Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Good morning. Sitting this morning was accompanied by the sound of heavy vehicles powering up and lumbering back and forth across Spruce Street, which the city recently demolished. They are not merely resurfacing the street, but actually tearing up the early-1950's concrete roadbed, down to the dirt underneath, and replacing the entire road.

During the day today, a man named Lee is going to evaluate our home's potential for solar energy. He works for a local company that has installed several grid-tied systems, whereby homes are converted into small power plants, powering the home and selling any surplus to our electric company. We make this evaluation at a time when there are still some state and federal incentives to help people do this; and if it is within reach, we should do it.

In Japan, some Buddhists bring the practice of mindfulness into their daily lives with the concept of chisoku, or using less. I came across this term when reading a paper about ecological initiatives launched by Buddhists in Japan.

"Using less" sounds like a nice way to put it. It is not about using nothing. We're not Amish. I consume energy. For my own survival and comfort, I use up resources. This is an inescapable truth. What is also true is that I live in a country where a lifestyle is available to me -- in fact, it is practically de rigeur -- that consumes a great deal of resources compared to the global average. (If every human being enjoyed an American middle-class standard of living, we would require several planet earths for resources and energy.)

Cultivating a daily meditation practice was a matter of small steps in the beginning. What was I willing to do? Was I willing to dedicate five minutes a day no matter what? Was I willing to do a retreat per year? Instead of constructing a huge and discouraging goal from the beginning, I set the bar low and raised it as I was ready.

Chisoku can be a similar process. Are there ways to economize, use just a little bit less? Are there small changes I'm ready to make now? What are the things I take for granted?

Am I willing to hang up my wet clothes on a line? Why, yes, I can do that while minding Gabriel as he plays in the yard.

Am I willing to buy a bicycle and commute to school a few times a week? Why, yes, and I appreciate the exercise, too.

The house we moved into in June has central air conditioning. This has provided some welcome relief when the temperatures around here hit 100 degrees. What we soon learned, however, is how much energy the system uses. Our family's average electricity use tripled. So the question is, are there other things we can do to beat the heat? Of course there are. Most families do not enjoy this luxury at all. Surely we can use it less, drink more water, air out the home, spend more time outside.

And today we will at least have a conversation about different options for generating some, if not all, of our power from the sun rather than coal. With that information, we will see what steps we are willing to take.

Information + willingness.


Kelly said...

I'm curious to hear what you find out about the solar power. That's something we're quite interested in. Of course solar power is going to be a much better option in NM than in AR.

When we first married, my husband liked hanging his jeans on the line to dry. We don't even have a clothes line where we live now (and the dogs, inside OR outside the fence, would abscond with anything blowing in the wind!), but I still hang many things to dry inside on hangers. Especially in the summer when things heat up. I live too far out in the sticks for biking to be practical. Besides, this time of year I'd need a shower as soon as I reached my destination.

Still....I always welcome information and look for ways I can change for the better.

Ji Hyang said...

reminds me of our Dharma brother in New York, No Impact Man a.k.a. Colin Beavan