I was recently asked this question: How do you live a simple and secure life? The question startled me as the two "S" words bumped into one another uncomfortably. My first response was:
It sounds trite, right? Yet another article about finding joy in simple things.
We all know that slowing down to smell the roses is sage advice. We know it's true and that we "should" and that we really want to. But....meanwhile, how to really do what's required in order to live that way. I mean really.
Wouldn't it be great to read a short and easy article with a short list of truly simple things that are feasible and that could get you to experience living in tune with your heart's deepest longings and knowing?
Wish granted! Here's the list, followed by the how to's:
I find joy in simple things by
1. Prepare and eat unrefined whole food
2. Walk or ride a bike as transportation
3. Design your life to have time for these things.
I was recently asked, “Do people use minimalism as an escape mechanism?”
My response was as follows:
I’m sure some do - as life is full of everything.
What I fear, more, is that many use minimalism as a way to shame themselves and curl away from the delicious, abundant juiciness of life.
I used to be afraid of winter. I dreaded the going within, the darkness I was sure to be confronted with there.
Then, one winter I made a project out of working through my attitude about winter.
That winter I read through "The Dark Side of the Light Chasers," by Debbie Ford.
I learned that the Universe is all one thing, with light and dark, duality, contrast.
I learned that everything is a mirror and that whatever triggers me is evidence of some aspect of me that I'm not at peace with.
This is a tool and truth that has stayed with me over the decades.
The wake-up and get-ready music from the iglesia, the religious hub of the village, started at 4:30 a.m.
I put on my warmest clothes and took my candle with me, leaving home a little after 5:00
The procession was scheduled to begin at 5:00 arriving at the church for Mass at 6:30. From previous years’ experience, I didn't rush to arrive at 5:00 sharp.
I walked down the quiet road to the meeting place just past the town square: the altar for the Virgin of Guadalupe (La Guadalupana). It’s one of my favorite spots. Many nights I walk from my house down to the glassed in space built into the wall of someone’s house, taking a few minutes to view the various statues, images, flowers and usually, unlit candles. I send love and appreciation for Her, my divine mother who accompanies and rescues me many a dark moment.
Upon arriving, I approached the altar, candles glowing as they do only at this time of year. I observed that everyone else did the same – paid homage to this beloved representation of the earth, feminine, divine. She is our caretaker, a mother, still recognized as Tonantzin a primordial deity that has nothing to do with Catholicism, although it is through that vehicle that she is largely acknowledged and honored by the masses.
It’s so easy in the States. It is comfortable, physically. Walls are smooth, carpets offer cushion, water runs endlessly from the faucet.
Yet, this is exactly what troubles me about the luxurious life.
Separation from the root source.
Why is this important?
Hasn’t our whole culture built itself with the idea and goal to hide nature? To surpass her?
Impossible of course, as EVERYTHING is nature, and comes from nature. Besides the obvious like trees and birds – how about
Yes's and No's
When I was growing up, we didn’t talk about feelings in my family. It was as if they didn’t exist – except for happiness and maybe a little sadness.
When my mom reached midlife, however, I could tell something was brewing. She seemed more angry and less tolerant–in a good way. Good because these hot emotions weren’t directed toward her daughters, and good because she shared some of them with us. And mostly good because midlife was leading her to set limits, consider her wants and needs at the risk
Following your heart. It’s the second invitation in the subtitle of my memoir.
How did “Following Your Heart,” earn its prominent place?
What’s so important about following our heart?
More important: Why is it so hard to do? What gets in the way?
One piece is, as we grow up and move through the ranks of formal education, we are trained
I’m a busy bee these days, getting everything ready for the imminent launch of my memoir, Calling Myself Home: Living Simply, Following Your Heart, and What Happens When You Jump, and associated courses and gifts.
This has been a long time in coming, perhaps my whole life, to arrive at this juncture of readiness and knowing. It is time to share with the world what I have learned and gained living in a traditional mountain village in Mexico these past thirteen years.
I was filled with grief this morning. It hit me: what kind of times are we living in?
I had just come back from town and the market where I “stocked up,” upon recommendation of a friend from my village. I’d run into her in the zócalo and she told me the sobering news that on Monday our tiendas are going to be closed. I have felt quite fortunate to live where I do during this time. If the local stores close, that brings the Coronavirus scare even closer to home than it already is.
I returned home and sprayed my keys, coins, backpack and shopping bag with the lavender disinfectant I’d made. Next order of business: I took off the clothes that had perhaps touched someone on the combi or brushed against a shopper or vender in the market – and hung them on the line in the sun. Then I set to disinfecting the produce I’d purchased. This time, not just to kill any bacteria from water the fruits and vegetable might have been sprayed with. At the top of my mind was that surely the venders had touched the fruit or greens and who knows if they might have it? In batches, I let the produce soak in the tub I use for that. Fortunately, the mountain spring water that comes via garden hose was trickling sufficiently today to at least disinfect my food. Washing clothes would have to wait.
I was struggling with how I wanted to take and handle the news of the Coronavirus. Normally I distance myself from political news and health scares, not giving either much relevance in my life. Choosing to live on the edge of a village in the mountains in south central Mexico is not only a calling and a joy, it is also a fitting metaphor. I live on the edge, on purpose.
I stopped watching the news during the first George Bush presidency. Just two seconds of his voice, appearance and vibe and I could feel myself crumbling into a heap of despair, depression and hopelessness. I’m that sensitive. I remember deciding in that moment, “Well, I guess I won’t be watching the news for the next four years.” The determination was effortless to implement and has remained so. Many may see me as irresponsible and denying “reality”, but first, I get the gist of what’s happening. The details aren’t important and it’s not new, it’s been going on for ages. I get it and know enough of myself and my values to distance myself from it for self-preservation. Second, we all have different strengths, gifts and ways to share them for the betterment of the world. Mine is by maintaining myself in the purest, highest vibration possible so that I may radiate that to the world and hopefully be of service by what I model.
I normally am unaffected by world events. Even Trump, I choose to ignore and in that way continue on my path and life without that distraction and upset. So when I became “infected” with fear of the Coronavirus, I didn’t know what to do. I’m accustomed to distrusting the media. If I were to isolate myself socially, wouldn’t than mean I had fallen prey to the fear virus? One thing I fear is being a fool. I didn’t want to be one at the end of this world drama. But, I did feel afraid, and so struggled between these different parts of me, not trusting either and not knowing what to do.
When I was little I remember hearing my mom share that the rationale she learned from her mother about changing her underwear daily was to avoid the horror of being in an accident and the hospital or ambulance people seeing that you had dirty underwear. That was my grandma: behaviors were taught, motivated and performed based on what others would think.
Despite my rebelliousness about doing things because of what others would think, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that some mornings I look at yesterday’s underwear, cock my head and consider, “Could I wear these again today?” I feel I have a little more permission to do this knowing my older sisters used to reuse hers Inside-out when she was in college and responsible for doing her own laundry for the first time.
I do my own laundry by hand outside where the mountain spring water arrives via garden hose. But sometimes it doesn’t come, or the weather is too wet and the pile accumulates. It is on those rare occasions that I might (grimace) turn a pair inside out and use them, praying I don’t get in an accident so everyone would see the seams on the outside and know. Though here in my mountain village in Mexico I don’t think people would judge or even notice that!
I love wearing white. When I lived in the States and had an executive-type job I often wore white. The conflict is that I’m like Pigpen – I attract dirt, so all my white shirts soon had embarrassing stains on them: spots of turmeric or hot sauce that I couldn’t scrub out. Fortunately, there were plenty of good second hand clothes stores where I lived, so I treated myself at that time to a hearty selection of two dollar white tops.
Then I moved to a mountain village in Mexico where I’m soon to complete twelve years. Yesterday I was trying to recall what it was I knew and envisioned when I decided it was the place where I could and would to live in accordance with my values. The first image that came to mind were the clothes drying on the flat roofs of the houses I viewed from the roof of the house where I was staying. I also vaguely remembered some ideas about living slower with less technology. But clothes drying on the line was concrete: Here I could wash my clothes by hand and hang them outside to dry. “But,” I argued with myself, “I could have created a life in which I hand-washed my clothes in the States as well. What is special about doing it here?” Somehow being part of a place where this is how life is normally lived (versus an anomoly) is important to me. It gives me a sense of belonging; that although a foreigner and stranger to this place and culture, I fit here. We fit together
I still love washing my clothes by hand and hanging them on the line. It remains a part of my lifestyle, a value, and a pleasure. But here’s the irony: I’m not very good at it. And even though I’m resigned to the belief that I’m not good (tidy) enough for white and so rarely dress in it, avoidance has not made me immune to accruing stains when I do wear it.
Does anybody else’s life seem as ironic as I perceive mine?
A workshop is offered for female empowerment at a great price and at a place I love. There is nothing I want more now than to be the empowered Me. I’ve been sick for two weeks. I can see all the reasons why I “should” go. And when I imagine it, I feel tired and that it will be a drain on my energy. Do I choose to push and do what I think I “should” again? Draining my life force energy even more and once again? It is the way I’ve always done things. Push and try to be “good” and “right”. My credence has been: Have no limits.
Or I could say “No,” and stay home and recuperate and be gentle with myself, maybe a small quiet walk with a friend. That feels like a relief.
The irony for me is that I have an idea of what I “should” do to become Empowered Me. And maybe it isn’t really so. Maybe the empowered me says, “No thank you,” and trusts myself and my body and what feels gentler and kinder, “even though”. Maybe this idea of doing what I should, this doing at all, is part of that patriarchal value inside of me around doing-equals-success. What if the empowered thing is to listen to myself, stay home recuperating and nourishing myself. No matter what anyone else thinks or says. That is the empowerment I do want.
I recently was asked this question and as a person who left a great career after the sixty hour weeks affected my health, it touched home. While I've been living a consciously simple life for twelve years and enjoy the time and freedom to engage in activities that I want to do, which nourish me and which I feel passionate about, I still have a propensity to workaholism. That said, with my sombrero and Wellness Coach hats on, here are my suggestions:
1. Create a schedule that includes everything that is important to you - rest and sleep, eating well, exercise, relaxation/spiritual practices, fun, socializing, as well as the tasks you are obligated to. Count the “non-work” items as as important as the others and take the fact that they’re on your list seriously.
Depending on you, what works for you, what you need at this time, the schedule can be loose or tight or somewhere in between. For instance, there may be certain tasks that must be done at specific times: picking someone up, a meeting, taking medications or eating at specific times. Everything else can be fit in between those. Somedays there may be no time-related tasks. On these days, if you feel you can trust yourself to not just do the obligatory tasks or only do the self-care tasks, then you can flow. If you choose a flow day, look at the schedule at the start of and throughout the day to keep in mind what you’ve committed to for that day and check them off as you do them. If flowing is too unstructured for you then you can also schedule everything in. Be literal and keep track of your time. Allow for 15 minutes leeway for unexpected occurrences. Check items off the list as you do them no matter how you choose to structure your day.
I suggest making the list for the next day the night before and really looking at what will be
When I started living simply, in according to my values, I was shocked to discover there was a movement in the states called Voluntary Simplicity that dealt with the same issues.
I formed a Voluntary Simplicity support group in the city where I lived which lasted over eight years. Now it is twenty-five years later and “Minimalism” has replaced Voluntary Simplicity.
I am not a Minimalist in that I don’t aim to have nothing. The principle we offered and shared in our support group was more about following your heart, discovering who you really are, what you really want and are passionate about - and then have the “things” you need, if any, to support that. There is no judgement about what that passion is. It could be sailing around the world - in which case a large, good quality, safe boat would be idea. That is appropriate, not a bad thing!
It can be frustrating being around people who mirror issues we have and don't like about ourselves, let alone to admit! Just like with all addictions - as dealt with in the 12 step programs - each person has to hit their own bottom and realize it. Only then can and will they choose to make changes that better serve them and those around them.
For people in this situation I suggest that they keep doing and developing, making time for, the things that represent “stopping and smelling the roses” for them. You can do these things alone, with others, and even invite the person your thinking about in your question. The key and challenge of course, is fully owning just for yourself those activities and the joy and nourishment they bring you. That means, without attachment, need, manipulation to try to “make” (the same as “get” - both of which indicate force or control over) the other do the same for themselves.
Not easy, I know, but the only answer I feel is healthy and truly productive. By being yourself fully, which includes “smelling the roses,” you are living in a good way for you, with just that motivation. Paradoxically, you are then being a model for others to do the same.
This was demonstrated to me years ago.
I was recently asked this question which is a great one, in itself exhibiting awareness. To me, the environmental aspect of a minimalist lifestyle is in a way the most important and is at the heart of the theme. Here's why:
For me and many others who experience discontent with the standard prescribed lifestyle in the States, it is an observation or felt sense that the way of living - especially with so much technology - is out of kilter with a harmonious, respectful relationship with the living world.
The development and rise of technology in the West came from a very mental perspective that sought to control nature and the masses. The craving of the mind to understand, know and in that sense have dominion over life is a strong one. Scientific thinking from the Industrial Age, promises a reality that is fixed. This makes life less scary and uncertain and offers the idea that all that we seemingly can’t control in life could be conquered. Man over “God”.
I have increasingly been receiving questions about living simply lately. When I changed my lifestyle over twenty years ago I was surprised to discover an actual movement based on the ideas and sensibilities I held, called Voluntary Simplicity. Now, Minimalism has taken hold as the trendy term.
I have some issues around the term, as it seems to hit some people as a a lifestyle change requiring unwanted discomfort, poverty, giving up of "stuff" overall perceived as a sacrifice. All of which has negative connotations and seems to be received sometimes as the hammer of justice telling people what they "should" and "must" do. Ouch.
Last night I had a dinner that felt good to my body and that I felt proud of.
It took days and lots of preparation to have this simple, wholesome meal.
Last week, I made a new batch of fermented vegetables, which took about three days to ferment to the point of having a tasty, tangy bite due to the freshly squeezed lemon juice, grated garlic and ginger I added.
Six days ago, I started soaking my quinoa for fermented quinoa, to which I added some of the brine from the fermented vegetables.
At night there was an insect buzzing around me. I felt irritated and tried to spot it to kill it if it was a mosquito without success. Fortunately I was able to fall asleep. In the morning I awoke and heard it again. Where was it? Still no sight of the annoyance. Before doing my yoga I opened the curtain and window hoping to tempt the little insect to the screen where mosquitos like to sit when daylight comes. If the bug were to rest there it would be easy to smash it with my hand.
After yoga I sat for my meditation and prayer. Midway through I heard the annoying high pitched noise and thought to pause, open my eyes, get up and see if it was indeed on the screen where I could kill it, stopping it’s annoying noise once and for all. I actually decided not to get up and kill the insect, choosing to forgo the momentary satisfaction of the kill, followed by the momentary sense of ill-conscience that I had mercilessly killed a being, which would be followed by moving on to the next thing. I returned to focusing on my practice, which started to go well with a new sense of peacefulness. I finished my session. Standing up to put the mat, blocks and candle away I noticed a darkish spot on the rug by the window. Leaning closer I saw it was a fly. The fly. It had been a fly not a mosquito all along. It was dead.
There was something bothering me so much I wanted to kill it to make it go away.
I saw this and chose not to act on it as would be my habit.
The annoyance ceased and died a natural death without me annhilating it.
How do you like that? Things which disturb us really do pass on their own, even if we don’t do anything to make that happen.
Meditation is life.
I got home and while putting things away decided to keep the door open, although I knew it meant flies could enter, whose tone I find irritating. A noisy fly entered and bounced its buzz all around and I got up to close the door. Immediately I felt a calm. “Now I’m contained.” And that’s when I realized: a house is a womb.
Going between the States and México is like landing on different planets. It’s not funny, it’s hard. I seem to do okay upon arriving en el Norte, but coming back home is ironically conflictual.
Why would coming back to the place I love be anything but joyful? There are different sensibilities in each country which challenge my beliefs. In México, I work constantly to let go and flow, as that is the primary energy of the place. In the U.S. I enter the flow of information, resources, answers and help. As my time to return to México approaches I find myself fearful and furiously investigating supplements and other items not available where I live. I become increasingly unhappy, tense, exhausted and edging into a percieved state of
I am consumed with how to live a good life, with the question: what makes a good life?
I am re-searching what is my core passion and desire in terms of making a positive diference in the world.
I’ll tell you something: helping people who want to take better care of themselves is a cover for something.
Robin Rainbow Gate
I help people midlife and beyond to find their inner power, health and well being through slow, conscious living
Ready to live Your True Life?