July 31, 2015

All Things Are Connected

A murmuration of starlings shows how all things are connected.

"It made me reflect on how we are taught to process observations.  
That brilliant playwright and scientist Goethe wrote that we needed to get away from the “dead” science of seeing things as solid and separate objects when reality lies in the living, vibrating relationship between things, between the see’er and the seen.  
This turns our habitual way of thinking inside out." 
- from How a Baby Starling Opened My Eyes

July 29, 2015

Simple Living Is Spontaneous Living

Spontaneity is the quality of living freely and following our own energies and tendencies. It is moving with the life force. It feels great to allow ourselves to let go and be totally spontaneous. These are the moments we are truly ourselves.

Modern lifestyles generally value structure, planning, and discipline over spontaneity. Spontaneity comes to be seen as childish. Even as children, many of us were forced to control our spontaneity and be more "grown up". Boring.

As adults we are expected to behave in a rational, contained manner. Most of us have lost our connection with our true spontaneous spirit and have fallen into a stultifying predictability. It can be very refreshing to quit "adulting" for a while and channel a more child-like approach.

Time and space is required in order to step out of the repetitive life, be present, and live moment to moment. Living simply allows us to regain our natural spontaneity and enjoy life as it comes.

 Often the best, most exciting moments in life are unplanned, random and spontaneous.

July 27, 2015

Would You Like Pesticides With That?

Organic is the way to grow.

We all have industrial chemicals in us from the contaminated food that we eat. But don't worry - our leaders tell us that this slow poisoning is within "acceptable limits".

Herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, thisicides and thaticides. Modern farming is a violent process of killing in order to maximize profits.

But what about maximizing human and environmental health?

Buying organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible reduces the chemical load on the environment and your body. Organic farms are safer for workers, so buying organic tells them we care about their health and well-being.

The following is a list of produce that when grown on industrialized farms are loaded with pesticides that are harmful to bugs and other living things.

These are the first that should be replaced with organically grown alternatives.

"Dirty" Vegetables

Bell peppers

"Dirty" Fruits


The next list is for produce that when grown on industrial farms tends to be treated with pesticides less than the items on the list above.

"Cleaner" Vegetables

Sweet potatoes
Sweet peas – frozen
Sweet corn

"Cleaner" Fruits


The best case scenario is when we can grow our own fruits and vegetables using organic methods in our backyards and community gardens. We can also support local organic growers and farmer's markets.

That would be the best, cleanest food available.

July 22, 2015

10 Ways To Power Down

North americans are electricity pigs. If we are going to shrink our ecological footprint we will have to shrink our electricity consumption.

The good news is that because we are so wasteful improvements are easy. The average american home could probably shave 30% off their consumption without even noticing.

Try these for starters.

1. Switch to LED lighting.
2. Turn off lights when not in use. Aids like timers and motion sensors can help.
3. Lower your heating/air conditioning needs. Use sweaters and blankets for heat, a fan for cooling. Automatic thermostats help lower energy draw for you.
4. Eliminate phantom power draw. This is when things are on even when they aren't - manufacturers call it "Standby". Use power bars to turn off electronics.
5. Replace old appliances with more energy efficient alternatives.
6. Move to an energy efficient home, preferably one that is smaller.
7. Open your fridge less often.
8. Dry clothes on a clothes line.
9. Use lids while cooking. Don't overcook food.
10. Turn it off. Turn it all off. Enjoy the silence.

The next stage is transitioning off grid power and on to smaller community based renewable alternatives. When we couple reduced demand with renewable energy sources we begin to approach sustainability.

Power down and raise the fun factor. Consider it a vital challenge. How much electricity can you do without?

July 20, 2015

Still Not Happy

After decades of promises about how capitalism and consumerism will make us all gloriously happy, we still aren't. Now at the end of consumerism we need more and more just to feel normal. But they tell us we just haven't bought enough yet.

What about the billions of people that do not live consumer lifestyles? Is it not possible for them to be happy?

What about the majority of history in which humans survived with few material possessions? The way this 50 year old scam has been presented to us no one has been blissfully happy until the advent of the shopping mall.

It was a lie from the beginning. It is quite possible to be happy with less. In some cases, much less.

Consumerism is a total failure. Continued participation is an exercise in futility.

Still not happy? Simplify now and avoid the rush.

July 17, 2015

Release Life

Taking caterpillars off kale is gardening, rescuing caterpillars and putting them
on kale is Fangsheng.
Life is precious. It is Dylan Thomas's force that runs through the "green fuse" in everything, and it wants to continue. Nothing wants to "go gentle into that good night".

There is an ancient Chinese Buddhist practice called fangsheng, or “release life,” in which caged animals are released as a way of generating positive karma through acts of kindness. If this practice delivers I am due for a major karmic restructuring.

Usually adherents release relatively attractive life forms like birds or turtles. But even ticks have the life force running through their little bodies.

Since we live in the middle of a 500 acre farm containing large areas of forest and meadows, we are in prime tick habitat. Some tick bites can cause serious health problems, like Lyme disease. Since the spring I have been clearing our back patio of ticks to try and avoid bites.

I killed the first few immediately, but that didn't feel right, so I put the proceeding individuals in a small jar. It began to add up. What to do with them?

I thought of putting them out with the garbage, or flushing them down the toilet. I thought about pouring poison into the jar, but realized I don't have any poison. But then I began to think, "Who am I to remove the green fuse from these creatures?

Humans are the biggest pests on the face of the earth. We suck the life force out of Mother Earth as we puff up our environmental footprint several times over what is required. We are killing our host.

Should we be snuffed out because of that?

While I was thinking about the (slightly creepy) creatures in my jar, a comment that gave me further reason to pause was left on my post 10 Survival Foods You Can Grow.

"I had kale one year on my balcony. It is an amazing plant! Every time I found a little caterpillar with my bought vegetables it got to live in the kale. The caterpillars ate almost all the kale, then they cocooned and later turned into something else. And the kale, it just grew right back and I could go get some leafs almost all the way through winter."

It is one thing to save puppies and kittens, but caterpillars? Ticks? Yes. All life is sacred.

So off I went on my bicycle, with my tick bottle stowed in my backpack. A few kilometres ride into the countryside I stopped at the side of the road in a place far away from people and pets. I had my little (slight creepy) Fangsheng ceremony.

It should be noted that unscrupulous capitalist opportunists set up small businesses capturing the creatures released by well meaning Buddhists looking for a karmic boost. Bad karma, like so much of what the human pest does to suck the last bit of wealth out of the shell of our planet.

I don't think anyone will be recapturing my released ticks. They are free and fusing once again. Just not on my back patio.

“Old age should burn and rave at the close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of that light.”

July 13, 2015

Crap Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

An electrical short can occur in this treadmills' motor, causing electrocution, shock and fire hazards.

In the period 2003-2012 there were 30 reported deaths in the US associated with treadmills. Reports show how this health product may unexpectedly accelerate, electrocute users and start on fire.

Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the US alone more than $1 trillion annually.

Not only does the consumer culture kill, injure and maim, it is also extremely expensive.

"The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction."

Is there a reasonable risk of injury or death? What consumer products have a reasonable or acceptable risk of injury or death?

Most of them? All of them? If not directly, then at least indirectly from the hazards associated with the resource extraction, manufacture, transportation, use and disposal cycle that everything we buy goes through.

But some have been demonstrated to be directly deadly.

"CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical or mechanical hazard. CPSC's work to help ensure the safety of consumer products - such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters and household chemicals -– contributed to a decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 40 years."

The following is a tiny selection of the items recalled in 2014.

- a children's hoody that could strangle the wearer.

- a children's swing that could disconnect.

- a TV that can fall from its cracked base.

- a crossbow that can fire without the trigger being pulled.

- a toilet system that can burst and shatter the toilet tank.

- cocktail glasses that can break unexpectedly.

See here for the complete 32 page list from last year. All are consumer products that have been known to cause death or injury, or cause property damage.

You  can also enter a product name on the site to see if there have been any recalls of things you may be thinking of buying, or already have in your home.

Crap kills. Or injures. Or burns your planet down. Best to stay away from as much of it as possible, whether officially flagged by the CPSC or not.

July 9, 2015

Less Shopping, More Sleeping

Wake up! Go to work. Consume. Repeat until you drop.

The health promoting aspects of sleep have been underplayed by a society that doesn't want you to stop working or consuming. Go, Go, Go. 24 hour shopping. What is the saying? "You can sleep when you are dead." That's silly. It makes me sleepy just thinking about it.

Fact. You must make time for important things. Like breathing, or sleeping. No way around that. If you don't sleep it will lead to your death, eventually.

Unless you are a robot you require sleep every night. Every single night. Miss it and you will be hurting until you do get sleep. It is so vital to survival that denial of sleep is considered torture.

But how much sleep does one require for optimal health?

Conventional wisdom for years has said about 8 hours. More recent studies have shown that ten good hours of sleep per night is best. And if you can sneak in a nap somewhere during the day, that is even better.

Getting a deep, restorative sleep every night is important for many reasons. One of the most important is that your brain needs deep sleep in order to cleanse itself. Deep, dream-filled sleep.

A good sleep can make you smarter, faster and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. It will put a lightness in your step, and a Mona Lisa smile on your face.

Since moving to rural Nova Scotia Linda and I have been enjoying more restful sleeps. It is very, very quiet out here in the country. Couple that with no alarm clock and what we end up with most nights is ten solid hours of rest.

In a sane world we would have less shopping and more sleeping. Glorious, restful, restorative and free sleep. 

July 6, 2015

Give 'Em The Finger

Over the weekend the brave citizens of Greece, in a bold David and Goliath move, gave the big bankers the finger. They stood up to the greedy giant and said, "No more bullying".

The referendum result was a rock fired from the sling of democracy, and it hit the bully right in the temple.

It is heartening to see little people stand up to power. The story is one well liked by people everywhere, because the story of abuse of the small by the large is tragically well known.

How wonderful that we can all be Davids slinging rocks toward strategic targets in order to fell the selfish and unjust that are not too-big-to-fall. We can all do our little bit, our actions will build and reach the tipping point, and then we will see them topple.

You may not think you have any rocks for your sling, but you have many. Every action and decision can be a rock cast at a plethora of giants. Take your pick.

When you buy organic you give the finger to GMOs.

When you repair something you give the finger to planned obsolescence and the throw away society.

When you cook your own food you give the finger to the fast/processed food industry.

When you wait and save money before buying something you give the finger to the usurers in the big banks and credit card companies.

When you educate yourself and speak out you give the finger to governments that only want ignorant, quiet and compliant consumers.

When you ride your bike instead of driving you give the finger to the fossil fuel industry.

The giants know the story of David and Goliath just as well as the little people... and it scares them. They know how it ends. That is why they want to restrict our freedom, our rights, our throwing hand.

But in the end, just like in the ancient story, the small and seemingly insignificant always win. Regardless of how much they try to stifle us, it never works.

Give them the finger. Use your sling. Bring them down with every little thing you do every day. It is happening, and like the news from Greece, there is more evidence every day that the Goliaths are trembling. They can see the inevitable outcome - they are starting to fall already.

July 2, 2015

10 Ways To Tell You Might Be Living Simply

Is a bike your main vehicle? You might be living simply.

There are as many ways to practice simplicity as there are people. Everyone can engage in simplicity, but how do you know when you are doing it? 

Here are 10 ways to tell you might be living simply:

1. You get 8 or more hours of sleep every night, and don't wake to an alarm.
2. You know your neighbours.
3. You life is so low-stress you don't need to take vacations.
4. You have the time to do the things most important to you.
5. You have clothes with holes in them.
6. Your home has wheels.
7. Your guests have to bring their own plate, cup and cutlery when they come over for a meal (maybe a chair, too).
8. You have more space than stuff.
9. You work to live, rather than live to work.
10. You have a front yard vegetable garden instead of a lawn.

How do YOU tell when you are living simply?