What does it mean to live sustainably?
In the wake of COVID, many people, including myself, have been seeking out ways to re-establish how we have been treating ourselves, our peers, and our planet. Our day-to-day lives have changed drastically in the past year. We transitioned from spending our time focusing on outside forces; work, relationships, obligations, and external responsibilities; to spending more time sitting with ourselves. As we slowed down and turned inwards, many of us realized that we were not living in a way that supported who we want to be and how we want to be living. Now that we’ve had time to reflect, many people want to shift priorities and focus more on meeting needs in meaningful ways and challenging what had become status quo in our society. We’ve become aware both of how fragile this life is and how impactful our limited time on earth can be. However, as we make these transformational shifts, are we doing so in a way that can be sustained in a post-COVID world? What does it mean to live sustainably?
After we’ve developed an awareness that our habits are not supporting our being and those around us in the ways we’d like, it can be difficult to translate that awareness into action. Some people may feel frozen with overwhelm at the depth of changes that they are facing; others may dive headfirst into making many personal shifts at one time.
When we feel motivated to change, it can be tempting to try to change everything at once. We want to eat healthier so we eliminate many foods or go on an extreme diet. Maybe we want to feel more active, so we exercise religiously, never missing a workout. We want to make time for self care and connection, so we set reminders to meditate for 30 minutes a day, journal before bed, and call a friend every day. When we go from 0 to 100 with our wellness routines, we are creating unsustainable change, and we risk losing momentum or burning out.
Prioritizing Meaningful Change
If you are ready to make changes in your life, but don’t know where to start: start small. Try making a list of all the areas in your life where you would like to experience a shift. Spend time with your list and identify key areas. Then, decide which of those areas will give you the strongest foundation for wellness. When I started my own journey of transformative shifts, this was yoga and meditation. Before I was ready to make changes in my eating habits, self care, and exercise routines, I needed to be able to be present within myself, so I started with Ariana. I set a goal of practicing yoga in some form twice a week, and slowly but surely I started to feel that I was building steady ground for myself.
Once I was ready, I returned to my list to identify which area I would address next, while continuing with my foundational yoga practice. From there, my wellness journey was able to unfold as I added more services in a way that feels sustainable because my routines have been built slowly and gently. If I had tried to start a yoga practice, work towards eating more nutrient dense foods, and also exercise every week, I wouldn’t have been able to sustain these changes, and may have ditched all of my new habits. Now, the changes feel reachable because they were broken down into bite-sized pieces that allowed for greater integration into my being. It also feels easier to get back on track when life steps in, because I know how to return to my foundation and build back slowly.
One Sustainable Brick at a Time
My favorite astrologer, Chani Nicholas, has a quote that I have printed out and placed in my meditation space as a reminder. She says,
“We recreate the world by laying one sustainable brick at a time. We change our minds about what is possible one thought, one word, one action at a time. We maneuver around despair by focusing on the little wins, the quality of our connections, and the blessing of being able to try and make right what we got wrong. One caring act at a time is all that’s needed. Like our life depends on it. Like our future is waiting for it. Like it is what we were born to do.”
As we march forward through this difficult season of life, I encourage you to invite ease as you shift your routines and habits, and be gentle with yourself. Every tiny shift is a radical act of love and care. One tiny act at a time, we can change the trajectory of our individual and collective lives. That is sustainability.