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?


#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.

Vision Boarding…online
January 11, 2012, 4:07 pm
Filed under: achievement, authenticity, voluntary simplicity | Tags:

As we enter 2012, most are reminded of setting goals and leading a life closer to our vision.  Vision boards (or collages of your dreams, aspirations, identity) are a great way to visually express your goals.  I found a cool, free online “vision board” of sorts that helps you interactively set your goals, monitor your progress, and GROW!  Check it out:  It’s fun!  A great way to simplify your time to include what is truly important.

Simpler, does it mean “tougher”?

Real Simple Magazine has been bugging me.  I should like it right?  I should flip its pages and “voila!” I am inspired.  So why do I always leave it on its shelf opting not to read the pictorial comparing the best bristle cleaning brushes?  And why, when I looked at Wanda Urbanska’s links to simple living did I feel that same, “not today,” reaction?  Really, the only thing I could relate to was a video clip on how to make homemade mozzarella cheese( ) and that was only because a neighbor who has really gotten into the farm to table thing thought it would be fun to make a batch for our neighbors last Christmas.  So we did. (I clearly wasn’t practicing my “just say no” approach to simple living!)

Am I the only one who has been feeling that this simplicity thing is becoming really complicated?  To be simple, do I need to keep my own chickens and gather my own fresh eggs?  Do I need to concoct my own cleaning products from a circa 1992 Summer’s Eve and the bark of an Elder tree?  Do I really need to knit my underwear from the dog hairs I sweep up off my hardwood floors?

Why is it that when I seek simple inspiration, I wind up feeling like I should be picking feathers out of my buffalo wings and that I spent too much time shaving my armpits this week?

Let us not forget (that is, let ME not forget) that simpler is better.  That we simplify so that we have time to focus on what is important to us.  Let us not let other people, companies, groups, publications, products, etc decide what simplicity is for us.  Keep this in mind when all you want to do is simply page through a magazine, “You don’t have to put it in your cart!”

The Race
August 31, 2011, 4:25 pm
Filed under: achievement, authenticity, parenting, suburban | Tags:

I don’t know about you, but I often find myself out of breath mostly figuratively, but sometimes literally.  One such literal time was last January when my friend and I tried running.  I sucked.  My hips and knees throbbed with pain I had never felt before.  I was discouraged and de-motivated.  I’d never run a race.  I’d never cross the finish line.  What the f—??  I realized, through talking to other running friends that where potential solutions:  I could try a different pair of shoes, run on a different surface, or see a trainer.  Part of me was like, Really?  That sounds like alot of crap just to go out and run.  The other part of me was like, I’m gonna do it!  My body isn’t going to tell me that I can’t run!!

Well, I haven’t gone back to it and I find myself saying three things to myself since January:

1.) I’m a “the other word for kitty cat”.

1.) It’s not my time to focus on running.

2.) or, running isn’t very important to me or I would’ve found a way to do it.

Or maybe it’s not the running, maybe it’s the racing.  I’m just as happy on a walk.  When running, I focused on deep inhalation and long exhalation.  I focused on true heel strikes and lengthy strides and form.  Never once did a look over at my friend and question whether or not I had lapped her or she had lapped me (okay, maybe I did once.  Okay, twice).  But, overall running, just like yoga, or writing, or my life is mostly about my own experience.

Yes, in my life, I occasionally look over my shoulder to see if my neighbors, friends, or colleagues are lapping me.  I’m an American Girl, after all, and most certainly of the human condition.  But overall, I try to pace my own self on my own run, my own life.

This is why the movie Race to Nowhere has caught my eye.   It is about, quite simply, the stress kids are under to perform and achieve in school, and the high cost of that pressure.  Though I am nowhere near Tiger Mom proportions, I admit that when it comes to school, my kids are expected to do what it takes.  My middle and my little are still in elementary school, so not much of a big deal there, but with the older one…Yikes!  3 Accelerated classes, which he (which really means “we”) fought tooth and nail for every grade point last year.  He is, shall we say, “organizationally challenged.”  And it was many times last year, his first year at middle school, that I questioned if we were pushing too hard or not hard enough.

I’m taking my two older kids with me to the screening of the movie this fall.  I hope only to impart to my kids through this and many other actions that it is their form, their stride, and their breath that are most important to me not, by any means, the race. I do hope they find what makes them run but, they can travel another path, find their own inspirtation which leads to motivation and they don’t have to sacrifice their body, spirit, and balance to be the first to cross a finish line that only keeps moving, moving, moving beyond where your feet have you at this precious moment in their unique life.

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