Looking forward to a year of ripples and edges
January 3, 2013 § 4 Comments
I did not make any New Year’s resolutions on 1 January. If life has taught me anything, it is that resolutions pinned to a ‘symbolic’ date do not move me forward. They invariably result in unrealistic expectations, disappointment and guilt. Instead, as I open a new Moleskine diary, I am contemplating two words that I have been increasingly aware of in the past twelve months. Two that will be my guides and companions in the coming year: ripples and edges.
Ripples within me
In 2012 I became increasingly aware of ripples within me: of their nature, trajectory and effects. Gentle yoga was one of the catalyst, gardening another but most of all, it was allowing me time to observe.
As my muscles became accustomed to simple yoga poses and I increasingly synchronised my breath with my movements, the more attuned I became to the ripples in my body. The kind, smooth ripples that occur when my system settles into an appropriate gear but also the detrimental ones that warn me to let go before my sinews and mood spiral into a destructive coil.
Slowly but steadily I was aware of ripples emerging off the yoga mat too. In the spring, after many years, I put on my running shoes again and within a couple of days, my body remembered that it loves the reinvigorating ripples that running offers and certainly enough to crowd out the dissent of my aching muscles. By the summer, I was aware that I hardly ever drank coffee anymore. My body had quietly – away from diktats and reproach – realised how much better it felt without four double espressos a day and by the end of the year that the side-effects of coffee were not worth the fleeting flavour. Ditto, for cheese and milk.
Of course, rationally I know all these health dos and don’ts but reason alone is rarely enough to change damaging habits. Giving my mind and body the time to observe the ripple effects of small choices has been far more effective, considerably less painful and probably more far-reaching as my body and mind are now teaching themselves, without my reason overcomplicating or overanalysing matters.
Ripples around me
As I go about my daily business, my mind has also been tuning into the web of ripples that emanate from (seemingly insignificant) choices and actions, both mine and those of others.
By choosing to garden with natural methods rather than sprays that promise instant results, I am not just using fewer carbon-heavy non-biodegradable products and creating an abundant home and larder for insects and birds (who in turn serve the garden), I am also triggering other ripples. As I start to analyse what ripples I am causing in other areas of my life (from food to laundry, clothing to heating, leisure to travel…), I am tweaking habits accordingly to amplify the kind ones and reduce the harmful ones.
Remembering to take my Love Food Hate Waste shopper when I head out for groceries is more a habit than a conscious action but time and again, I am reminded that it has ripples. It starts conversations and before long I am swapping ideas with strangers about how easy it is to use up odds and ends, rather than send food to landfill or an incinerator. Similarly, making eye contact or exchanging a smile with strangers (as Londoners spontaneously did during the Olympics and Paralympics) cheer the spirit and remind us that we are not just automata scurrying around in an anonymous city.
Recommendations, ideas, experiences and enthusiasm shared by and with others (whether friends, teachers, fellow students or likeminded Twitter contacts whom I have never met), sow seeds, leave a kernel of an idea, encourage coming together for a common course of action, spark small changes… Amongst the 1,000s of words spoken daily there have been many ripples that remind me that I am not alone in ploughing a different furrow. Moreover they revive my belief that, despite the abundance of policy, regulation and ‘evidence‘ to the contrary, it is not foolish to strive for kinder alternatives.
If ripples have emerged steadily from the shadows, realising I was attracted to edges was a lightbulb moment. On a sunny day in April, in woodland at the foot of the South Downs, I had an “of course” moment. Bryn Thomas, an inspiring teacher, was introducing a group of us to a key principle of Permaculture: the importance of edges (banks, hedgerows, fences, forest boundaries…) due to their fertility, energy and biodiversity.
As I was soaking up the potential of edges for growing plants, it hit me that intuitively, I had always known this. All my life I have hung around at edges. I am at most comfortable at edges. Not at lonely, dark outreaches but at the edges where plains, disciplines and ideas meet. At the interface between politics, philosophy, law, economics, humanities, culture, engineering… Each topic in itself is endlessly fascinating but the real insights, the stimulating conversations and life-changing possibilities happen at the edges. It is there that the ripples emanating from different minds and viewpoints can collide, be transformed and pick up force.
So, in 2013 expect to find me tuning into ripples, following their course and loitering at edges. Whatever your resolutions, intentions and desires are for the coming year, I hope you too enjoy the power and potential of a few ripples and edges!