October 31, 2014

Sometimes I Walk And Think



Sometimes I walk and think.




And sometimes I just walk.



October 29, 2014

Choice





As awful as our consumer-supported system seems to be these days, at least we still have somewhat of a choice whether we want to participate or not.

We can still choose whether or not we will be conspicuous consumers. We can still choose whether or not we will support, through our spending dollars, current destructive and harmful ways.

I thought of this while reading The Automatic Earth this week. Over there this line of text got me to thinking:

"Central banks can do all kinds of stuff, but they can’t make us spend our money on things we don’t want or need. Let alone make us borrow to do so." 

No, they sure can't. They can't make us work for them, either. They also can't make us work to the degree that we have to pay taxes to support their global domination plans. While I pay taxes in many other ways, I have not made enough money for a decade to have to pay income tax.

I think about that as Canadians' money is being spent to gut environmental legislation, promote fossil fuels and send killing machines to far flung "trouble spots" on the globe.

If you think that you are powerless, just consider the massive portion of the North American economy that is dependent on you and your choices. Consumer spending accounts for a whopping 70% of U.S. economic activity. In Canada that number is roughly the same.

"While harder to document, consumer behaviour is also revealed by decisions not to spend. For example, if enough people are involved, boycotting a company or a product (or even the threat of it) can be an effective way for consumers to make their opinions felt. Boycotting has brought about a number of changes in companies' social and business behaviour... In fact, any consumer decision to stop buying a product can ultimately and substantially influence corporate strategies."

We have choice.

October 27, 2014

Why Are We Here?

Healing, loving, creating together.

People have wondering about their ultimate purpose for as long as there have been people. The answer, I believe, is actually pretty simple, and it has nothing to do with shopping for things we don't need.

Regarding humanity's purpose, author Anthony Douglas Williams says:


"We are here to heal, not harm.

We are here to love, not hate.

We are here to create, not destroy."


If each of us made this our personal mandate we would not need police, or homeless shelters, or food banks, or war.

This week, and every week, I will make it my purpose to heal, love and create. It is simple, and it is why we are here.

October 24, 2014

Homemade Corn Tortillas

You would have to go to Mexico to get corn tortillas this fresh.

One way I have been able to judge my health over the past few months of my lower back injury is by our diet. The better I feel, and the more I heal, the fresher our food gets. Lately things are getting good and fresh.

This is not only because I feel better mentally and have a desire to cook, but also because I can stand for longer periods of time.

It has been a long time since I have made any bread, but making corn tortillas today brought back all the reasons for making food from scratch.

First of all, I find prepared foods to be lacking in flavour and healthfulness. The foods I make myself are exactly the way I want them - succulent and wholesome.

Then there is the excessive packaging that comes with prepared foods, even if it is 'only' a can, jar, or plastic bag. Cooking at home is packaging and garbage free.

Finally, prepared foods cost a lot compared to home cooking using inexpensive basic ingredients. And preparing your own food can be fun and personally rewarding. I love to be able to create food I like in my own kitchen.

One of my favourite home made bread products is corn tortillas. My recipe is based on one from the only cook book we own - Laurel's Kitchen.

Corn Tortillas

11/2 cups       water
1      cup        cornmeal
3      tbsp       butter
1      tsp         salt
11/4 cups      flour

Heat water to boiling and add 1/2 the butter. Add cornmeal slowly stirring to keep from clumping up. Cook on very low heat for 3 minutes, take off heat, then add the remaining butter and mix. Set aside to cool.

When cornmeal has cooled, add a bit of flour at a time and stir into the cornmeal. At this time I add the salt. Keep adding flour until you have a soft dough. Knead in the bowl with your hands until it forms a ball.

Knead ball of dough on floured counter top for 5 minutes. Roll into a tube and cut 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and set aside. Cover with a tea towel.

Turn fry pan to medium high. With a rolling pin, roll dough flat to a diameter a bit smaller than your fry pan. Cook each tortilla for anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, then flip over and repeat. Do not overcook or tortillas will be brittle (good for tortilla chips if this happens). When tortilla starts getting brown spots it is time to take it out.

Place cooked tortillas between tea towels to keep them warm for serving. Left over tortillas can be frozen.

We make refried bean and rice burritos and the occasional fish taco with our home made wraps. Sometimes we fill one with peanut butter and a banana for a breakfast wrap.

Unlike the store bought varieties, I can't get enough of these corn tortillas. 

October 22, 2014

Surrender




Dear Consumerism,

Please be notified that I am officially waving the white flag of surrender.

It is unhealthy to fight what is because what is, just is - you can't do anything about what has already happened. Therefore, practicing the saintly art of surrender becomes the rational thing to do.

In my surrender I am cultivating a life of calm, and this is what results from accepting that you exist in the world.

Do not confuse this declaration with "giving up" or "quitting" or even "going away". I will continue to chip away at your destruction, violence, and lies, just not in an angry, adversarial relationship.

I can only despair if I think that I know where your planet-harming excess is taking us. I do not. No one knows, even if there are some strong indications of where we might end up.

As writer Alain de Botton suggests we all do, I am surrendering to the future with hope. In this place of peace we can talk about what to do with you and your "profit over people and the environment" ways.

In closing, I look forward to working with you to help us build better ways of acquiring and allocating our resources in ways that preserve the planet - for future generations of my family, your family, and all families.

Thank you, Consumerism, for taking time out from making money to accept my official surrender and withdrawal from your war on everything. Here's to better days moving forward.

October 20, 2014

Words To Consume By



My favourite conscious consumption Re- word is REFUSE. If something doesn't fit with your environmental values the thing to do is refuse to consume it.

The following words from Pete Seger are an excellent anti-consumption guideline, and amount to about the same thing.

“If it can’t be

  • reduced, 
  • reused, 
  • repaired, 
  • rebuilt, 
  • refurbished, 
  • resold, 
  • recycled or 
  • composted


then it should be 

  • restricted, 
  • redesigned, or 
  • removed from production."
- Pete Seger

October 17, 2014

Simple Prayers or Whatever



It doesn't matter what you call them, their power is readily acknowledged. I am talking about affirmations, prayers, requests, or the act of manifesting.

Thoughts, words, and intention are how we shape our world. They can be used in positive and negative ways, so are best approached with humility.

In Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, Anne Lamott writes that the best two prayers she knows are, "Help me, help me, help me" and "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

It does not matter if you are sending your thoughts and words out to "God" or "The Universe" - I believe they are the same, and that the thoughts and words will have the same effect.

In her book Anne Lamott also mentions a friend that makes me laugh with her simple approach. The friend's morning prayer each day is "Whatever," while her evening prayer is "Oh, well."

While that is funny, if I had to choose I would take "Help me," and "Thank you". It is important to think good thoughts while manifesting your life.


"With our thoughts, we make the world." - Buddha

October 15, 2014

What Not To Buy Today

Do I really need another cutlery organizer? Does the world?

Hmmm. What not to buy today? The possibilities are endless.

I am always coming up with new things not to buy. I derive as much satisfaction from this as more consumer-oriented individuals do in shopping for the same items.

The difference is that they have to pay money for the things, then have to find somewhere for the things to go, then must care for and maintain the things, keep the things safe from theft, and eventually properly dispose of said things.

I like to skip all of that and see what I can do with the resources I have around me. A small example would be not buying a plastic cutlery organizer after our move to the Maritimes. Since I have always had a plastic cutlery organizer in a drawer in my kitchen, it seemed natural to buy one here.

Free cutlery organizers.

So much of what we buy seems natural since it seems like "everyone" has one. But not everyone in the world finds couches, cars, and coffee tables natural. Many do without... and are still happy.

The thing I am doing without today is a plastic cutlery organizer. Instead I am using two glass jars I salvaged after eating the peanut butter inside.

And as I cook I am finding having utensils at hand on the counter is preferable to having them hidden inside a drawer.

Most often the best alternative is to not buy anything.

October 13, 2014

Gratitude



Gratitude is an expression of appreciation for what we have. It is opposed to a consumer-oriented focus on what we want or may need. Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and increase our well-being by doing so. Grateful thinking, and sharing it with others, is associated with increased levels of energy, optimism, and empathy.

Even More Reasons To Be Grateful for Gratitude

Gratitude allows celebration of the present.
Gratitude blocks toxic emotions like envy, resentment, regret and depression.
Gratitude strengthens social ties and self-worth.
Gratitude turns what we have into enough.
Grateful individuals are more stress-resilient.


Thank you Universe. For everything that I am, and everything that I have, and everyone I know - at this very moment on this perfect beautiful day.

October 12, 2014

Deep Green Being



The following quote is from someone who gets what is happening to us and our world right now. Derrick Jensen, in his book A Language Older than Words asks:
"What if the point of life has nothing to do with the creation of an ever-expanding region of control? What if the point is not to keep at bay all those people, beings, objects, and emotions that we so needlessly fear? What if the point instead is to let go of that control?  
What if the point of life, the primary reason for existence, is to lie naked with your lover in a shady grove of trees? What if the point is to taste each other's sweat and feel the delicate pressure of finger on chest, thigh on thigh, lip on cheek?  
What if the point is to stop, then, in your slow movements together, and listen to birdsong, to watch dragonflies hover, to look at your lover's face, then up at the undersides of leaves moving together in the breeze? 
What if the point is to invite these others into your movement, to bring trees, wind, grass, dragonflies into your family and in so doing abandon any attempt to control them? 
What if the point all along has been to get along, to relate, and experience things on their own terms? What if the point is to feel joy when joyous, love when loving, anger when angry, thoughtful when full of thought?  
What if the point from the beginning has been to simply be?"

Mr. Jensen is a co-founder of Deep Green Resistance. Wikipedia describes the organization as "an environmental movement that views mainstream environmental activism as being largely ineffective. DGR also refers to the strategy described by the movement for saving the Earth."

Find out more about DGR here.

"Deep Green Resistance starts where the environmental movement leaves off: industrial civilization is incompatible with life. Technology can't fix it, and shopping—no matter how green—won't stop it."

October 10, 2014

Escaping The System

Live simply - be free.

Living simply is good for all sorts of things. Like escaping The System.

The less you have to consume to live a rich and contented life, the less money you need to finance that life. Many find that once emancipated from the high stress work-to-get-ahead lifestyle, things actually get better.

A simple life affords one more self-directed time to go to the places where your heart leads.

Yes there are many considerations that come into play once you quit your unsatisfying job, but these can be mitigated with planning and the support of your community.

I have always wondered why people were attracted to the system in the first place. It never really appealed to me. Growing up and reading writers like R. Pirsig in Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance made me feel like I was on the right track.

“He felt that institutions such as schools, churches, governments and political organizations of every sort all tended to direct thought for ends other than truth, for the perpetuation of their own functions, and for the control of individuals in the service of these functions. 
He came to see his early failure as a lucky break, an accidental escape from a trap that had been set for him, and he was very trap-wary about institutional truths for the remainder of his time.” 
- Robert M. Pirsig

I like that simply consuming less benefits the environment, but my favourite thing about simple living is not being forced to participate in the system that is destroying the environment.

I will not work in support of that system, and as much as is currently possible, I will not buy the products produced by it. The more simply I can live, the less dependent I am on greedy individuals and harmful practices.

It is comforting to know that an increasingly large group of people all around the globe are consciously choosing similar ways. I am happy to say that many of them are regular visitors to this blog, and often share their experiences and wisdom. They all share one core nugget of truth.

Resistance is not futile. Escape is possible, and it is good.

October 8, 2014

Free And Almost Free Food

Apples gleaned on my daily walk show the free abundance of nature.

I can't think of many things better than free food. In my ideal world no one would have to pay for clean air, food, or water (or medical care, but that is another post for another day).

That is why I like a garden - it feels like free food even if you do have to buy seeds and equipment and work hard. Most gardeners will tell you that their garden is so prolific and abundant that you can't help but share the bounty freely with those lucky enough to be close by.

I can't count the number of times someone has stuffed a giant zucchini into my mailbox, or left a bunch of carrots on my doorstep when I lived with a hundred other simple living, garden growing folks in Sundance Housing Cooperative.

The closest we got to free garden bounty this year is when Linda's relatives visited from another part of Nova Scotia recently. They brought us a whole box of fresh veggies from their back yard garden which is obviously doing very well judging by the perfect cucumbers, carrots, peas and tomatoes that were gifted to us. I wish our local grocery store had produce as nice and fresh, never mind free.

But the grocery store I shop at does discount lots of good food by 50% when items are approaching their best before date. Included is produce that doesn't look perfect, but is otherwise fine. Since I am not ready for dumpster diving just yet, food reduced by half is as free as it gets at the store.

I have found a small source of local free food that is not dependent on far away relatives or discounting grocery workers.

On my daily walks I have been getting to know my area, and have discovered a lot of abandoned farm land. Most of the properties include apple trees with ripe apples beginning to fall in piles on the ground below. Every day I collect pockets full of beautiful apples still hanging from bending branches.

These trees amply reflect the abundance of nature. They are giving trees. Free food for anyone that walks by.


October 6, 2014

Save With DIY Foaming Soaps

My home brewed foaming soap refill.

I wash my hands a lot. In order to reduce the impact on my epidermis I have been trying different kinds of soap. Only recently did I try foaming soap for the first time, originally thinking it kind of gimmicky. But I can see that they are on to something with this newfangled foamy fun.

The foaming soap I purchased from the store lasted a long time and was easier on my hands than the bar soap I was using previously. It is also less messy and easier to dispense.

Then I discovered that you can refill a foaming soap dispenser with your own home brewed ingredients. Wanting an inexpensive, gentle and easy refill soap,  I decided to go with a generic baby shampoo.

But even with baby shampoo one must be on the lookout for harmful chemicals. A quick search led me to some of the worst offenders that often hide in soaps and shampoos, even those marketed towards defenceless, innocent little babies.

Potentially Harmful Soap Ingredients to Avoid

- phthalates
- parabens
- fragrance
- PEGs
- Sodium lauryl and laureth sulfate (SLES) and (SLS)
- triclosan
- methylisothiazolinone

Making Foaming Soap For Refill

The most important thing to have first is a foaming soap dispenser. It makes the magic. Just buy a foaming soap you like, then when it runs out use the dispenser for your own home made product.

All I did was fill my empty dispenser one quarter full with baby shampoo. Then I carefully topped it up with water avoiding making bubbles by filling very slowly. After inserting the pump, I gently agitated the liquid until it was fully mixed.

That is it. Ready for use. So simple and frugal. And easy on my manly hands.

Then I found out that using foaming soap can also save a great deal of water. If you don't use water first to work up a lather, but only later to rinse, you can save up to 45% of the water used with bar or liquid soaps.

You can save with DIY foaming soap. Save money, and save water. Plus foamy cleanliness is more fun. Just watch out for those nasty chemicals on the label.

October 4, 2014

Catching Up

This healthy, happy moment brought to you by your positive thoughts and comments.


Dear NBA readers (NBAers, NBAanistas, NBAists...),

I am taking this Saturday morning to get caught up on some responses to your wonderful comments. I like to respond to all comments as often as possible, but sometimes it is difficult. Like during and after the hospital visit Linda and I had the first two weeks of September.

So as I reread comments today I am blown away all over again. I left a general comment on my post Cut Own Hair... Again, and because it expresses my feelings about all the comments left on NBA, I thought I would put it in a post for all to see.

I am humbled by the wonderful words expressed here, and thank all of you for taking the time (especially first time commenters - welcome aboard). 
Things have improved a great deal since I wrote this post. My back has been rapidly improving although I imagine it will be tender for months to come. I am implementing a walking and yoga exercise/stretching program to help heal and stay strong. 
Linda has been getting better, too. It seems strange to report this because the medical establishment would say that people with secondary multiple sclerosis don't get better. But there you go. 
Call it the power of positive thinking, or CCSVI treatment, or love, or most likely a combination of all, but both of us are feeling healthier.
Thank you all for your contribution to our successful recoveries.

NBA friends, you enhance our world. Funny, because when we started this blog our goal was to enhance the world in our small way. We did not anticipate the degree to which that would come back to us.

Health and happiness to you and yours. And keep the comments coming. We would like this to be a safe place for all of us to meet, share, and support one another. And have fun and laugh and sing and dance.


October 3, 2014

Imagine Balance And Harmony

By finding balance and harmony in our own lives we can bring the same to the whole world.

Before it can be realized, we must first visualize the world coming into balance and harmony.


See in your mind's eye bringing balance and harmony into your life. What would this ideal life look like? Next look to include the people around you, your family, friends and community.


Finally, we have to see the whole world in harmony. Everyone finding balance with each other and with Mother Earth.


Thinking about and visualizing the changes we desire are the first steps towards making them happen.


What would your life look like in balance and harmony? What would the world look like?


First see it. Then do it.

October 1, 2014

Creativity Puts The Soul In Simple Living

Express your creativity. Learn to draw, or dance the Lindy Hop, or both.


So you have managed to manoeuvre your life toward a more simple time-rich space. Now what? How will you occupy the new found hours and days that you have wrestled back from the establishment?

There is nothing like a creative pursuit to put some soul into the simple life. Which you choose to explore depends on your particular personality, but I guarantee there is something for everyone in the arts.

Author Kurt Vonnegut said,

"Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow."

Learning any of the arts means putting in the time and effort yourself. Teachers can help a great deal, but I know from my experience trying to learn guitar in grade 4 that no one can help you if you don't practice.

Since gaining the time to practice, practice is what I have done over the past decade. After initially giving up guitar lessons to ride my bike when I was 10 years old, I picked up the guitar again on time for my 40th birthday after quitting full time work.

It has enhanced my life in ways I could not have predicted. It has changed the way Linda and I live and learn together.

Now part of every day is spent being creative. We sing daily, often with guitar accompaniment. And if you can consider transfers as a form of dance (and we do), then we dance several times a day, too. And we write, another creative outlet that has had life changing results.

If you are like most people you harbour regrets about not following an artistic whim that interested you earlier in life, but was sacrificed for "more important" things. Now is the time to make it happen whether it is photography, knitting, or learning the Lindy Hop.

When you have the time you can follow your passions. You can have fun. You can grow your soul through expressing your creativity.

It will change you, and it will change the world.
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