As most of you know, 36 Chambers is all about Kung Fu. We are also all about sustainability. We source our products with the highest regard for organic standards, vegan materials and fair-trade wages. This is core to our mission as an organization. To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, we must be the change that we wish to see in the world. So, you may be asking yourself, how does Kung Fu and sustainability meet in the world of 36 Chamber’s ALC?
To understand this, we have to start with the word Kung Fu. It is actually one word, Kungfu, and another way to spell this word in Pinyin (Chinese to English translation) is Gongfu. The term is made up of two characters: the first, Kung (功), can mean skillful work, hard training, or endeavor. The second, Fu (夫), means time spent. Together they mean time spent at skillful work, endeavor or hard training. We further interpret Gongfu to mean a skillful mastery or mastery of one’s art.
A Gongfu student, Alex Crow, shared with us some insights regarding the key aspects of Gongfu as she received them from her teacher Brea Fisher from the Eagle Claw Turning Style lineage. We took these key aspects of Gongfu and showed how they cross over into sustainability in our individual and organizational lives.
Kung Fu focuses on how we can become more skillful in your craft, and in life. A major key for skillfulness is to develop an awareness for your surrounding external environment and your internal environment. To develop skillfulness you must first have the awareness of what is important and what is not. From this point, you can begin to navigate the external world and your own internal world using body awareness, mindfulness and other techniques to be able to see reality clearly. Remember, Kungfu is a martial art, art is at the end of the phrase. The way that we live our lives can be an artform if we approach it with mindfulness and presence.
Similarly, in sustainability, one must develop the awareness of the external world and the internal world. By doing this, we can see the root causes of an issue, the practices that one currently engages in that continue to create the issue, and from that point we can enact a skillfulness of action and intention that will help to be a part of the solution rather than be a part of the problem.
This awareness can come through research of different companies and brands to see their footprint, their product ingredients, and how transparent they are with their wages and practices. It can also come through analyzing what materials you as an individual are continually consuming, like plastic bottles or cans, fast fashion, etc. In these instances, the question arises, how can you develop the skillfulness to cut down on your consumption of harmful products and services and switch to become more reliant on less consumption of these toxic and environmentally hazardous products, like plastic or inorganic materials?
Contrary to popular belief, Kungfu was not created to harm, but to avoid conflict. This lends itself to a popular quote from a well-known Tibetan Buddhist Nun named Pema Chödron who says that, “we have been taught to escalate rather than to de-escalate.” This is true in our individual lives where we are oftentimes taking things personally or taking offense to what people are saying rather than understanding that reacting to these stimuli are only going to fuel the person’s or organization’s continual harm.
Rather, the proper way to obtain power and to operate in a peaceful manner is not by fighting fire with fire but to cast out the fire with water. True power lies in the reconciliation of one’s energy from outside sources of power back into oneself. We do this by enacting a skilful approach in the external world based on awareness. For example, if one continues in personal relationships, situations or purchasing products from companies that are not sustainable, then you are disempowering yourself and simultaneously feeding into a system that drains power rather than investing in people and products that are generating it.
In sustainability, the greatest method of power is empowerment. The way to empower yourself and others is to become informed and then integrated through action. From the point of awareness and correct information, one can begin to navigate the world in an educated manner. However, there must be very sharp discernment used because many companies do their best to greenwash consumers.
Greenwashing means that companies promote their products or services as sustainable or regenerative but in fact they are just using the concept to enhance their brand and market while not honoring the concepts in their actions. In our personal lives as well, we can become a powerhouse by realizing our own boundaries and containing our energies accordingly instead of spilling them out left and right to those who are looking to drain us of our power. This includes various businesses whose products are harmful such as GMO foods or other processed foods, social media and content that is not supporting an enlightened mind or a harmonious way of living, et al.
Gongfu requires discipline. It requires practice. Continuous practice, time spent doing the movements, meditating, feeling, studying. Without a discipline to constantly return back to the practice nothing can be accomplished.
Similarly, in sustainability we must enact discipline with ourselves and our decisions. Don’t let your habits run your life. Only buy organic foods. Don’t support brands that are not transparent with their goods and services. Avoid companies who are not focused on sustainability. Buy a portable water bottle so you don’t need to buy plastic. Stick to your practices with discipline and heart and soon they will become an integrated model of how you live. This is when the discipline has paid off and you are now a transformative being. If it takes a while for you to change, that is alright. The most important part is to come back to your discipline every single moment.