Maintaining Energy As A Change Agent And Other Thoughtsfeatured

Someone emailed me a bunch of questions as an interview for publication. Questions include What do I worry about for future generations? and How do I maintain my energy as a change agent? and more. I thought I would share the answers here…

Colin Beavan speaking at his recent workshop, The Long Haul: Wisdom For Activists And Concerned Citizens

Colin Beavan speaking at his recent workshop, The Long Haul: Wisdom For Activists And Concerned Citizens

How do you maintain your energy as a change agent?

I pay attention to the good, concentrate on my efforts rather than the results, am careful to maintain my position in supportive communities, and have a strong spiritual practice and life. My spiritual life teaches me to embrace what I call sacred agnosticism (or holy unknowing). Rather than being beholden to negative stories and judgments about the world and attaching to my fear and anger, I allow myself to “not know” about the world and where it is going and just to let myself follow the impulse of love and compassion. I also notice how many other people are treating the world with love. My spiritual vow is simply “How may I help?” It is a sustaining and joy-giving direction for my life.

How did you become ‘No Impact Man?’

I was a writer of books with the great privilege of doing what I loved for a living. But in 2006, the US in a war for oil in Iraq and 100s of thousands of people were dying for our energy needs. Meanwhile, the planet was literally melting under the weight of using the energy we were killing people for. At the same time, humanity didn’t seem happy or secure. We were wrecking the place and we weren’t having a party doing it. I wanted to use my writing career to help attract wider public interest to the questions of how to live in ways that are joyful, just and regenerative. I launched a project in which I lived as environmentally as possible for a year and I discussed it in a book and a film called No Impact Man.

How do you balance your low impact lifestyle with family life?

Low impact is the same as doing things joyfully and in line with true human purpose. When Bella was little, she would ask for TV and I would say, “Would you rather watch TV or would you rather I play with you?” She would say, “Play with me, Daddy.” The point is not to live “no impact.” The point is to live in line with true human purpose. It turns out that what makes people happy–like singing, dancing, being of service and hanging with loved ones–is automatically low impact. The crap we buy is just a consolation prize.

What has your biggest achievement been?

Each day, learning a little bit more about loving widely. Expressing that in very practical ways in my life.

What concerns you most about the world the younger generation are inheriting?

Some of us think that true happiness, Nirvana or Heaven can be achieved for a single one of us. It cannot. If you stand in a pond and wish for it to be peaceful, you can stand still as long as you want but unless everyone is able to be still, the pond will still have ripples. There is no stillness for one without stillness for all. Personal peace only makes you more sensitive to the suffering–or ripples–of others. This is why, when speaking about the true direction of life, I love the expression, “Not just for me.”

What are your current projects?

My most recent book How To Be Alive: A Guide To The Kind of Happiness That Helps The World just came out in paperback. I am consulting with the United Nations about creating a program that involves workers personally in the the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. I run paid mastermind groups for people who want to bring their lives in line with their values and I coach people individually with the same focus. Meanwhile, I go where I am invited to speak and run workshops to help people who want to work towards purposeful, balanced lives that have meaningful impact on the world. And, or course, I am preparing for my next book project.

What would your advice be to people in the current political and activist climate?

At all times, in all places, ask “How can I help?” Remember that suffering has deep systemic causes and that one way to help is to remove those causes. Ask yourself, what do I want my role to be in stopping climate change, bringing justice and fairness and equality in the world, stopping racism and bringing around and era of cooperation instead of competition? How do I move my life closer and closer to achieving that role?

Don’t give up. Don’t believe your disheartening stories. Keep trying because, well, what else meaningful is there to do? Take care of yourself!! We need you! Don’t burn yourself out!

Also remember that true enlightenment does not give you the right to judge but the responsibility to teach.

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