Launch of Energy Gardens

A recent project carried out by my charity, Charushila, where I have used the principles of Value Creation- Beauty, Goodness and Benefit

The Canny Gardener

I have written previously about the garden we were working on the station platform at Acton Central Station, West London.  We finally had a grand launch on Friday with members of the community, our work partners- Repowering London, Groundwork Trust and Arriva (the train company) and the local Member of Parliament.  The garden is complete with ornamental and food sections- from which the local community can freely take away what they need, as long as they leave something for others!  The centre piece of the project consists of a large ornamental bed featuring a stone plaque with the encouraging words of Nichiren, a 13th century Buddhist philosopher, ‘Winer always turn to spring’.  These words are not just about seasons but also about finding hope and inspiration.  The bed is also a tribute to a station staff, well loved by the users of the station and local community, who died suddenly…

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Basic principles of the Middle way

Many of the vlogs and books I have seen are about living in extremes. I recently watched a video where a woman and man live in a small but extremely tidy house amongst forests with no electricity, gas or mains water.  They do not use any modern appliances and even write with pens.  Their house is filled with antique leather backed books. They cook in the only fireplace they have and wear clothes which look like they belong to the 18th century.  This is great but if you have a job, live in the city, untidy children or pets, etc. how do you achieve this tranquility of an ‘Amish life’? Can we really live like this unless we have the backup of garden or forest from where we forage or grow food or have some passive income?

Bea Johnson who has written about the ‘Zero Waste’ life lives in an extremely large house which is very tidy but then it is large enough to absorb the stuff that her family has, so it looks very minimalist.  I have many questions about her home- for instance, I see that she has two children but she only shows us the minimalist wardrobe of only one of them.  But I am still inspired by her and think that she is doing a lot of good. Long before Bea Johnson started talking about her basic premise of Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot, in my work I was using similar words except for the first and last ones.  My basic premise for being ecological is Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Reward.  In reality, Refuse is another aspect of ‘Reduce’.  As far as ‘Rot’ is concerned, I do compost (and I will put a blog post on how to do this without buying a composter, worms or any other kit) but as I do not have a garden my composting is limited.  But as I reduce the amount of food scraps or food waste to almost nothing, there is no need for composting.  If everyone were to reduce their needs as well as their waste, we would not have the ecological problems we see today.  We’d also be healthier by eating a little less and not stressing about paying for unnecessary things. By reward, I refer to little treats costing nearly nothing that comes with living a low impact life such as the joy of sharing a hot chocolate and having a laugh with friends and family, knowing that you have little to worry about. Reward could also be about complimenting or sending thanks to people or organisations that help you live a balanced and good life- and you never know, it might encourage them to do even better!

As I lead a very busy life, all the things I do had to be easy to do, cheap and available and needed to be self sustaining without much maintenance.  So here comes the ‘Middle way’ which is for me is about living a good life with as little harm to others as possible.  As long as we live, we are consuming and producing waste- lets not fool ourselves that a perfectly zero waste lifestyle is possible.  Even a monk or a nun living in a monastery is producing waste and consuming things.  There are so many Ted Talks with speakers holding up a trophy jar with bits of plastic and foil in it, who declare, ‘That’s my waste for the entire year!’ Really? That is not true- that person must have many other types of waste including bodily, food waste and other things that they’ve recycled or composted.  That is the reality of human life- we create waste as part of our time on this planet.  So lets just try our best to reduce it and be responsible for our own waste.  There is a triangular relationship between our health, money and the environment.  So if you walk a little bit more and use your car less, then you are saving money, improving your health and helping the environment- three benefits in one action. It is also good to remember this relationship with each decision making process that you take. So if you want to buy food, what is the kind of food that is healthy, good for the environment and also cheap?  For me, buying an organic vegetable box every week for about £10 and making it last as long as possible is doing all the three things.

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi about whom I have written previously propounded the theory of ‘Value Creation’ i.e. what kind of values are we creating.  Values, he said, were relative, not absolute- in other words, needs must as the phrase goes.  According to Makiguchi, there were three ways of creating value for the individual and society- beauty, benefit and goodness.  William Morris said, ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’ so here Makiguchi’s values of beauty and benefit (usefulness) have been covered. By ‘goodness’ Makiguchi meant sustainability or ecological values which Morris, perhaps as it was not relevant in his time, did not allude to. As Makiguchi’s values are always relative to the situation, there is no need to compete or do things in set way.  As long as you are doing something, however small, it counts.  You can then take small steps until you can expand to doing bigger things. There is no need to throw everything out as in extreme Japanese minimalism or talk to your socks if they spark joy in you (KonMari method). Just do things your way in the manner that gives you the best life without harming anything.

 

 

What this blog is about

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

I feel I have been living a creative life for a long time, whether in my office, in the kitchen or in my living room.  I feel passionately for the planet, particularly as I see my children and others- and wonder what life lessons we can leave them with to cope with the future? Or, as my friend put it, ‘Often we ask what kind of planet we are leaving for our children but do we think about what what kind of children we are leaving for the planet?’  So I have tried to live creatively, frugally and fairly in order to inspire them to do the same. I have been a follower of Buddhism, in particular being inspired by the teachings of Nichiren who lived in the 13th Century and the modern reviver of his philosophy, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, who lived in the 20th Century.

Makiguchi’s philosophy was about living life in the everyday, amidst the turbulence and turmoils of society. He believed in the contributive and creative life- in the life of value creation that brought forth beauty, benefit and goodness. He said, ‘We are born of the earth; we live on the earth; we are inspired by the earth.’  For many years, I have been experimenting with creative living ideas that are easy, everyday and available. I am not advocating living in a commune or making your own toilet paper (!) but looking at ways in which we can simply and happily.  I have followed many simple living sites and listened to many vloggers and lecturers on this topic.  But I was left profoundly disappointed by the overzealousness and sheer impracticality, sometimes by the deceit, and sometimes by the naivety that I observed.  So I decided to start my own blog, writing about food growing, urban life, parenting, working, cooking and all the things I do everyday. I hope you can join me.

Being Happy

Here is an amazing video that I discovered where Pharrell Williams is talking about life’s journey, about being happy and making others happy.  Although he is talking to school children, what he says is quite deep and philosophical. He says, “Happiness is not about the trophy, or the finish line. It’s the journey. If you enjoy your journey, you can enjoy your life”.  So much so that 20th March has been declared ‘International Happiness day” by the United Nations.  Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the Japanese philosopher said that our purpose on the planet was to be happy, nothing else.  After all, in the end we all die, so what other purpose could life have, apart from being happy the time you are here?  This is not to say we ignore the bad things around us.  However, as a friend and I noted the other day, bad news and gossip, seem to spread faster than good news and praise.  Perhaps if we pay more attention to good news and being happy, then there will be less bad things that happen in life?  You decide.

PS- also note that Pharrell Williams thanks the girls, because without them and others, the song would have been just inside of him.  Everyone made the song what it is today.  Gratitude=even more Happiness!

three secrets of a successful micro-business

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As a self employed creative, I have been reading business books on creativity and business for many years.  Through these years I became aware that I did not wish to create a business empire but do what I do efficiently and productively; that I did not mean to mass produce but only produce something that was well designed and beautifully made; and not be a mad bad crazy person that creatives are thought to be but live a balanced, joyful and creative life.  I am sure that many of you also wish to live like that- we are not all Warren Buffet, Richard Branson or Bill Gates or even Steve Jobs (notice all are men which I am not!)

Most of the advice I read or listened to was not about small or micro- businesses- but about how to mass produce, how to make huge profits and how to influence widely.  There was not much advice if you just want to live a simple, creative, healthy and joyful life- following your heart- and making enough money to achieve all this.  I wanted to distill all the stuff I had read and listened to, in to some essential aspects which could apply equally to any scale of business.  What could I distill out of all that I had read and give back to you?  I found that essentially it boils down to three lives we lead- the contributive life,  the balanced life and the joyful life.

1. The contributive life:  This term was coined by Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, a Japanese educator and philosopher.  He said that our life should be about contributing to the whole of which we are en essential and creative part.  So if you are doing work that contributes to society, that work will be naturally meaningful and productive.  As part of cause and effect, you will find that your needs are satisfied in the most amazing ways- I have had people helping me out on things without asking for money because I helped them before.

The contributive life is an anti-dote to the monetary life.

2. The balanced life:  Contrary to what many people think, Yoga is not a series of stretching exercises or a type of mediation.  Yoga is about the balanced life- where you r health matters as much as anybody else’s, where you eat and sleep in moderation and where your work and personal lives balance.  This is the middle way- not extremes and our task is to find a middle way every day.  Sometimes, it may mean we do more work, sometimes it means we take more rest- everyday is a day of finding a balance for our physical needs and creativity.

The balanced life is our everyday practice of living.

3. The joyful life: Finally, if your work or business does not give joy to you, is not contributive or balanced, then let go of it.  Find something that tugs at your heart strings, pulls you towards it and asks you play the music of life.  If you are not smiling and forgetting the time, than it is not a work that you love.  For seven years, I was doing teaching that I thought was a contributive work but it was not a balanced life I was leading nor was it making me happy.  I finally left it and now I find myself doing similar work but on my own terms.  I have set up a charity for this and use my lectures, teaching and work to improve the lives of others.  The joy I feel out of this, is immeasurable and priceless.

Find your joy, follow your heart!