Friday, November 14, 2008

Back to Basics: Food, Clothing, Shelter

This diagram shows Maslow's hierarchy of needs, represented as a pyramid with the more primitive, survival needs at the bottom. The higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are satisfied. (image from wikipedia. Click to enlarge.)

by Elaine Ireland

In these times when things seem out of control all around us, most of us have a tendency to contract, get fearful and go into survival mode. Often we worry, fret and try to blame someone or something for causing such uncertainty. It could be easy to go there. Its all around us. Its often the first thing you read in the media. Everyone is talking about it. Its very influencial.

Probably just like you, through no fault of my actions, I find my investments cut drastically. It was just a few short years ago I, like so many others, was required to qualify for my mortgage with seemingly reems of documenting paper. During the last couple of years, though, I couldn't help but notice the growing plethora of solicitations I received to refinance, to get cash out, to borrow as if my property was an ATM. I've received hundreds of solicitations — mostly just xeroxed one page flyers in the mail from some lender or other I never heard of. Though I always considered them junk mail, credit card, refinance and second mortgage offers have been planting the seeds of desire to take an exotic vacation or purchase some sort of whatnot. I admit its tempting. But desire is a funny thing. (You may want to check out our related story on the Economics of Desire.)

A common interpretation of what Buddhists say about desire is that it is the root of suffering. But a desire that would make you suffer is more like a self-imposed requirement of absolutely having to have something — whether its really right for you or not. That kind of desire makes the object of the desire way too important. I do believe lenders know this all too well.

Science of Mind, on the other hand, teaches that desire is an intention which is likely to show up in your life as you hold it in your consciousness. In other words, it'll work out. Stay on the path. No need to suffer.

Our 'Desire to Acquire' culture has stretched beyond its limits and we're now settling back to find our set point. It looks like the general thinking everywhere is all about fear, doom and gloom. But, really it's just survival thinking and it reminds me of the work of Abraham Maslow and his work on the hierarchy of needs. Food, clothing and shelter, our most essential needs, are at the bottom of the hierarchy, providing the baseline (as shown in the diagram at left). Creativity, uniqueness, problem-solving and independent thinking get lost in the fear and contraction so heavily influenced by all the negative stories floating around. How can we pull ourselves out of survival mode when our brains can't get to problem-solving to help us do just that?

We don't have to be so influenced by those negative stories. Close your ears. Turn 'em off. Then ask, can we find more meaningful ways to "feed," "clothe" and "shelter" ourselves so that its not just about survival? I think the answer is yes. I say tune out of the negative doom and gloom groupthink, adjust your journey and create new ways to make life work for you. When we're not in survival mode, we are creative problem-solvers with the power to make significant change — if we choose to do so. Switching out of survival begins simply with paying attention, being aware and thinking positively.

When we have the intention and pay attention to what's really going on within ourselves, not allowing to be affected by the negative tone that others want to set for us, then we have more capability to make choices to affect the changes we want to make. First breathe!! Breathe deeply and slowly. It helps us to start climbing out of survival mode.

This is our opportunity to change. Get your creative, problem-solving brain turned on. We can begin by appreciating our own Basics of food, clothing & shelter. Gratitude helps us to start climbing out of survival mode. Then we can ask ourselves, how can we change any of these basics for ourselves to be more sustainable?

Food may be the easiest because organic and locally grown is available almost everywhere in the US. You want to be as healthy as possible. If you don't eat organic as a habit, begin to be more sustainable by first prioritizing your fat content food to be organic. It may just make you healthier because toxins accumulate in fat first. If you are already doing this, take one step further and consider the labels so that what you eat is healthiest and most nourishing for you. Read the two labeling related stories this month, one about GE Animals and one about where your food comes from. If you already read labels, another approach for sustainable food you may consider is doing-it-yourself. For example, we have many fruit trees in our back yard. We've been picking, peeling, coring, baking and freezing — oh yes, and sharing. We feel best when we're generous.

Being more sustainable with clothing is fairly easy too. When you outgrow your clothing, either physically or emotionally, give it away. For example, there may be needy folks in your own community who are known to a local charitable organization you can donate to. Goodwill is an international organization and will take almost any clean article of clothing. Giving always makes me feel prosperous. When you purchase new clothing, look for fiber content like organic cotton, hemp, tencel or wool. If you like the idea of recycling, clothing made from eco-spun (recycled polyester fiber from recycled plastic pop bottles) may be just the thing for you. When dry cleaning your clothing, make sure you find an eco-friendly process. Some of those chemicals in conventional dry cleaning are toxic — and when you wear those clothes, you're breathing them in and absorbing them through your skin.

Shelter seems like a very volatile subject right now. If you're still in your home, and especially up to date with your mortgage, the first step is be thankful. The next step is checking out all the energy effficiency steps you can take, particularly since we're preparing for winter. Review our story, Easy Steps, Encouraging Homeowners on Their Energy Savings: How-To Steps You Can Take. And to stay as healthy as possible, keep your indoor air clean. For tips, go to The GreenSage Guide to Indoor Air Quality.

In this edition we include several stories related to shelter, including a certified green home built in South Carolina that can serve as a learning tool to show homeowners and builders how it can be done. If you're not ready to build or remodel, we always have dozens of product available to make your home healthier on the inside, and this month we also present several new green products on the market that might just be right for your home when you are ready for those bigger projects.

This is the season of Thanksgiving. With a little deep breathing, creative thinking and gratitude as we celebrate this holiday later this month, your positivity can influence those around you — and just might turn things a little more positive in our culture at large.

Happy, thankful Thanksgiving!