Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Money Suicides

I run the risk of sounding extremely flippant by posting this, but I'm having a hard time remaining silent. It's these "money suicides" I keep hearing about, an almost weekly occurrence. They're driving me crazy.

If I could just catch these guys by the lapels before they do the final deed, I'd have a few things to say (and by guys I do mean guys, as I haven't heard any women mentioned in the news reports yet--not that they aren't just as capable, I'm sure).

"Oh you silly little boy! You thought that money mattered? You thought that this game of yours was real? You thought your red hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place mattered? My dear child, let's fold up the board, there's a good boy, put on the lid, and let's take a little walk outside. Come with me, that's right, come along.

"Here, take off your shoes. Feel the grass beneath your feet, see the robin pulling worms, the grasshopper leaping from your path. Little boy, see the clouds moving in, roiling on the horizon and promising more rain.

"Crouch down on your knees here. Yes, get dirty. Here is where a mole has burrowed just below the surface and here is the hole where the cat tried to uncover him. Take hold of this earth in your hands. Scoop it up. Feel the heat and the warm moist breath of that soil on your skin, so sensuous!

"Roll on your back now and be held by this ground beneath you. Look to the skies above you. You are immersed in creation--yes! this living breathing conscious creation. It's below you, above you, inside of you, in your breath and your bones. The universe creates itself through you--can you feel it? What a miracle!

"Think of all the magnificent ways creation could revel in its aliveness, just through you, little one! What fun. How delicious. And not just through you, but through everyone and everything else. Can you see it all around you?

"This, now this, is the truly fun game. So. Let's forget about your little tantrum back in the house. Do those plastic hotels and that silly paper money matter so much now? See, isn't this much better?"

Now, I want to be clear, I don't mean to make light of suicide--but in these situations I do feel it's an extreme form of childishness. To end your life in a tantrum about stuff--stuff! Stuff isn't real. The people left behind to pick up the pieces are real.

Our materialistic culture is a very childish culture, and I mean that in every sense of the word. As a whole, our culture hasn't evolved beyond a very childlike way of expressing itself. Here and there we have a few adults, but barely a few.

My hope is that people will see the financial crisis for what it is--an opportunity to mature beyond materialism. To become the first adults.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Evaluating What Belongs

I'm starting to acquire an intuitive sense of what belongs. Paring down my life to what matters most, and eliminating clutter, has opened up space for me to start recognizing what wants to manifest and what fits in here. I still have a long way to go in streamlining my physical surroundings, but I've also come an incredible distance already.

At times, I find myself slipping into that different set of eyes--the one that sees nuance and layers. It's when I look out of those eyes that it becomes glaringly obvious what doesn't fit. Recently it was the realization (I know how goofy and trivial this will sound) that my black bag--what I use to carry my books and notebooks and whatever else I need whenever I go out--just doesn't fit. It feels all wrong somehow--I can't explain. I could get all rational and come up with all sorts of explanations for why it might not be a good fit, but really all that matters is I know it doesn't fit. Not that I have anything to replace it with at present, but now at least I recognize that it ultimately doesn't belong.

This all presents a fascinating new approach. Imagine having this kind of radar on all of the time. Being able to feel the pull of objects that want to belong in my space and sensing when the energy is all wrong. Imagine if everyone had this radar--what kind of "consumers" would we become? Consumers of beauty and harmony, maybe?

I've noticed though, too, that even when I'm totally immersed in the perfection of my surroundings--even when everything belongs--there's always a sort of tension present. I might describe it as a yearning, or even a dissatisfaction. Here is utter perfection--how I revel in its bliss! And yet simultaneously there's this tension or yearning. What is that?

I think maybe it's just the pulse of creation. This blissful perfection of the moment is static, whereas life is ever-changing. The yearning, I think, is the universe pulsing through me, seeking the next moment, the next now. Reinventing and re-experiencing itself in each new now. The static present rubbing up against the forever-malleable future means there will always be a dynamic tension existing in even the most harmonious of nows.

When I experience bliss, and can't just be still with it--wanting to know what to do with it--that's the pulsing of creation. That's the dynamic tension of a conscious universe creating itself.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Simple Living Goals

With the new year spreading out before me, I want to reflect a little on where I've been and where I intend to go from here.

This past year marked an incredible deepening of my experience with voluntary simplicity. I've felt the old paradigm finally cracking and falling off like the seed-coat on a sprout. I'm seeing with new eyes. More and more I'm convinced you can't go halfway with simplicity or any other sort of emptiness practice. Halfway gets you to individual discrete changes, good in and of themselves, of course--but only a full immersion in emptiness can shatter the old way of seeing.

So, what constitutes my emptiness practice--what does my "full immersion" look like? For one thing, I've tried to minimize outside distractions. This has been an ongoing project for several years, which continues to broaden. It means no newspaper or periodical subscriptions, no catalogs (except seed catalogs for now), no watches, no cell phone, no GPS or other techno-gadgets except the computer, and no television. For certain spells I've also avoided the Internet and telephone, although never entirely, and I'm still trying to figure out where these two things fit into my life.

I also do without many other comforts of consumer culture. I don't have a microwave, I won't use a dishwasher, and I use a reel mower to mow the lawn. I cut my own hair, brew my own coffee, knead my own bread, and grow at least some of my own food. I don't believe that fingernails or toenails should ever cost money to maintain (beyond the cost of a set of nail clippers), or that straight hair should be curly, or that brown hair should be blond or black or red. I don't exercise in a gym (what a contrivance!)--never have, never will , as long as there's the great outdoors. Therefore, I'm not constantly scooting around from nail salon to gym to beauty shop to coffee shop to bakery name it. Grocery store, yes. Bank. School. Library. Post office, occasionally. Recycling center and landfill every few months. That's usually about it.

Spending. For 2008, my conspicuous consumption, excluding food and household supplies (like toilet paper) can be itemized as follows: a waterbath canner and some more canning jars, one soaker hose, a faucet V thingy, a fan-type sprayer attachment, hose washers, some clay pots, three Pyrex dishes with lids, a five-gallon bucket to hold my homemade laundry detergent, a five-gallon bucket to use this coming year for making compost tea, a deep-socket set which was needed for disassembling something, a coil brush for the fridge, a set of twin sheets, a few items of clothing for my son. All of which amounted to roughly $150 in costs and very little of my time.

I've still been in the process of physically downsizing. This past year I sold off two more big pieces of equipment from my old business, and continued to sell off, recycle, donate or trash things I no longer needed or wanted. The house feels more and more tranquil and supportive the more stuff I manage to clear out.

I rarely have any background noises in my house, except for the hum of the fridge, the computer fans, and the washer and dryer. Well, when I'm alone that is--it's all a bit different when Collin's here! Long stretches of serenity and silence have been crucial for me in my deepening experience with simplicity.

The first hours of the day have always seemed to hold a sacred power. I make sure I'm present and receptive at that time of day. It's when the more profound insights seem to want to play peekaboo--I get glimpses of what is trying to awaken in me. Sometimes I can even catch hold. The evening hours, too, can hold a bit of magic, so when I'm able I set aside some evening time. The middle of the day tends to be mucky for me, energetically-- that's the time for grounding, practical work.

The biggest insight in the past year has been a deepening understanding of the power of place. I will be working hard in the next year to try to convey the new ideas that have evolved. Because I have to do a lot of travelling, I've had a lot of time to explore the power of place. My alone time in the car, experiencing shifting energies as I pass from place to place has been an enormous gift. Without those countless hours behind the wheel (and in spite of my grumbling about them) I would not know what I know now.

In the next year, I will be continuing the process of downsizing. I will be growing even more of my own food, which can only help to firm up my renewed relationship with the land. I will be spending a lot more of my time writing. Beyond that, I will be living in my new paradigm and trying to uncover its possibilities. I will strive to live directly, not vicariously through anyone else, nor vicariously through any machines or gadgets or contrivances. I will seek to have only immediate experiences with what truly IS.

I wish you a very joyful New Year and success with whatever goals you have set for yourself this year.