Oct 29 2009

Simplicity: The Complex Task of Living a Balanced Life—

“You know how some people say that it takes only three weeks to form a new habit?” I recently launched a conversation with Rev. Geoff using this rhetorical question, which I meant to be merely a prelude to sharing My Latest Plans to Totally Transform My Life (and, by the way, to transform our life here at FUCSJ) over the course of the month of November alone! All of this would be accomplished as part of our theme for the month: “Simplicity.”

“Ummmm,” Geoff interrupted me gently, “I think I’ve heard people say it takes three months. I mean, to really get a new habit into our bones.”

There was a long pause. “Oh,” I replied. Three months does make more sense, doesn’t it, especially for a project as grand as a Life Transformation. Still, I had to admit to being just the teensiest bit discouraged. I was counting on quick results!

Our hearts and bodies, our community and our country, the very earth, sea, and sky are crying out for us to form new habits of sustainability. Yet we are often so daunted by the size of the task—or so overwhelmed by the present demands on our time, attention, and resources—that we put off making any changes at all.

In truth, we don’t have time for such discouragement anymore. We cannot wait until we have the perfect answers before we take the next brave small steps toward transforming our lives and the world around us into sustainable systems. A “sustainable system,” remember, is one in which our resources—whether personal or global—are used in a way that ensures that they are not depleted or damaged. We need new habits for how we spend our resources—all of them—if we hope to save ourselves and our planet.

But these urgent thoughts and words are old and familiar—they are almost a “habit” themselves. Here is what is new: I believe that the current financial recession that has so many of us feeling anxious and helpless is actually a call for a whole new way of being. If we “come out” of this recession merely with a return to our old ways of living—our habits of spending, consuming, ignoring, wasting—then we will have failed to answer that call.

In our FUCSJ worship services throughout the month of November, we will be seeking to build new habits that can lead to a more sustainable way of being. We are calling our theme “simplicity” but it is really about “balance,” which is not so simple, after all. Together we will explore how to get there—how to get there for real and for good, in every sense of those words.

The self-help gurus may differ on how long it takes to form a new habit; a quick internet search reveals predictions of three weeks, nine and a half weeks, three months, and more. But what is certain is that it is easier to create new and healthier habits than it is to break old ones, as Janet Rae-Dupree wrote in “Can You Become a Creature of New Habits?” ( New York Times, 4 May 2008, accessible on-line). Such new habits, Rae-Dupree reports, create “parallel synaptic paths”—new neural pathways right alongside those old ones that have not served us so well. And these new paths—these new habits of being—can actually “jump our trains of thought onto new, innovative tracks.”

So what will we discover together as we begin to establish new habits of being, new sustainable ways of living for ourselves and our world? I can’t wait to find out—even if it does take longer than three weeks!

With love and hope,

Nancy

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