Toward Sustainable Human Flourishing

by Phoebe Kiddo

What does it mean to truly flourish? This is the question that I have been pondering lately. Not simply “what do I want to have in my life”, but what is wellbeing in its deepest sense? When we ask this question, the tendency is to make a long list of things that we want, a big house, success at work etc. There is no doubt that our basic needs must be met before we can probe deeper, every human being deserves shelter, food, clean water, access to education, and health care.  If we are pondering what is sustainable human flourishing, perhaps it involves first of all visioning a reality where all people have these basic needs met and can live in dignity. 

Photo of Nora Coli for The Dream Haus by Joji Koyama, 2016

Photo of Nora Coli for The Dream Haus by Joji Koyama, 2016

When these needs are met, when we can, pay our bills, learn, take care of ourselves and our family, even have more than we need, with enough to share with others, we are free to ponder, what else would make me happy and well? As social creatures, we depend on our connections with others, yet in an increasingly atomised society, many of us feel disconnected. There is a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. Many studies show the benefits of giving, from the gains in happiness from giving , to the reduction of depression and anxiety for people who spend time volunteering , there is no doubt that generosity of spirit increases our wellbeing, we may even live longer as a result.

Asking ourselves what would truly bring me happiness might be supported considering what we most wish to offer to the world? To the people around us, to the human beings, just like us who have a little less? This question may inspire us to consider our gifts, passions, abilities, talents unique life experiences and to direct them toward what will bring benefit to others (and therefore ourselves). 

Being human also means being dependent on certain things provided by the planet, as in, everything. Every item that we own, the air we breath, the water, food, shelter and transport we depend on, is a produced from raw materials and energy we mine from the planet. It’s impossible to paint a picture of true flourishing that does not include our relationship to nature or the environment, because we humans can not exist without it (at least not yet). Perhaps flourishing also includes an appreciation for this interdependent relationship and responsibility for choices we make and the impact they have.

Then there is the important question of how our internal state influences our wellbeing and happiness. From the perspective of mindfulness this is the domain that we have the most influence over. Last night in our mindfulness class, we discussed what qualities make an experience enjoyable? For the most part participants reported mundane experiences, a cup of tea drunk in presence, a walk taken while appreciating the surroundings, connection with others. There is a certain pleasure to being present, to actually being connected with the reality that is unfolding.

Perhaps flourishing means simply getting out of our own way, not fighting with reality, but rising up to meet it! Allowing the flow of life to move through us, dancing with it. Maybe it means giving just a little more than we take, lifting up the people around us, offering the gift of presence to all of our endeavours. Maybe it means dreaming up a world where every single person has enough. Where we live with respect for this beautiful planet and all its people. Maybe it means being at ease in ourselves. 

Perhaps it all begins with cultivating a mind that we actually want to hang out in.

Sustainable Human Flourishing has become the theme of 2019 for The Dream Haus, as we endeavour to evoke meaningful transformation in the world, beginning with the very hearts and minds of us and our community.

May 2019 be a year that everyone, everywhere including you, enjoys happiness and its causes. <3

Phoebe Faulkner