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Column: Being “green” as a state of mind

It is said that ‘golf is 90 percent mental and 10 percent mental.’ Of course there are mechanics involved, from stance to grip to every moment in the swing, as well as a seemingly endless list of rules and etiquette. But to play well, to put it all together so that the details become second nature, is more about allowing for a seamless flow of motion and rhythm. One’s mind needs to find balance with concentrating on the details of the physical activity and a kind of zen state of relaxation and letting go of the distraction of thoughts. It is, for many, very similar to a spiritual practice.

And so it can be, I respectfully suggest for your consideration, with pursing a more ecologically sustainable lifestyle. There are many things we need to learn about and ‘do,’ which include specific behavioral changes, such as recycling, changing light bulbs, buying local products and locally grown food, combining errands to drive less, making improvements to our home’s thermal envelope, choosing energy efficient equipment, turning things off when not in use, and on and on – many of which have been described in this column over the past two years.

But beyond these specific actions, there has also been an attempt to suggest that “greening” one’s life requires a fundamental shift in our relationship to the earth and world about us. To turn off the thought messages of a human centered, materialistic culture, and re-awaken to ourselves as integrated members of a larger living community. The whole of the “green movement” is about reducing our impact on others in that community and to the earth’s systems as a whole; to function in a way which promotes and fosters a healthy and diverse planet. Our specific actions matter a great deal, but to integrate the hundreds of specific choices we make each day into a seamless flow of sustainable living may require practice of another nature.

The connection to learning how to play golf came this winter after I signed up to receive 3-minute golf tip videos online every few days. Each clip would show a golf pro addressing any one of a hundred specific things to work on or common problems to fix: topping the ball, lack of power, slices, dices, and on and on. The pro would be in short sleeves in sunny Florida while I watched from my computer in cold and snowbound NH. At first, I practiced each lesson on my snow swept deck, swinging at whiffle golf balls and sending them off into the frozen yard, also providing sport for my buddy Labrador, who would bound off to retrieve the few she could find buried in two feet of snow – (though not necessarily bring them back to me). Quickly running out of whiffle balls, I decided that winter was a time for “meditation golf” and started watching the clips at night before I went to bed. There, I could practice envisioning integrating the tip into the whole of my swing, just as I would “walk the course” in my mind’s eye before getting up each morning last season which did, I’m convinced, improve my game and overall experience.

Time (and snow melt) will tell how successful this exercise will prove for my golf game, but experience has taught me that these types of practice meditations can help one prepare – or adjust – to different ways of being in daily life. This includes adopting a more integrated and healthy relationship with the earth community.

Take, just for one example, the use of poisons. No one in their right mind would knowingly drink a cup of weed killer, or bleach, or formaldehyde. And yet these and thousands of other poisonous chemicals are commonly purchased products to pour on our yards, food, clothes, even in our bodies after we die – all of which eventually ends up in the soils and streams, ocean, or even aquifers.

What would happen if we practiced, in the still and the quiet of the night and in our minds eye, to embrace the reality that we are inextricably connected to soils and to water; that the chemical composition of sea water is nearly identical to that of our own body fluids, our own tears; that the elements that make an oak leaf are nearly identical to that of our own bodies; that we are, in a very real sense, the earth in human form, thinking about itself. Then, when face to face with a bottle of poison on a shelf at the store, we would no more buy that poison for our lawn than open the cap and drink it – right then and there.

The reality is that we always have a choice. The choice to do no harm, or less harm, may involve giving up something we have done in the past, or simply finding an alternative approach which fosters a healthy and diverse living community. For this to become seamless, I believe we need to practice – in the still of our own souls – remembering we are the earth.

And by the way, some of these alternative approaches, including green burials as an alternative to using poisonous embalming fluid for human burials, will be presented at this year’s Greenerborough on May 4. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

Margaret Dillon promotes high performance buildings through her energy consulting practice Sustainable Energy Education and Demonstration Services (SEEDS). Contact her at mdillon@wildblue. net.

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