Before I moved from California to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage over two years ago, I was working with a life coach to figure out what I wanted to do after graduating from acupuncture school. My coach had me do an exercise where I selected three transformative experiences in my life and then searched them for common elements. I realized that all three experiences were extremely challenging for me, and that they were things I had never done before. Fast forward several years and here I am, living in an ecovillage in Missouri (hardly surprising), having bought a partially finished strawbale building with no construction skills to speak of and no experience with natural building, but with a strong desire for this kind of adventure.
Liz here, excited to tell you about the wonderful project I am working on in my village, as well as my journey in getting to this point. I have had moments late at night where I have questioned my decision to take this on, and now, after two months of solid building, I have many moments in broad daylight where I get a thrill because its just so cool to be having this experience!
I have learned so much already from my straw bale project that applies to much of life in general. I share some of this with you, to encourage you to try new and compelling things, even if they appear difficult or complicated, or outside the realm of your life experience. The following are lessons that can be applied to any dream, project, or new skill.
If you want to do something difficult, own it. Visualize standing with both feet planted on the ground, hands on hips, eyes wide open. Get in touch with your gut feelings, whether or not you can see how to make it happen. Talk about what you want to do with others. This helps you articulate what you want to do. When people hear your idea and start to ask questions, don’t be shy about saying that you are still gathering information, or that you don’t know about some aspects. Not knowing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.
Listen, listen, listen. The less you know, the more you need to listen to others who have the expertise you want to acquire. Appreciate your helpers and subject matter experts. Take suggestions from them.
Take your doubts seriously. Address them by asking other people what they would do, or what they have done in the past in similar situations. Google it, watch youtube videos, read articles and books. Somewhere, there is a way to address your doubts and make your project stronger.
Practice awareness. I already know how frustrated I become when I have to hunt around for a tool each time I want to do something. It takes quite a bit of awareness and focus to use a tool and remember where you put it down. This is a great moment by moment awareness practice. If my frustration rises on any given day, I slow down and make a note of my movements. I set up a spot near where I’m working and return each tool to that spot.
There will be days when you are not your best self. I find that identifying my supportive friends at the start of a project clarifies who I will go to when things feel difficult. A little encouragement from a friend goes a long way toward keeping me moving forward.
The workflow of a project demonstrates impermanence. When my plan for the day (worked out the night before) doesn’t look anything like what the day actually has in store, it is another opportunity to work with what is really happening in any given moment.
It’s OK to pick a project that challenges you. One of my beloved spiritual teachers, Pema Chodron, teaches that our lives are composed of three concentric circles. The innermost circle is our comfort zone, where we feel most comfortable and everything is familiar. The next circle out from there is the challenge zone. This is where we try new things and learn new ways of being. The third circle on the outermost edge is where things are new and challenging, but also terrifying. She teaches that if you spend too much time in your comfort zone, you become afraid to leave it; eventually you are trapped there, unable to try new things. The ideal is to spend most of your time in your comfort zone and visit your challenge zone regularly, learning new things and hopefully fulfilling your potential, but spend too much time spent in the terrifying zone and you won’t be able to accomplish anything.
Have you always wanted to learn natural building? Come join us on September 12 – 15, where you will have a chance to experience an adventure, and perhaps spend a little time in your challenge zone. We’ll all go right to work putting in an earthen floor and plastering walls. I especially encourage women of all ages and abilities to join this friendly and supportive group in a beautiful rural community, where we have many natural buildings to study.