September 30, 2013

What's Out and What's In

OUT: The old dream of "getting ahead" by getting more money to buy more stuff.

IN: A new dream of "getting better" by getting out of debt, honouring your priorities, helping others and healing the planet.

September 29, 2013

Talking With Bears

Bears teach us about introspection and loving our goals and dreams
enough to protect and nurture them without fear.

"If you talk to the animals
they will talk to you,
and you will know each other.

If you do not talk to them
you will not know them,
and what you do not know
you will fear.

What one fears
one destroys."

- Chief Dan George

I went for a bike ride today, and toward the end I decided to extend it down the trail for another couple of kilometres. It was beautiful out and the forecasted rains hadn't yet started.

I crossed a bridge over a local salmon stream and stopped to look into the rushing water to see if the fish had returned. They had not, and feeling slightly disappointed, I turned my bike around to head home.

My attention was drawn to a splashing sound below. I looked down and saw a shaggy black bear crossing the stream. The bear ambled, perhaps also looking for spawning salmon.

After splashing about in the water a bit the bear noticed me. We looked into each others eyes. We talked.

I could feel the connection between us as the bear spoke of wilderness, freedom, and the benefits of moving through life without fear.

I realized we are not so different, me and the primal creature before me. We want the same things.

The lesson complete, my teacher stepped from the rushing but fishless water and disappeared into the forest.

September 27, 2013

Simple Living: Doing The Math

I like lists for their efficiency and ease in presenting many thoughts and ideas in a short time. An excellent list has been compiled in a post over at the Miss Minimalist blog. It offers "100 Ways to Simplify Your Life (and Make Yourself Happier)".

I read the NBA-approved post after initially thinking that a list of 100 items wasn't minimal. But hey, life is complicated, and it could have been a list of 1000 things, or 10,000.

If 100 items are too much and you like your lists more minimal than Miss Minimalist, I found the following item that summarizes the information contained in the original in only 24 succinct points.


1. Ditch the TV (or at least turn if off). If you’re an average viewer, you’ll save over a hundred precious hours each month. An added bonus: less exposure to commercials means less desire to buy stuff, and more money in your pocket.
2. Get rid of excessive furniture, so there’s less to walk around, trip over, or move when you have to clean.
3. Put items away immediately after use. It takes a lot less effort than cleaning up piles of stuff later on.
Have a place for everything. It makes it much easier to find things, and put them away.
4. Consolidate hobby items in designated containers. That way, all your supplies will be on hand when you need them.
5. Adopt the “one in, one out” rule: when you purchase something new, get rid of something old.


6. Choose versatile clothing. The more ways you can wear something, the fewer items you’ll need.
7. Get a simple, no-fuss haircut; it’ll save tons of time in the morning.
8. Avoid unhealthy habits, like smoking, drugs, or drinking in excess. You’ll look better now, and avoid a boatload of health problems down the road.
9. Let your inner beauty shine. A pleasant countenance and radiant smile will make you more beautiful than any cosmetics.


10. Plan your meals in advance. You’ll spend less time staring into your refrigerator, wondering what to make.
11. Purge unnecessary gadgets and seldom-used equipment. A large variety of meals can be made with basic pots and implements.
12. Eat healthy foods (like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables), and you’ll avoid a wide variety of medical problems.


13. Pay bills online. It takes much less time than writing and mailing a check, and you won’t need to buy envelopes and stamps.
14. Stay out of debt. Life is much simpler when you don’t have to worry about interest charges and minimum payments.
15. Take digital sabbaticals. Disconnecting for a period of time – be it an hour, a day, or a weekend – can be quite liberating!


16. Right-size your expectations. When you expect too much of yourself and others, disappointment and stress are often the result.
17. Forget about perfection. For the vast majority of tasks, good enough is good enough.
18. Make it a goal to do less, not more. Increase your productivity to free up your schedule, rather than jam more stuff into it.


19. Live in the present. Don’t spend excessive hours pining for the past, or fretting about the future. Be here now.
20. Think before you act. We can often save ourselves a lot of trouble if we think about the consequences before acting on impulse.
21. Think before you speak. Once you let some ill-considered words out of your mouth, you can’t get them back. Better to hold your tongue than have to deal with the fallout.
22. Don’t hold grudges. Forgiveness eases your stress and tension, and frees up your time and energy for more positive pursuits.


23. Downsize your digs. A smaller home means less to maintain, less to clean, and less to pay in mortgage, utilities, and rent.
24. Don’t shop unless you need something. In other words, don’t browse stores, catalogs, or websites looking for something to need.

I recommend reading the full list of 100 at Miss Minimalist, and perusing the comments as well if you have the time. However, one could subtract a lot to arrive at just a few simple rules just in case you want to get on with things:

  1. Live within your means.
  2. Take care of yourself and others.
  3. Enjoy life and be happy now.

September 25, 2013

Forecast: An Accumulation of Stuff

From the moment we are born we begin to accumulate stuff. If you are 'fortunate' enough to live in an affluent nation, the forecast is for a shit storm of stuff. More stuff than you will ever be able to use, or find a place to stash.

The most common reason given for buying a larger house that I generally hear is "for more space". For what?

To feed the storm of accumulating stuff that threatens to flood every empty space available. Bigger house - more stuff. Get even bigger house - get even more stuff.

But even my 550 sq. ft. home has ample hidey holes for stashing things I don't need. And one doesn't have to buy things to acquire things. More often that not that free thing is unnecessary clutter just like the crap bought at the shopping mall. Just because it is free (or cheap or on sale) does not mean you need it.

Our inability to resist the accumulation of stuff should raise warning flags. Maybe we feel lonely and try to fill our empty spaces just as we fill the silences in conversations with mindless chatter before they grow long.

A bowerbird's stuff.
Or is it fear that causes us to puff up our nests like bowerbirds? Bowerbirds decorate their nests with an accumulation of attractive objects in order to attract a mate.

We may be afraid of what others will think of us if we have a less than spectacular nest.

Not having lots of glittery stuff seems so... unambitious. One thing you can say about successful people (or bowerbirds) - they have lots of great stuff. But come on - collecting stuff is easy. Very easy.

Our entire system is geared toward making it as painless as humanly possible for us to buy stuff.

"Hello", they coo, "Let us help you spend your money (or credit). We know what you want. Yes, as a matter of fact it will make you happier."

It is easy to get stuff. Lots of stuff. More stuff. Better stuff. Newer stuff. Funner stuff. Cooler stuff. But while the accumulation continues to grow, our happiness stalls out in a doldrums that is impossible to escape by more of the same.

Resisting the accumulation frenzy will be one of the hardest things you do, and one of the most worthwhile. It requires constant vigilance, determination, and yes, ambition. It is a constant battle between the forces of freedom and the lure of a comfortable captivity in a gilded consumer cage.

The forecast for my household is for increasingly clear spaces and freedom from the mind numbing effects of unnecessary stuff. First though, a tornado of simplicity is blowing through the place, shredding the unnecessary wherever it lurks.

It is anticipated that a deep calm will follow for an extended period.

September 23, 2013

Fall Moments Monday

Photo credit: Dr. Robert Berdan

“When you are where wild bears live you learn to pay attention to the rhythm of the land and yourself. Bears not only make the habitat rich, they enrich us just by being.” 

― Linda Jo Hunter

When I woke up Sunday morning and looked out my window, I could see that fall was here. Not that the leaves are turning just yet, but I could see a black bear sow and two cubs roaming the beach across the river in what has become an annual event.

Every year about this time the bear's search for food becomes more intense. The fall season is preparation for a long, lean winter. Hungry bears make for brave bears, and this time of year they forage closer to human habitation.

I don't take the garbage out at night this time of year for that reason. As beautiful as they are, I have no desire to run into one in the dark under the cedar trees.

I have run into many bears (both black and grizzly) while backpacking in the Rocky Mountains, some close enough that I could smell the wild emanating from their shaggy, muscular bodies. Time for a change of underwear.

Yesterday I experienced my semi-wilderness moment from the civilized perch of my couch.

As I watched the momma bear ambled the beach like she owned the place, poking her wet nose into this and that and scouring the area with beady little eyes while her big furry head weaved back and forth.

The cubs followed, searching one thing then another, and playing king of the castle on large drift logs under the edge of the forest canopy. Every once in a while the cubs would run, like ponies, just for the fun of it. Eventually they melted back into the forest just as they emerged out of it a few minutes earlier.

These magnificent, wild and free creatures reminded me that the season is turning, and for a while here in the northern hemisphere it will be about comfort food and hunkering down.

It is time to make like a bear and get ready - only 89 days until winter starts.

Happy Equinox. 

September 21, 2013

Grab Life Now

“We are much better at preparing to live than at living.” 

- Thich Nhat Hanh

September 20, 2013

Learn How To Cook

You can avoid a lot of things like preservatives, GMOs, additives,
and ill health by cooking your own wholesome food at home.

Learning how to cook is a basic survival skill as well as an endless source of delight. Good food feeds more than just the stomach and it nourishes more than just the body - it can comfort the heart as well.

Considering the importance of diet in promoting health and well being, one of the best things you can do for yourself is learn to cook. Making food at home using wholesome ingredients is a great way to take control of what is going into your body (or your temple, if you prefer).

One word of warning - it is a lot of work. I cook for two so when I think of my mom back in the day cooking for a family of seven it boggles my mind. Thanks mom, for keeping most of us alive.

While I only cook for two, it often feels like I am always either preparing for cooking, cooking, or cleaning up from cooking. It seems like it is all about eating, and I guess it is. Hunger is a great motivator.

I can totally understand why someone with a regular work schedule, and/or children, would be tempted to eat out or use convenience foods.

But convenience foods are not so convenient when they make you sick.

While a growling tummy will be temporarily satisfied with fast, convenience, packaged and processed foods, continued use of such products can lead to unwanted complications like metabolic syndrome.

Research has shown that eating a Western diet heavy on refined grains, processed and red meat, fried food, eggs, and soda, and less fish, fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, increases the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and other illnesses.

Learning to cook with whole foods can protect you from harmful ingredients in manufactured foods.

Over the years Linda and I have learned to cook many of our favourite dishes that we previously thought we could only get in restaurants or prepared foods.

Kitchen Gadget-itis
Cooking new dishes is a fun and creative activity that is immensely satisfying. We find that we prefer our cooking and baking than the more expensive stuff in restaurants and grocery stores because we can make it just the way we like it.

And don't get sucked in by the marketers - a lot of food can be prepared with a minimal amount of supplies and utensils. Beware of "kitchen gadget-itis" which is unnecessary, expensive and creates counter clutter.

Learning to cook is a life skill that will save you money, feed your stomach, nourish your body, and comfort your heart.

Good appetite!

"Learn how to cook! That's the way to save money. You don't save it buying hamburger helpers, and prepared foods; you save it by buying fresh foods in season or in large supply, when they are cheapest and usually best, and you prepare them from scratch at home. Why pay for someone else's work, when if you know how to do it, you can save all that money for yourself?" 

- Julia Child

September 18, 2013

Becoming GMO Free

A recent New York Times poll found that 93% of Americans favor labeling of GMO foods.
"Three-quarters of Americans expressed concern about genetically modified organisms in their food, with most of them worried about the effects on people’s health." 
- New York Times

Good food is medicine. Frankenfoods are poison, and should be labeled as such.

The pushers of GMO's are unleashing science fiction monstrosities that threaten to overthrow the farm and village alike. It is time to get out the torches and pitch forks, gather publicly and make our demand -

"We want food! REAL food!"

And we want fake food to carry warning labels.

Most villagers agree that food producers should tell us if there are genetically modified products in what they are trying to sell us. But the mad scientists don't want to reveal the monster they are creating and unleashing upon a reluctant world.

Corporations to Avoid

The following are some of the larger corporations that are actively fighting against GMO labelling. They don't really want you to know the truth about what you are eating when you consume their products.

It is estimated that 75-80% of processed food in Canada contains GMOs.

Abbott Nutrition


Bayer Corporation

Campbell Soup Company

Cargill, Inc.

ConAgra Foods, Inc.

Del Monte Foods Company

E. I. Du Pont

General Mills, Inc.

H. J. Heinz Company

Kellogg Company

Kraft Foods Inc.

Mars, Inc.

Monsanto Company


Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc.

PepsiCo Inc.

Sara Lee Corporation

The Coca-Cola Company

The Dow Chemical Company

The Hershey Company

The J.M. Smucker Company

Unilever PLC

Wrigley Company

See the full list here.

Becoming GMO Free

  • Eat as much organic as you can. Certified organic products do not contain GMOs.
  • Support organic foods from small producers vs. organic brands owned by major food corporations who oppose GMO labelling.
  • Look for producers that openly oppose GMOs in their package labels and websites.
  • Buying organic foods from local farms and markets means a healthier environment and community.
  • Grow your own food as much as possible.
  • Stay away from fast food, packaged and processed foods - many contain GMO ingredients, although they are not listed on labels or in information.
  • Cook your own dishes using whole food ingredients.

  • Everyone that eats deserves to know what they are putting in their system. Demand improved food labelling so informed decision making is possible.

    Food should be medicine, not poison.

    September 16, 2013

    The Progress Paradox

    The Progress Paradox: If life is getting better, why do we feel worse?


    The paradox of our times
    Is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers
    Wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints
    We spend more, but we have less.

    We have bigger houses, but smaller families
    More conveniences, but less time.

    We have more degrees, but less sense
    More knowledge, but less judgement
    More experts, but more problems
     More medicines, but less wellness.

    We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.
    We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often
    We have learnt how to make a living, but not a life.

    We have added years to life, but not life to years.
    We've been all the way to the moon and back 
    but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour.

    We have conquered outer space, but not inner space.
    We've cleaned up the air, but polluted our soul.
    We've split the atom, but not our prejudice.
    We've higher incomes, but lower morals.
    We've become long on quantity but short on quality.

    These are the times of tall men, and short character; 
    Steep profits, and shallow relationships. 
    These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare, 
    More leisure, but less fun; 
    more kinds of food, but less nutrition.

    These are the days of two incomes, but more divorces; 
    Of fancier houses, but broken homes. 
    It is a time when there is much in the show window, 
    and nothing in the stockroom.

    A time when technology can bring this letter to you, 
    And a time when you can choose, 
    Either to make a difference .... 

    or just hit, delete.

    - His Holiness the Dalai Lama

    September 15, 2013

    Disposable World

    Global garbage production is on the rise partly due to there being a shorter life cycle for products. This shorter life cycle (aided by planned obsolescence) is more profitable for manufacturers, but more detrimental to our pocket books and the natural world.

    From disposable cutlery to computer printers with self-destruct chips that engage after a preset number of prints, to frequent upgrades that make previous models unwanted, we have been living a disposable lifestyle that has been creating mountains of waste.

    The apparent convenience of disposable stuff is harmful as it hides unintended consequences - solving one problem creates a host of new ones. Convenience now often turns out to be terribly inconvenient later.

    As long as our brainwashing leads us to believe that such flagrant waste is acceptable, we will be reluctant to choose more sustainable practices.

    Disposable stuff, disposable lives, disposable world VS quality stuff, quality lives, quality world. We decide.

    It can be as easy as just washing the spoon when you are done with it.

    September 13, 2013

    The Oil Zombies

    "The oil zombies are coming, the oil zombies are coming!"

    Warning! The zombie apocalypse is nigh.

    Look out British Columbia, the oil zombies are stumbling their way west with outstretched festering arms and mumbling, "We need oil, pipelines, LNG terminals, coal exports, nuclear, rail transport of hazardous materials and fracking."

    While the living are investing in planet-saving technologies like solar, wind, biogas, tidal and other sustainable methods, the undead are flogging their dying energy source - fossil fuels.

    "Never mind brains and tissue, we need pipelines," the piles of pus implore. "Lots of pipelines."

    The only way to dispose of the oily undead is to expose them to logic and reality. No environment, no economy.

    If we fail to evolve our way out of the impending fossil fuelled apocalypse, there will soon be zombie ghost tankers laden with zombie oil leaking along our fragile coastline.

    Say NO to the oil zombies.

    September 11, 2013

    Special Places

    Roche Cove Park is a special place that I bike to often for rest and relief - it is my sanctuary.

    I have always been drawn to certain places in nature - special places that have exerted their force of attraction on me. Such wild places, rich in natural beauty, have been my sanctuary over the years. These sacred, magical points of power have saved my sanity on numerous occasions.

    In my special spots I sense an increased and/or unique natural energy that is mesmerizing and rejuvenating. Who couldn't use some rejuvenating from time to time? I do believe it is a necessary requirement for a sane existence in a crazy world.

    My current favourite special place is an 8 km bike ride from home. Almost the entire route follows a trail laid over an old rail bed used between the early 1900s and the 1950s to move giant logs and freight. 

    Now it is a train-free, motorized vehicle-free corridor allowing peaceful transit across a beautiful landscape of forests with mountain and ocean views.

    I frequently use the trail to trundle myself to my special place for a bit of refuelling. My caboose of stress decompresses immediately upon arrival.

    Populated by patient trees, this power point juts out into the ocean allowing waves to play on its black rock perimeter. The sound of lapping water provides a backdrop for the vibrant beauty that shimmers everywhere. 

    It is quiet, and private - just me and the butterflies. I have never seen another person at this location, meaning I can be confident that my train of thought (or no thought) can move along uninterrupted.

    No worries. No stresses. Only the soothing, healing power of nature.

    Me and a small, rustic bench to sit and ponder, or lay and relax deeply. 

    Ahh, saved again.

    September 9, 2013

    An Inconvenient Truth Monday

    "People don't want to hear the truth 
    because they don't want their illusions destroyed."
     - Friedrich Nietzsche 

    If truth knocked most people down in the middle of the street they would pick themselves up, dust their clothes off, then bustle along as if nothing had happened. We prefer the reassuring lie over the inconvenient, uncomfortable truth, because sometimes the truth threatens to overwhelm us.

    But how do we prepare for a new world if we fail to confront the truths of our day?

    One does not need to belong to a secret society, or dwell in the ivory tower to learn of the few basic truths that confront us like looming brick walls. Pushing the gas pedal of the golden Engine of Progress is not going to break us on through to the other side.

    Inconvenient Truths

    As I see it, the following are a few brick walls that we will need to dismantle,  climb over, or navigate around soon.

    • We live within a closed, finite system that makes infinite growth impossible.
    • The more we mess with nature, the worse we make it. We are killing the planet.
    • Unnecessary competition and struggle does not create the best conditions for peaceful, joyful, sustainable living. 
    • War and violence accomplish nothing positive. 
    • Taking care of each other is the only way the human experiment will ever be successful ("socialism" if you feel a label helps, although I call it basic decency, love, or compassion).
    • Money and the things that can be bought with it will never make anyone happy past a certain modest and limited level.
    • We are not separate from nature, or each other. What we do to harm others also harms us.
    • We are not our stuff, or what we do for a living. We are not our thoughts or memories, and we are not just a physical body. What we are is bigger than all of this, and dwelling in comfortable illusions only gets in the way of the realization of our true identity, peace and contentment.

    The lies may be reassuring, but at least we are beginning to recognize them as lies. When we know we are being lied to, we also can become aware of the truth that will set us free.

    It is time to seek out those inconvenient truths, regardless of how uncomfortable it may be tearing down our familiar illusions brick by brick, lie by lie. It is time to speak out.

    Be prepared for a backlash - you will need to be strong. George Orwell noted long ago that "the more a society drifts from the Truth, the more it will hate those that speak it."

    September 6, 2013

    Not Wasting Anything

    REDUCE is the best method for eliminating waste.

    The long version of the name of our blog could be: Not Buying AnythingNot Wasting Anything. The two are inescapably linked in a cycle of buying and disposing, buying and disposing...

    Therefore, one of the best ways to reduce the amount of waste produced is to reduce consumption. However, this is not something that you will ever see promoted in the mainstream.

    The consumer world is a wasteful world. Why? Because there is profit in waste, from selling disposable crap, to collecting and burying it when it is unwanted or unusable. Indeed, most of what we buy becomes waste within six weeks of purchase.

    Breakdown of average household waste.

    Even after cutting consumption and addressing the problem of waste at its origin, we can still do more to eliminate waste from our lives.

    Living more gently upon this planet means getting as close to zero waste as possible. Any system that expects less, like conspicuous consumerism, violates the general laws of nature and is doomed to fail.

    Waste is death. That is why there is no waste in nature, and that is why I am reducing consumption, and trying my best to not waste anything of what I do buy. My Junk Drawer is alive and well and saves me from time to time with valuable, re-usable resources that can be put to re-use in creative ways.

    A great deal of food waste occurs in the home.

    Ways to Not Waste Anything (or at least waste less)

    1. Cut your consumption. Reduce, reduce, reduce.
    2. Say no to disposable, single use items, and anything plastic.
    3. Use it up, wear it out, or do without.
    4. Compost kitchen scraps.
    5. Say no to products with excessive packaging (processed foods, fast food, consumer products, etc.). Ask Customer Service if you can leave packaging in the store after purchase. If you can't, leave without buying.
    6. Cook with whole foods (that usually have minimal packaging).
    7. Use food more efficiently - eat what needs to be eaten first to prevent spoilage.
    8. Buy what you need to get the job done, and no more. 
    9. Avoid "luxury" anything.
    10. Make a game of living harmoniously within the cycles of nature - leave the linear and wasteful ways of "buy and throw away" consumerism behind, because there is no "away".

    September 4, 2013

    Invent Your Own Life's Meaning

    The point of living is to create a life that 
    reflects your values and satisfies your soul.

    The following advice from the creator of the immensely popular Calvin and Hobbes comic strip provides a point to living outside of the mainstream and its promotion of the "good life". 

    Bill Waterson came by these words of wisdom from personal experience. Early in his career he worked for an advertising agency creating grocery ads, but he eventually escaped the corporate world to work on his own.

    His quest for "personal fulfillment" lead him to create some of the most iconic comic characters in the history of funny. His wonderfully wacky world was born to a receptive and appreciative global audience.

    How did he do it? By turning away from conventional modes of living and doing things his way. You can do it, too.

    Bill Waterson's Advice

    "Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. 

    In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive.

    Ambition is only understood if it's to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success.

    Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake.

    A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to their potential.

    As if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

    You'll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you're doing.

    There are a million ways to sell yourself out and I guarantee you'll hear about them.

    To invent your own life's meaning is not easy, but it's still allowed, and I think you'll be happier for the trouble."
    Invent your own life's meaning.

    - Bill Waterson

    September 2, 2013

    Peak Driving Monday

    "Americans are driving less, and evidence suggests it's not about the economy."

    In no year previous did Americans drive more miles than in 2004. It was peak driving since vehicle miles travelled has declined in almost every state since then. While researchers have a variety of explanations, they are not quite sure of the actual mechanisms at work.

    Is our love affair with the car over?

    For the past 8 years our personal experience has been following the same bumpy road and we have been driving less and less. Why?

    • climate change
    • price of gas
    • we have been enjoying a more local lifestyle
    • to save money on vehicle maintenance
    • we don't want to support the fossil fuel industry
    • we have been biking/walking/rolling instead of driving
    Is the era of the private automobile racing all over the continent coming to a close? Are we learning to be more settled and content with where we are at?

    How have your driving habits changed?