Wow, where to begin? This weekend was totally cool, man (there she is again, the old hippie). I attended the Oklahoma Sustainability Network Annual Conference and was blown away with the information and networking opportunities offered. Some sessions were definitely better than others as is always the case with this large a conference, but I was thrilled with the things I learned and the way I was challenged to do more, be more and give more.
The first breakout session I chose was Trathen Heckman from Daily Acts in Petaluma, CA. Who would have thought that a 50-something Christian could learn anything from a 20-something Buddhist? To be so young and so focused and so passionate about your life and so in tune with the world around you is an amazing gift. I wonder if he even knows how blessed he is? He must have remarkable parents. When God’s people don’t take care of His creation, He raises up others who will.
While he used a lot of Buddha-mind phraseology, it was easy to apply a Christian view to most of what he said. Parenthetical comments below are my Christian take on his comments. He encouraged us to be mindful that “simple ripples move the world.” In other words, our daily actions, even the smallest acts, influence everything around us. (Our actions affect people around us, who then affect those around them; actions have eternal consequences.) He told us to focus on what we have influence over (be faithful in the small things) and our sphere of influence will grow (we will be trusted with more). Be mindful of relationships in our lives – not only with people but also with nature.
I attended his session on the second day of the conference where he more thoroughly explored the previous day’s topics. He began by showing us a short video of his home and vegetable gardens, bees, etc. and spoke about how people on the street will stop and knock on his door, asking about the food he grows and the life he has chosen to live. He talked about how self-sufficiency, sustainable daily living, will be a much bigger issue as the economy worsens. He talked about taking better care of our emotional and spiritual health by centering ourselves before the day begins (for me, that’s prayer); making healthy choices (wisdom versus foolishness; God promises to give us wisdom; we need only ask).
He spoke about how we will be forced as a culture to adapt to peak changes. We need to recognize that what we do to the planet we do to ourselves. We are tied to the soil we stand on. We can individually grow healthy soil, plant trees and conserve water. Our planetary resources are not infinite. He encouraged us to redevelop the culture of community and rethink our priorities from those of consumers to that of conservers. He reminded us that nature nurtures its own communities, of sorts, to sustain life. Permaculture is the practice of this concept.
He spoke of the patterns in nature – that there are six to eight patterns that dominate, such as meanders or flowing patterns, branching, etc. Those same patterns are found in the human body (coincidence? I don’t think so. Nature and man were created by the same God). Our physical brain is full of meandering pathways and our lungs have branches. Nerves branch out from our spinal column. Nature and our bodies both have the capacity to heal in amazing ways.
He encouraged us to write a short personal mission statement that we can daily remind and encourage ourselves with. He told us to work from our strengths, what we’re good at; develop a culture of stewardship – I like that! consume less, grow and give more.
Overall a very positive and encouraging session. This guy practices what he preaches. He is active internationally in setting up sustainable communities for the poverty stricken. He’s sending out lots of positive ripples, that’s for sure. He has a video you can see at http://www.peakmoment.tv/conversations/?p=270 on graywater systems. Peak Moment Television produced it and they have over 100 videos of sustainable living information.
I also attended a session on the Buy Fresh Buy Local group that brings together local food producers with local consumers. There is a Tulsa group that has been active for two years and an Oklahoma City group is in the works. I networked with those folks and told them I really want to be involved in getting it going here. I’m very excited.
I attended a session on urban farming. The OSU extension office has an amazing facility here and lots and lots and lots of resources for people like me just getting started with sustainable gardening. Good stuff!
At the lunch break on Saturday, I ran home and helped my husband unload a ton of garden soil from the back of the pickup. Then we ran and got a bite to eat and I went back for the last two afternoon sessions. Whew! Then on Sunday, a friend came over and helped me put together the third vegetable bed. I got the onion sets and broccoli planted and put up a couple of old trellises for my peas to grow on.
A very busy weekend, but very productive. I also roasted some wheat berries and was pleased with the result.
You know, I realized something this weekend. This new passion for sustainable living, simplicity and community is full of peace for me. That tells me I’m right smack dab in the middle of God’s will for my life. I can’t say that about the last five years and the dog treat business. I’m not saying they were wasted years, maybe just misdirected energy. I started the dog treat business out of desperation to quit my job. I prayed and asked for direction, confirmation, but never really got it in any tangible way. Doors would open as I prayed, the business grew, but I never really had a complete peace about it being the right thing to do. I think it all has to do with motivation. Its different with this – the sustainability thing. For one thing, I’m not doing it as a business, which takes an enormous amount of pressure off. I would love to be able to make a living with it somehow, and I still don’t like my job – in fact some days it drains the very life from my soul – but I’m okay with it for now. I feel like I’m in training for something much bigger. I will be faithful with this small thing and perhaps I will be trusted to lead others down this path at some point. My ripple potential is high!
Keep it simple.