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
The other day I walked into the frutería (the fruit store which also sells vegetables) to buy a baking potato and some sweet potatoes, as Germán, the owner, has the best in town.
As I climbed the several stairs up into the shop I noticed a mid age woman at the checkout counter, smiling away. She seemed to be so happy. I was kind of judgmental and semi-constructed a story that there was something wrong with her, that she suffered from extreme emotions and was off-balance right now. This created a sense of compassion for the woman.
I don’t feel like myself.
Last week I spontaneously did a liver/gallbladder flush.
The jury’s still out for me as to how it went. I saw less gallstones than in the past but it's been and four days, my back hurts and I’m constipated. I'm a highly sensitive woman and whatever is causing it, I feel…not like myself.
I might be scared if I didn’t feel so calm.
Everything has its time, but when? Sometimes endings simply happen and we have no control over them.
But sometimes the time to accept, permit, let go and surrender is up to us. The challenge is how to know when and then how to release as gracefully as possible.
Of course, many times we let go because we must. For the sanity or health of ourselves or another, or because there literally is no other choice.
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.
Something that I noticed soon after arriving to Mexico in 2006 was the (to me) strange and inefficient way things were done here.
Example: At a little stand that is offering something novel like hamburgers. That’s all they make. You get a hamburger on a bun with ketchup and mustard if you want it.
Suppose you go up to the stand with three of your friends and each one of you place an order for a hamburger, all the same. The lady or man will start with the first hamburger, cooking it, heating the bun, making the sandwich, adding the condiments, and serve it. Then they will start cooking the second hamburger. It proceeds like this, with all the attention on the entire process of making each hamburger, one after the other.
As a midlife woman, I am earnestly in the process of learning to be okay with my emotions.
For years I have been hearing that emotions are energies that like the weather, just want to pass through.
Through the early Buddhist teachings I received, I was taught that life and the present moment is like a filmstrip (remember those?)
I didn't know I'd be experiencing a new level of self-love when the other morning I felt led to walk to a place I treasure but don’t often go to. First, I don't go often because it’s so close and too easy and short a hike. Second, I haven't been going because right now with the rains, the river has been flowing and uncrossable (unless barefoot).
But I felt called, so I went.
I found myself walking slower than normal, which means more mindfully – which to me is a good thing.
Despite having had months and even years here in Latin America to simply sit and be, and even though I have done a lot of that, I still tend to be in my head, racing along both mentally and physically, thus missing out on experiencing the moment directly and consciously.
So, walking slower and seeing more on this morning, was a wonder.
The path was clear, the foliage in its full greenness. I felt, as I have almost every time I’ve gone walking out on the mountain trails these past 13 years in Mexico, that I was on a new path, one I had never been on before, although that was far from the truth.
Assume nothing and release
Ever since the earthquake in 2017, I don’t pull the keys out my pocket until I’m literally at the door.
There’s nothing like emergencies to bring us back home
To the present moment
To what’s really important
To the tenuousness of life
Most of all, though, crises make me take nothing for granted.
Not taking things for granted naturally implies appreciation for what is:
Our lives, our health, our homes, our families and friends. Money, freedom, abilities, support and meaningful lifework if we’re so fortunate.
But when I think about not taking things for granted, I mean not assuming or expecting anything to remain the same.
Do you ever look in the mirror and say, “What?? When did I start looking like an older woman? Shit!”
It happens to me periodically. More and more.
I recognize less and less the person I see reflected. What to do about those new gray hairs?
Have you noticed new ones appear suddenly and then seem to fade away, until the next wave?
I attach meaning to every influx of silver streaks. I see them as evidence of recent struggle or of triumph. Two sides of the same coin.
The Price and the Gift of Time
I feel I earn each gray hair. I treasure them as trophies, little gifts and reminders from Time. That yes, life is passing, and while my time on earth is shortening, I am learning and the tradeoff–is so worthwhile.
“My life now, after so much turmoil, was good. On paper it looked virtually perfect.
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!
Today while walking I used vision as a present moment practice. The morning was crystalline with colors bright and clean after last night’s rain.
I allowed myself to and inclined towards seeing what was before me. Several times I stopped and simply looked all around. The swirling high clouds in the rich blue sky. The deep natural carvings in the mountains. The reddish earthen path. New houses being built. A white dog with short bristly fur and a brown patch mark over one eye who came to greet me.
As I turned onto the path that would return me to the main road I felt myself moved and opening with appreciation for the beauty and goodness of my environment, my life: having the time and flexibility to take a morning walk, the strength and coordination to walk where and how I please, pain-free, the mildly cool breeze caressing my arms and nourishing me, nice clothes and good shoes.
Yesterday, sitting amongst an intimate group of women in their thirties, one of my students asked me, “Does life keep getting better?” I closed my eyes and paused, searching within for my true experience. The women groaned, interpreting my silence as, “Uh oh, bad news.” I explained to them that the question is a profound one, and that I needed time to locate my response.
After my students left and over the next several hours, I found myself continually returning to the question. First, it was interesting to me that already their experience was one of improvement every year of their lives. Did I view my life that way?
A good starting question for me was, “Define better.” I have spent my adolescent and adult life in search of understanding and experiences that are healing and transformative. “What would need to have happened or be happening in order for me to feel my life is getting better with time and these efforts?” I asked myself. I’d need to feel an overall lightening, more joy, ease, sense of freedom. Gladness to be here on the earth in my body with my personality and essence.
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.
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.
A local woman who has a restaurant came to my authentic Indian cooking class today. When the students went around the circle taking turns introducing themselves and speaking about what the attraction was that brought them to the class, her story surprised me. She shared that she disliked Indian food. She had a particular isue with the spice cumin, that she said made her feel ill. Smelling it was not a problem, but when it was used in dishes she found it overpowering and literally sickening. Another student suggested perhaps she has an allergy to the spice. When she would be visiting her daughter in San Fransisco and they would go to and Indian restaurant, she would bring her own food.
We continued talking about cumin for awhile, two participants shared that they love cumin, and one woman shared that in traditional Mexican cuisine, cumin is used often in the north, but not in the south. I agreed with Laura that cumin can be overpowering and told her, “Well, most of today’s recipes happen to feature cumin, and in fact I had planned to give you all a lesson in cumin! Are you open to having any cumin in the food or do we need to make two batches of the dishes?” She said that a little cumin would be all right and the other students agreed to this adjustment.
I'm struck by the triviality of my life. The tabs open on my computer when the earthquake hit included: Shopping for a new backpack because the one I have is faded and sags and has some holes. Then, a page that explains something I recall hearing about: using vinegar to wash and disinfect veggies. Finally, how to remove rust stains from clothes. And I think my life is meaningful.
Such are the concerns of a life with so much abundance and freedom it can spill over into decadence and mis-led energy investments.
When I finally made it out my door in my pink clogs and the ground had stopped shaking I called for my landlady who lives on the same property to know if she was okay. She was fine and wanted to go see what the horrible deep rumble had been, maybe a house had fallen. We went out to the street and neighbors were talking. A house that is being built across the street had cracks in some of the lower adobe bricks. Would they have to start over from scratch, I wondered? The men who had been working on the second floor told about how they couldn't get down for the shaking and wondered if the house would crumble and them with it.
Maria came back minutes later from down the road in the direction of the deep rumble and said that part of the mountain that faces us had broken off. Soon, her sister came crying, holding a plastic cup with a swig of jerez in it, sharing with Maria that their other sister's house had fallen. While Maria went in to get her house keys her sister turned into my arms for an embrace. They went off to see about Rosa's house.
I stood in the middle the street talking to various neighbors, some of whom I did not know, all of us sharing stories and agreeing on the degree of shaking and fright, and realized, "I'm not enough part of the community. I don't know my neighbors. I need to get out more, make more of an effort to interact with the people." In this moment of survival standing at the crossroads I saw: what matters is community and love. That's all.
I went to buy emergency supplies in Inez's tienda, just in case. She showed me where a wall had separated from the ceiling, revealing old timber. Then she told me about the church cupula and how it was damaged. We stood in the doorway together and I noted with sadness the poignantly crooked cross on top of the dome. Behind it, in the distance, la ventana, a sacred natural "window" high on top of the mountain. Inez told me, "All during the earthquake I was worried about our dear ventana, would it be alright?" The ventana is intact, but in our village and nearby towns, the poor crosses are eschew. As with all the natural disasters lately, with the crooked crosses it seems blatantly significant. I wonder, "What would it mean to right the crosses in a way that they felt heard, understood and respected? And our dear Earth?"
All my growing up years of being an art student, it was always with the attitude of being a learner, with the acceptance of the unspoken rule that assumes I don't know and the teacher does. This at least sets the stage for openness to receive new information, which is a great thing.
I remember painting class in college, enjoying and prospering from being there with "beginners mind". Recently, I've taken up drawing and painting again. My teacher, Bárbara generously offered to come to my house to see the work I've been doing prior to our first class in her studio so that she could see what I'm working on and producing and where and how she might be most helpful to my development.
She considered each piece silently with much consideration and finally would offer some suggestions in a complimentary and respectful way. One of her suggestions had to do with her perception that certain parts of a couple of the paintings stood out in ways that separated them from the rest of the piece. She advised me to lower the tone in these parts so that the colors were more equal in intensity compared to the rest of the piece.
With my background in graphic design, I found this surprising and counter to my training, whose instructions were around the importance of being aware of and creating visual hierarchy in each piece. I told Bárbara this, but she disagreed and I agreed to comply with each of her suggestions - this was "art" after all, not graphic design.
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?