the simple minded suburbanite

#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.

“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.


Slow Living
October 12, 2011, 12:00 pm
Filed under: parenting, suburban, time management, voluntary simplicity | Tags: ,

KISS: Keeping it Simple, really Simple…
September 12, 2011, 9:58 pm
Filed under: budget, suburban, time management, voluntary simplicity

Been thinking a lot about my last post about simpler getting tougher.  I was thinking about if we can buy simplicity.  I was thinking about how when things have been “simplified”, other things bleed in and muck things up again.  I was thinking about what things I’ve purchased that truly make my life simpler and what things haven’t.  I was thinking of the business of simplicity.

I’ve decided to list a few things that I have that truly make things simpler for me, save me time, money, or keep me focused:

  • My Iphone.  I’ve found it to be worth every penny.  It helps me utilize my time efficiently, respond in real-time and eliminated the need for other products such as a GPS, paper planner, Ipod, camera, flip video.  My kids play chess, games, etc on it during long waits in waiting rooms ( I still keep portable board games and ask them to bring books along on long trips).  Note:  I fight the urge to check Facebook and LinkedIn every ten minutes.  And, to my kids horror, I have never played a SINGLE game on it.  I try to use it for efficiency, not as a time sucker.
  • Apple slicer.  I can core and slice an apple in seconds.  Snack?  a dollop of peanut butter and voila!
  • My cappuccino maker.  A Mother’s Day gift.  A basic, inexpensive brand saves me from driving through and spending $4 per cup.  By the way, it keeps me at home instead of creating the drive to “go out”, therefore making me more productive with work and home.
  •  Tweezers.  If I can stretch that trip to the waxer….you’d better believe it!  Let’s not even talk about the chin hair thing…
  • Keratin treatment.  NO!  I did not spend $495 on it!  I waited for a Groupon and got it for $95.  It has lasted close to 5 months and saved me hours of blow drying and straightening.  I also have skipped a haircut because me hair is much more manageable.  Please don’t email about the health implications!  I know!  I know!  Call Dr Drew on me!
  • Crock pot.  Love crockpot365!  Healthy, gluten-free recipes that I make at least once or twice a week.  She uses inexpensive ingredients and I double the recipes to freeze for later.  I use her blog but also decided to just buy the darn cook book for 60% off at our local Borders that is going out of business.  It is already way spattered and dog-eared.  Love it!
  • Baby carrots for kids lunches as well as individual packs of ranch dip.  If it keeps them eating their veggies….
  • Nice yoga pants.  Not the super expensive kind, but good quality, usually purchased on sale.  I’ve had the same pair for 4 years, no pilling, fading, and stretching in any of the wrong places.
  • Tretinoin.  I buckled.  I visited a dermatologist and got me some Retin A for “blemishes” aka: wrinkles!  It is expensive (about $50 a tube) but lasts for 2-3 months if used sparingly AND I don’t buy any other skin care products other than a drug store cleanser and moisturizer.
  • Battery operated doggy nail file.  Our old hound does not go to the groomers and I HATE to cut other’s nails (even my babies, that was my husband’s job).  I have a phobia about cutting and making their nails bleed.  So, this little gadget, though it does take more time than clipping, saves us from the groomers and makes everyone much more happy!
  • Food chopper.  Nuts, onions, celery.  Kids love to operate it.  Makes Christmas cookies a breeze.
  • Wireless printer.  Just press a button….

What are some products or services that make your life truly more simple?

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!”

Find a Middle Way

A qoute sent to me by a dear friend:

“Taking life seriously does not mean spending our whole lives meditating as if
we were living in the mountains in the Himalayas or in the old days in Tibet. In
the modern world, we have to work and earn our living, but we should not get
entangled in a nine-to-five existence, where we live without any view of the
deeper meaning of life. Our task is to strike a balance, to find a middle way,
to learn not to overstretch ourselves with extraneous activities and
preoccupations, but to simplify our lives more and more. The key to find a happy
balance in modern lives is simplicity.” – The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
by Sogyal Rinpoche

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