiscal responsibility in our government spending. Of course, who's going to argue with that, right?

On a collective level I think the message (whether in thought or speech, individual or public) reflects a kind of therapy whereby we, as a culture, are preparing ourselves to live within our OWN means. There is, I believe, a deep recognition that our standard of living is, and has been steadily, declining and will continue to do so. In part this is our "just desserts" for our excesses, and, in part, it is the process of globalization and long-term trend of balancing out the long-standing extremes of rich and poor (at least relatively).

Long-term and on an essential level we are in a process of making a cultural about face from materialism to a Spirit-centered life. Now, of course, most will be somewhere in the middle even when we arrive, but the direction remains nonetheless necessary and positive overall. Paramhansa Yogananda, before his passing in 1952, predicted a traumatic period of hyperinflation and instability and stated that Americans would be "half as rich but twice as spiritual!" (A generalization, merely)

What few seem to acknowledge in the here and now of political dialogue is that balancing government budgets means massive layoffs and removal of benefits. We see this acknowledged more openly in the budget proposed for Britain. This, combined with the massive federal deficit, will bring us, in the Biblical sense, "seven" years of famine. You can take THAT to the bank!

The hope is that individuals and businesses will be relatively relieved of burdensome taxation (don't bet on it) and thus create jobs. But interest rates are incredibly low (lowest ever) and ironically government debt is, at the moment, virtually interest free (relatively, of course).

Not that I am a pessimist. Indeed Yogananda, and Ananda's founder, Swami Kriyananda, who has, for decades, warned audiences of this very process in a spirit of hope: hope for a better world. The one we've been living in is, in every way possible, unsustainable! A new generation of children-becoming-adults will need to, and hopefully be able to, take up the standard of a more balanced life.

Imagine some day when the nations of the world enjoy, more or less, the same or equivalent standard of living. At that point, nations or combinations of nations which form sufficiently large enough market for certain goods, will have no need to import them from afar. Say, America, or north America, as a general market or trading zone. Assuming the volume of computers needed in this market is adequate to fuel their manufacture within the trading zone, then computers will be (once again) made domestically. And so it will be for virtually every other daily necessity.

So why wait? We cannot go on forever buying from China with nothing to trade in exchange. So we either figure out what they can buy from us (rather than our debt), or we begin making our own products again. Is this protectionism? Call it what you want: how about sheer survival?

Rather than a stark and aggressive solution that would be resisted by others, why not a cooperative approach that can provide benefits to all participating nations? For example, China, faced with a slowdown in American purchases, wisely began to redirect their investments into their own country's infrastructure, consumer products, and other needs. That's a win-win, so far as I can see.

There are solutions, in other words. We just have to think bigger and more inclusively. Imagine the food, e.g., that can be grown within a 50 or 100 mile radius of your city or town? Virtually everything needed for healthy living.

For many of us as devotees and members of Ananda, this is yet another sign of the need for small communities of like-minded souls, striving for high ideals though simple living and intelligent and creative cooperation. So, why not be an optimist. Sure we need to go on a diet and that's hard, at first, but rewarding at last.

Blessings, Hriman

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Is Trade Free?

I'd like to walk in a different park today than meditation and spirituality--have a change of pace, perhaps.

Our country and this world face so many challenges and changes it's difficult to make sense of what is happening, what to mention what we think should happen. Seeing the paralysis in the U.S. Congress even in the aftermath of a sweeping victory by Barack Obama and despite his party's control of the Congress, makes one wonder how this nation (what to mention other nations working together) will ever make the substantive changes in economics, attitude, lifestyle, and ecology that are required for life to survive on this planet..

Over the years, perhaps like you, I more or less accepted the doctrine that free trade was good for America and good for everyone else as well. But with the trade deficits, government deficits, real estate foreclosures, personal, corporate, state, and municipal bankruptcies, I have come to the conclusion that when free trade is neither free, nor trade, it can't be good for anyone!

Trade is not free when its consequences destroy entire industries, cause widespread unemployment, or wreak devastation on whole cities and regions. Trade is not free if it exploits people who earn so little that they are virtually enslaved, trapped in a subsistence cycle of work that is unhealthy or otherwise unsustainable and humanly degrading. Such people have no voice, no rights, no practical means to meet their basic needs.

Trade is not free if its environmental consequences are devastating. Though hardly devastating, even just the example of flying in apples from South America to Washington State is like both carrying and burning "coals to Newcastle." It seems wasteful. Trade is not trade when it is not equal because one party has nothing to trade in return but simply goes further into debt. The result is an ever mounting debt spiral that ties both debtor and creditor into an economic tailspin. Trade is not trade when it enriches the rich at the expense of ninety-some percent of everyone else.

I have said many times and in different contexts, and no doubt have many others, that sustainable living goes far beyond not harming the environment. Trade may indeed be "free," meaning markets can be accessible to the conduct of worldwide business, but not without some basic and sustainable parameters or solid basis.

The mature economies such as America's should have sufficient internal production and productivity that we do not rack up trade deficits unendingly month after month. A growing and quickly maturing economy like India or China should, in their turn, attend to the infrastructure and consumer needs of their own people. Trade among us can then be built upon sustainable and balanced economies and can be truly an exchange of goods and services of equal value.

Nations whose primary productivity takes the form of natural resources are already in an unbalanced economic situation. Building for them a healthy economy is not so easy. This goes beyond my subject but I would simply say that if the income they earn from their exports cannot find its way back to their nation in the forms of imports that are useful, relevant and which contribute to at least a long-term greater self-sufficiency, it would seem better for them, at least, to reduce such exports. Easier said than done and, as I say, a different subject. In the case of oil exporting nations, a reduction of supply would certainly add further incentive to consuming nations to work towards greater energy self-sufficiency. In the end we'd all work towards economies that are more sustainable.

The imbalance between mature economies, developing economies and subsistence economies of course fuels the migration of people from the latter to the former. Again we therefore have an issue of unsustainability as witness the current (and long-running) controversary around immigration to America. Balanced and sustainable national and regional economies can benefit all nations.

Coming back to America, it would take some courage and political will to reinvigorate domestic manufacturing and production back to sustainable levels. This is because such steps would appear to be anti-free-trade (superficially but still symbolically) and would probably have to include, among many measures, some degree of "protectionism." Hopefully incentives and cooperation can lead the way and punitive or restrictive measures can be avoided or minimized. Communication and cooperation with those nations who think they depend on exports to America would be of utmost importance.

One way or another, and admittedly, mostly the hard way, America and other nations in a similar unbalanced debt and trade position, will be forced to re-balance their economies. Why not do it intelligently and efficiently, and avoid at least some of the pain and humiliation of bankruptcy and worse.

Look forward to some other thoughts on the financial industry. Blessings, Hriman