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.

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