We hear a lot about balance. Often, it’s approached and discussed as a matter of “doing more.” As if the “smart” thing to do is pile more to-do’s onto our busy daily schedules. Exercise more, eat more greens, walk, run and bike more – basically adding as many life-hack techniques as we can to increase productivity. As if our minds and bodies were cars or computers or smartphones to which we can keep adding features and apps, and thereby get “better scores.”
But, what about slowing down and doing less?
What about unplugging, literally, and giving our minds and our bodies a chance to rest? As Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh tells us, “It’s very important that we re-learn the art of resting and relaxing. Not only does it help prevent the onset of many illnesses that develop through chronic tension and worrying; it allows us to clear our minds, focus, and find creative solutions to problems.”
The cultivation of balance is very connected to the cultivation of wealth. Not the amassing of financial capital and material possessions, as wealth has come to mean for many of us today in our hyper-consumerist, post-modern, techno-fetish culture. But the true meaning of wealth, as it comes to us from the Middle English word wele. Meaning “well-being.” Yes, our word for wealth used to mean well-being!
And balance is essential to well-being.
As we cultivate true wealth in our lives, we make time for the simple things. Time for gardening, walking in the woods, conversing with friends and family while preparing a meal from scratch. These slowing down practices give our minds and bodies the precious gift of a break from sitting at our computers and staring at our screens. And they trigger an awesome cascade of reactions, flooding our brains and bodies with powerful, healing neurochemicals that make us smarter and feel better.
That hour you spent gardening? Physically interacting with the microorganisms in living soils is now known to release serotonin, the “feel-good” neurochemical.
That half hour walking along a forested path or in an urban park? Scientific studies are emerging that show even relatively brief periods of gazing at living trees substantially reduce our stress levels.
And preparing a home-cooked meal from scratch with friends and family? That sacred time of chopping and sautéing veggies while conversing and laughing releases oxytocin – the same neurochemical that enhances our sense of connection and compassion with our tribe. The very same neurochemical is released by breastfeeding mothers and by people falling in love. Oxytocin enhances our sense of connection and thereby meaning, purpose, and well-being.
That is to say, these slowing-down practices enhance our true wealth.
And here’s the thing: there’s not really an app for that!
As we seek to cultivate more balance in our lives – to cultivate moments of wonder, awe, joy, ideation and relaxed contentment – we may find that it is our apps, our smart phones and our laptops, that also need to have some rest time. They need “time out naps”!
They, like all the tools that differentiate us from the other animals, need to be put away when their use isn’t appropriate.
We need to let our phones and computers have their “rest time” in order to reconnect with tangible experiences that cultivate balance.
Through this, we can more thoroughly slow down, immerse ourselves in nature and in the loving and caring relationships that fill our lives with meaning, purpose, belonging and joy.
“Y on Earth” is a quest exploring our connection with Earth, soil, food and each other, in order to cultivate a culture of love, care and a spirituality of grounded optimism, stewardship, humor and humility.
Part One, “We Are What We Eat & We Are Soil,” follows an arc tracing our relationship with food and soil from Place through Grow, Water, Harvest, Cook, Eat, and Waste, culminating in Steward. This begins our quest to get smarter and feel better as we learn to heal ourselves and our living planet.
Part Two, “Cultivating the Life We Really Want,” explores the interconnected dimensions and disciplines of a life abundant with meaning, purpose, connection and well-being. Here our adventure continues with the chapters Balance, Unplug, Walk, Wonder, Connect, Delight, Listen, Think and Speak.
Part Three, “Activity, Agency, Empowerment & Vocation,” takes the reader on a quest to see through the veil of our hectic, consumerist culture and to embrace our power to make intelligent choices for ourselves and our future. We begin with Demand, and continue with Work, Earn, Give, Power, and Make, culminating in Move.
Part Four, “Creating the Culture & Future We Really Want,” is the summit of our journey together. Weaving from Envision through Create, Change, Flow, Cultivate, Love, and Pray, the book reaches its crescendo in Heal (something we all need) and conclusion in Culture – something we’re all creating together, right now, you and I!
Y on Earth is a quest exploring our connection with Earth, soil, food and each other, in order to cultivate a culture of love, care and a spirituality of grounded optimism, stewardship, humor and humility.
Aaron William Perry is a social impact entrepreneur and consultant in the sustainability, social enterprise and regenerative economics arena. He has launched companies in the recycling, renewable energy and local/natural/organic food industries.
He is author of the book, Y On Earth: How We Will Get Smarter, Feel Better and Heal the Planet. The culmination of years working in the renewable energy, recycling and natural food industries, and advanced study in the liberal arts, Y On Earth is an exploration of sustainability, health and well-being in an integrated and pragmatic framework. Aaron is the father of two teenage children, and consults to executive level impact and social entrepreneurs. You can learn more about cultivating balance, deep intelligence and true wealth here, where we explore the question: “What if the world we really want is right at our fingertips?”