A Whole New Spin on the Bottom Line
Jim and Margaret Drescher own and operate Windhorse Farm on Wentzell’s Lake in western NS. I can tell you from first hand experience exploring the hardwood forest it is a magical place.
Back to magic shortly.
There are a lot of things happening on the farm. Eco forestry, a wood shop, organic gardening, a plant nursery, retreat cabins for solo or group retreats, seminars on a variety of topics and group meditation every morning. I encourage you to visit the web site but better still the farm itself for a first hand experience. http://www.windhorsefarm.org
Jim tells me, “We attract people who are committed to evolving. The population changes seasonally. People come for relatively short periods of time from diverse backgrounds. They want to connect with the natural energy of the place. All groups who come here want to do a contemplative practice in the forest. It is the key to what happens.”
We all know what the bottom line means. Black ink, cash in the bank, being debt free, making a profit and so on. For decades economics has dominated the way to do business. In more recent years corporate social responsibility (CSR) has emerged and with it the triple bottom line. Businesses practicing social responsibility are paying attention not only to economics but also being socially and environmentally responsible.
That’s a good thing, right? We could probably agree that if everyone was taking better care of each other socially and leaving zero imprint the earth and its citizens would be in a greater state of balance. However this is not enough. As a student of Spirituality and Work, I have to ask where is the spiritual responsibility in that equation?
Ford Motor Co., Ascension Health Services in the US, Telus Communications, Tomasso Foods in Montreal, Zerox and many other corporations have implemented spiritual practices into their way of doing business. These practices have had far reaching benefits for employees, clients and the larger community.
Windhorse Farm goes one step further. Every decision on the farm is discussed with the current group of residents and put through five filters: economical, ecological, social, spiritual and magical. Why? To assess if a project is likely to make a contribution or to cause harm.
As you can well imagine this is not a quick or easy process. There could be a dozen people at the table of various ages, backgrounds and reasons for being at Windhorse Farm. Jim explains, “Each of the five categories has its own set of questions. We would not go ahead with a project if any of the five filters were negative. We do go ahead if any come up neutral.”
Jim shares with me some of the questions they explore. “Is this activity likely to cause harm to the non-human realm, be enriching or neutral?” “Is this project likely to increase social harmony or cause friction and divisiveness?” “Will this project increase mindfulness and awareness resulting in kindness, a contribution, and compassion?”
When evaluating economically, the group ponders if the project is likely to increase stability in the immediate and surrounding community, or not? The goal is to be economically sustainable but not necessarily profitable. The bigger goal is that all five categories are sustainable. Direct profit is fed back into the system so that nothing is sacrificed on any level.
And now for some magic. Jim describes the magical as “having to do with offering and generosity and compassion and kindness. Magical qualities are difficult to put into words. They are closely linked to the spiritual in some ways.”
If you have had the experience of being in a powerful place, natural or man made, you will know what magic feels like. The magical filter requires one to tune in to the environment, to feel the essence, the energy of that place. I suspect this is why the forest at Windhorse Farm is so popular.
Jim says, “On the magical level we ask if a project will assist our connection with the natural world or create a block from the landscape? Magical aspects are hard to pin down. They may seem to be without practical purpose and yet they uplift our experience.”
All work on the farm is done within the context of a mindfulness awareness practice. For example Jim explains ‘bunk and sticker practice’ in the wood shop. Isn’t that a great name? ‘Bunk’ is the board at the bottom of a stack of lumber. Stickers are the narrow pieces of wood inserted perpendicularly between the boards every16” to separate them. The practice is to line up all the stickers between boards in a straight line. On the practical level lack of stickers, or chaotic stickers can cause stress. Ultimately if stickers were off a little bit, it wouldn’t matter. In mindfulness practice one brings their full attention to this task and although impossible to do perfectly, one does their very best.
Sweeping the shop, mindfully, is both a safety concern and a compassion practice for the people working there the next day. It creates an uplifted cheerful atmosphere. Different logics can coexist in one spiritual practice.
These sorts of practices are extended to the farm as a whole. Jim tells me, “Friday afternoon is ‘loose end’ day. There may be a bunch of sand piled up that needs moving, or machinery left out somewhere, or pruning to be completed.”
Finally I ask Jim what he sees as the challenge to living spirituality in his work? His answer is both simple and profoundly complex, “Habitual patterns of passion, aggression and ignorance.” The antidote? “Returning to practices.”
It’s Friday and I have a few of those loose ends.
Grace McKnight is a feng shui designer who is passionate in her ability to combine creativity and spirituality in the service of others. She is completing an MA at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. Her focus of study is spirituality in the workplace and contemplative learning techniques. http://www.graceinspiredliving.ca