Do More of What Makes You Happy!


It’s my birthday! I sat down with pen and paper (and coffee) this morning to write my future self a letter. I’m turning 45 today, and the letter I penned to myself is to be opened by me when I turn 90. Double my age! I can only imagine what the next decades hold for me, for you, and for the world. Good times. Do more of what makes you happy!


Movement for a Sustainable Earth


The movement for a sustainable earth needs more than savvy product choices – it needs mindful steps, taken with grace and a deep breath.

A new level of awareness is emerging in the green design movement about the less-visible world of energy work, an ephemeral layer that affects all our experience. By being open to a new type of questioning and answering, and by setting aside preconceived ideas of how we live, I believe we are able to connect to a deeper – and higher – level of energetic experience in the world. This energy work enriches the more physical aspects of green design and infuses itself into our experience of our homes and work spaces.

Perception, intuition and intention have as much to do with the future success of sustainable design as do recycled materials and energy-efficient systems. We need to open ourselves to a higher and more conscious level of decision-making about how we use our spaces, both urban and rural, domestic and work-related. When you think of greening your space, do you think of material choices? Or do you think of meditation? I think you’ll find that by bringing your own sense of calmness and grace into your space, you will do as much good to the home or work place as if you’d done an overhaul of your personal carbon footprint.  These approaches, physical and metaphysical, go hand in hand.

There are three steps an individual may take in creating a deeper connection to the soul of their space. They are:

  1. Breathe in and out, in circles of increasing diameter, to connect the breath beyond the body to the space beyond. Imagine your breath extending beyond your body and into the room.Then imagine it touching the walls. Imagine the breath moving beyond the walls, to the outside. Imagine the breath moving beyond the outside, to the beyond. And then imagine breathing all that great energy back into your body and infusing your and your experience in a new way.
  2.  Imagine you are planted in the ground. Your feet are like tree roots digging deep. Imagine your head is connected to the space above, like a hot air balloon fixed in a position connected to the ground.It’s not flying away but it is aloft, light, and has the potential to go higher. Take this simultaneous deepening (into the earth) and lengthening (into the spine and the sky) farther, into the space of the home. Imagine that you are connected yet flexible in your relationship to your home and your space. Let the edges of the space find you, and let yourself extend to reach those ephemeral edges, and move beyond them.
  3. Go back to your breath. You’re grounded in your space though the visualization of tree roots pushing down, and the skyward motion of the spine. Now focus on the seed point within yourself from which the breath originates. Let the light of the room, and of the space beyond the room, fill that seed point. See it grow inside you, and let its potential fill your conscious, thinking mind. Now move forward in your day, and make the next steps you take in greening your space or home or work place come from the brightest, most expanded, breath-full space inside you that you can. The decisions you make on a daily basis, and the perceptions you have of the situations and places you are in, will certainly be enhanced by taking breath-awareness with you in your every moment.

Be introspective in your choices, and informed with knowledge. Be resourceful in your decisions, ecology-conscious in your shopping, and mindful of your inner realm. The outer choices we make are nothing more than clothing for our inner selves. The buildings we inhabit are reflections of behaviors and choices we’ve made up to that point. Make your next moves conscious ones. I think you’ll find this makes a tremendous difference in both your relationship to your space,  and to yourself. The movement for a more sustainable earth needs more than savvy product choices: it needs mindful steps, taken with grace and a deep breath.

– Maia

P.S. This piece was previously shared with my newsletter subscribers in 2009. It seems timely to share it with all of you!

Venice, Sea Change

VeniceFromCampanile_MaiaKumariGilmanWhen I pulled the “freehand sketches” card from my editorial calendar inspiration bin, my first thought was to share this quick sketch of Venice, Italy. I drew this on vacation, and was intrigued by the peaks and valleys of the Venetian cityscape, as seen from the top of the Campanile.

To tie this into the blog’s theme of environmental change, I composed a list of all those aspects of Venice I think we can learn from, around the world, as so many other coastlines face their own sea change. Granted, the causes of Venice’s sea change are unique. It’s on a leading edge of its own.

On tourism:

  • a tourist economy is key to an evolving waterfront
  • there is tourist interest in the changing intertidal/urban interface
  • temporary accommodations like hotels and hostels provide a continual opportunity for visitors and funds to flow into a place.

On transportation:

  • understanding marine transportation for an urban environment without cars is helpful and so is planning for the public infrastructure around it
  • a mix of private and public investment in transportation infrastructure allows for a variety of access and experience in a place
  • planning ahead can reduce frustrations and losses and lead to a smoother experience for businesses, institutions and residents.

On infrastructure:

  • movable walkways are helpful
  • drainage is manipulable and has plasticity
  • regular maintenance, repair and replacement of below-water foundations are part of the life cycle planning of a waterfront in flux.

On the long term:

  • it’s ok to let some parts go
  • long term vision to moving inland, or upward, or over water to new land, is always an opportunity on the horizon and for those who want to do so, those channels for change exist
  • there is not a one-size fits all solution to resolve issues around water level rise, and building subsidence.

What else would you add?


Be the Dream


It’s Martin Luther King Junior Day here in the US. I watched this classic MLK clip with my children today:

His words still resonate. Are relevant. Authenticity rolls off his tongue. Inspired, we moved into the present, in search of new and current interpretations. That led us to this:

Be the dream. Hold everyone you meet in an image of their full potential. Share the love!


Editorial Calendar


Rather than create a static editorial calendar for this blog, I wrote dozens and dozens of topics onto cards and put them in a bin. Each one is a topic that brings me joy, and that relates in some way to environmental change. I will select topics from this bin, as moved. More soon!


The Dalai Lama, Climate Change and Joy


Last week, the Dalai Lama’s Facebook page featured a recent video of his appearance at The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He spoke, with several others, about the human response to climate change. Intrigued by the blend of mindfulness and matter in this subject, I watched the almost-two hour video, twice. I took notes. Twice. The same points jumped out at me each time, and I decided to write a blog post around them.

His Holiness is a smart and compassionate man. He paid tribute to science, and to statistics. He honored those in their professional capacities, and framed his own as that of a student of Buddhism. He spoke with equal attention, solemnity and good humor to adult scientists and to youth activists alike. Some of his words were presented through the voice of his translator, and I found that taking notes was helpful in staying with the weave of His Holiness’ own thought process, in my own mind.

The Dalai Lama says we ought to encourage the media to lead the change. To shine a light on that which is serious in the spin-off effects of climate change, and to spend more of the time focused upon solutions. To lead with courage, rather than with fear. To emphasize the potential and ability of people to overcome circumstances.

His Holiness encourages compassion, and seeing the billions of us in oneness – all of us in it together. He encourages mothers to spend more time with their children, in teaching compassion. I would add, it’s not just mothers who teach compassion, it’s fathers too, and all adults who can bring a loving and compassionate experience to children, whether or not they are immediate family. Family is what we make it. Family is all of us.

His Holiness encourages group meetings, more often, and made public, to meet on the issues and solutions around climate change. He does not debate the science. He encourages connection between people, and especially in the younger generations. He points to rural areas as neighborly, and encourages climate dialogue to occur there, where the community connections are already strong. The phrase I wrote down more than once, in his words: “altruism must be translated into action.”

I think he’s right. Compassion, care for the self, the family and the community, as well as a sense of our connectedness: these are the cornerstones of our foundation for moving out of our current context. Compassion, care, connectedness. How do we move toward those three essences? What actions do we take?

I’ve come to find with many difficult aspects of life – and climate change is certainly one of them – it seems that when we approach our target from the perspective of a joyous inner feeling, different (clearer) solutions rise, and they rise faster, and resonate with key people, more of the time. It makes the targets more seen, in their variety, and less pigeonholed, in their narrowness. Joy opens windows and doors to solutions faster than anything else can.

I’ve seen that a state of joy – or even its partial counterweight of contentment – allows for receptivity. Of information. Of sensory experience. Of intuitive inspiration. It’s in those human aspects that creative solutions are discovered. Revealed. Innovated. Brought to light.

Am I crazy to think that joyousness could hold a solution to the issues that spin off from climate change? Let the light in that crack and see what happens. Let yourself off the hook. You don’t have to have to come up with a solution, just let yourself feel joy. Feel appreciation. Appreciate elements in your midst. Focus on what’s working, and celebrate that. From that place of clarity, seek the creative solutions we desire.