an exercise in mindful living

If you’ve started down the path of “greening” your home or making your lifestyle more eco-friendly you may have noticed how easy it is to get caught up in minutiae. Maybe you’ve faced dilemmas like, I want to buy the locally produced organic butter but it’s sealed in a plastic container or These vegan shoes aren’t made with organically grown cotton canvas and the soles are made of some kind of synthetic material.

I’ve fallen into this trap of analyzing every little thing I purchase to the point of feeling either paralyzed into inaction or guilty once I’ve deemed my choice was the “wrong” one. This is obviously not helpful. Beating ourselves up or racking our brains over every choice we make is neither productive nor healthy.

Instead, I prefer to look at things more holistically and globally, which is why I’m working on a tool to help heighten the awareness that each of us makes a difference in the world. Essentially, the method is based on permaculture’s zones of use and a series of questions that arise when thinking about our place and choices in the material world.

We are at the center of our own little universe. What we give spirals outwardly and what we receive spirals inwardly. Each level of the spiral gets physically further than the personal, yet there is clearly still a connection to our daily lives even as the spiral emanates away from the self. The following are some of the questions that arose as I thought of each level. You may arrive at more and deeper questions as you perform the exercise. If you do, please share them in the comments. May it be of benefit!

level 1 – me

What goes in my body?
Is it nourishing me?
Is it poisoning me?
Where and how was it grown?

What goes on my body?
How does it make me feel?
Do I recognize the ingredients (body care)?
Do I recognize the material (clothing)?
Can I trace its origin?

level 2 – my home

How do I fill it?
How does what I have in my home make me feel?
Is it comforting?
Is it harmful?
What is it made of?
Where does it come from?

How do I maintain it?
What do I clean my home with?
Is this harmful to me, my family, my pets?
How do I heat/cool it?
Where does the energy come from?



level 3 – my garden

(this represents where your food and other plant-based goods come from)

How are the plants grown?
Is the way they are grown beneficial to the soil? to the ecosystem? to the people around them?
Are there healing plants and foods growing?
How near to my home are they grown?

Who is tending the garden?
What is their life like?

level 4 – my community

How do I support it?
Do I shop at small, locally owned shops or use local services?
How am I involved in community organizations?
Schools? Gardens? Neighborhood committees?

How does it support me?
Do I have all of the services I need nearby?
Do I earn a living in the community/neighborhood?
Do I find joyful activities in my community?
Do I have meaningful connections in my community?

level 5 – the world

What do I contribute?
How do my habits benefit the world?
How do my choices have any negative impacts?
Who am I supporting with my choices?

What does it give back?
Are all of my basic needs (water, sunshine, food, shelter) met?
Do I feel connected to or isolated from the world around me (ie, nature)?
Am I healthy?
Do I enjoy life?

at every level…

I also like to ask the questions: Do I really need this? and Is it of benefit?

Did you come up with any other questions? Please leave them in the comments!

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2 Responses to “an exercise in mindful living”

  1. Lee Weinstein Says:

    Great tool and approach, Liz. We just shared with our followers on http://www.facebook.com/icebreakernz?ref=ts!

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