January 16, 2019

Amish Reality



Most of us know about the community practice of Amish barn raising. But did you know that those barns can last 1000 years or more? Obviously, these simple living folks are doing something right. Perhaps they have something to teach us, or at least remind us of our own recent past.

I don't usually like reality shows, but found one I enjoy. Linda and I have been watching a program in which a group of big city British teens from London spend time in America living with the Amish. We are talking some extreme culture shock.

Far from the maddening urban environment, the teens spend time in places where bird calls and the wind are the loudest sounds. They do chores and swim in fish-filled ponds.

In addition to their new found peace and quiet, the participants find value in a simple way of life that has largely disappeared from their own country. They also find harsh realities in the seemingly idyllic farming communities.

One teen in particular is uncomfortable with being told she is one of the lost that will experience eternal damnation in the afterlife. Another participant could not agree that women are inherently less than the menfolk. None of them liked getting up before the sun, and having to give up all electronics caused initial withdrawals.

The city kids found these things particularly challenging, as would I. But they could still see the benefits of a simple life lived close to nature, family and community, with wholesome hard work filling the days.

One participant, Charlotte talked about why she wanted to have the experience of living a radically different life for a while.


"I wanted a simpler life. I was bored with the pressure to look a certain way: to wear make-up and clothes that were quite flaunty in order to fit in. I wanted to draw back from our society."

Once back at home after the show ended, she said, 


"Back home I was very sad to leave Amish-land, even though at times I thought they needed more freedom and choice in their lives.  
When I got back to England I didn’t like it at all. 
But while it was hard settling back, I’ve got used to it. I found I have more respect for my parents, and it’s helped me to become more independent. I don’t think I’d have coped at university without that experience.  
I really want to go back." 

Another participant, Jordan, was initially attracted by how content the Amish were, when people back home always "want more". Like many of us, he was addicted to his electronics.


"I happily spend all day on the internet or tweeting or watching TV. And I couldn’t imagine how I could cope without my BlackBerry — it was such a big part of my life. 
It was weird when it was first taken away, but I was surprised how soon I realized I wasn’t bothered about it. 
And now I’m back, I don’t even know which pocket my phone’s in."


By the end, all the British teens would be profoundly changed by their experience living with the Amish. I think that is because that kind of simplicity has a broad appeal that is timeless and enduring. 

It has served the Amish in America very well over the past 300 years, a time in which their way of life has changed very little.

All humans should know that the simple life, Amish style or otherwise, is always a viable alternative to over-consumption, hyper-competitiveness, and trying to out-buy your neighbours.

Maybe if more young people knew this, we would have fewer unhappy, discontented adults struggling to pay the bills for things they don't really want or need.

Discover "Living With The Amish", Part 1 of 6, here.



January 13, 2019

The Woods Are Calling



I have not been in the woods for some time; they beckon me.

For several weeks our weather has not been conducive to hiking, riding, or snowshoeing, limiting my outside activities. Besides some minor snow shovelling, I have been relying on inside physical activity to keep me going.







I tend to our home, which takes some effort, and I have resumed my previous practice of doing some yoga (sun salutations) in the morning. While I love it all, I most enjoy taking my exercise outside. 

While out in nature, snowshoeing is one of my favourite activities. I have only been able to get out twice so far this season, definitely not the record-breaking snowfall of our first year in rural Nova Scotia. 

This year I have had to make do with looking at previous snowy woods photos, including those in this post which were taken on my last outing, all the way back on winter solstice.
 




The past few days have been cold, and some snow has been falling. The ground is no longer bare and frozen, and the woods are accumulating a bit of a base of the white stuff.


However, I am dreaming of an epic, magical event that transforms everything into a muffled, quiet wonderland. I want to wake up tomorrow morning and see the woods transformed and waiting for me. 

Then I can heed their call.


January 10, 2019

Is Materialism Instinctive?

"Me Grog. Me big caveman - need storage cave for all my extra stuff."

Is a focus on materialism an instinctive behaviour? Is it human nature? Are we predisposed to want to accumulate things? 

Materialism researchers James Burroughs and Aric Rindfleisch think they have it figured out. I have my doubts.

"Telling people to be less materialistic", they say, "is like telling people that they shouldn’t enjoy sex or eat fatty foods. People can learn to control their impulses, but this does not remove the underlying desires."

Sex and eating fatty foods are survival strategies for humans since early times. But until recently, accumulating things as a human would be a very bad idea running counter to effective survival strategies. 

We are the most adaptable and mobile species on Earth. In order to do this, we have, for hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, had to travel light. As nomadic people, extra accumulation of stuff would not be an evolutionary advantage.

If the researchers are right, where is the evidence of acquisitiveness in the archaeological record? Did cave dwelling humans have off-site storage caves to store all their extra pointy sticks, and rocks and stuff? 

If so, where are they? Where are Grog's Super Self-Storage Caves?


People don't really want 10 tons of crap. Or the storage caves or lockers to put it all in. They want to be loved, to be content, to be part of a vibrant community of supportive compassionate citizens. 


Those are the real underlying desires, and we have been told that the accumulation of stuff will bring us all of that through the completely artificial construct of consumerism.


Survival is instinctive. Materialism is a learned behaviour, and one that now runs contrary to our survival. Even a cave dweller could see that.


If the love of things is learned, it can be unlearned. That is what this blog is all about - unlearning the destructive consumeristic behaviours we have been inculcated with by a sick system that does not care one whit about our survival. Or the survival of the planet.




January 7, 2019

Simple Living And Consumerism Both Promise Happiness - Only One Delivers

Want to kill consumerism? Being happy with less is the way to do it.


Simple living and consumerism both offer the promise of happiness. That is about all they have in common.

Simplicity seeks happiness internally. Consumerism seeks happiness externally.

Simplicity teaches us to aspire to a better life with less. Consumerism teaches us to perpetually desire more.

Simplicity teaches detachment from the empty promises of the merchants of materialism. Lasting happiness while engaging in consumerist exploits is unlikely to happen - it is intentionally designed that way to keep consumers constantly unsatisfied and looking to buy relief.

Simple living teaches us to be selfless. Consumerism teaches us to be selfish.

Simplicity teaches us to love all living beings. Consumerism teaches us to love all our things.

Simplicity teaches us to not compare. Consumerism teaches constant comparison, and gives lessons in jealousy and insecurity.

Simple living teaches the use of minimal materials. Consumerism teaches blatant overconsumption. 

Simplicity teaches us to live in the present moment. Consumerism teaches us about a future world of endless desires, and the past’s inevitable dissatisfactions.

Simplicity teaches peace of mind. Consumerism, even with all that “great” stuff, can only teach dissatisfaction.

Consumers eventually learn of the limitations of trying to buy their way to an ever elusive contentment. Slowly, reluctantly, the unsatisfied turn to simple living, a tried and true method for attaining lasting happiness, peace, and contentment. 

Many are waving the white flag and surrendering to the reasoning inherent in the practice of simplicity. Letting go of endless material pursuits, simple living practitioners are allowing the simple life to lead them to more satisfying and authentic ways of being. 

The results speak for themselves. 

Simple living has been serving billions of satisfied customers for thousands of years. Satisfaction guaranteed. 


That is a promise that can not be beat at any price.




January 3, 2019

Mindfulness Quells Desires To Consume






“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.”

― Thich Nhat Hanh



Consumerism is dependent on a population that is insecure. Consumers consume more after been pushed off balance by advertising, propaganda, and cultural programming designed to cause us to be fearful and incomplete.

We try to buy our way back to balance, but it does not work, and we become even more wobbly. How do we get out?


Mindfulness. An awareness of the present, unhindered by past and future desires. Through this, we reclaim our attention, and our freedom to be unassailed by ceaseless messages to buy, buy, buy.



"The ‘attention economy’ can be understood as a new arena of struggle in our age of neoliberal governmentality; as the forces of enclosure – having colonized forests, land and the bodies of workers – are now extended to the realm of our minds and subjectivity. 
This poses questions about the recovery of the ‘mindful commons’: the practices we must cultivate to reclaim our attention, time and lives from the forces of capitalization."

- Peter Doran


One of the mindfulness practices that has been cultivated over the ages is the simple experience of preparing and drinking tea. 



1. Make your tea with care and attention.


2. Find a nice, quiet place to drink the tea. Before settling in, notice the tea, the place, yourself.


3. Before taking your first sip, give thanks. Think about how it is that you have clean water. Consider that the tea was grown far away, then picked by human hands. Express your gratitude for everything that had to happen for you to be enjoying this tea, in this place, at this moment.


4. Enjoy the tea. Sip it. Notice how the steam rises from its surface. Feel it in your mouth, your throat, your tummy. Take a few deep breaths before drinking more.


5. Finally, give thanks again. This tea, and this moment, will never happen again. It is unique and special. Feel it. Appreciate it.



The mindfulness of drinking the tea steeps down to one thing - when doing something, only do that thing. Do it with full awareness. Do it completely, and do it well. Be in that moment.


The drinking of the tea, or any other activity engaged in with mindfulness, shows us there is only now. No past, no present, and no reason for insecurity. 


Therefore, there is no desire to engage in mindless activities, including consumerism. 


Slowly we learn that the moment is enough. We are enough. Just living is enough.




January 1, 2019

Happy New Calendar

Our corn (one of the 3 sisters) did well this year.

Winter solstice is my celestial New Years. January 1st is the time we go to an unblemished, fresh calendar. Both events are full of promise, hope, and excitement. 

On the one hand, the deepest dark days are over, and the sun begins to return. On the other, we get 12 new pictures to hang on the wall. Either way, it is a good opportunity to reflect on the year gone by, and plan for how we are going to improve in the year ahead.

It is nice to be able to say that 2018 represents the best garden year we have ever had. We grew more food, and varieties of food, than ever before. Because of that, we also preserved more of our own food than any year previous. We refrigerated, froze, dried, pickled and canned to our stomach's content.

This year our cooking has reached new levels of nutrition, flavour, and self-sufficiency. We experimented with a Three Sisters portion of our garden, consisting of corn, pole beans, and winter squash, which is supposed to be a winning combination. We agree.

What a joy it is to prepare and eat food you have carefully nurtured yourself. It is also immensely satisfying to wean ourselves from the carbon-intensive industrial food system, and all the plastic packaging that comes with it. And food isn't getting any cheaper. 

Projections are for a 3.5% increase in food prices this year, due to expected increases in the cost of fruits and vegetables, which is mostly what we buy there. Have you notice how things you don't need, like 1000 inch TVs, are getting cheaper, while things you do need, like food, are going up in price?

It will help to be able to grow and collect as much food as we can ourselves, and we look forward to another successful garden season this year. 

Another highlight of 2018 was celebrating our 10th year of the Not Buying Anything blog. It has been inspiring to hear from people around the world sharing how they are living the changes they would like to see in the world. 

Nothing gives hope quite like hearing from people who are living more sustainable, and enjoyable, lives right now. For me, there is no stronger evidence that it can be done, and it can be great. 

We are looking forward to further advances in simple living in 2019, whatever they are, and wherever they happen to happily occur. Living better with less is the new American Dream. Except this time it is real.



Note: Today is Public Domain Day, the first such occurrence in about 20 years (in the US), due to legislation passed then to extend to Disney Corp an extension on their copyright for Mickey Mouse. It also prevented tens of thousands of published works from moving into the public domain as they should have.

Until today.


"At the stroke of midnight, such beloved classics as Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and “Yes! We Have No Bananas” will become the common property of the people, to be quoted at length or in full anywhere when the copyright expires on work produced in 1923. 
Then, works from 1924 will expire in 2020, 1925 in 2021, and so on and so forth."
Read more here.


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