Posts Tagged ‘consciousness’

Homemade

The past two and a half weeks can be summed up in just one word: sick. First me, for the better part of it, and now my husband and even my dog. But I think we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, so hopefully I’ll be able to post more regularly than I have in the last couple weeks or so.

As I was looking in the fridge this morning, it occurred to me just how different our lives are from just a year ago. Now in our fridge (or pantry), you will find an abundance of homemade things that have just wound their way into our regular daily lives. Today I found: homemade bread, homemade strawberry jam (which we made last August from our CSA strawberries), homemade tomato sauce, homemade soup made from homemade stock (actually, right now we have three kinds of soup: potato leek, creamy chicken, and chicken vegetable), homemade frosting left over from a cake we made, homemade ice cream, and homemade ranch dressing. Sometimes we have homemade butter and homemade cheese, but not today. Soon I’ll add some non-edible items: homemade soap, candles, and maybe even laundry detergent if I can get it right.

Knowing that we appreciate where these things come from–and the effort it takes to get them from farm to table–makes me proud.  We are realizing that things don’t just “appear” in our household. We are honoring the work, the soil, and the bounty. I think that sense of consciousness is important, and I think it’s necessary to try to expand it every day.

By the way, speaking of homemade–our garden fence is almost done. It certainly looks homemade, but it’s ours. We put one gate on earlier this week, and just have to finish the second gate and we’ll be done. I also dug the first 6′ x 6′ box. Digging 36 square feet even a foot into the ground is a laborious task! I sure burned off my lunch that day.

Blessings everyone!

Packing Up

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Our current apartment is slowly morphing into stacks of boxes against the living room wall. I’ve been going through the closets, cleaning out old boxes, packing away elements of our lives for the transfer into the next chapter. A few boxes actually hadn’t been opened since our last move, so I’m determined not to have “open much later” boxes this time around.

It’s interesting going through all of our things. In many ways we have already done a pretty good job of simplifying and taking stock. But looking through old letters and memory boxes, or seeing things that were really important to me three years ago that seem so much less important now–it’s a thought-provoking process. In some ways it’s like a longer version of an examination of conscience. Where have I been? What has mattered most to me? Who am I becoming in the wake of these experiences?

I think about where I’ve been and the contrast of dreams to come. I think about the long road Robert and I have walked to get to this point, and the work that lies ahead of us. I thank God for the trials and the blessings, those in the past and those that are inevitably waiting. This process is blessed, even if it is, at times, a painful or scary one.

Feeling anxiety about the unknown is also inevitable, I think. No matter how wonderful a future seems, leaving the warm comfort of one’s known world requires no small amount of courage. As I pack up each box, I think about all the things that will be different when it is opened again. It thrills me and makes me nervous all at once. The passage of time is stronger than the movement of glaciers across our lives. Each second gone, one second closer. I embrace the coming of this dream.

Three weeks to go, and it’s all I can do to keep my mind on school. I’m already planting gardens, hammering fence posts, sewing clothes. I’m checking the temperature in the greenhouse. I’m taking our dog on a walk. I’m watching our family grow older and bigger in this new home. I need to remind myself that the present is sacred, too.

And I cherish it. I cherish the “lasts” of living in the city. The last few times a Barnes and Noble is right down the street.  The last time visiting our beloved vet. The last time driving to my parents is an easy 40 minute car ride. Last, last, last. I cherish the lasts, as I anticipate the firsts. But I feel the tension of being caught in the middle.

Yes, I embrace the dream to come. But I also embrace the one that is here.

Stuff Diet in Review

From September 17, 2008 until September 17, 2009, Robert and I decided to go on a self-entitled “Stuff Diet.” Here is a quick overview of what that “diet” entailed (taken straight from the document) and some of our reflections on how we did.

The Stuff Diet Explained

Our Intent: An attempt to exercise our preferential option for the poor by recognizing the role of consumerism in our lives, our participation in it, and our attachment to it. This is our attempt at lessening that attachment.

Actions Involved: 

  • Restrict purchases of new items
  • Avoid products from corporations that do not have an ethical focus or operate locally
  • Simplify our living space by recycling, selling, or donating items that we don’t use or use and feel called to share with others
  • Anything purchased outside of textbooks and/or food needs (and items necessary for safety), to be discussed with the other person before purchase
  • Develop a budget that allows us to: (1) live within our means; (2) save money to pay down debt, and (3) donate to worthy causes
  • Take inventory of our entire home, identifying items that can be sold at a garage sale, donated, etc.
  • Commit to taking an inventory of at least one room a month
  • Limit eating out to special occasions (family birthday, etc)
  • Require a one day waiting period on all purchases (other than food, household necessities, or time-critical items)

Category Specifics

Food: 

  • purchase locally produced food
  • make weekly menu/shopping list to avoid over-shopping
  • waste as little as possible
  • clean out pantry of things not used/unusable
  • donate unnecessary cans in pantry
  • once all donate-able items are gone, buy 1 food item per shopping trip for food donation

Clothing:

  • No new clothes purchases with the following exceptions:
  • underwear
  • socks
  • walking shoes
  • clothes bought with gift cards (see below)
  • necessary clothing items, as appropriate (worn out belt, etc.)
    • Thrift shop/fair trade/ethically produced clothes may be an exception if discussed with other and 1 day rule applied
    • Material for sewing clothes okay

Entertainment/Media:

  • No new CDs/DVDs
  • No new downloads unless they are free and legal
  • No new magazine subscriptions/cancel unused ones
  • No non-educational software for computer unless health related
  • If we are going out for a celebration, commit to sharing a plate
  • No movies except for celebration/invitation purposes

Electronics/Tools:

  • No new electronics except to maintain functionality of current computers
  • Only new tools allowed are ones that are necessary to continue to sew clothes

Education: 

  • Textbooks for classes okay
  • Textbooks that supplement course load okay
  • Educational software okay
  • School supplies okay provided they are not available in any form at home

 Cosmetics:

  • No new cosmetics except to replace used up or unusable cosmetics
  • Any new purchases should be cruelty-free where possible

Trips:

  • Trips okay under following circumstances:
    • special occasions (Congress)
    • visiting family or friends
    • school
    • spiritual nourishment

Health/Medicine:

  • No restriction on prescribed drugs or vitamins
  • Commitment to go to doctor when necessary—no skimping here
  • Cat health included in allowances
  • Gym membership okay unless deemed otherwise by mutual agreement
  • No new fitness purchases

The Stuff Diet in Review

Overall, I think we did very well for a first-shot, sustained crack at something like this. One year is a long time! Although we weren’t able to do everything exactly as we had hoped, we did a heck of a lot better than if we hadn’t decided to undertake the Stuff Diet in the first place.

Not being able to buy new clothes whenever I wanted was a surprisingly hard experience for me. I didn’t realize how often I bought new clothes. Certainly not every weekend or anything, but I definitely was used to getting a new outfit or two every couple of months. More than once I had to recognize that I wanted it but didn’t need it; furthermore, it caused me to take stock and appreciate the clothes I would come home to.

Speaking of clothes, I was surprised to realize that I, like most Americans, was only wearing about a quarter of the clothes in my closet on any consistent basis. The clothes I wore, I wore a lot, and about 1/3 of my other clothes were usually “specialized” types of clothes, meaning, only for a particular season (I had a lot of jackets), or for a special occasion (I had a lot of dresses). Since my knee surgery, I didn’t wear high heels as much anymore, yet I had plenty of them in my closet. So after several trips to the Good Will and lots of honest closet scrutiny, I finally got to a place where I could say I wore most of my clothes, most of the time. Still, every time I go back to reconsider if I could take more to the Good Will, I find at least 4 or 5 pieces that I’m holding for silly reasons, so this is a constant process.

We didn’t do so well with the inventory taking, although we did do some of the house. We did the living room and the kitchen as well as our guest bedroom–I suppose that covers about half our stuff, because it leaves our bedroom, the office, and any common areas or yard stuff. Inventorying was an interesting thing, because I wrote down every single thing in the room. Every. Single. Thing. Then, on the right hand side, I had written columns about how much we want the item (on a scale of 1 – 10) and how much we need it (same scale). When we inventoried our kitchen, we ended up taking 12 boxes to the Good Will that day. So it was an important exercise, one I hope to continue.

As far as food, we followed our argeement in ways that were certainly unexpected to us. We joined a CSA, began to develop relationships at farmer’s markets, and became very good at planning our meals to reduce waste. The one thing we didn’t do very well was to buy an item with each shopping trip to donate to our church’s food pantry. We cleaned out our own pantry and donated a lot from there, but it didn’t really become a conscious part of our food shopping. It’s something we’ve both talked about and are going to try to work on as we move forward.

Electronics, health, and trips more or less followed our agreement. We did probably eat out more than we anticipated, but we started sharing a plate almost every time. This has had side benefits as well; it just feels more intimate! So in addition to appreciating the dish together and collaborating on what to choose, we also truly share the meal. It was a beautiful aspect of the agreement.

I’m going to wrap up, because it’s time to head into class. Suffice it to say the Stuff Diet was enlightening and challenging, and we are working on how to move forward with what we have learned in continuing a lifestyle of more simplicity and consciousness.

The Journey Begins

 

“Every now and again take a good look at something not made with hands—a mountain, a star, the turn of a stream. There will come to you wisdom and patience and solace and, above all, the assurance that you are not alone in the world.”  –Sidney Lovett

Yesterday my birthday began with waking up at 5am mountain time–4am Pacific time–but I wasn’t consumed with sleepiness. Instead, I was filled with excitement…not for my birthday, but for this newest chance to see the power of God’s creation in the world.

We left the hotel while it was still dark, traveling north on the I-15. The air was thick and warm, probably around 85 degrees. As we drove, the sky began to lighten in the east. I felt a deep sense of anticipation. The sun rose this way every day, but today I was utterly present to the advent of its coming. It felt different.

We stopped in Cedar City for gas, and the air was noticably cooler. We decided to press on and munched on a banana from the hotel lobby. We wanted breakfast to be special, to reflect the specialness of this day.

As we turned eastward on the 143, which would take us to a 10,000 ft. summit around Brians Head ski resort, the dawn was insistently present, and we could see the beauty of the small homesteads that we passed as we headed up the mountain roads. We climbed, climbed, climbed…and soon began to see that the trees around us were showing the first signs of changing.

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In some places the earliest snows lightly dusted small patches on the ground. It was marvelous. We passed various mountain communities, stopping at a small restaurant in a fishing campground. It was cozy, overlooked the lake, and filled our stomachs with food that would sustain us throughout the day.

We continued on. Every new turn added beauty upon beauty. We couldn’t believe that at the end of this road we would be visiting Bryce Canyon on top of it all!

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When we finally reached Bryce, we had meandered through the mountains for over 3 hours. Every moment felt like a blessing.

Bryce was a whole new kind of wonder. We decided to hike the rim of the canyon. The best part of this trail was not all of the “scenic points” that the trail hit, because while those points were breathtaking, they were also always within easy access to a parking lot and lots of point-to-point tourists. The best parts, rather, were the segments in between these tourist locations. The trail was almost completely empty in these spaces, leaving us to drink deeply of the vast expansiveness of the brilliant red and pink hoodoos, the slot canyons, the pines. The holy silence that accompanied our time with the canyon was intimate and raw. It demanded our attention, respect, and reverence in a way that a crowded tourist spot just couldn’t. We dwelt in the space and gave thanks.

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It was here that I realized that there truly is a difference between dwelling in a place and visiting it. To dwell is to participate in it, to become intimate with it. To appreciate it in a way that doesn’t make it a “vacation spot” or photo opportunity. To visit a place has the unavoidable aspect of separation, of “us” and “that place.” To dwell connects these two and blends the lines so that we are all enfolded in the same light: we are creations of God. We all reflect and convey God’s majesty in different ways. None is superior except by our own perception.

The word that is often translated “to dwell” in the Gospels more accurately means “to tabernacle.” I think this gives us a better sense of what dwelling really means; to pitch a tent, to form a connecting bridge between heaven and earth. How different our world would have been if Jesus simply visited it, rather than dwelt in it.

This is not to say that visiting a place is bad. But I felt sad that more people didn’t take the time to dwell there. I saw so many people come, snap the picture, turn around and go back to the car. And it made me sad that they wouldn’t be able to dwell with the canyon a little longer.

When we returned home, it was dark once again. We got back on the road as the sun dipped behind the mountainside. The day ended as it began, with the sky changing its hue to embrace a new part of the daily cycle. We came home, happy and exausted, blessed to have dwelt together in this magnificent world.

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Patience and Time

Patience and Time. These seem to be important messages in my life lately, but it became a very physical, very unavoidable message yesterday.

I don’t know how I did it, but I did it. A sudden, excruciating pain in my lower neck which made it difficult to look up, down, right or left suddenly overtook me as I was researching for an article I am writing. I still have very little tolerance for sitting in front of the computer, so forgive me if the post is short.

The neck pain left me unable to do much else other than lie on an ice pack, read, and pray. I did that all day yesterday, interspersed with some phone calls. It brought me back to my knee surgery recovery, when I could do little else than look at the ceiling all day and try not to move.

If there was ever a day I wish we had TV in the house…!

But I think it was an important lesson for me. Because the neck pain wasn’t some terrible injury or illness. It was most likely a strain or sprain, an inflammation that simply needs patience and time to heal.

Patience and time. A difficult thing when the body and mind are whirling with ideas and dreams.

But it called me back to the present. It made me conscious of where I was, today, here, now. I couldn’t live in any other time or any other reality. Tomorrow would have worries of its own. For today, I had my assignment: hurry up and wait.

I suppose, though, it’s all a matter of perspective. If I see this time as waiting for something to come (in this case, getting mobile again), then I will live in anxiety and constantly feel called away from the moment. I won’t appreciate the opportunities that now has to offer me. I won’t enjoy the fact that I rarely have a day where I can spend time reading for enjoyment instead of research, where I am not busy cleaning and cooking and laundering, where my prayers are contemplative, meandering conversations with the Creator. So maybe my assignment isn’t really to hurry up and wait.

Maybe it’s slow down and be.

Guest Post: Overcoming Inertia

Here’s a post from my husband on his bike commute to work yesterday:

As part of our commitment to a month with only one car, I knew I wanted to do something that I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, but never had the courage to try–bike to work. As far as commutes go, I have one of the easiest in Los Angeles. In a town where people regularly sit in one to two hours of traffic, I am blessed to get in my car, and drive less than 10 minutes. Furthermore, the route that I take is also one of the easiest to bike: it is almost entirely flat, near the ocean, with a dedicated bike lane the entire way. LA is definitely not known as a bike-friendly town, which makes this all the more remarkable.

So why did it take me so long to start biking in to work? Mostly convenience, partly inertia, and a little bit of trepidation starting out on an unknown adventure. Even with the one-car commitment, I was more than happy to be driven in to work rather than go to the trouble of filling my tires, packing a change of clothes, getting up a half hour early, and rolling out the door on my bike.

But one of the great blessings of married life is that you are never alone on an adventure into the unknown. My wife, somehow sensing my reluctance, suggested last weekend that we take a ride together to a place that’s in the general vicinity of work. Once I saw that the ride was manageable, I knew I could summon the courage to face it on a workday.

I headed out on the road this morning and discovered that not only was there nothing to fear, but that it was downright enjoyable. It’s funny how a change in context brings things into focus that we formerly ignored. I was conscious of every crack in the road, every conspicuous stone, every bump and rise of the road in a way that I never am in a car. Also, without the distraction of the radio, I was alone with my thoughts, my exertions, my sensations. How often do we turn on the radios in our cars without even thinking about it, not really embracing the possibility of a small moment of solitude?

As I made my way along the route, I came to a red light where another biker was also waiting. He was dressed in racing gear and had a professional looking bike. He was a Serious Biker. This is the kind of guy you see traveling in a flock of multicolored bike riders on a Saturday morning; but he was traveling alone today on his own commute. I said good morning, but he did not acknowledge my presence. Perhaps, he was still mentally in his car, shut off from the other commuters, safe behind close windows and air conditioning. Or perhaps this was a meet-not. In romantic comedies, there’s always the meet-cute, that first memorable time the two main characters encounter one another. Los Angelenos have mastered a whole new technique: avoiding actual connections with people by pretending that they just don’t hear them, or see them. The typical reaction one gets walking past someone on the sidewalk is no eye-contact, no words spoken, no acknowledgment when you say hello. They do not want to meet you, even at the most cursory level.

After my meet-not with the Pro, he took off at a faster pace than me. That was fine with me, since we were coming up on a small rise. Even a small hill still poses a challenge for one of my modest abilities, so I was happy not to have someone stuck grumbling behind me. Yet once I crested the rise, I saw that he had stopped and was drinking some water. Was he catching his breath? Maybe he was showing off and ended up over-exerting himself. As I passed him, I felt a small tug of pride–I had overtaken the Pro. I rolled down the other side of the rise and came to a stop at the traffic light, waiting for it to change. When it went green, I started pedaling, picking up speed, when I felt the whoosh of air beside me as the Pro flew by. He had been waiting at the top, timing his descent for the change of the light. All my pride was deflated in that moment, which was probably the best thing the Pro could have done for me.

At the end of my ride, I had spent 30 minutes on a bike instead of 10 minutes in my car, and every bit of it was worth it. Instead of the misplaced pride of my earlier episode, I felt the pride of work truly earned. I also felt a deep gratitude for the gift of being able to choose this for myself and not by circumstance. For those who cannot afford a vehicle, a bike is often also a luxury item. They must commute by bus, which may mean a significant amount of extra travel time. For example, the same 10 minute car commute would take at least 45 minutes with a transfer in between. I also felt gratitude for being able to face my day with the health required to make this ride, and joy in being able to share the experience with my wife, who was with me in spirit the entire way.

As my wife would remind me, we always have a choice about how we can approach something. Today, I chose to approach my commute with joyfulness, gratitude, and an open heart. I can only pray for the grace to live thus everyday.

Avoiding Paralysis

I’ve been sitting here this morning working on writing an article on food justice. As I’ve spent a few hours swimming in grim statistics and passionate organizations for relief/philanthropy/justice/political action, I found myself feeling a little overwhelmed.

It’s hard to take a lunch break right after reading that 900,000,000 people chronically suffer from hunger every day in the world. Nine hundred million.

But I think it’s important to walk the balance between being as aware as possible and being so totally paralyzed by the gravity of the information that it becomes personally irrelevant.  It is important to be educated. It is important to be compassionate. But it is also important to not feed the tendency to feel guilt about one’s own full stomach and leak-free roof. If you are one of the lucky upper-percentile in the world that does not have to worry about chronic hunger or civil war or backbreaking work, then: 1) thank God for those blessings right now, 2) ask God to give you the courage to do something with those blessings, and 3) start figuring out a way to help enhance the greater good for the people, policies, international relations, ecological factors, and attitudes that are affected by the decisions we make based on having those blessings.

It’s easy to become paralyzed by guilt. But it doesn’t do any good. It’s also easy to become so overwhelmed by grief or disgust or sadness that we put the realities of the world out of our minds and go about our business. If we don’t think about it, maybe it isn’t going on every second of every day, right? Wrong. Someone’s child is still dying right now because she will not have enough nourishment for her body. Someone is still working in 115 degree heat to keep his family in a simple home. Someone is still pocketing money from the pre-death torture of thousands of animals a day so we can get that cheap bucket of chicken. Someone is still starting on a path of life-long obesity and eventual death because of a culture that couldn’t teach her what was proper and appropriate nourishment for her body. It’s all going on, right now, whether we like it or not.

Some say that guilt is good, because it will make people do something. But I disagree. I don’t think positive action should be sourced in negativity. It has to start from goodness, because it should be sourced in the Ultimate Good, God. It should start out of love. Out of compassion. That is more empowering than any negative emotion in the world.

So when you read about the horrible things that we all should be aware of in our food system, our labor policies, or our ecological circumstances, redirect your emotions to be consciously full of love and compassion. It is from there that sustainable action can begin.