Posts Tagged ‘japan crisis’

Flexible Focus #47: Clearing your Clutter

by William Reed on March 31, 2011

Pray for Japan

It seems strange to be writing an article about organizing, when a massive earthquake and tsunami have quite recently and ruthlessly stripped away the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people, the aftershocks of which now threaten the economy of Japan and indeed the world. Never before in Japan in living memory has there been a natural disaster of this scale. There has not been a crisis of this magnitude for Japan since the Second World War, calling for a massive shift in perspective, a foundational shift in flexible focus.

For some the choice has been to leave. An estimated 140,000 foreigners (gaijin) have fled the country, out of uncertainty for their safety, to protect their families, or even encouraged to do so by foreign governments and media. Under the circumstances, and particularly for some, it is not hard to understand. But this phenomenon has created a new word called flyjin (literally, foreigners in flight), and even a website to track the phenomenon.

For those of us remaining in Japan, by choice or necessity, a part of our attention is constantly monitoring the situation, the impact it will have, and our role in helping others get through it. The crisis has made us all far more aware of what we need and don’t need. The loss of power from the disabled power plants has effectively shut off the source that had formerly supplied 1/3 of Tokyo’s power needs, creating the need for planned rotating blackouts in 3-hour shifts. By any stretch of the imagination, it must be a logistical nightmare to keep everything running. Remarkably, many of the planned blackouts have been cancelled at the last minute, and did not need to be implemented, because of a fundamental shift in flexible focus among the Japanese people. From the day that the crisis hit, the whole nation mobilized and cooperated with a massive campaign to conserve electricity. Factories and shops, people young and old have proactively spread the word, creating a shift in consciousness overnight that was driven by social media, which has kept everything running, and prevented the need to enforce power loss by taking down the grid.

This movement gained a name and quickly took on a national following, and Yashima Sakusen has mobilized the nation to do more than just pray. Although the cities and homes are dimly lit, these dark evenings shine like a spirit that has awakened from a long slumber. Once again, we can see the canopy of stars overhead, and have made connections with people around us and all over the world, who formerly were too busy to even keep in touch.

Many are saying that both conservation and cooperation were essential characteristics in Japanese culture to begin with, qualities which are now surfacing in this time of need. Crisis tends to bring out the best and the worst in people. In this case, it turns out that there was a lot of good in people just below the surface, which has come out for all the world to see. It has also brought forth a massive and profoundly moving show of support for Japan from around the world, as people offer their emotions, donations, and physical resources in the movement called Pray for Japan.

In addition to the cooperation of people to pull through this disaster, there has been a shift in consciousness. It is almost as if we have been granted a degree of clairvoyance, a new transparency in which people’s hearts and intentions are far more transparent than before. Perhaps it was the clutter, the non-essentials, the bill of goods that we had been sold over the years that prevented us from seeing this clearly until now.

As Samuel Johnson said in defense of William Dodd, a clergyman who was tried and hung for forgery in 1777, “Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

Wabi Sabi

How can the Mandala Chart help us to facilitate this shift in consciousness which has been brought on by the crisis? It is certainly a clarion call to get back to basics, and to devote your time and energy to the things and people that matter most. As a simple exercise, take a Mandala Chart and fill it in by answering the following questions:

  1. What are 8 ways in which I can serve the most important people in my life?
  2. If I had to keep or choose 8 things, what would they be?
  3. What are 8 things I can do to clear the clutter in my life?
  4. What are 8 goals or values by which I choose to navigate my life?

Simplicity has always been at the core of the Japanese aesthetic, not through austerity but in refinement. The aesthetic of Wabi Sabi, wisdom in natural simplicity has a long tradition in Japan, on a par with the Greek ideal of Beauty in Western tradition. Indeed, the appreciation of Wabi Sabi has long been associated with the refinement of character, and even seen as the first step to satori, or enlightenment.

Roger J. Hamilton, author of Your Life Your Legacy, says that, “Wealth is not how much money you have, it is what you are left with if you lose your money.” This itself is a shift in perspective, because from this perspective, rather than hoarding money and defending your property, you might pay more attention to investing in and protecting your treasures in the eight fields of life, health, business, finance, home, society, personal, learning, and leisure.

I saw a cartoon many years ago, perhaps it was in The New Yorker, in which a Japanese couple were seated in front of the tokonoma alcove in a Japanese room, with a hanging scroll and a simple flower arrangement in a pot. The wife is saying to her consternated husband, “I was at my sister-in-law’s today…They have two pots.”

What the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi Sabi offers us is the realization that simplicity is more than austerity, and that you can experience abundance in many ways through appreciation and creativity.

Space Clearing

One of the things that prevents us from seeing life in this way, that shields our eyes from the wisdom in natural simplicity, is that we are surrounded by too much clutter. As a practical means to clearing the clutter in our lives I recommend books and websites by three amazing authors, which can help clear the way for a Wabi Sabi awareness, regardless of what culture you are from.

Karen Kingston The Feng Shui Art of Space Clearing, an internationally renowned consultant on Feng Shui, the art of clearing and revitalizing spaces in buildings, and whose approach is based on the lovely aesthetic of Balinese architecture and space clearing.

Terrah Collins Western School of Feng Shui, whose site opens with a Mandala Chart, and whose approach to Feng Shui uses the Chinese iChing as a Mandala to view the 8 sections of a room or home as a Bagua Map, including; Career, Health & Family, Fame & Reputation, Creativity & Children, Knowledge & Self-Cultivation, Wealth & Prosperity, Love & Relationship, Helpful People & Travel.

Erin Rooney Doland, Unclutter Your Life in One Week, a practical, fun, and no nonsense approach to clearing the clutter from your life, with a book and blog to support you in the process both mentally and physically.

Three remarkable Western women, who have mastered the essentials of an Eastern process, and made it accessible to the rest of us. Buy their books, follow them on Social Media, and give them your support. They will help you many times in return.

Then turn your thoughts and prayers to Japan, who needs your help more than ever, and in the Wabi Sabi aesthetic has a treasure that can clear the clutter from your mind, and help bring the world back to its senses.

Image Credit: widjana

From Morse codes to cellular phones, from x86 processors to Intel’s i7 processors and from email to social media, mankind has come a long way. All these methods have one thing in common – need to connect. And the most important thing we forget is that though these devices and technologies are designed to improve productivity, they are serving the basic human need to communicate. And the litmus test for all these advancements is when you can use them during crisis situations.

The recent crisis in Japan is a reminder to us to that Technology can be a boom and a curse.

When a nuclear reactor has radiation leak, it makes it impossible to justify benefits of nuclear power even if it is designed for making the world Green or Safe. After all, what is the point if families inhabiting that place will virtually never be able to go there for decades due to the radiations. And then technology renders the only way to either give your location in a crisis or communicate with your loved ones.

In the recent Japan quake, all the telephone lines got disconnected, earthquake knocked out electricity supplies, interestingly Internet availability remains relatively unaffected, according to a blog post from Internet monitoring company Renesys. And what is most compelling is that Japan turned to social media for connecting with their loved ones. Less than an hour after the quake, the number of tweets from Tokyo topped 1,200 per minute, according to Tweet-o-Meter. This is where the Twitter strategy to follow hashtags simply rocks. Check out #Japan #tsunami #earthquake.

Social Media sites such as Twitter & Facebook have also made it possible for people to get and provide real time help. There are numerous messages that provide links to charities for folks who want to make a contribution to organizations who are helping the affected folks. Then, there is also a “Trust” factor on sites like facebook – If a facebook friend of mine endorses a charity organization, chances are there is an implicit trust that I will have in doing the same… which basically helps the affected folks get help, quickly!

Also, people found it easier to share their stories on Facebook stories page. Facebook again became instrumental in not only connecting friends and family but also became a broadcast channel for people to share their updates and checkin with their friends. There was a positive outcome other than news and analysis since REAL people were able to connect.

In this mix, Youtube and blogs became instrumental in giving people eyes into the disaster ridden areas with the help of citizen journalism.