the simple minded suburbanite


#5 Meditation. 5 Transcendent Principles
February 21, 2012, 2:20 pm
Filed under: authenticity, voluntary simplicity | Tags: ,

“Meditation is probably the only activity that doesn’t add anything to the picture.  You might say this is setting ourselves a task that is almost impossible.  Maybe this is true.  But on the other hand, the more we sit with this impossiblity, the more we find it’s always possible after all.”  Pema Chodrom When Things Fall Apart 5 trancendent principles

We are here.  That’s all I have to say.

Except, do you meditate?  Any thoughts on the act?



#4. Exertion. 5 Transcendent Principles.

“You’d rather stay in that cozy bed, but you jump out and make the fire because the brightness of the day in front of you  is bigger than staying in bed.  The more we connect with a bigger perspective, the more we connect with energetic joy.”  Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart.  5 Transcendent Actions

I’ve experienced both sides of this. Mornings when I haul myself to yoga despite being called to the couch.  Days when I tap away at the computer, wipe the counters, prepare the meal.  The exertion put forth brings me peace and I believe it creates peace for others, as well; connects me to the larger principles:  self, health, expression of talent, home, family.  And I’ve had days that I put forth little in the name of “fatigue” and feel nothing at the end of the day, as a result: even more sluggish, restless, frustrated.

There’s holy in my actions, and yours too, if our actions stay connected to the greater principles of our lives.  This is at the core of voluntary simplicity.  It is not “how can I do less?”, rather, “how can I do more that connects to peace, my own truth, and the overall collective wisdom?” Sometimes that means doing less.  Sometimes that means doing more.

I’d love hear about how you might “exert yourself” in the direction of your goals, passions, truth.



#3 Discipline 5 Trancendent Principles
February 17, 2012, 1:52 pm
Filed under: time management, voluntary simplicity | Tags:

“What we discipline is any form of  potential escape from reality…  It’s not the same as being told not to enjou anything pleasurable or to control ourselves at any cost.  Instead, discipline provides the encouragement that allows us to let go.  It’s a sort of undoing process that supports us in going against the grain of our painful habitual patterns.”  Pema Chodron When Things Fall Apart 5 Transcendent Principles

When my kids were toddlers they demanded my every second, and fraction of one.  I often had the three of them competing for the fraction of that second, as well as competing with the dog, a phone, a boiling pot of noodles, and me remembering to brush my teeth.  I have joyful memories of those days paired with tightness in my chest (yes, possible and natural.)  Well, my kids quickly began to grow.  They began to entertain themselves with games of tag in the back yard, began to pick out their own clothes, and (the moment of relief!) pour their own cereal!  But my brain was still misfiring, looking for distractions, unable to formulate complete, seamless thoughts.  My kids were growing, my brain continued to shrivel.

I recall one of my first, small steps in brain recovery.  The kids played out back.  Dinner was in the crock pot.  The phone, silent.  I decided to sit down and read a chapter of my book…in the middle of the day!  I sat down, opened to my page and got back up.  Flipped the laundry.  Sat down, read a sentence or two and a half sentences and got back up. I had to pee.  Sat down again, got up to check on the kids.  “Anybody want an ice cream bar?”  I itched my nose, I turned on the light, I checked the mail, my email, the laundry.  I did not have the discipline to calm my mind, I had been so conditioned to function on blips.

May I say, this process of undoing, of letting go has taken me years and I’m not sure I’m even done yet.  I leave the house to work at least a day a week so that I don’t have to contend with the buzz of the dryer’s completed cycle.  I allow thoughts of “lazy”, “unimportant”, “not urgent”, to come into my head but then I gently usher them out.  It took discipline to complete a single paragraph without stopping to look up or shift.  It took discipline to not interrupt the flow of my satisfying work day to lunch with the ladies.  It took discipline to go from writing for one hour a day to working 5-7 days a week, ignoring much of the superfluous to attend to my dreams and desire to do something with my life.  It still takes discipline but, discipline that is gently, that sets a structure but is forgiving within that structure.  Discipline to sit still.  Discipline to be and forgive and be present.

I’m off for a walk now, disciplining myself to exercise 3-5 times a week in whatever way that strikes me (yoga one day, a walk, a bike ride with the kids).  Discipline with flexibility.  Dinner is in the crock pot. Wait, did I turn on the crock pot?

Please share storied of compassionate self discipline.



#2 Patience. 5 Transcendent Principles
February 16, 2012, 1:29 pm
Filed under: authenticity, suburban, voluntary simplicity | Tags: ,

“The opposite of patience is aggression_-the desire to jump and move, to push against our lives, to try to fill up space…sitting there, standing there, we can allow the space for the usual habitual thing not to happen.”  Pema Chodron When Things Fall Apart. 5 transcendent principles.

This is tough for me.  I am a woman of action.  I was taught to act, exert, and take control yet I have learned, in my darkest of hours, to sit and just be.

I recently had a devastating thing happen.  Someone I love made some serious accusations, ones that cut to my heart, caused (and still causes) pain and confusion.  My initial thought was to respond, act, prove against, defend, convince but instead I drew in.  I chose quiet.  I chose meditation.  I chose patience and trust in the universe and the goodness of all things and openness to the answers that would come to me.  I was patient with myself and the process.

Unfortunately, the persons who started the chain of events did not take kindly.  They chose to “fill up the space” with aggression, further accusations, perceptions, and action.  Again, I found myself wanting to respond, release poison at the injustice, the loose logic, their egoic untruth.  Instead, I chose no response and tried (and keep trying) to avoid judgement.  I was, again, patient with the process, patient and respectful of where my soul needed to be in order to stay open, receive, and heal.  I am on a journey to extending that same patience to them, have trust in their process and their own healing that brought them to this place of need.

It is not easy to sit here.  Sitting does not mean in-action or passivity.  It means that I cannot control all things, fix all injustices, mend all personal wounds.  It does mean that I am patient enough to receive the healing, the good that should come from this,  the falling away of scabs.  I am not allowing the usual things to happen.  I am making room for the unusual, the divine, the unexpected.  I am saying to the universe, “Surprise me!”

How do you gently deny the urge to fill up a space?



#1. Generosity. 5 Transcendent Principles
February 15, 2012, 1:27 pm
Filed under: authenticity, culture, gratitude, suburban, voluntary simplicity | Tags: ,

“…we find fundamental richness everywhere.  It is not ours or theirs but is available always to everyone. ..this wealth is the nature of everything.  It is like the sun in that it shines on everyone without discrimination.  It is like a mirror in that it is will to reflect anything without accepting or rejecting.”  Pema Chodrom, When Things Fall Apart.  5 Transcendent Principles

We give away old clothes, spare change, food.  We share time, our stories, our pain.  But to truly be generous we have to give what we most want to hold on to.

I had lunch yesterday with some acquaintances.  Lovely ladies, loads of fun.  As the lunch progressed, I noticed a pattern in the conversation.  Whenever a subject was brought to me to speak about, “How is your work?”  “Where are you going for spring break?” “How are the kids?”, one woman could barely wait for me to finish my sentence before she would jump in, “We’re going to Costa Rica.  We’ve been to Austin.  I am so busy with tennis.  Lilly is doing so great in school.  Fantastic grades!  Ryan is playing traveling baseball.”  And on, and on.

I began to question myself.  Was I boring?  Do I brag or ramble on too long?  Have I somehow challenged this woman?  Maybe she really doesn’t like me and doesn’t really care what is going on with me (can I say that we had already spent much time talking about her, as well as catching up with everyone else around the table.).  I decided that none of this mattered:  my hurt feelings, my egoic need to share what was going on with me, my perception of the situation.  Instead, I decided, the only thing I knew for sure was that this woman had a need to talk about herself and did so in place of listening to anything about me.  Fact.  No judgement.

I turned my body in my chair toward her.  I leaned my elbow on the table.  I nodded.  I asked questions.  I confirmed.  “I’ve heard wonderful things about Costa Rica.  You’ve been there before, haven’t you?  What do you like about it?…You must be so proud of Ryan. I bet it is a challenge for him and fun for your family to travel with a group of fun parents and kids.”  Generosity.  Generosity despite having an urge to push up against.  Generosity to give something to someone despite having my own need to be received.  I truly took an interest.  It was not false.  It was not pitying.  I opened my heart and my ears to her and accepted the situation as it was and felt I had a much more rounded experience at lunch after I gave her what she desired than I had while I was trying to get a word in edgewise.  It felt even better than paying for her lunch because I gave of myself and gave her what she deeply needed and it took nothing away from the fundamental richness of the world around me.  It’s all still there.

Have you ever given something very difficult for you to give and found that you didn’t end up missing it?



“Dreamers Are Gluttons…
February 14, 2012, 3:34 pm
Filed under: authenticity, culture, suburban, voluntary simplicity | Tags: , ,

…and only lazybones invent labor saving devices.”  A passage I came across written by Gunter Grass in the classic, The Tin Drum.  It struck me and I found myself arguing with its logic, since a dreamer is what I fancy myself.  Arguing against is a sure sign that there is some personal truth contained in the words.  Are dreamers gluttons?  At first, I say, “no.”

I imagine artists living on spartan farmettes on the outskirts of town.  I think of poets, writers in one-room flats.  Thoreau, Emerson lived simply and connected greatly to nature.  Starving for their craft.  Living on minimal sustenance.

But now, as I think deeper into the meaning of gluttony, I think maybe, “yes.”  Gluttony in the form of consumption, the greedy need to be filled to overflowing to the point of perhaps taking from someone else.  When I think of Picasso who spent every waking moment painting, sketching to the detriment of family life, friendship, personal reflection. The prolific writers who walked the streets of Paris, observed life with only a writer’s mind, who befriended other like-minded artists and devoured the self of many a lover.  Gluttonous.  They consumed the hours of each day with the ravenous orifice of their art.  It was their genius they fed, their dreams.

Don’t all we dreamers envision days on end at the piano while the dishes pile high in the sink and the kids play, filthy on the lawn?  Dream of days with a behaggled maid to sweep up our messes and keep visitors at bay while we scratch away with feather quill at our paper strewn desk.  Dream of being consumed by our passions and feeding only on that feeds our hungry soul?  Our desires.

And don’t we all have to fight that monster, us dreamers?  Keep the children clean and feeling loved.  Lunch with friends.  Listen, empathetically, to our spouse.  Make the beds.  Go to work.  Wash our hair.

And don’t all of us dreamers think of ways to save time, save labor, save energy and space to create it, however small, for our passions?  A nook, a pillow propped on the bed, twenty minutes of solitude on a Sunday morning.

Dreamers, I believe, are gluttons.  We love a feast.  We can lull about the table of desire.  And yet, we always are able to stay hungry.

Bottoms up to us, dreamers.



“Only Stupid People are Bored”
January 20, 2012, 4:28 pm
Filed under: achievement, culture, suburban, time management | Tags:

A phrase for which I would like to thank my friend, Emily’s, mother.  She would say it to a young Emily and her young brother, in her native Spanish tongue, whenever they complained of being bored.  I find myself dying to repeat the phrase to many a suburban housewife whose children have gone off to school full time, whose husband drones away at work, whose rooms are completely decorated.  They say the phrase, “I’m bored,” in their native suburban tongue.  They say things like: “I need to find something to do,”  “I go back to bed after I get the kids on the bus,”  “Do you want to come over for ‘The Bachelor’  viewing party on Tuesday night?” or (the worst) “I’m so busy doing nothing!”  Listen, we’ve all muttered things like this on occasion.  We all have to shift things up as our families grow, our lives change.  We all wonder about our purpose in life.  But, it seems to me it’s the same people saying the same thing time after time again.  And it boils down to one question for me:

“How many times are you going to ask that question, allow yourself to drift, before you do something, no matter how small, about it?”

Look.  Stupid people don’t always realize that they’re being stupid (that’s what makes them so).  And smart people can do stupid things.  I laugh inside everytime I think of Emily’s mom’s phrase.  Not in a judging way (well, most of the time) because I’ve added:

“Only stupid people are bored, and you’re not stupid.”  So, find something meaningful because in a world of possibilities, if you don’t do something, anything, that’s just plain dumb.

 




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