December 31, 2016

Happy New Year




These are not hopeful times, but it is when it is most dark that we need to light the candle of hope. So I started looking for candles.

There is nothing more hopeful than seeds. Linda and I spent some beautiful moments sorting seeds today. As we did, we talked about what the garden of 2017 will look like. An eagle flew by outside our window, a nice reminder of our connection to the Divine.

Another trip around our life-sustaining star, another garden, rebirth just around the corner. Cycles upon cycles upon cycles, an endless flow. What a joy to prepare packets of potential that will become food for both stomach and soul.

Awakening to our own potential is the greatest joy of all. Like tending a garden, it is hard work. As has been noted by many, "the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off". First awareness. Then transformation.

Maintaining Not Buying Anything has been transformational. It is heartening to discover that people around the world are living smaller, feeling happier, and reducing their environmental footprint. We thank you for being part of the new growth in our own practice of simple living.

Together, in our blog garden, we are planting and nurturing seeds that will grow into new and better ways of living with Mother Nature. We can see that increasing numbers of people are coming to the understanding that life infuses everything. It's a big party, and everyone is invited. BYOS.

Here is to a hopeful 2017 bursting with growth on both a personal and global scale.




December 30, 2016

Things Are Getting Better

The March of Progress?

If I hear one more person say that things are getting better I am going to scream. Or cry. Or both.

When I am bringing people down by expressing my current world view they stop me mid-rant to remind me that, "things are getting better". But are they, really?

Oh yes. The gays have it better. Women have it better. Blacks have it better. The poor have it better. Aboriginal people have never had it as good. And peace is breaking out all over the place, while the environment is improving!

Usually it is a well off consumer class privileged individual sharing the optimism. They might even tell me to "lighten up" or "get over it" or "move on" so that I can join in and enjoy the privileged life that we can all have if we work hard enough.

What I want to do in those times is take them, and find someone who is gay and ask them if they agree that "things are getting better". Maybe a ask a gay person from Orlando, Florida.

I want to ask a woman if she thinks that things are getting better. Is receiving 77% of the wage of a male doing the same work evidence of this improved world?

Maybe they can visit a First Nations reserve here in Canada and see if the people there share this Polyana view of things. We could ask about the lack of clean water, or adequate housing, or the persistent racist attitudes of their settler neighbours.

And how about the perpetual war that the planet has been in for the past decade? Do Syrians think that things are getting better? Libyans? Egyptians? Ukrainians? Iraqis?

I used to be an optimist, too. But come on - our planet has never been in as rough of shape as it is now. We have had 10,000 years of civilization to get things right, and what do we get? Trump and his ilk.

Come on - we should have nailed this thing several thousand years ago.

Are things getting better? Perhaps. But as Neil Young said in Vampire Blues, the "good times are comin', but they're sure comin' slow". We are moving at a snails pace when we aren't actually going backwards.

If things are going to accelerate enough to get us back on track, we are going to have to have a simple living revolution the likes of which we have never seen before. Happy, comfortable consumer/slaves are going to have to get out of the bubble they have been in for a few decades, and start talking to the  rest of the planet that is suffering in order to prop up their unsustainable lifestyles.

Only then can we work to make this a simpler, more sane world where everyone can truly say "things are getting better". And getting better now. Right now.

If not now, then when?




December 28, 2016

That Is Enough

"I exist as I am, that is enough." - Walt Whitman


How about some anti-consumer, pro-freedom affirmations for the new year? How about: "I am enough. I have enough. I do enough."? How liberating would that be?

In order to sell you an endless list of things, advertisers and big business constantly tell us, "You are not enough. You don't have enough. You can never get enough." Enough money. Enough stuff. Enough skinny. Enough fame. Enough fortune. Enough love and admiration.

The bosses tell us constantly, "You don't do enough", the whole "do more with less" thing. But they sure can sell us stuff to make us feel like we have enough... temporarily, because according to them you won't have enough for long. Just until the next shopping binge.

How do we counteract that message that is funded by billions of dollars and centuries old cultural arm twisting all aligned against us more strongly and desperately every year?

It is simple. We need to tell ourselves the truth, and that is, "I am enough, just the way I am. I have just enough, and I do enough."

Make 'enough' your mantra for 2017 and you may just get out from under the oppressive thumb of the merchandisers. While you are at it you will transform yourself, your family and friends, your neighbourhood, place of work, and indeed, the world.

Go even farther to make you and the world a better place by saying, "YOU are enough" to everyone you meet. Love unconditionally.

December 26, 2016

The Pathless Woods




There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

- Lord Byron




December 23, 2016

What Gods Do We Worship?



The gods humans across the ages have chosen to worship, have always changed. They are changing again and there is nothing enlightening about any of this new crop of devilish deities.

While the old gods don't get a lot of attention these days, even during religious observances like Christmas, the new gods are constantly celebrated and in your face. Like all good gods, they are omni-present.

Christian monk Thomas Merton warned us about the gods we choose to honour.
Every person becomes the image of the God they adore.
Those whose worship is directed to a dead thing become dead.
Those who love corruption rot.
Those who love a shadow become, themselves, a shadow.
Those who love things that must perish live in dread of their perishing.

The new gods that are adored and that we are using to formulate our image, as I see it, are:


The God of Progress

Cultural anthropologists like John Bodley will tell you all about the dangers of worshipping at the altar of Progress.

"Despite the best intentions of those who have promoted progress, all too often the results have been poverty, longer working hours, and much greater physical exertion, poor health, social disorder, discontent, discrimination, overpopulation, and environmental deterioration—combined with the destruction of the traditional culture."

While Bodley has shown that the benefits of progress are often both illusory and detrimental to tribal peoples when civilization bulldozes their tranquil lives and high standard of living, everything he says applies to the rest of us.

We are all descendants of tribal people, and all the slavering of our attention on the God of Progress has only given us longer, lower quality lives. We are all victims of the worshipping of the God of Progress.



The God of Materialism

It is well established that once we have sufficient food, shelter, and clothing, further material gains do little to improve our well-being. How is it then, that the God of Materialism is even bigger than Jesus or Buddha these days?

In "The High Price of Materialism", author Tim Kasser goes beyond the well known unhappy facts, and looks at how people's materialistic desires effect their well-being.

"Indeed, what stands out across the studies is a simple fact:  people who strongly value the pursuit of wealth and possessions report lower psychological well-being than those who are less concerned with such aims."

Now, what kind of god would knowingly do that to their devotees?



The God of War

Seemingly one of our favourites, the God of War is being worshipped now like never before. Can there be celebrations of other religious events while this brutal lord is being honoured in government temples everywhere?

Journalist John Pilger has been covering wars around the world since visiting Vietnam in 1970. He has pointed out that since 9/11, the US alone has spent $5 trillion dollars on aggressive wars, and shows that the current flight of 12 million refugees from at least four countries is only one consequence.

Imagine what the world could do with $5 trillion dollars if put toward helping rather than murdering.

"The major western democracies are moving towards corporatism. Democracy has become a business plan, with a bottom line for every human activity, every dream, every decency, every hope. 
The main parliamentary parties are now devoted to the same economic policies — socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor — and the same foreign policy of servility to endless war. This is not democracy. It is to politics what McDonalds is to food."

This time of year is ripe for contemplation and compassion. It is a good time to take a moment to meditate and consider what gods we are really worshipping and celebrating, and why.





December 21, 2016

Happy Winter Solstice



The Sun is the ultimate source of light and heat on this planet. No Sun. No life on Earth.

No matter where you live on Earth’s globe, or whether you are religious or not, a solstice is your signal to celebrate. One thing I like about solstice is that the corporate/capitalists have not yet appropriated this celebration and turned it into a consumption event. Yet.

After today, the days get longer, and the nights shorter, and who doesn't like that? This is a seasonal shift that humans have been noting and celebrating for a very long time.

I have always had an affinity with this time of year since I was born on winter solstice eve. I came into the darkness, but each day after that got brighter. Was there a connection? Did I do that?

Today we celebrate the return of the light and heat that keeps us alive. It is also a time to think about our own inner light. Is it getting brighter? Or do we need our batteries recharged? If so, now is the time to do it. Hunker down, hibernate, and return with an inner photonic radiance that banishes ignorance and hate to the receding shadows.

Welcome back Sun. Welcome back heat. And welcome back life.

Happy Solstice to everyone that hangs out with us here on our blog.





December 19, 2016

The Problem With Gift Giving

3 rice cookers = suffering x 3.



What kind of stuff do you buy for the person that has everything? Nothing. You buy them nothing. What kinds of stuff do you buy for the hard to buy for person? Same. Nothing. How about the easy to buy for individual? You guessed it. Nothing again.

Tis the season for frenzied shopping and gift giving. But there is a problem with both giving (and receiving) gifts. This should be pondered before beginning the yearly shop-a-thon that we do mostly because we are told to by people that want our money.

Here is the crux of the matter. If you give a gift the recipient doesn't want, they suffer. They would be better off with no gift. No winners here, not even the person that will end up with the thing after it is re-gifted.

Even if you "nail it" and get the perfect gift someone actually wants, they still will suffer. The new thing will demand their attention, require space to store, and possibly require maintenance from time to time. The gift may have other unintended consequences.

Eventually the item might break, or be lost or stolen. In the end, the gift-ee will be separated from the thing they desire. Pain results again. The person would be better off with no gift. No winners here either.

But there is an answer. There is something that can be given with a clear conscience.

What says "I love you" more than giving the gift of yourself? Your time. Instead of spending precious moments shopping for things that will cause pain and suffering, why not use that time to acknowledge the ones you love?

Write a note, letter, email, private message, tweet, or text to tell them you care. Or if geographical considerations allow, spend time together, in the same place at the same time, enjoying each other's company. It's free, it's cherished by most, and if done with compassion, will not cause pain.

Everyone wins when the thing we joyfully give is our loving, attentive selves. No shopping. Free.



December 16, 2016

The Peaceful Warrior

I constantly practice my warrior gaze, but have a way to go.
It should say, "Mess with Mother Nature, and you mess with me".

I think I have more of a forest elf thing going on, but that is alright, too.
The bright colours are so I don't get shot while out in the woods during hunting season.



Peaceful warriors have the patience to wait
until the mire settles and the waters clear.
They remain unmoving until the right time,
so the right action arises by itself.
They do not seek fulfillment, but wait with open arms
to welcome all things.
Ready to use all situations, wasting nothing,
they embody the Light.

Peaceful warriors have three great treasures:
simplicity, patience, and compassion.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
they return to the source of Being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
they live in harmony with the way things are.
Compassionate towards themselves,
they make peace with the world.

Some may call this teaching nonsense;
others may call it lofty and impractical.
But to those who have looked inside themselves,
this nonsense makes perfect sense.
And for those who put it into practice,
this loftiness has deep roots.

- Adapted from a poem by Lao-tzu





December 14, 2016

December 12, 2016

Eco-Footprint Overshoot

In my lifetime, human consumption of resources has exceeded the productive capacity of our planet.


Everyone has an ecological footprint. We all need to use the earth’s resources to survive. But some of us are wearing ridiculously large, floppy clown shoes while others have existed forever in tiny slippers.

One average Canadian footprint is the same as that of 12 average Ethiopians. How big a footprint is too big? How much is too much? 

Since the 1980s we have been living unsustainably by draining stocks of "natural capital" faster than nature can replenish them. It is a fatal mistake to think we can take more resources than the earth can provide, and do so indefinitely. We have been doing so for about 3 decades now, and the rate of overshoot is getting faster with each passing year.

The size of a person’s eco-footprint depends on many factors. Do you grow your own food? Do you walk or drive to places? Do you use renewable or non-renewable energy sources? Is that a rice and bean dish I see on your plate? What kind of climate do you live in?

These factors, and so many more, make a difference in the amount of resources required to sustain our lifestyle, and therefore the size of our footprint.


ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINTS AROUND THE WORLD


Average number of productive acres the Earth provides per person (each human's eco-footprint "fair share"), not leaving anything left over for other living things - 4.5 acres

Average amount per person if we include the needs of other living things - 1 acre 

Average global footprint per person  - 5.6 acres



FOOTPRINT BY COUNTRY

In an age of ecological overshoot, having a smaller footprint is more desirable, so I have listed countries starting with those with the smallest footprint.


Afghanistan - 0.75 acres

Bangladesh - 1 acre

India - 2 acres

Ethiopia - 2.4 acres

Iraq - 3 acres

China - 4 acres

Mexico - 6 acres

Turkey - 6.7 acres

Russia - 11 acres

New Zealand - 12 acres

France - 12 acres

Germany - 12.5 acres

United Kingdom - 13 acres

Spain - 13.4 acres

Netherlands - 15 acres

Australia - 17 acres

Canada - 22 acres

United States - 24 acres


We need to reduce our lifestyle shoe size in so-called "developed" societies. Ecological overshoot can not go on forever without degrading the environment to the point of mass extinctions. Either we need to reduce our population, or reduce our ecological footprints. Preferably both.

Of the two, reducing our consumption of Earth's resources is probably the more attainable solution. If resource depletion is the problem, reducing our demands on those resources is the answer. I think this can be done while positively affecting one's overall quality of life.

It makes me wonder. Does the size of a person's ecological footprint transmit to happiness and contentment in life? Are humans in North America happier than humans in countries with a smaller average eco-footprint? Or does a larger footprint just mean a larger amount of waste and useless excess?

Live softly, and leave a small footprint. That would be the best holiday gift possible if you are considering getting something for Mother Earth this season, and year round.





December 9, 2016

For The Beauty And The Birds

Sunflower seeds for the birds, like this blue jay.

Charles Lindinberg said, "If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than planes", and I agree. What a sad, sanitized and quiet existence it would be without our feathered neighbours. Things would actually be better without planes, on the other hand.

Birds generally are not doing so good these days. Numbers are declining the world over, which is very troubling. A decline in the number of birds also means a decline in the state of the environment. The birds (and the environment) need our help.

This past summer we were sent 3 precious sunflower seeds from a family member. Not 3 packs of sunflower seeds. 3 seeds. Not 2, not 4. Exactly three little seeds.

We planted them carefully, then nurtured them with staking and watering and worm castings and love. They responded by becoming three fantastically Fibonacci-spiralled beauties. Upon gazing into the yellow eye of the sacred spiral sunflower all bad things disappear, like a misty breath dissipating on a cold winter day. Nothing but beauty is left.

Staring into a sunflower is a good example of the Navajo prayer of Beauty:

Beauty before me.
Beauty behind me.
Beauty above me.
Beauty below me.
Beauty around me.
It is finished in beauty.

As the large flowers developed, and the seeds began to dry, I could see that the birds were testing them out, but finding them not quite ripe enough to pull from the flowers. Shortly after, one flower blew over in a wind storm.

I checked on the flower, now on the ground, the next day. I couldn't believe it - every single seed was gone. Picked 100% clean in only a few hours. Since I did not witness what ate them, I started to speculate. Was it mice? Mink? Birds? If birds, what kind of birds? I had to know.

I cut the stalks of the other two flowers, and hung them on our front porch so that we could observe them from inside our house. It did not take long before they attracted hungry flying feeders - blue jays and starlings, two birds we didn't see close to our house previously. Ah - ha.

They descended upon the flowers in numbers, sharing seeds with several birds landing at a time. And the show was going on just a few feet from our front door window. More beauty.

Over the next few days we watched as the diners cleaned their plates and moved on. In the middle I went out and collected a few juicy seed specimens before they were gone, for next year's garden.

I got more than three.

Growing sunflowers is a great way to introduce some beauty into your surroundings while helping out the birds at the same time.


Other things you can do for birds (and the environment):


  • create safe places for birds to rest and nest in your yard and community
  • use fewer pesticides and chemicals
  • buy organic produce and products
  • let dead trees stand 
  • install bird baths 
  • convert lawns and gardens to native plants 
  • school grounds, parks, vacant lots, and common areas can all be “bird-scaped"
  • talk to others about your favourite birds and how they may be affected by climate change
  • live simply







December 7, 2016

Professor Dumpster

Dr. Dumpster's diminutive dives.

Jeff Wilson, a Texas teacher of biological sciences, is a person dedicated to teaching by example. He didn't just live in a tiny home the size of a dumpster - his home for a year long experiment in sustainability was a dumpster.

Therefore his nickname, Professor Dumpster.

The Dr. of Dumpsterism perfected the craft of thriving in a 33 square foot former waste receptacle on the grounds of his school in Austin. Rather than lament the loss of luxury, Wilson sings the praises of really small footprint living.

Some of the immediate advantages he found were:

  • lower rent
  • lower utility payments
  • owning fewer things
  • less time spent doing chores
  • shorter commute (about 90 seconds on foot)
  • less money spent on unnecessary possessions
  • more community involvement
  • reduced mental noise

Most of all, Professor Wilson said that living lightly gave him a new sense of freedom. And while shacking up in his humble abode involved some sacrifice, he said that he cried when his project ended and he moved out.

You don't need to dwell in a dumpster to feel the goodness of small footprint living. Its benefits can be realized anywhere in any place, one decision at a time.






December 5, 2016

Protectors vs Plunderers



Learning to live more gently on the earth does not happen spontaneously when you are born into a culture of consumerism. In my pursuit of the simple life I have had a lot of guidance.

The core of my gentle approach to living comes from my parents. And while my own culture has some excellent examples of people warning us of our luxuriously wasteful ways, they do not reflect the large society.

For me, then, the next basic source of ideas and practices for a way of life that made more sense to me is from my First Nations hosts.

I was born in Blackfoot territory. After university I moved north to the land of the Cree. After that Linda and I were hosted by the Coast Salish for 10 years. Two years ago we traversed the whole of Turtle Island and now live in the area of the people of the rising sun, the Mi'kmaq.

It is because of their generosity that I have lived my life in their lands. It is because of their stewardship over thousands of years that there was a functioning ecosystem here when my ancestors arrived from Europe looking for refuge. Look at what we have done with it since then.

We are Earth Plunderers. "The economy or the environment?" could only be asked by such a person.

Native peoples everywhere on the planet, on the other hand, are Earth Protectors. They have not forgotten how to live sustainably on the land. North American native groups have been waiting 500 years for their guests to get with the program, and many of us are still having problems with the "Mother Earth comes first" philosophy.

Standing Rock is the most striking example of sharing the native world view with a consistent message that has been the same since settlers arrived on their shores - we and the Earth are one and the same. What you do to the Earth, you do to yourself. Therefore, treat her gently.

The Water Protectors of Standing Rock are decedents of one of the greatest and well known leaders in the area of what is now known as the USA. The wisdom of Sitting Bull, highly respected Lakota Chief and medicine man, could have helped us avoid problems like the Dakota Access Pipeline, if only we had listened.

Sitting Bull led his people during the time of colonization, and summed up the newcomers in a way that is unfortunately just as accurate today.

"Yet, hear me, people, we have now to deal with another race – small and feeble when our fathers first met them but now great and overbearing. Strangely enough they have a mind to till the soil and the love of possession is a disease with them. These people have made many rules that the rich may break but the poor may not. They take their tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich and those who rule. 
They claim this mother of ours, the earth, for their own and fence their neighbors away; they deface her with their buildings and their refuse. The nation is like a spring freshet that overruns its banks and destroys all that are in its path."

Sitting Bull died on the Standing Rock Reservation December 15th, 1890. He was shot by police attempting to arrest him on trumped up charges. He, like his decedents over the past 8 months of water protecting, paid a high price for resisting the plans of the Earth Plunderers.

I am in debt to the peoples that have hosted me here throughout my lifetime. Not only because they let me stay, but also because it is through their example that I have learned about living more gently and simply on this great and abundant land.

All settlers on Turtle Island have native people to thank. Today I am grateful to the people of Standing Rock and to so many other native groups around the world, many of whom converged on the reserve in an unprecedented show of solidarity. Thank you for showing us the way to becoming Earth Protectors ourselves.

May what has been happening be the beginning of an ongoing collaborative movement to restore the land, and ourselves, to a more healthy and balanced state. As Sitting Bull said, "Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children."






December 2, 2016

All You Need Is...




You can learn to be you, it is true, and it can be done with only two ingredients. Two FREE ingredients.


All you need is nature, all you need is nature,

All you need is nature, nature. Nature is all you need.

All you need is nature. (All together now).

All you need is nature. (Everybody).

All you need is nature, nature. Nature is all you need.

Nature is all you need.

Nature is all you need.


Love is vital, but the Beatles failed to include nature in one of their most famous tunes. Nature is the Universe expressing its love for all life.

Sing it. Feel it. Live it. It's free. It's everywhere. Living without nature, like trying to be yourself without love, is an impossible task.

All we need is biophilia.





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