Sustaining your life

I’ve just spent 9 days in Japan, and while I was there, I discovered a very special story about sustainability. One of the more powerful narrative I’ve ever seen. And it goes like this.

One hour’s train travel south of Nagoya, there is an unassuming small city called Ise (pronounced (Eee-say). And in Ise, you can find one of the most special Shinto shrines in all of Japan. There are two sites – the outer shrine (Genki) and the inner shrine (Naiku). About 15 mins apart by bus. This image of the bridge entrance to the Naiku shrine will give you an indication of the beauty of this area.

Now, the Japanese consider these shrines to be the most venerable in all of Japan. If the Japanese people were to visit one special shrine in their lives, it would apparently be these. And I can see why. Possibly one of the most inspiring natural spiritual sites I’ve ever seen in my travels all through the world.

Here’s the ‘sustainability’ part.

Every twenty years, the shrines of Ise are completely rebuilt with the wood from the Cypress pines that are grown nearby, and in other parts of Japan. So, the forests are continually maintained, in order to rebuild these shrines every two decades. In effect, the ‘shrines’ are actually a series of shrines, and they require 13,000 trees to complete this 20-year rebuilding.

When you visit these shrines, you find that there are two sites for each of the buildings. One is the present shrine, and the other is the space for the next building (in this case, the one that will be constructed in 2013). On the future site, a small structure is placed in the middle, to designate where the next shrine will be placed. Here’s an image of these present and future sites:

My query is: How do we sustain and rebuild our own lives? Do we have a nearby metaphorical forest that we can access for our near-future resources? How do we nurture that ‘forest’? How REALLY do we manage to keep everything going??!

We all know that it’s a top idea to stay physically healthy, to save a bit of money now and again, and maybe to even maintain the critical relationships in our lives. Yet what truly helps us to sustain these practices??!

I’ll ask a very direct question: What’s your forest?