October 16, 2017

Sharing The Wealth



“I saw that the universe is not composed of dead matter,
but is, on the contrary, a living Presence....all things
work together for the good of each and all; that the
foundation principle of the world, or all the worlds,
is what we call love, and that the happiness of each
and all is in the long run absolutely certain.” 

- Richard Maurice Bucke



One of my favourite things about growing a garden is the absolute abundance that flows from mid-summer to well into the fall. To garden is to know true wealth.

If you garden, you find there is more than enough for your own needs. You find that nature loves life, and that Mother Earth loves it when we share her gifts. If things go well, you will have to share just to keep up and not let food go to waste.

Even if you are eating as fast as you can, plus canning, freezing, and drying, you will still have opportunities to share with others. I can't think of a better gift than vegetables freshly harvested from the soil.

Last weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving, so I picked a few veggies from our raised bed garden (with gratitude on my mind), washed them up, then arranged them in a basket. I walked over to our neighbours, had a chat, and dropped off the gift.

A few days later Linda and I spoke with our neighbour, and she mentioned the veggies. She said that they looked so good that she used them for the centrepiece for her table during her family's feast that night.gar

She particularly liked the results of my adventures in garlic braiding, saying that they were "too beautiful to eat". I loved that she loved the fruits of my labour.

Sharing is natural. And it feels good. That is what I wanted to share with my simple living friends today, wherever on this wonderful planet you happen to be gardening. Or thinking about gardening. Or sharing.





October 10, 2017

Choosing Simplicity For Wellness

Getting off the merry-go-round has allowed me to spend more time enjoying the healthful benefits of nature. 

One big reason that I retired to a more simple life seventeen years ago at age 40 is because I wasn't sure I could maintain my mental health while plugged into a 'regular life' in a western consumer culture.

I was not afraid to let go. I was ready.

John Lennon had already taught me, in the song Watching The Wheels (Gimme Some Truth), that it was okay to want to get off the merry-go-round. Like him, "I just had to let it go". For fast acting relief, try simple living. I found out later that he also enjoyed the homey task of baking bread.

Overall wellness increases when we reduce our focus on the acquisition of money, possessions and status. Stress levels drop and there is more time to rest, be physically active, eat healthful foods, and spend time with friends and family.

Creating a simple life for you and your family is more of a gift than a sacrifice, even if it is often more work. The majority of people who choose to live this way report improved mental and physical health. What is that worth? Is there anything else worthy of our effort?

Imagine what happens when your life consists of doing only the things you love to do. Or does living simply allow one the time to love all aspects of life more fully, regardless of what is going on? Either way, it is good for you.

Live simply to break free, or save money, or to live more sustainably - those are all awesome outcomes of this lifestyle. But definitely do it for your overall wellness, mental and otherwise.




October 2, 2017

Simple Living, High Thinking, Non-Violence

Gandhi's home. He was influenced by the writings of Henry David Thoreau,
and the two men lived in similar simple surroundings, undistracted by unnecessary stuff.

Today, the 148th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's birth is being celebrated around the world. It should be - he was an amazing man, as close to a true hero as one can get.

Gandhi emphasized simple living, high thinking, and non-violent resistance, all things that we desperately need in today's world if we are to slow our slide into dark decades of dystopia.

Call it utopian if you want, I don't think of that as an insult, but Gandhi's philosophy on non-violence went far beyond simply the absence of violence. He also advocated radical democracy and self-rule, and extended participation to all segments of society.

Inequality and hierarchical structures (political and religious), are institutionalized violence. Authority over others always ends badly. Just ask the Catalonians, or any of us that suffer the violence of the state in its capitalist corporate economic prison.

I celebrate Gandhi's birth today - he was a model human of the most gentle kind. He lived what he proposed, and had solutions. Right now, we badly need solutions, and soon.

Simple living, rational thinking, and non-violent resistance are tried and true, proven solutions, and I thank this amazing man for bravely bringing them forward. The sooner they are adopted, the better off we will be in the end.

We can break the bars that hem us in to narrow lives of drudgery and perpetual shopping. We can all be heroes. To this, I think, Gandhi would agree.




September 30, 2017

Advertising: Legalized Lying





"You can't fool all the people all the time. But you can try. It's called advertising." 

Banksy 


“Advertising - A judicious mixture of flattery and threats.”  

Stephen Leacock 


“Marketing is what you do when your product is no good.”  

Edwin H. Land


"Advertising is legalized lying."   

 H.G. Wells 




September 28, 2017

Simple Living, Or Poverty?



Consumerism is about making ones self appear “successful” in other people’s eyes. The more stuff you have, the better the reputation. That is what happens when a culture worships material wealth over everything else.

This can lead to a lot of dissatisfaction if one is not able to attain all the trappings required to meet the requirements for this narrow view of what a successful life should look like. Dissatisfaction is a form of pain, of mental illness.

This leads to not only to environmental degradation, but also to much human suffering. We work ourselves to death attempting to attain a certain standing in a sick system that cherishes all the wrong things. We worry about what others will think of us if we don't measure up.

What will people think if I don't have a new car, big house, high paying job, trophy vacations, the right clothes? The list goes on and on and on. The consumerism contest is a Sisyphean pursuit.

In a life of simplicity one can give up on all of that in order to focus on more important things, like finding out the reality of what we are, and why we are here. Instead of looking outward all the time, we have time to look inward in order to answer the important questions that have always challenged  non-distracted humans.

Are there, or have there ever been, any rich sages or mystics? Diogenes claimed he was happy living in his barrel, with his cloak, stick and bread bag.

“The Cynics emphasized that true happiness is not found in external advantages such as material luxury, political power, or good health. True happiness lies in not being dependent on such random and fleeting things.”
 - Jostein Gaardner


One reason I think that simplicity is not as popular as it should be, is because it may be hard for others to tell the difference between poverty and simplicity. Indeed, some call their simple lifestyle "voluntary poverty", not because they feel poor, but because that is what it looks like compared to more luxurious "normal" lifestyles.

What if others think I am poor? Most people would rather die than experience that outcome. But who would argue that it isn't better to be content than continuously striving for an unattainable, unnecessary, and environmentally destructive way of life?



September 25, 2017

Peace





If your peace can be broken, 
it is not 
the unshakeable peace 
you long for.



September 22, 2017

World Carfree Day



Yes, we live in a car dominated system. Yes, you may need a car as things are currently set up. But that doesn't mean we can't envision different, better ways of getting around that are less car focused. That is the idea behind World Carfree Day.

The following is from World Carfree Network:

Every year on or around 22 September, people from around the world get together in the streets, intersections, and neighbourhood blocks to remind the world that we don't have to accept our car-dominated society. 
But we do not want just one day of celebration and then a return to "normal" life. When people get out of their cars, they should stay out of their cars. It is up to us, it is up to our cities, and our governments to help create permanent change to benefit pedestrians, cyclists, and other people who do not drive cars. 
Let World Carfree Day be a showcase for just how our cities might look like, feel like, and sound like without cars…365 days a year. 
As the climate heats up, World Carfree Day is the perfect time to take the heat off the planet, and put it on city planners and politicians to give priority to cycling, walking and public transport, instead of to the automobile.

Cars may be necessary in our car-oriented culture. If they are, they are a necessary evil. They are loud, stinky, expensive, and a huge hassle to maintain. If one had a car, but reduced the number of voluntary, or "pleasure" drives, huge gains in a cleaner environment would result. The car owner would also save money, and possibly live longer.

Car travel is one of the most dangerous things that the average person does in any given day.

Annual Global Road Crash Statistics 
- Nearly 1.3 million people die in road crashes each year (90% of deaths are in low-medium income countries), on average 3,287 deaths a day. 
- An additional 20-50 million are injured or disabled. 
- More than half of all road traffic deaths occur among young adults ages 15-44. 
- Road traffic crashes rank as the 9th leading cause of death and account for 2.2% of all deaths globally.

Happy World Carfree Day. Let this be the beginning of our liberation from the tyranny of the personal automobile. Contrary to advertising hype, they are NOT "freedom machines".


Note: Happy Fall Equinox (northern hemisphere)/Spring Equinox (southern hemisphere). While the season shifts we are enjoying unseasonably warm temperatures in Nova Scotia. My acorn squash, beans, and peas started growing again, so it looks like the garden is not over yet.



September 20, 2017

What Will We Choose?

Door #1 - Pandemonium. Door #2 - Paradise.


In a hyper-consumer environment, any time we buy something we calculate how much money it will cost us. "How much will this cost me?" The only limits to purchase are dollars. If the consumer has money in the bank, or access to credit (increasingly the choice many make), the transaction takes place.

But wait. We fail to ask the most important question.

Where is the attempt to calculate the costs of the purchase to the greater environment? We should be asking,


"What is the ultimate cost to people and the planet for buying this service or item?"


I am convinced that most people do care about this, and will change their behaviour in compassionate ways when confronted with the facts (yes, I do believe those still exist).

Many Cassandras have been warning us of the final reckoning for the planet since industrialization and capitalist consumerism took over. They all come up with the same message - Earth can not afford these ways, and unless we change the way we do things, ecological collapse is the likely outcome. 

This was the conclusion of The Limits To Growth by Donella H. Meadows, in 1972. Unfortunately, it has been largely discredited since its publication, by pro-growth pressures, and we largely missed an opportunity to act.

Certain opportunist optimists would like us to believe that we are smart enough to transcend all limits to growth. But can we, really? Look at the results so far. From what I can see, not so good.

We have a simple and basic choice to make, as outlined in Limits To Growth so many years ago. Think of it as Red Pill/Blue Pill.

Or Door #1/Door #2.

Door #1 - If the trends in world population, industrialization, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on the planet will be reached sometime in the near future. 

Door #2 - Arrest growth trends and establish a condition of ecological and economic stability that is sustainable far into the future. The state of global equilibrium would be designed by the people, for the people. In such a system, the basic human rights and material needs of the whole human family are satisfied in environmentally sensitive ways.

What happened since this 1972 red flag? The infinite growth system became an unstoppable juggernaut. The planet lost, as did the majority of its people. However, Mother Nature does seem to be fighting back, and "" are "Pissed Off".

We need a new paradigm in order to slow, then reverse our current slow-motion collapse, and I don't think governments are the answer. Their track record is increasingly sketchy, too, just like their corporate friends.

I'll take what's behind Door #2, please. Let's at least try it. If it fails, then we can go back to greed, poverty, a lack of genuine freedom, and an increasingly hostile environment.

What are the true costs of our consumer habits? Each purchase we make is an opportunity to choose  between pandemonium, or paradise.





September 15, 2017

Nature Is My True Business




Like Henry David Thoreau turning his “face more exclusively to the woods”, I am better known amongst the trees around my home than among the folk of our nearest town.

To me, the woods are a locale of self-salvation. Here, surrounded by Nature, I find respite from the brutality of the human world. The woods are full of beauty and interest and mystery, and draw me in to the comforting embrace of friendly boughs and limbs.

Within the mystery of the woods, I am never afraid. I am where I belong, and I can feel it in every cell of my body.

Here, I am carrying out my true business - living without the silly self-imposed separations inherent in the human world. Buckminster Fuller called it “categoryitis”, and it is the great separator that prevents collective action toward our common challenges.

Fuller warned that our illogical obsession with questions like “What is your race”, or ”nationality”, or “religion”, or anything else that artificially separates us, will be our doom. “By the twenty-first century,” he said, “it either will have become evident to humanity that these questions are absurd and anti-evolutionary, or humans will no longer be living on Earth.”

No such separations exist in nature. Naturalist Hal Borland described perfectly when he said, “You can't be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion, or challenge the ideology of a violet.”

I love the simplicity of that state of being. In Nature, things just ARE. Why can't we be that way?

One day we will join together as One with, and in support of, Nature. When that happens, we will see Earth for what it was meant to be - our collective peaceful paradise.




September 11, 2017

Garlic Harvest

It's the last two weeks of summer, but the signs of fall are everywhere.

Our grassy field is turning brown, temperatures are cooling, and the hummingbirds are almost all gone. It can only mean one thing - harvest time. 


Freshly harvested garlic. We cured it outside and in the garage for two weeks.


One of the joys of this year's harvest has been our first ever crop of garlic. Our experiment was a success. The challenge now? Could I learn to braid it?



Hey, this isn't what the nice lady's braid looked like.


Linda and I watched a video posted by a woman that had been working on a garlic farm for decades and had probably done hundreds of braids in her day. She had prepared the scapes (stems) beforehand by soaking them in water to make them more pliable, and put together a beautiful braid in no time. It was hard work, even for her.



My messy twist of cured garlic.


Having watched one video once, I gathered together our cured garlic to try my hand at a new skill. It was fun to work with, but I did not soak the scapes first and it was amazing how tough they were to manipulate. But I persevered bravely, and attempted to organize the uncooperative stems into something both functional and beautiful.

I got functional, although garlic plants are inherently beautiful, so you can't really go wrong, even if they aren't perfectly put together.



Our first homegrown garlic, ready for eating.


After I was done I downgraded my description from "braid" to "weave".  Then maybe to "twisted"? Or "mangled"? But I did end up with a structure that had a handle on top, and all the garlic together so it can be hung.

Just a few more weeks and we will be planting next year's garlic plot. It will be the first using our own cloves. It will be another opportunity to perfect my braiding technique.




September 9, 2017

Emergency Solidarity



I have been watching footage from hurricane Harvey, starting in real time when the storm made land fall. In spite of the horror of the storm and ensuing fallout for the people of Houston, I saw more good news stories than I have in a long time. Emergency solidarity was everywhere.

I didn't have time to recover from my "bystander PTSD" from Harvey before Irma cranked up to a Category 5 storm. Now we are seeing emergency solidarity arising in Florida, and the Caribbean, and who knows where next. Such beauty in the face of overwhelming struggle and hardship.

Rebecca Solnit calls them "disaster communities" in her book, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster. They are groups of people that spontaneously come together in mutual aid and support in hard times.

“The map of utopias is cluttered nowadays with experiments by other names, and the very idea is expanding. It needs to open up a little more to contain disaster communities. These remarkable societies suggest that, just as many machines reset themselves to their original settings after a power outage, human beings reset themselves to something altruistic, communitarian, resourceful and imaginative after a disaster, that we revert to something we already know how to do. The possibility of paradise is already within us as a default setting.”  

- Rebecca Solnit


Emergencies wipe away all the artificial ways that we get separated from each other - there is no time for silliness like that. We are forced to face the simple facts of survival, and the outcome is cooperation and solidarity. Our true nature is revealed, and it looks much different than our selfishness-based economic system.

Emergencies blow away all considerations of race, gender, wealth, orientation, class, and religious or political affiliation, and we realize that we are all members of the same community. We are all part of the human community. 

Because we have been trained to think in self-serving, competitive ways in order to fulfill our role as cogs in the consumer machine, we are amazed at the outpouring of help from total strangers. All of a sudden people become much less materialistic. Who cares about stuff when you are thrilled just to be alive and feeling connected to something bigger than yourself?

Profit as a driving concept simply does not exist when we come together in a common cause, like a disaster. Quite the opposite - abundance rules the day. Just look at the tons of donations, the money that is donated, and the volunteerism that follows adversity. I didn't see any rescuers charging people to be rescued. Why not?

It seems that capitalism does have limits, and it dares not enter into disaster communities. If it did, it would seem exactly as it is - crass, self-serving, and opposite to our natural desire to work together with our neighbours for the betterment of our communities. For free.

What if every day life was as altruistic and cooperative as what occurs every time we are met with extraordinary, life-threatening circumstances? What if we were satisfied with the magic of being alive, and saw our stuff for what it really it - piles of distracting crap?

The way we come together in isolated emergencies the world over, is the way humanity needs to come together on a grand scale to ensure our collective survival on this planet. That is the big emergency that should unify us all.

When I see the resilience, love and hard work of helpers after disasters, I feel I am seeing the true nature of humanity. We can do this thing. We can make everything better. Together. It is our default setting.



September 6, 2017

Getting Off Mechanical Time

Grandma had a Cronos clock on her mantelpiece - tick-tick, tick-tick... Time passed more slowly there.


The clock is one of the oldest human inventions. It is also one of my least favourite.

I have always dreaded the tiny tick of gears and whirring mechanisms, as well as the glow of digital time lords. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in my grandmother's neat and orderly living room. The only sound was the tick-tick of the clock on the mantelpiece. Wanting to be playing outside, a second passed in that living room much slower than a second running around out in the cool air of the yard.

For as long as I remember I have been trying to rip the hands off the time tyrant's mechanized time-bots. I am not built to live according to mechanically measured minutes. I am not a machine - I am an animal. I would rather rely on the internal biological clock, and the cues that nature constantly gives us.


"The mechanical clock dates from the 14th Century... The machine that mechanized time did more than regulate the activities of the day: it synchronized human reactions, not with the rising and setting sun but with the indicated movements of the clock's hands: so it brought exact measurement and temporal control into every activity, by setting an independent standard whereby the whole day could be laid out and subdivided. 
"The measurement of space and time became an integral part of the system of control that Western civilization spread over the planet.
- Lewis Mumford


Culturally, there are many, many different ways that humans experience time. Most are very different from our artificial and imposed time structure. My own belief is that things will happen when they need to happen. You can't organize a modern, capitalist organization with this particular view of time? Oh well.

Nature operates off the clock, the movement of celestial bodies probably being the closest thing to a mechanized, dependable schedule. Otherwise, things happen when they happen, without measured time. And it all seems to turn out fine.

What a joy to sleep when tired, and eat when hungry. We have dropped the usual designations for meals, because what do you really call it when you eat breakfast at 4:30 pm?

Now we just call them all "meals", or if we need to distinguish one from the other, "meal one", "meal two", and (if necessary), "meal three".

I like not knowing what day of the week it is (that's right, I have a problem with calendars, too). Sometimes it gets so good that I lose track of the month, while being lost in just being. Amazingly, things continue to happen in a somewhat orderly, if unpredictable, manner.


"If victory over nature has been achieved in this age, then the nature over which modern humans reign is a very different nature from that in which humans lived before the science revolution. Indeed, the trick that humans turned and that enabled the rise of modern science was nothing less than the transformation of nature and of their perception of reality. 
The paramount change that took place in the mental life of people, beginning during roughly the 14th Century, was in our perception of time and consequently of space."

- Joseph Weizenbaum


It is good to discover the joys of living an unmeasured life free from the endless sweep of Cronos' influence. Off the clock, time is no longer a destructive, all-devouring force. Rather than moving through fragmented time segments, like an endless staircase that only goes in one direction (toward death), one moves as if through a river.

Life flows effortlessly from one moment to the next. And the next...

To get off mechanical time is to free yourself to fully experience yourself as an integral part of the natural world. Beat the clock. Be free. Whenever possible.





September 3, 2017

The 0.14%

Never mind the 1% - we are the 0.14%. But unlike them, anyone can join us.


How many people know our planet is in peril? Of those, how many use that knowledge to change the way they live? Surely there must be many of us. No?

Dave Cohen at the Decline of the Empire website writes:

"There are roughly 7.2 billion humans on Earth, and, roughly speaking, about 10 million of them are painfully aware that Homo sapiens is destroying the biosphere, slowly on human time scales, but in no time at all on the geological time scale. (10 million is a very generous estimate.) 
Some of those exceptional people, a goodly portion of whom are working scientists, are actively opposing the ongoing destruction, though many are not. Rounding up, those 10 million souls represent approximately 0.14% of the entire human population. 
The other 99.86% are either actively destroying the biosphere, or indifferent to that lamentable trend (i.e., they are merely current or would-be "consumers" who are thus acquiescing in and contributing to the trend indirectly)."

What? 10 million on the entire globe? Wow. I hope he is widely underestimating. How can we fix something if we are not aware that this is a problem of our own making?

Are you part of the 0.14%? Have you changed your personal consumption habits according to your knowledge?




August 31, 2017

The Land Is Our Church




“The Creator gave to us all the living things so that we would know how to act. The natural world is our Bible; by watching the chipmunk and the meadowlark and even the tiniest flower we learn the lessons that the Creator has put before us. Everything is sacred. This very land is our church.”

- Chief Fools Crow of the Oglala Lakota





August 30, 2017

Motor Vehicles - Ecocidal Agents of Destruction




Road kill. We say it without really thinking about it. Trillions of deaths annually are seen as unavoidable collateral damage, simply so we can go places faster and more conveniently.

I have been around cars for my entire life. During that time I have often thought about all the wildlife killed by cars every year.  The windshield alone is a speeding zone of death, evidenced by the ample bug stuff splattered everywhere after a road trip. What a way to go.

Like most North Americans, I have a motor vehicle (a wheelchair accessible van). Unlike most, for the past few years it has been driven an average of about 1600 km (1000 miles). When I drive to the grocers, which is about the only time I drive lately, I am usually not driving fast enough to kill any bugs.

Going slow means there is lots of time to stop or manoeuvre around anything on the road, although ants are impossible to see from the driver's seat. Now I mostly kill things with the noxious fumes emanating from my tailpipe. That doesn't make me feel any better.

The forecast is for more cars in the future. Lots more. Perhaps up to a billion more, and enough new roads for all of them, that would circle the Earth 600 times. These vehicular ecocidal agents of destruction will have serious repercussions for wildlife globally.

“A recent paper by Canadian scientists suggests the upsurge in traffic could itself be responsible for the fall in insect numbers. After extrapolating data from a mile of highway in Ontario, researcher from Laurentian University calculated that hundreds of billions of pollinating insects were probably being killed by vehicles each year in North America.” - Source 

What would our transportation look like if we had reverence, compassion and care for all the other life that shares the planet with us? We can move toward this by staying closer to home, avoiding unnecessary trips, and when traveling, choosing less deadly forms of getting about, like cycling, walking, bus and train.

You can read more about the "highway holocaust" here. It might make you feel like leaving your car in the garage or driveway more often. We can help to radically reduce road kill.








August 27, 2017

Nature Abides

Trains ran on this abandoned line, from the 1800s until the 1990s. It linked the cities of Halifax and Yarmouth.

Nature has cycles. Things are born, live, and die, including civilized things such as train travel, which has been dieing a slow death in North America for decades. Through it all, nature abides.

Natural systems are the constant thread stitching together billions of years of Earth's development. It will probably continue for billions more, with us, or without us.

I am reminded of nature's cycles, and humans' path, every time I go for a bike ride on my local Rails to Trails route. For over 100 years, trains serviced the province of Nova Scotia, including a line to the southwest part of the province. It is this line that passes close to my home.

Since the 1990s the trains have been gone, and now it is a multi-use trail. The route passes through a rural area of farms, orchards and wood lots. It would be great if there were still trains here, although it is a great place for a long bike ride away from cars.

It is also great if you are interested in graphic examples of how nature endures our provocations, then carries on as if we were never around. All around are old farmsteads, abandoned, and being reclaimed by field and forest. They are both beautiful and melancholic at the same time.






Along this route one finds evidence that the area is in the later stages of development. Like me, the place is feeling its age.

The best economic conditions in the province were probably about the time it was a major wooden ship building centre. Steel hulled ships may have been good news for our forests, but they didn't do much for the economy here. The second smallest (and most beautiful) province in Canada has been coping ever since.

While other places today are facing similar conditions, Nova Scotia was over the hump long ago, which should make the people here well prepared for a future that will generally be less wealthy than the more lucrative past when resources were more plentiful and easily accessed.





The wooden ships are gone, the trains are gone, and many people are gone, too. One of the things this province is known for are its migrants going west to other provinces in search of work. In the past 5 years the county I live in has lost 4% of it population.

As you might surmise, the folks around here are indeed rugged and resourceful, by necessity. It is not hard to see the people here thriving in conditions more similar to the province's roots than more recent modern times.







I don't mind, coming from the west of Canada in areas that were growing at a frenzied rate. Such growth is a double edged sword. While it may be good for maintaining a certain standard of living, it is not so good for ones mental health if you are sensitive to the destruction that goes along with rapid growth.

I like life at a much slower, gentler pace, and Nova Scotia is all of that. Here, as I pass by the weathered wood siding, and rusty pump handles, I am reminded that civilizations have come to be, flourished, and are eventually swallowed by the deep sands. Or soil, or jungle, forest, or water. Gone, and that's ok.

We are not exceptional. We are not above the laws of Nature, no matter how much we deny them, or try to cheat our way out with technological saves. "And so it goes", as Kurt Vonnegut said.

Through it all, Nature abides. I find that uncomfortably comforting.




August 22, 2017

Putting The Sacred Back Into Nature

Experiencing the sacredness of nature can cause feelings of blessedness, joy, ecstasy, and serenity.

Humans have not always seen the natural world as a soul-less void passively existing to serve our needs and wants. At one time we knew that everything was alive, and crackled with life, magic, and soul. Trees, rocks, mountains, birds - every thing was sacred.

One of the beautiful things about believing in the sacredness of the Earth is that you don't see yourself as separate from it, and therefore hesitate to harm any part of it. The Earth does not belong to us. We belong to the Earth.

In the 1800s, Chief Seattle explained his peoples' take on this. He said, "Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people". That is certainly my personal experience when I interact with natural surroundings.

"How can other people not see this, feel this?" I wonder to myself. For me it is powerful and unmistakable. Everything, in my perception, is crackling with energy, magic, and life.



Being in touch with the power of nature can awaken us to the spiritual dimensions of our existence.

Take the "sacred" designation away and distinctly un-natural things happen. We think we can "own" nature. We think it is all inferior, dead, and put there for the sole use of humans. Where did the sacredness go? How did we lose such an important part of ourselves?

In the book, Ancient Wisdom for Modern Ignorance, Swami B. V. Tripurari gives one possible explanation of how we arrived at seeing an essentially dead environment made for our own benefit.

"Our present environmental crisis is in essence a spiritual crisis", he says. "We need only to look back to medieval Europe and the psychic revolution that vaulted Christianity to victory over paganism to find the spirit of the environmental crisis. 
Inhibitions to the exploitation of nature vanished as the Church took the "spirits" out of the trees, mountains, and seas. Christianity's ghost-busting theology made it possible for man to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects. 
It made nature man's monopoly. This materialist paradigm has dominated the modern world for last few centuries."

His solution? Put the sacred back into Nature. Give it the reverence it deserves, and see our selves as an integral part of the whole. Kind of like Chief Seattle was saying.

"The current deplorable environmental crisis demands a spiritual response", says Tripurari. "A fundamental reorientation of human consciousness, accompanied by action that is born out of inner commitment, is very much needed.”


Another special spot in my backyard woods. I look at the trees -  they look back at me. We are one.

Would you like to experience the sacred in nature more often and more powerfully? It is possible to learn to cultivate a relationship with nature that enhances our experiencing of the sacred. Such spiritual growth leads to positive change in our relationship with the Earth. We feel powerful, connected, at peace, and unafraid.

Putting The Sacred Back Into Nature

1. Find a special place in nature. How? Usually, such locations are not simply chosen, and rather, are revealed to us after a bit of a search. You will feel drawn to such a place. Allow yourself to listen to the call. Let it lead you. You will know, you will feel, when you have arrived.

2. If you are fortunate enough to find such a place, go there regularly, when called, or when the occasion requires it. In any case, go to the places that call you, and be open to their influence.

3. Repeated visits to special places help develop your sense of connection to nature. A special place could be in your backyard, your garden, a nearby park, a special tree, stream, hill or mountaintop. Visit at all times of the day, and in all seasons. Let yourself merge with it.

4. Meditating on the ceaseless rhythms and cycles of nature opens the gateway to sacred time vs clock time. Nature meditations allow one to touch eternity, and feel touched by it in turn.

5. The sacred is most powerfully available to us during times of transition -- sunrise, sunset, midday, phases of the moon, equinoxes and solstices. Take advantage of these moments, whether through cultural celebrations, or immersing yourself in a special spot.

6. Be alone, be still and silent. Silence is the key to opening a gateway into solitude and communion with the divine. Psychologist Clark Moustakas studied loneliness, and found that, “In absolute solitary moments, humans experience truth, beauty, nature, reverence, and humanity.”

7. Don't rush, be calm. These things take time. Insights will come when one is ready. But they will come, be assured.

When we are in intimate dialogue with nature, we can have powerful moments of insight and illumination. These moments are confirmations of our faith in the possibility of re-integration and wholeness, a confirmation of the healing process by which one can restore one’s relation to the world. 

When we feel the sacredness in nature, the meaning of human existence is revealed, even if it’s only for a moment. In these glimpses, we are put in profound contact with our own basic humanity and the nature of Being. We experience being part of the whole of nature.

Our individual being merges with the being of Earth. We are one.

It is this state that will change everything. Our actions become ones which honour nature, rather than exploit it and use it to satisfy our own greedy desires. We become sympathetic to the rocks and trees and air and water, because we see that they are us, and we are them.

This is the change in human consciousness that needs to happen in order for us to save the planet, and ourselves.




August 17, 2017

Rumi In The Woods



There is an old cabin in the woods in my back yard. I have hiked, or snowshoed, to it many times, but on my last walk in the woods I looked at it differently. Is it possible it looked more tranquil and appealing than ever before? 

Who doesn't want to run away to a cabin in the woods? Maybe its me and my love of the simple life, but a cabin next to a small brook and surrounded by a vast forest sounds pretty good right now. 

I imagine myself living here from day to day, hauling water, cooking over a fire, tending a small garden. Meditating. Sleeping. Blissing out on Nature. And reading. 

I would definitely have some Jalalud’din Rumi in my sanctuary in the woods. This is a prefect setting for contemplating the deep insight of this 13th Century Persian Poet, better known simply as "Rumi". 



"My soul is from elsewhere - I’m sure of that. And I intend to end up there.”


"Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world… today I am wise so I am changing Myself."


"When you feel a peaceful joy, that’s when you are near the truth."


"What you seek is seeking you."


Away from the madness of material culture, and surrounded by Nature, I deepen my own insight, and tap into a peaceful joy. 



August 14, 2017

Hugs Not Thugs




Hugs are a good way to say "I love you" without saying, or buying, anything.



"Let's have a war on hugs", said no one ever. Doesn't everyone love hugs? Problem is, not enough hugs, and too many thugs.

Here's the right idea - a "Bliss Mob Hug Parade". Yes, it is a real thing.

Our problems run deep. Hugs alone won't fix them.

But hugs will definitely make things better. So let's do this thing. Hugs all around. More hugs will decrease the incidence of thuggery. It will prevent the formation of new thugs.

Hugs before we start the hard work before us. Hugs during the hard work that we will do to create a better world. And lots of celebratory hugs when we see the joyous outcomes as we journey together.




August 11, 2017

Millennials Not Buying It

There is a major cultural shift taking place. Goodbye Boomers, Hello Millennials.


Hooray for Millennials. They are making money-makers mad. Many individuals born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s to early 2000s are going off script. They aren't playing the game, and a variety of industries and products are feeling the pain of being left on the shelf.

There has been a culture shift quietly taking place in the most nonconformist generation since the hippy movement of the 60s. I am loving these Millennials, or "The Cheapest Generation", as frustrated sellers of stuff call them.

But the system should take notice - I don't think that ridicule and name calling will work this time.

Back in 1918, Nicholas Klein, a trade unionist, stated "First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you." If the Millennials continue their game changing ways, and don't start buying and doing what they are suppose to, expect the attacks against them to ramp up.

"The least useful generation in America" aren't buying the dismal consumerism life that has been offered up for decades now. They see where that got their parents - debt, stagnant pay, depression, and struggling to raise a family on two wages. They see what the system has done to our planet. They were raised in an era of perpetual war.

Consumerist capitalism has infected everything. We live in a excessively wasteful, throw-away world. Disposable income, disposable products, disposable people. Waste defines our grotesque wealth.

Understandably, many of the young are not big fans of capitalism, with 42 percent of Millennials favouring a more people-centered approach. No wonder the establishment is in a huff, hurling insults such as "lazy", "high on self-esteem", and "entitled" at this recalcitrant cohort.

Get used to it. This group wants experiences that are more authentic, and less reliant on the Big Corp/Big Government cabal. This cultural shift is another nail in the coffin of a way of life that has been unsustainable from the beginning.



Things Millennials Aren't Buying


- car and home ownership

- uninspiring wage-slave jobs

- ownership (why own something when you can rent it?)

- bosses that use fear as a management strategy

- golf

- TV

- Mainstream Beer

- Big box stores

- Children

- Anything their parents tell them to buy



This is the most hope I have had in a generation since the Gen X slackers gave the finger to the mainstream. Having grown up through the Great Recession, Millennials are "an entire generation with permanently changed spending habits." Excellent.

It is good news that this group doesn't spend as freely as previous generations. Nor should they, unless they want to keep the whole Ponzi scheme going. And they don't. Is it because of financial constraints, or is this the generation that will embrace more sensible DIY frugal simple lifestyles? Will there be monuments to Millennials in the future? Time will tell.

I do hope it is true that Millenials are"ready to fight—to do whatever it takes". I hope they are truly  "not afraid”, and that that they go down in history as the generation that restored some sanity to a consumer culture gone mad.

If not them, who? If not now, when?






August 9, 2017

Simple Living Advice

Think. Ask questions. Learn. Answers follow. Take action. Repeat.


A big thank you to everyone that responded to my last post with advise for NBA reader, Hagan, who is looking to break out of the 9 to 5 and live a more adventurous and free life on the road. It has turned out to be one of my favourite comment threads of all time on our blog.

The responses are great for anyone pursuing alternative ways of living, and who isn't these days? Following the comments, and thinking about Hagan's 23 year old thoughts, has me thinking a lot about my own path, 33 years advanced from his position.

Whenever I am pondering something, patterns become apparent, and information presents itself at precisely the right time. For example, I was reading at the Down To Earth blog. I find that we are often on the same page, and this time was no different.

On her most recent post Rhonda Jean wrote:

"I think simple life is a safe haven for those of us who refuse to be dumbed down and who want to continue learning and developing ourselves all through life.
The choices are key here. Instead of following a straight and monotonous "normal" path, we can step away from that to embrace learning, independence, daily contemplation, critical thinking and individual choice. Sometimes we take the easy path, sometimes the difficult one and each day, small step by small step we move through life. 
There are times when we stop and reevaluate what we're doing, sometimes small adjustments or huge leaps are made but if we resist the noise of modern life and stay focused on our own life being a work in progress, then these periods of adjustment help us continue along the road less travelled."

I thought of Hagan, because like the comments posted here, these are words to live by, words that I have lived by. It reminded me that there are no simple answers, no one size fits all response when it comes to thinking about how we should best live this precious, precious life we have been given.

Having said that, one can't go wrong by advising a life of simplicity centred on continuous learning and self-improvement. It seems that if one focuses on that, the rest will fall into place.

Again, thank you to NBA commenters that have shared their wise thoughts with us. I do hope that Hagan has seen your kind words.

You can read the post and comments here. And if you haven't already, do consider leaving a comment of your own.







August 2, 2017

Conflicted

Stick your finger in the map - it smells of the open road. 


Do you yearn for a life on the road? Or a simple life, anywhere? Does thinking about the 9 to 5 make you nauseous? Need more than a mainstream life of conformist mediocrity?

NBA reader Hagan is feeling the disappointment of mainstream life. Like many of us, he is not feeling spiritually enlightened by materialism and the work-shop-work cycle. He left a comment on our post called Rubber Tramping.

Hagan said,

I am feeling so conflicted. I have been spending the last almost 2 years, waiting, pacing back and forth. Figuratively speaking; I've been banging my head against a wall because I don't want to live a 9 to 5 lifestyle. 
I feel stuck. I feel decompressed and restricted. I am a decently talented artist/ musician who has lived the same place in Colorado my entire almost 23 years of life. And I don't think I will be able to just.. be. 
Ever. Not like this. 
I'm asking you all for advice. How do you make a living on the road.? I've talked with good friends about this topic and a lot say spanging, wire wraps, jewellery, all the way to selling dollar beers, and grilled cheeses at music festivals. 
Please give me insight if you could as I am in need of all the advice I can find.

I responded,

Hagan,
I have been thinking about your comment since you left it here. I, and many people that visit this blog, know how you feel. Your need for freedom is palpable, and it is serious. 
You must act. 
I don't know about making a living on the road, having never had to do it before. But I do know a bit about living with as little as possible so I can be as free as possible, both on the road, and off. 
Cut your expenses, and make the life you envision happen. It will be hard, and at times scary. But it absolutely can be done. And should be done. A life of conformist mediocrity is a hard row to hoe as well, so you might as well be free. 
Be free. Do whatever it takes. That is my only advise. And let us know how it goes.


That doesn't seem like much help to this young, suffering soul, but it is a complicated situation. Pretty much everything in our way of life is meant to stifle freedom, not augment it. You will work for us. You will give us your hard earned cash in exchange for trinkets and distractions.

Obey. Conform. Wanting a simpler life and more freedom seems like a natural reaction to an un-natural exploitive system. I think Hagan is on the right path.

My own quest for simplicity has been a decades long adventure. But I do remember feeling similar feelings when I was 23. There has never been a time in my life that I envisioned doing the same things as everyone else around me. I wanted to find, and take, the road less traveled.

Regular life is not for everyone. Maybe a life such as what we have for the masses today is not for anyone. Now seems like a great time to explore alternatives, on the road, or off the road. Anywhere.

Rubber tramping. Leather tramping. Tramping. Being free. Being.

Do you have any advice for Hagan, or others (young or old) looking to live more simply and with greater freedom? How does one get off the 9 to 5? How do we break free of the chains of mainstream culture and the consumer capitalist system?




July 30, 2017

Things Are Falling Into Place



Everything seems to be falling apart. Nothing is working the way it should, and the future looks bleak. But what if current conditions are necessary pre-cursors to the changes that we wish to see?

More than likely it will take something of the magnitude of a political Fukushima, like the threat of fascism or neo-feudalism, to shock citizens into much-needed action.

Therefore, the current most powerful man in the world might be an unpleasant, but necessary, bit of fire starter under the complacent tinder that has built up over the decades of inaction on the part of the people.

Even with the MSM trying to scrub the news of any real meaning, some truths manage to sneak through occasionally, and more and more people are starting to take notice. For those that are paying attention, it is evident that things are crumbling.

At the same time, things are falling into place.

Personally, locally, nationally and globally an awareness of the need for change is exploding. Don't look for government or corporate leadership here - this change, like all lasting change for good, comes from the people. And it is happening.

The citizens of Earth bear a terrific responsibility. Now is the time to accept it and move forward with passion and collective action.

Are things falling apart, or are things falling into place?

Time will tell.




July 27, 2017

Cathedrals of Consumerism Losing Their Congregations

Is this the beginning of the end of consumerism?

I never did like shopping malls much. Therefore, now that they are an endangered species, I am not mourning, despite having a twinge of nostalgia when I think about them.

"Corridor of nothing."

When I was a young dungaree-wearing hooligan, my friends and I would congregate at the new mall in my hometown for "something to do". But then, as now, I was not buying anything. It was more about the social aspect, and staying one step ahead of mall security.

 “Two million square feet of echo.”

Because malls were for shopping, not loitering. Not buying anything? Get out. What a difference a few decades make - now hardly anyone is buying anything at the mall.

Besides nostalgia, I find malls fascinating from a ghost town perspective. There is something to be learned from our futile failed experiments, including this one, that started with the first mall in the 1950s. I consider it a good thing that our cathedrals of consumerism are finally losing their congregations.

"Almost one-fifth of the nation’s enclosed malls have vacancy rates considered troubling by real estate experts — 10 percent or greater. Over 3 percent of malls are considered to be dying — with 40 percent vacancies or higher. That is up from less than 1 percent in 2006." - NYT 


I wish the demise of the mall was because we have decided that overconsumption is so, like, 80s, and we are moving on to a more ecologically aware way of living. Maybe it is. We are going through monumental changes right now when it comes to shopping and our relationship with materialism. We know that the priests of commerce lied, and that salvation can not be bought at the mall. Or anywhere else.

“There’s no customers, but they have a customer-service desk”


Are shopping malls endangered because their parents, consumerism and institutionalized greed, are themselves endangered species? Is humanity, dare I say, evolving into an eco-consciousness the likes of which we have not experienced for a very long time? Dream big, I say.

Goodbye, malls. I won't miss you, or any of that stuff that I didn't buy. Don't worry, it's not you, it's us.


A report issued by Credit Suisse in June predicted that 20 to 25 percent of the more than 1,000 existing enclosed malls in America will close in the next five years.


July 23, 2017

En-laughter-ment

Warning: consumerism will not lead to enlightenment.


I am having a bit of a Zen moment lately here on NBA. My last post on Zen Kitties elicited this response from Sophie:

"I wish I had read this wonderful post BEFORE I cleaned the cats' litter box! This gave me a much-needed laugh today."

Reading Sophie's comment led me to think more about Zen and laughter.




Often Linda gives me cause to spontaneously erupt in a belly laugh. She is a very witty person with a wicked sense of humour, one reason I love her so. She is my laughter guru.

In these moments it feels like a window on the Infinite has been thrown open. A brief moment of enlightenment, ala Sosan, the third Chinese patriarch of Zen. He would "awaken" his students with unexpected loud noises, but it seems to me that anything jarring that surprises you could put one in a receptive state.





For me, that is stealth humour where I am caught unaware, and am laughing joyously before I even know I am laughing. In that space I am grounded, centred and present.

In that moment I am one with Linda, with humour, with my environment, and with a very delightful (and often funny) Universe. Even if only for a brief moment, it feels wonderful with all barriers and separations dissolved.






I hope this blog can keep Sophie, and all NBA readers, laughing from time to time with zingers that come out of nowhere.

Clang! There it is - en-laughter-ment.

Other things that I have found that lead me to moments of clarity include the practices of: love, compassion, humility, forgiveness, making music, helping others, and living simply. I wish to share those here as well.

And all the while laughter, as we progress together. Ha, ha, ha. Ho, ho, ho. Hee, hee, hee. You can not possibly have too much laughter.










July 19, 2017

Kitty Mandalas





“You suffer because things are impermanent and you think they are permanent.” 
- Thich Nhat Hanh

I will meditate on this, the next time I wipe my garden clean of kitty "art". Every experience can be seen as an opportunity for learning and growing, if only we are patient, compassionate, and open-minded.

I will call it, "Zen and The Art Of Garden Maintenance".




July 18, 2017

My Empire Of Rocky Soil Under Attack

Our first ever garlic is looking good.

This is it - my summer domain, my playpen, my 8X16 Empire of Rocky Soil. And, as it turns out, my giant litter box.

In the spring, while seeds of peas and beans and acorn squash and such were germinating, what I mostly harvested from my vast track of land, was kale from a second year plant (they are biannual), and cat poop.


Acorn squash flowers are big and bold.

Every morning I went out to collect some kale for a green smoothie (not a brown smoothie), I would also find a smelly gift from a neighbourhood feline. Maybe it was a bobcat, which are common in Nova Scotia, but rarely seen. Either way, poop is poop, and it does not belong where I am growing things to ingest.

While cat droppings contain nitrogen, phosphate and potash, which are all primary ingredients of organic fertilizers, they also contain organisms such as the toxoplasmosis protozoa, and that can make you sick. They are little toxic bombs, and they have to go.


Pole beans are climbing the tripod I made out of sticks from the forest.

I had to defend my borders. I crisscrossed sticks between the seedlings. I kept the soil wet. After reading that cats don't like strong smells where they do their business, I spread bits of orange peel. I didn't want to go to the nuclear option of sitting out all night with a spray bottle of ice cold water. Or giant cymbals.


It won't be long before fresh peas are on the menu.

The deposits dropped in number, but still continued, as did my ritual of cutting kale, then searching for land mines. What did work, in the end, was having the garden fill in. The cat (or cats) have been crowded out, and moved on to a better box somewhere else.


Beans are just flowering now.

Now I wait for the next interlopers, perhaps some hungry caterpillars, or cucumber beetles, or powdery mildew. While the cats have given me a chance to pause for a while, and let my defences down, I must stay alert in order to (organically) guard the food growing in my little rocky domain.







July 14, 2017

Frugal Living vs Extreme Frugal Living

Frugal living - making beans on the stove top. Extreme frugal living - making beans in a heatless cooker.



One search phrase that leads many readers to this blog is "extreme frugal living". I am not sure that is what I am doing here, but it is alright with me to be associated with such a concept. I am happy to have visitors that are looking to become more efficient in their use of Earth's gifts.

It is not surprising to me - everything has to be "extreme" these days in order to capture people's attention. The unwritten motto is, "Anything worth doing, is worth doing to the extreme". So you get extreme pretty much anything.

I am not sure what the exact difference is between frugal living and extreme frugal living, except the later must somehow be more frugal than the former. Maybe it is an ego/competition thing.

"I am frugaler than you are."

"No way, dude. I am the frugalist."

Frugality kind of seems like being pregnant. Either you are, or you aren't. However, it is hard to fault someone for wanting to continually improve their practice of living more lightly on this planet.

In trying to understand what separates the merely frugal from the more extreme variety, I share a few ideas that came to mind.


Frugal living is cutting your own hair.

Extreme frugal living is cutting your wife's hair.


Frugal living is buying discounted food.

Extreme frugal living is dumpster diving.


Frugal living is biking everywhere.

Extreme frugal living is walking everywhere (or deciding that there is nowhere to go because you are already where you need to be).


Frugal living is sleeping in a van.

Extreme frugal living is sleeping in a box car.


Frugal living is wearing the same clothes for a year.

Extreme frugal living is wearing the same cloths till they are threadbare, then making paper out of them.


Is it frugal living, or extreme frugal living? Or just being sensible? It depends on who you ask. Plus, what used to be the way we did things has become the new frugal as we adopt increasingly luxurious ways of living.

Darning socks? Once common, now frugal. Or even extremely frugal.

Either way, the more careful we are about spending money or using resources when not needed, the better it is for everyone.





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