August 31, 2017

The Land Is Our Church

“The Creator gave to us all the living things so that we would know how to act. The natural world is our Bible; by watching the chipmunk and the meadowlark and even the tiniest flower we learn the lessons that the Creator has put before us. Everything is sacred. This very land is our church.”

- Chief Fools Crow of the Oglala Lakota

August 30, 2017

Motor Vehicles - Ecocidal Agents of Destruction

Road kill. We say it without really thinking about it. Trillions of deaths annually are seen as unavoidable collateral damage, simply so we can go places faster and more conveniently.

I have been around cars for my entire life. During that time I have often thought about all the wildlife killed by cars every year.  The windshield alone is a speeding zone of death, evidenced by the ample bug stuff splattered everywhere after a road trip. What a way to go.

Like most North Americans, I have a motor vehicle (a wheelchair accessible van). Unlike most, for the past few years it has been driven an average of about 1600 km (1000 miles). When I drive to the grocers, which is about the only time I drive lately, I am usually not driving fast enough to kill any bugs.

Going slow means there is lots of time to stop or manoeuvre around anything on the road, although ants are impossible to see from the driver's seat. Now I mostly kill things with the noxious fumes emanating from my tailpipe. That doesn't make me feel any better.

The forecast is for more cars in the future. Lots more. Perhaps up to a billion more, and enough new roads for all of them, that would circle the Earth 600 times. These vehicular ecocidal agents of destruction will have serious repercussions for wildlife globally.

“A recent paper by Canadian scientists suggests the upsurge in traffic could itself be responsible for the fall in insect numbers. After extrapolating data from a mile of highway in Ontario, researcher from Laurentian University calculated that hundreds of billions of pollinating insects were probably being killed by vehicles each year in North America.” - Source 

What would our transportation look like if we had reverence, compassion and care for all the other life that shares the planet with us? We can move toward this by staying closer to home, avoiding unnecessary trips, and when traveling, choosing less deadly forms of getting about, like cycling, walking, bus and train.

You can read more about the "highway holocaust" here. It might make you feel like leaving your car in the garage or driveway more often. We can help to radically reduce road kill.

August 27, 2017

Nature Abides

Trains ran on this abandoned line, from the 1800s until the 1990s. It linked the cities of Halifax and Yarmouth.

Nature has cycles. Things are born, live, and die, including civilized things such as train travel, which has been dieing a slow death in North America for decades. Through it all, nature abides.

Natural systems are the constant thread stitching together billions of years of Earth's development. It will probably continue for billions more, with us, or without us.

I am reminded of nature's cycles, and humans' path, every time I go for a bike ride on my local Rails to Trails route. For over 100 years, trains serviced the province of Nova Scotia, including a line to the southwest part of the province. It is this line that passes close to my home.

Since the 1990s the trains have been gone, and now it is a multi-use trail. The route passes through a rural area of farms, orchards and wood lots. It would be great if there were still trains here, although it is a great place for a long bike ride away from cars.

It is also great if you are interested in graphic examples of how nature endures our provocations, then carries on as if we were never around. All around are old farmsteads, abandoned, and being reclaimed by field and forest. They are both beautiful and melancholic at the same time.

Along this route one finds evidence that the area is in the later stages of development. Like me, the place is feeling its age.

The best economic conditions in the province were probably about the time it was a major wooden ship building centre. Steel hulled ships may have been good news for our forests, but they didn't do much for the economy here. The second smallest (and most beautiful) province in Canada has been coping ever since.

While other places today are facing similar conditions, Nova Scotia was over the hump long ago, which should make the people here well prepared for a future that will generally be less wealthy than the more lucrative past when resources were more plentiful and easily accessed.

The wooden ships are gone, the trains are gone, and many people are gone, too. One of the things this province is known for are its migrants going west to other provinces in search of work. In the past 5 years the county I live in has lost 4% of it population.

As you might surmise, the folks around here are indeed rugged and resourceful, by necessity. It is not hard to see the people here thriving in conditions more similar to the province's roots than more recent modern times.

I don't mind, coming from the west of Canada in areas that were growing at a frenzied rate. Such growth is a double edged sword. While it may be good for maintaining a certain standard of living, it is not so good for ones mental health if you are sensitive to the destruction that goes along with rapid growth.

I like life at a much slower, gentler pace, and Nova Scotia is all of that. Here, as I pass by the weathered wood siding, and rusty pump handles, I am reminded that civilizations have come to be, flourished, and are eventually swallowed by the deep sands. Or soil, or jungle, forest, or water. Gone, and that's ok.

We are not exceptional. We are not above the laws of Nature, no matter how much we deny them, or try to cheat our way out with technological saves. "And so it goes", as Kurt Vonnegut said.

Through it all, Nature abides. I find that uncomfortably comforting.

August 22, 2017

Putting The Sacred Back Into Nature

Experiencing the sacredness of nature can cause feelings of blessedness, joy, ecstasy, and serenity.

Humans have not always seen the natural world as a soul-less void passively existing to serve our needs and wants. At one time we knew that everything was alive, and crackled with life, magic, and soul. Trees, rocks, mountains, birds - every thing was sacred.

One of the beautiful things about believing in the sacredness of the Earth is that you don't see yourself as separate from it, and therefore hesitate to harm any part of it. The Earth does not belong to us. We belong to the Earth.

In the 1800s, Chief Seattle explained his peoples' take on this. He said, "Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people". That is certainly my personal experience when I interact with natural surroundings.

"How can other people not see this, feel this?" I wonder to myself. For me it is powerful and unmistakable. Everything, in my perception, is crackling with energy, magic, and life.

Being in touch with the power of nature can awaken us to the spiritual dimensions of our existence.

Take the "sacred" designation away and distinctly un-natural things happen. We think we can "own" nature. We think it is all inferior, dead, and put there for the sole use of humans. Where did the sacredness go? How did we lose such an important part of ourselves?

In the book, Ancient Wisdom for Modern Ignorance, Swami B. V. Tripurari gives one possible explanation of how we arrived at seeing an essentially dead environment made for our own benefit.

"Our present environmental crisis is in essence a spiritual crisis", he says. "We need only to look back to medieval Europe and the psychic revolution that vaulted Christianity to victory over paganism to find the spirit of the environmental crisis. 
Inhibitions to the exploitation of nature vanished as the Church took the "spirits" out of the trees, mountains, and seas. Christianity's ghost-busting theology made it possible for man to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects. 
It made nature man's monopoly. This materialist paradigm has dominated the modern world for last few centuries."

His solution? Put the sacred back into Nature. Give it the reverence it deserves, and see our selves as an integral part of the whole. Kind of like Chief Seattle was saying.

"The current deplorable environmental crisis demands a spiritual response", says Tripurari. "A fundamental reorientation of human consciousness, accompanied by action that is born out of inner commitment, is very much needed.”

Another special spot in my backyard woods. I look at the trees -  they look back at me. We are one.

Would you like to experience the sacred in nature more often and more powerfully? It is possible to learn to cultivate a relationship with nature that enhances our experiencing of the sacred. Such spiritual growth leads to positive change in our relationship with the Earth. We feel powerful, connected, at peace, and unafraid.

Putting The Sacred Back Into Nature

1. Find a special place in nature. How? Usually, such locations are not simply chosen, and rather, are revealed to us after a bit of a search. You will feel drawn to such a place. Allow yourself to listen to the call. Let it lead you. You will know, you will feel, when you have arrived.

2. If you are fortunate enough to find such a place, go there regularly, when called, or when the occasion requires it. In any case, go to the places that call you, and be open to their influence.

3. Repeated visits to special places help develop your sense of connection to nature. A special place could be in your backyard, your garden, a nearby park, a special tree, stream, hill or mountaintop. Visit at all times of the day, and in all seasons. Let yourself merge with it.

4. Meditating on the ceaseless rhythms and cycles of nature opens the gateway to sacred time vs clock time. Nature meditations allow one to touch eternity, and feel touched by it in turn.

5. The sacred is most powerfully available to us during times of transition -- sunrise, sunset, midday, phases of the moon, equinoxes and solstices. Take advantage of these moments, whether through cultural celebrations, or immersing yourself in a special spot.

6. Be alone, be still and silent. Silence is the key to opening a gateway into solitude and communion with the divine. Psychologist Clark Moustakas studied loneliness, and found that, “In absolute solitary moments, humans experience truth, beauty, nature, reverence, and humanity.”

7. Don't rush, be calm. These things take time. Insights will come when one is ready. But they will come, be assured.

When we are in intimate dialogue with nature, we can have powerful moments of insight and illumination. These moments are confirmations of our faith in the possibility of re-integration and wholeness, a confirmation of the healing process by which one can restore one’s relation to the world. 

When we feel the sacredness in nature, the meaning of human existence is revealed, even if it’s only for a moment. In these glimpses, we are put in profound contact with our own basic humanity and the nature of Being. We experience being part of the whole of nature.

Our individual being merges with the being of Earth. We are one.

It is this state that will change everything. Our actions become ones which honour nature, rather than exploit it and use it to satisfy our own greedy desires. We become sympathetic to the rocks and trees and air and water, because we see that they are us, and we are them.

This is the change in human consciousness that needs to happen in order for us to save the planet, and ourselves.

August 17, 2017

Rumi In The Woods

There is an old cabin in the woods in my back yard. I have hiked, or snowshoed, to it many times, but on my last walk in the woods I looked at it differently. Is it possible it looked more tranquil and appealing than ever before? 

Who doesn't want to run away to a cabin in the woods? Maybe its me and my love of the simple life, but a cabin next to a small brook and surrounded by a vast forest sounds pretty good right now. 

I imagine myself living here from day to day, hauling water, cooking over a fire, tending a small garden. Meditating. Sleeping. Blissing out on Nature. And reading. 

I would definitely have some Jalalud’din Rumi in my sanctuary in the woods. This is a prefect setting for contemplating the deep insight of this 13th Century Persian Poet, better known simply as "Rumi". 

"My soul is from elsewhere - I’m sure of that. And I intend to end up there.”

"Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world… today I am wise so I am changing Myself."

"When you feel a peaceful joy, that’s when you are near the truth."

"What you seek is seeking you."

Away from the madness of material culture, and surrounded by Nature, I deepen my own insight, and tap into a peaceful joy. 

August 14, 2017

Hugs Not Thugs

Hugs are a good way to say "I love you" without saying, or buying, anything.

"Let's have a war on hugs", said no one ever. Doesn't everyone love hugs? Problem is, not enough hugs, and too many thugs.

Here's the right idea - a "Bliss Mob Hug Parade". Yes, it is a real thing.

Our problems run deep. Hugs alone won't fix them.

But hugs will definitely make things better. So let's do this thing. Hugs all around. More hugs will decrease the incidence of thuggery. It will prevent the formation of new thugs.

Hugs before we start the hard work before us. Hugs during the hard work that we will do to create a better world. And lots of celebratory hugs when we see the joyous outcomes as we journey together.

August 11, 2017

Millennials Not Buying It

There is a major cultural shift taking place. Goodbye Boomers, Hello Millennials.

Hooray for Millennials. They are making money-makers mad. Many individuals born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s to early 2000s are going off script. They aren't playing the game, and a variety of industries and products are feeling the pain of being left on the shelf.

There has been a culture shift quietly taking place in the most nonconformist generation since the hippy movement of the 60s. I am loving these Millennials, or "The Cheapest Generation", as frustrated sellers of stuff call them.

But the system should take notice - I don't think that ridicule and name calling will work this time.

Back in 1918, Nicholas Klein, a trade unionist, stated "First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you." If the Millennials continue their game changing ways, and don't start buying and doing what they are suppose to, expect the attacks against them to ramp up.

"The least useful generation in America" aren't buying the dismal consumerism life that has been offered up for decades now. They see where that got their parents - debt, stagnant pay, depression, and struggling to raise a family on two wages. They see what the system has done to our planet. They were raised in an era of perpetual war.

Consumerist capitalism has infected everything. We live in a excessively wasteful, throw-away world. Disposable income, disposable products, disposable people. Waste defines our grotesque wealth.

Understandably, many of the young are not big fans of capitalism, with 42 percent of Millennials favouring a more people-centered approach. No wonder the establishment is in a huff, hurling insults such as "lazy", "high on self-esteem", and "entitled" at this recalcitrant cohort.

Get used to it. This group wants experiences that are more authentic, and less reliant on the Big Corp/Big Government cabal. This cultural shift is another nail in the coffin of a way of life that has been unsustainable from the beginning.

Things Millennials Aren't Buying

- car and home ownership

- uninspiring wage-slave jobs

- ownership (why own something when you can rent it?)

- bosses that use fear as a management strategy

- golf

- TV

- Mainstream Beer

- Big box stores

- Children

- Anything their parents tell them to buy

This is the most hope I have had in a generation since the Gen X slackers gave the finger to the mainstream. Having grown up through the Great Recession, Millennials are "an entire generation with permanently changed spending habits." Excellent.

It is good news that this group doesn't spend as freely as previous generations. Nor should they, unless they want to keep the whole Ponzi scheme going. And they don't. Is it because of financial constraints, or is this the generation that will embrace more sensible DIY frugal simple lifestyles? Will there be monuments to Millennials in the future? Time will tell.

I do hope it is true that Millenials are"ready to fight—to do whatever it takes". I hope they are truly  "not afraid”, and that that they go down in history as the generation that restored some sanity to a consumer culture gone mad.

If not them, who? If not now, when?

August 9, 2017

Simple Living Advice

Think. Ask questions. Learn. Answers follow. Take action. Repeat.

A big thank you to everyone that responded to my last post with advise for NBA reader, Hagan, who is looking to break out of the 9 to 5 and live a more adventurous and free life on the road. It has turned out to be one of my favourite comment threads of all time on our blog.

The responses are great for anyone pursuing alternative ways of living, and who isn't these days? Following the comments, and thinking about Hagan's 23 year old thoughts, has me thinking a lot about my own path, 33 years advanced from his position.

Whenever I am pondering something, patterns become apparent, and information presents itself at precisely the right time. For example, I was reading at the Down To Earth blog. I find that we are often on the same page, and this time was no different.

On her most recent post Rhonda Jean wrote:

"I think simple life is a safe haven for those of us who refuse to be dumbed down and who want to continue learning and developing ourselves all through life.
The choices are key here. Instead of following a straight and monotonous "normal" path, we can step away from that to embrace learning, independence, daily contemplation, critical thinking and individual choice. Sometimes we take the easy path, sometimes the difficult one and each day, small step by small step we move through life. 
There are times when we stop and reevaluate what we're doing, sometimes small adjustments or huge leaps are made but if we resist the noise of modern life and stay focused on our own life being a work in progress, then these periods of adjustment help us continue along the road less travelled."

I thought of Hagan, because like the comments posted here, these are words to live by, words that I have lived by. It reminded me that there are no simple answers, no one size fits all response when it comes to thinking about how we should best live this precious, precious life we have been given.

Having said that, one can't go wrong by advising a life of simplicity centred on continuous learning and self-improvement. It seems that if one focuses on that, the rest will fall into place.

Again, thank you to NBA commenters that have shared their wise thoughts with us. I do hope that Hagan has seen your kind words.

You can read the post and comments here. And if you haven't already, do consider leaving a comment of your own.

August 2, 2017


Stick your finger in the map - it smells of the open road. 

Do you yearn for a life on the road? Or a simple life, anywhere? Does thinking about the 9 to 5 make you nauseous? Need more than a mainstream life of conformist mediocrity?

NBA reader Hagan is feeling the disappointment of mainstream life. Like many of us, he is not feeling spiritually enlightened by materialism and the work-shop-work cycle. He left a comment on our post called Rubber Tramping.

Hagan said,

I am feeling so conflicted. I have been spending the last almost 2 years, waiting, pacing back and forth. Figuratively speaking; I've been banging my head against a wall because I don't want to live a 9 to 5 lifestyle. 
I feel stuck. I feel decompressed and restricted. I am a decently talented artist/ musician who has lived the same place in Colorado my entire almost 23 years of life. And I don't think I will be able to just.. be. 
Ever. Not like this. 
I'm asking you all for advice. How do you make a living on the road.? I've talked with good friends about this topic and a lot say spanging, wire wraps, jewellery, all the way to selling dollar beers, and grilled cheeses at music festivals. 
Please give me insight if you could as I am in need of all the advice I can find.

I responded,

I have been thinking about your comment since you left it here. I, and many people that visit this blog, know how you feel. Your need for freedom is palpable, and it is serious. 
You must act. 
I don't know about making a living on the road, having never had to do it before. But I do know a bit about living with as little as possible so I can be as free as possible, both on the road, and off. 
Cut your expenses, and make the life you envision happen. It will be hard, and at times scary. But it absolutely can be done. And should be done. A life of conformist mediocrity is a hard row to hoe as well, so you might as well be free. 
Be free. Do whatever it takes. That is my only advise. And let us know how it goes.

That doesn't seem like much help to this young, suffering soul, but it is a complicated situation. Pretty much everything in our way of life is meant to stifle freedom, not augment it. You will work for us. You will give us your hard earned cash in exchange for trinkets and distractions.

Obey. Conform. Wanting a simpler life and more freedom seems like a natural reaction to an un-natural exploitive system. I think Hagan is on the right path.

My own quest for simplicity has been a decades long adventure. But I do remember feeling similar feelings when I was 23. There has never been a time in my life that I envisioned doing the same things as everyone else around me. I wanted to find, and take, the road less traveled.

Regular life is not for everyone. Maybe a life such as what we have for the masses today is not for anyone. Now seems like a great time to explore alternatives, on the road, or off the road. Anywhere.

Rubber tramping. Leather tramping. Tramping. Being free. Being.

Do you have any advice for Hagan, or others (young or old) looking to live more simply and with greater freedom? How does one get off the 9 to 5? How do we break free of the chains of mainstream culture and the consumer capitalist system?