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?

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#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?




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