Sunday, December 30, 2007

I guess it’s about time for my end-of-year reflections. Where has the past year gotten me?

I’m not the same person I was last year at this time—I’ve definitely been changed. Maybe it’s been the most profound year of change for me ever, but can I really put my finger on anything for sure? All I can really say is I’ve deepened my experience with voluntary simplicity, I’ve been exploring human potential, I’ve been studying our current human and global predicament, and I’ve been trying to find my place here in this historical moment. Yet basic as those things sound, in all of this an old paradigm has been shattered, and a new one is emerging for me. I’m being reborn into a new world.

This whole time since I moved to Snyder seems to have been a time for breaking down the old to make way for a new way of seeing. I don’t think I’m all the way into the new paradigm yet, but I do know it involves transcending materialism, transcending the ego, living fearlessly, living directly, viscerally, and immediately, being always connected with the earth and nature, thinking outside of the box, and allowing the Divine to flow through me.

I’m not doing any of that perfectly yet, but I am doing all of it some of the time.

Imagine what the world would be like if all of us were doing all of that all of the time!

I don’t know if that day will ever come. Things look pretty dismal for humanity as things stand. I know it’s possible. In a flash we could birth the new paradigm for society as a whole, not just for a few individuals scattered here and there.
Is my role to try to coax humanity to transition? It sounds like such a ridiculous, impossible thing to suggest. But how can I know if I don’t try?

Monday, December 17, 2007

I just finished reading The Sixth Extinction by Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin. Two interesting things they said got me thinking about parallels in human society.

One was the idea that “disturbance is the midwife of evolution”. Or, in other words, stressed environments are more likely to produce innovation and new species than are stable environments.

The second thing was the example of birds who became flightless when they inhabited islands where they had no predators. Since they no longer needed to expend the energy to fly, they didn’t bother anymore, and quickly lost the ability.

I’ve been thinking about how modern culture has us living in this dream, living mere shadow lives, basically stagnating. We don’t seek to discover and live our full human potential. Life is too comfortable and too entertaining to be bothered. Why ever leave the couch?

All of this vicarious living through the television and the internet—most of it unreal or irrelevant to our immediate lives. It makes us soft. It’s not just the media though—it’s everything that makes our lives easy and comfortable.

If anything catastrophic happens will we even have any survival skills intact to pull us through? There are people out there who barely have a clue where food even comes from, let alone how to grow it or gather it or butcher it or preserve it. There are plenty of urban dwellers who don’t even know how to cook, who eat out at restaurants all the time. That is truly going soft. What would they do if society collapsed as oil ran out? We’re forgetting all of the old agricultural lore. We’re turning more and more helpless.

We’re so comfortable that we’ve fallen into a stupor. All of these catastrophes are nearly at our door and we do nothing but flop on the sofa to watch this season’s hit crime/drama or sitcom. We’ve become nothing but a bunch of flightless birds.

What would it take to wake people up again? To get them at least to flap their wings a little? They will wake up for sure when society really begins to crack, when their immediate habitat is stressed. By then it could easily be too late.

It all gets a bit depressing. I can’t help getting to the point in my thinking that it just doesn’t really matter if we live or die. The earth for sure would be infinitely better off without us. Why should I do anything to fight for our future? Why does the human species matter?

I don’t know if it does, ultimately, but is there any value in simply acting as if? Shouldn’t I act as if, just in case?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How do you go about creating a better world? I hate our current era and my feelings are so strong partly because I sense there’s a better way within out grasp. How do you change the world?

The things that need to change are so huge—like the global economic system—where do you start? I sense that somewhere there’s a tiny crack, a way in, a way to begin the change. Some infinitesimal act that will expand and expand and eventually cause the whole thing to crumble—to make room for something better. What is that small act? What could one person do? What would be powerful enough, contagious enough?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What are viable occupations in this historical period? Businesses that deal in secondhand goods and salvage-type operations. Organic, biodynamic farms. Environmental restoration projects. Family planning programs, particularly in third world nations. Spiritual mentorship. Green builders who use reclaimed and renewable resources and who don’t overbuild either for family size or the local ecosystem, and only as needed. Healers—true healers. Why is it so hard to think of these? Even some of these don’t work if I require that they “do no harm”. Just how are we to live responsibly in these times?

For me, even writing as an occupation does harm what with paper and ink and printing presses and trucking published materials; and the more successful I am, the more harm I do. Say I become a public speaker instead (not bloody likely!), then the harm would be in transportation impacts from both myself and the audience. Any dispersal of information, no matter what, has a negative impact on earth’s resources. There’s obviously no way around that, but what causes the least harm while doing the greatest good?

First, you would have to make sure you have something truly valuable to share. Telling people what they want to hear, or only what will sell the best, doesn’t cut it. It has to be significant. Then who do you want to reach and how do you reach them? On the fringes of my mind I’ve been trying to work out a way to make a living while circumventing as much of the negatives of the marketplace as possible. There are just some vague ideas floating around that I need to develop.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I’ve been sensing yet again that I’m on the verge of a breakthrough. I feel like there’s a bigger picture that’s about to be revealed to me. Last night while reading a book, something the writer was saying triggered an image to flood my mind. It was of me skiing on top of an avalanche, somehow being able to ride on top of it without being sucked in. I understood the image to represent me riding on top of this historical moment, while the masses are caught up in it. I’m breaking out of our modern paradigm—transcending it. That’s what has me thinking I’m about to see a bigger picture—be able to take in a much broader scope—understand the human condition in a new context.

Think about it: transcending materialism is huge! So many of the agonies of this world are the result of materialism. All of the greed and thieving, by individuals, corporations, nations. The obsessive need to have more, the energy expended simply on acquisition. And the health consequences to people and the planet because of this gluttony. How many wars have been fought for resources? How many lives have been lost on the streets of our cities for a pair of shoes, a gold necklace, a stereo set? How much sickness and death can be attributed to gluttony and addiction? What would the world look like without the sickness and suffering and death that can be attributed to materialism? That world is possible. It is a future we could have. As long as change is possible on the personal level—and it always will be—that world is possible.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Where does spiritual evolution lead us? I’ve been pondering that for a long time, since reading Jung in high school. In the early stages of humanity we functioned collectively and lived in the mythic unconscious. As we individuated we became conscious, but also separated from the divine. Once individuated we must merge again back into the mythic, but this time fully awake and conscious.
At this point in history, we’ve perfected our individuality, the little self. We’ve swung out as far as we possibly can away from our true identity. It’s necessary, if we’re to return with full awareness. But it’s a dangerous and destructive place to be, so far away from the Truth.
Out of the immense totality of the Divine, as we’ve individuated, we’ve contracted down to little dots. The illusion is that we’ve separated from everything else. The gift is that we can see the Divine as the objective Other. We’re surrounded by it, so there are infinite opportunities to See. And once we See, we can come to realize that we were never really separate at all, never really little tiny dots of individuality. It was just an illusion.
I’ve been puzzling over modern culture lately and the way it stands between people and direct experience. Culture inserts itself and therefore puts us one step removed from direct knowing. This urge to simplify is the urge to live more directly. I get rid of those things that stand as obstacles between me and the Divine.
Lately it’s been music I’ve been considering. Most popular music, I think, gets in the way. You get manipulated by music. Music is emotional manipulation. It causes you to feel emotions that aren’t congruent with what is for you, in your life, at that moment. The grief or love or anger a song elicits is from someone else’s story, not yours, and yet your body gets washed in those emotions and subtly shapes you, nonetheless.

I do however believe that music can also be a spiritual tool. Participatory music particularly--like the Dances of Universal Peace, and the tribal song and dance of indigenous people. And I use New Age instrumental music sometimes to set a mood for contemplation. Intentional use can help you connect with the Divine. Mindless use can keep you a step removed.

Monday, October 15, 2007

How do I earn a living in this world when I believe that virtually all money in circulation is befouled--that it has caused the suffering and exploitation of countless beings and the earth? Why can’t I live in a moneyless society, one based on bartering and shared endeavors? Money is such a curse for me in this lifetime. I know too much.
I think a vow of poverty is a spiritual necessity in these times. My reading lately has reminded me that all of the great spiritual masters have considered it a spiritual necessity throughout the ages, not just now. But it seems especially critical in this time of global commerce and global exploitation and with the irrefutable evidence we have of what we’ve done and what we’re doing.
I want my life to transcend money. I wanted it to be about something other than earning and spending, acquiring and protecting. I want to become a person of power. And not power the way it is defined in popular culture--not power based on prestige, status, success, and possessions but real power. The power of divinity coursing through my veins, of something higher moving and acting through me. The gift in this lifetime is all of those past life memories I have. I know I am eternal, so there’s very little attachment to my little egoic self, my persona in this lifetime. I am willing to throw it away. I don’t need anything more from this life. I can sacrifice my persona and let something more immense move through me. I willingly surrender my life. That is my prayer to the heavens these days.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I just finished reading Not Buying It, a book about a couple who went a year without buying anything except “necessities” (their version of necessities being a little different than mine). Reading all of these books is a little frustrating and disappointing. They just don’t go deep enough or far enough. They still speak from within the context of the western post-industrial world view. They’re not able to get to the really profound stuff-- that requires a complete paradigm shift, a stepping outside of the box.
I’m second-guessing my whole book idea. Could there possibly be an audience for what I have to say? Would an agent or publisher get it, and believe there are people my message would reach?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I just read a short little book about the skill of healing. It was written by a guy who stumbled into this knowledge accidentally. In healing from a parasitic infection he had come home with after a trip to Brazil, he would go outside and lie on the ground every day. He began to sense the energy emanating from the ground and trees and other natural objects, then later discovered he could read peoples’ energy fields. He realized that by pulling energy from the earth (or aligning your vibration with the earth’s vibration, as I would put it) you can access healing energy. He said that the healing techniques he discovered are identical to techniques used in a number of indigenous tribes throughout the world, but that these are not indigenous techniques, rather universal human ones.
It’s so wonderful to find examples of other people who have stumbled into the same kind of knowledge as I have. And how did he get to that knowledge? Through the “emptiness” created by his illness. I’m convinced that emptiness of some sort is a prerequisite for beginning to explore our full human potential, whether it be through simplicity, solitude, meditation, celibacy, fasting, or even the down-time when recuperating from an illness. Being still in some way, creating a void, is absolutely necessary--creating space for Spirit to enter and for human potential to unfold.
In a number of the books I’ve read lately, they’ve talked about Native American prophecies that have told of the coming time when indigenous knowledge would be vital in order to save the world, and how many of the elders believe that the time is now at hand. I certainly believe so. Once the world oil fields are depleted, indigenous ways of knowing the world will become crucial. The wonderful thing is that the native way of knowing is the fully human way of knowing, and all of us have the ability to tap into that knowledge. If modern culture crashes with the end of oil, the pace of life will slow down and returned to the basics and people will have the time to cultivate emptiness. I feel hopeful. I know there’s likely to be anarchy, maybe hundreds of years of anarchy, but I feel certain there will be substantial pockets of humanity throughout the world who returned to a right relationship with the earth, with Spirit, and with their own Divine potential.
The Western mind, for the past 500 years or so, has veered far away from a direct way of knowing. We’ve created this abstract, symbolic, representational world view. Inserting symbols between ourselves and immediate experience. Even machines seem to be just symbols of our human ability to act in the world. They act in our place, merely representing our own potential. When we do things ourselves, even if we use tools, but are actively engaged in the process, we are changed by the act of doing. Energies intersect and we are vibrationally impacted. When a machine fully takes over a task, leaving the operator unengaged, human potential stagnates. Direct experience is what profoundly shapes humans. Insert something between the human and the real and you diminish the human.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The task of writing a book is becoming very real to me. It’s not so frightening or intimidating anymore. I know I have at least a book’s worth of information inside of me to express, and probably several book’s worth. I’ve been outlining and then further breaking things down to specific essays and it’s all began to feel very doable. I haven’t perfected the outline yet. It doesn’t quite flow the way I want it to, but I’m getting closer, and I know it will all eventually fall into place.
But it’s more than just having the ideas and form of this project gelling in my mind that has me feeling very upbeat. More and more I find myself overwhelmed with awe and I realize I’ve been preparing and practicing for this project my whole life. Finally, it’s my turn to begin contributing! I’ve been apprenticing for so long.
Research, for instance, is something I naturally love--digging through books, distilling the key information, integrating information across subjects and making new associations. As I take notes and copy down quotes in my notebooks, I’m transported back to my high school days, when I was reading Jung and would copy down quotes extensively from his work. Somehow the act of copying, in longhand, key quotations from these books, is nourishing. It’s so natural, so innate, and it helps to further imprint the ideas in my mind. And there’s more to it but I can’t quite put my finger on it. The feeling of coming home. The sense of coming around to my destiny, and of recognizing how my life to this point has been an apprenticeship. I’ve been in training all along. Slowly bit by bit the knowledge has been accruing, as well as the discipline and maturity to work with it, to find a way to express it and share it.
Journal writing for twenty-four years has kept me writing, even though it never feels like “real” writing. Despite the fact that my worst vice in this life is a lack of self-discipline, I am able to be a fairly disciplined writer, just because it’s such a habit.
And I can see the form my days need to take in order to accomplish the task of writing a book. The first few hours of the day are my hours of clarity and insight, so that is when I mostly work. The middle hours of the day are often a little muddy and sluggish as far as thinking and creativity go. Sometimes, though, the evenings also are fruitful times to work. I don’t feel as though I need to be working on this eight hours a day. It feels right to devote a few hours in the mornings, concertedly, and then the rest of the day be mulling over ideas more casually, jotting down notes and ideas here and there as they occur, reading snatches of books as I can. It feels like a wonderfully natural process.
On the days I’m in Boulder county, I spend most of my time at the library, so those days are really gifts to me. The library out here is really pathetic. I’m really dependent on having access to good quality libraries. Much as I dislike this back-and-forth life, I need things from the Front Range.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I’ve been exploring this urge to write that’s had me in its grip since March. I’ve gone around and around trying to figure out what it is that I’m being called to write and finally the ideas are starting to feel a little more solid. I think the general concept is “where simplicity leads”. The majority of the books out there on simplicity simply cover the how-to’s of simplicity. When they mention benefits they’re usually simplified ones like happiness, saving money, saving the environment, having more time with loved ones. All of those are good things, of course. But simplicity is much more. I want to explore voluntary simplicity as a spiritual path and as a means to becoming fully human. It is a process, not so much an achievement. And more than that it allows a radical paradigm shift that tosses out our mindless cultural programming and we become free. Reality expands and our human potential becomes truly staggering. Simplicity allows you to break out of the box created by the modern world view. How extremely limiting that box turns out to have been.
The mindlessness of modern life disturbs me. So many cookie-cutter lives being lived, and lived so superficially. If we lived in constant awareness that we are divine beings we would not be frittering away our lives with mindless distractions, as so many people do. To honor the divine is to set aside the childish distractions and set out on a path to becoming fully actualized. To explore potential, and to step outside of the ordinary.
There is so much wasted potential in my generation. We’ve stagnated. We’ve fallen asleep somehow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I moved the cats, Little, Angelina, Dusty, and Spot, to John’s over Labor Day weekend. I camped out with them the first three nights to help them adjust, then packed up the tent on the fourth night and went home. When I woke up the next morning and opened the door, Little was sitting there like she’d done countless mornings in the past. She had hiked two miles through tall grass right back here. And I thought she liked her new home! She seemed happy enough.

It made me start thinking of the power that place holds again. Energetically, this is home for Little, this is the energy she vibrates with, not the energy two miles up the road. This is the only place that feels right to her. This is where she belongs.

And what exactly is this homing instinct? She knew exactly how to get back here, although she’d never been away from home before. I feel the pull inside of me to get back home too, only I’m not able to act on it. How vital it seems to me to be in your own element. To resonate and be one with the environment around you.

What fascinates me is that no one else seems to sense the importance of this. It’s only in Native American writing that I see mention of the importance of place. In becoming such a mobile society I think we’ve lost so much more than just our connections to family and community, as significant as those things are. There is something of our human potential lost as well. Changes have come so rapidly in the past two-hundred years that few have paused to consider the consequences. Being rootless has dumbed us down, spiritually. We’ve gone superficial, just skimming the surface of life.
I sense that the land has a lot to teach us. Nuance has become the word of the year for me. Delving into the power of place we discover nuance. Reality has a depth that is unimaginable, so richly nuanced, so full of unexplored potential.
Indigenous people have so often been dismissed for their magical thinking and irrational beliefs. But maybe if we lived fully nuanced lives we would understand indigenous reality. Perhaps there is far more truth there than we could imagine.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

There was much more that Sarton said that struck a chord with me--about solitude, about the difficulties in leading a fulfilling life, especially for women who are also wives and mothers. Basically, her whole lifestyle was so similar to mine. Makes me realize again how I have the sensibilities of a writer. If only I could just get started!
In the beginning of the book she speaks about how draining human interactions are:

For a long time now, every meeting with another human being has been a collision. I feel too much, sense too much, am exhausted by the reverberations after even the simplest conversation.
My difficulty in this world is that I am a sensitive, a hypersensitive. I feel and intuit to such a depth and extreme that ordinary life is far too stimulating and overwhelming to me. Most of the noise and hubbub of modern life is superfluous and shallow anyway. I need to shut all that out. Serenity is a necessity for me.
I really believe I will come into my own when I can retreat from the world as much as possible. Then I can begin to share my gifts with the world. Retreat is far from antisocial; it’s how I will best be able to be of service to humanity.
For me, I suspect, the personal level of human interaction is too much for me. The gift in that, in being so hypersensitive, is that if I step back, I can have a far greater impact in the world. I can access the universal. I have a direct pipeline to the unseen, to the creative essence underlying all that is. I’m meant to share what I see and sense, my intuitions and insights. In this superficial, shallow culture we’re immersed in now, I can maybe give people a glimmer of the vastness and mystery of our being.

I’ve still been in a weird state of mind over meaning-of-life issues. I’m kind of bored with human endeavors. They seem so limited. Physical creativity seems so limited. What hasn’t been done before? What true innovation is left? We’ve manipulated just about every piece of matter we can get our hands on. What else can we do with matter, and why should we bother doing it?
Why should I, personally, do what’s been done before by countless others? What is the meaning of so many souls doing the same pointless things over and over again? Just to know that we’re alive? So much sameness though. So much repetition from one person to the next. Where is the novelty? How do I forge a truly creative life for myself? Again, it’s the freedom issue, but it’s confused by the thought that there doesn’t really seem to be anything new under the sun. Is it really freedom, doing what’s already been done before? How do we find true novelty? How do we forge a unique path?
What is the purpose of the structure of my world? It seems like it’s only there to limit and constrain, to narrow down possibilities. I know life isn’t ultimately physical, but why this playground? How am I supposed to be playing with the physical? What would be truly innovative?
I want to push the limits of physicality, somehow. I’m not even sure what I mean. I guess maybe I believe there’s got to be more to this physical incarnation stuff. There’s got to be more that we can be doing with it than what we’ve done so far. Some way of blending spirit and matter in a tangible way. How do you build spirit into matter in a way that can be seen by everyone? Maybe it’s through becoming a true person of power--becoming more spirit than matter yourself--that allows your creations to shine with numinosity.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Yesterday I finished reading Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton. How I could relate to so much that she said!
I felt culture in its deepest sense, what civilizes people, is only a thin veneer, like the new houses which turn out to have a brick fa├žade pasted on to some other material. And how incredible it was, in autumn, to swing past acres and acres of fancy French provincial, Spanish, or Tudor houses were not a leaf is allowed to rest on the immaculate lawns! So beautiful in a House and Garden sort of way, so empty of poetry. For poetry lives in places where people work in their gardens, or let them go wild and do not leave it to impersonal firms of gardeners to plant and trim.

Shreveport has far more charm, a livable town, where Dallas seems just plain inhuman, too rich, too new. A fifty-year old building in Dallas looks antediluvian and ‘must be torn down.’ I felt the women were starved, starved for a kind of reality that does not exist in Neiman Marcus fur coats, in changes of fashion, in redecorating, in travel to the ‘right places’. Under polite small talk, one sensed nostalgia, the nostalgia of the bored child who does not know what he lacks, but knows he is being deprived of something essential to his well being. These women are not disturbed, striving, anguished about the state of the world, not always guilty because they should be doing more as their equivalents in the east often are; also, they’re not happy or fulfilled. It is hard to define, but under that huge sky and among so many “beautiful” things, houses, expensive cars, what I sensed was loneliness. There’s too much luxury, maybe, and too little quality. Good manners are just not enough.
But, oh, how marvelous it was to come home to dear shabby Cambridge, to uneven brick sidewalks, to untrimmed gardens, to lawns covered with leaves, two young people walking hand in hand in absurd clothing, to dear Judy and the pussies! We are all a little old and worn, but we’re happy. And Nelson, when I drove up under a pale bright sky, looked like heaven. I saw it freshly, saw the beauty of wooden clapboard painted white, of old brick, of my battered and dying maples, as a shining marvel, a treasure that lifts the mind and the heart and brings everyone who sees it back to what quality is.

Friday, July 6, 2007

I started reading over some old journals the other day--from the early nineties. It’s been interesting and disturbing. I talked about “natural propensities” a few entries back, and it’s clear from reading these old journals that I have a few, which have been present most of my life.
The desire to write, the need for solitude, the need for material simplicity and the corresponding problem of how to earn enough money for survival, the quest for wisdom and the spiritual life, my desire to live on a farm or in a cottage or cabin close to nature, the conflict between my desire to be alone and my desire for relationship.
The one that’s interesting and most bothersome is the strong pull to be something of a recluse. I felt that strongly back then but didn’t allow it to find expression in my life because it seemed so antisocial, maybe even abnormal. Now as I get older I see it as a legitimate calling and wonder how I could have denied this vital aspect of myself for so long. Why have I fought against myself for so long? Feeling like I ought to try to live a more extraverted life, because there must be something there for me to learn. Why fight against the current? Why would I think that I need to deny what is most genuine about myself?
I wrote often about my need to live a very independent life and yet I always got myself bogged down in relationships and when I did, I quit following my dreams. I think I do that partly for the financial security. Being me, where I place so little value on material things, it’s hard for me to focus on money, even the small amount needed for my basic survival. So, linking up with a man gives me that financial security, but at a great cost.
When do I finally choose to forge ahead on my own, to make it work some way, somehow, so I can most fully embody who I’m meant to be in this life? I need to start writing and submitting things for publication to see if that’s the way I could earn a meager living. If I choose an eremitic lifestyle, I still want to contribute to the world. Writing seems to be the most obvious way.
It would be neat to have a woodshop too and earn some money from that. A writer and a woodworker--combining the talents I received from both Mom’s and Dad’s lineages. That would be a satisfying life.

Friday, June 29, 2007

I dropped Collin off with P. tonight and they left this morning for trip back to the east coast, so I’m on my own until the 11th. I decided today that I want to get up at 5 am while Collin’s gone to make the most of those wonderful morning hours. We’re supposed to be back near 100° over the weekend, so I want to take advantage of the cooler hours of the day.

It’s more than the coolness, though. I love the quality of the morning light and the newness of the day, the spiritual feel of those hours that is so different from any other time of the day. I love to sit at my desk in the morning and look out on the new day, as I drink my coffee and do my thinking. My thoughts seem to have more clarity first thing in the morning too.
Today I just finished reading Thomas Merton’s autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain. He’s been quoted in so many books I’ve read over the years, but I only now felt moved to read his books because I found out he had explored, or tried to explore, solitude. I took out volume three of his journals, which focuses on solitude, but first I wanted to read his autobiography to get a sense of where he was coming from.

There’s a wonderful place in the book where he’s reading in the Catholic Encyclopedia about Trappists, and European hermitages:
I found out that the Trappists were Cistercians, and then, in looking up Cistercians, I also came across the Carthusians, and a great big picture of the hermitages of the Camaldolese.
What I saw on those pages pierced me to the heart like a knife.
What wonderful happiness there was, then, in the world! There were still men on this miserable, noisy, cruel earth, who tasted the marvelous joy of silence and solitude, who dwelt in forgotten mountain cells, in secluded monasteries, where the news and desires and appetites and conflicts of the world no longer reached them.
They were free from the burden of flesh’s tyranny, and their clear vision, clean of the world’s smoke and of its bitter sting, were raised to heaven and penetrated in deeps of heaven’s infinite and healing light.
They were poor, they had nothing, and therefore they were free and possessed everything, and everything they touched struck off something of the fire of divinity. And they worked with their hands, silently ploughing and harrowing the earth, and sowing seed in obscurity, and reaping their small harvests to feed themselves and the other poor. They built their own houses and made, with their own hands, their own furniture and their own coarse clothing, and everything around them was simple and primitive and poor, because they were the least and the last of men, they had made themselves outcasts, seeking, outside the walls of the world, Christ poor and rejected of men.
Above all, they had found Christ, and they knew the power in the sweetness and the depth and the infinity of His love, living and working in them. In Him, hidden in Him, they had become the ‘Poor Brothers of God’. And for His love, they had thrown away everything, and concealed themselves in the Secret of His Face. Yet because they had nothing, they were the richest men in the world, possessing everything: because in proportion as grace emptied their hearts of created desire, the Spirit of God entered in and fill the place that had been made for God.
Last weekend, Mom and I were talking about simplicity and I was saying that whenever you create emptiness--through simplicity, solitude, fasting or meditation--you create space for Spirit to enter. How neat to find the same sentiment expressed here in this book this week.
Later in the book Merton mentions the Biblical story about the wealthy young man who approached Jesus, asking for eternal life, and Jesus told him, “ Go, sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and come, follow me.”
It may have been a literal command, but I see now there was more to it. We need to empty ourselves not just of things, but of all sorts of mental and egoic garbage before there’s room enough for Spirit to enter.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I’ve been struggling with big meaning-of-life questions lately. Not the scary “Is my life meaningless, Is there a God” kind of existential questioning, but big questions nonetheless. My spirituality is integral to me, so it’s not a question of whether or not my life has meaning. I know that Spirit infuses everything. I know that God is made manifest through me and all physical things.
What I’m trying to figure out is what constitutes a meaningful life. My exploration of simplicity has brought me to a sort of impasse. Do we each have a destiny, something we need to do or accomplish in the world at large? Or do we simply need to be, to experience, to be present with what is in any moment?
I do believe God is sort of reveling in physical manifestation, as he gets to experience physicality through an endless myriad of forms, each one totally unique and different. So, for my life, what does that mean? Does it matter at all what I do with my life? How does any one choice matter more than another? Does it matter whether I accomplish anything, have any outward achievements to show for my years on this earth?
Is my task to simply to be, and anything I do beyond that is really superfluous?
Simplicity ends up being not simple at all. When you’ve pared your life down to the basics you’ve eliminated the mindless distractions, the unquestioned habits and routines. You get off autopilot. Once you’re off autopilot what do you come face to face with but that most terrifying thing--freedom! I believe people are terrified of freedom. They craft lives that are so complex and full that they never need to encounter true freedom. Their scheduled, harried lives disguise the opportunities for choice that lie at every turn. They keep themselves safe from choice and freedom.
I think my angst comes from rubbing up against my freedom. How do you possibly craft a life out of endless choice? There are billions of ways we could allow ourselves to manifest. How do we make even one of those choices knowing there are countless other choices and paths?
How do we live mindfully? How can we keep in mind our freedom and not become paralyzed by it? And if ultimately, one choice doesn’t have any more value than any other choice, what does any of it matter? Do you just go back to mindlessness?
But then, maybe fortunately, we have our natural propensities. Maybe a well-crafted life is just mindfully following your natural propensities as they evolve. Making sure you don’t fall prey to other people’s ideas of what you should be doing, or society’s subtle dictates, but truly following your own inclinations.
Maybe I’m so burdened by these sorts of questions because one of my natural inclinations is towards the life of a contemplative. I’m drawn to the eremitic lifestyle--one of solitude, simplicity, contemplation, meditation, writing, immersing myself in nature. Thinking. Being. Merging with spirit.
The one night the other week a thunderstorm rolled through and half awakened me. There was this weird, literal way I felt the thunder roll across the skies above me and this flash of insight and this quick temporary merging with the storm and thunder. Of course in the morning I couldn’t remember the insight, although it definitely had something to do with oneness. I think it had something to do with manifestation too, some parallel between the way the storm manifests out of nothing, rolls through and is gone, and the way my life and its events unfold.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

I’ve been reading every book I can find on the subject of simplicity, trying to see what others have written about it to help me sort out my own perspective, to see what unique insights I may have to share.
I’m getting a little confused about how you evaluate what you should and shouldn’t allow into your life. All of the things I’ve let go of so far have been more or less no-brainers. It’s been clear that the negatives outweighed the positives. But then I encounter this confusion around books. How are books any less of a distraction from the essence of life than TV, the Internet, the morning newspaper or the radio?

There are hundreds of millions of books out there and if I read every available moment of my life I can’t possibly make even the tiniest dent. I have unquestioningly accepted the value of lifelong learning that leads me to always have my nose buried in a book. But what is lifelong learning? Certainly it doesn’t need to come from books. And probably the learning that takes place from my direct experience of my reality is of far greater value than the learning that comes from books.
Nevertheless, during the past ten months or so I’ve been on a huge reading binge and the same time period has been a very rich period in my inner life and the development of my thinking. So there does seem to be a clear value I derive from the books I read.
I think I worry that I should be doing something else of greater value with the time that gets “wasted” on reading. That reading can be an escape for me that keeps me from the more important things in life.
Because I’ve been reading so much I more frequently find myself with a dud. I find it very difficult to stop midstream once I’ve started a book, regardless of whether that book is worthwhile to me. Once I’ve started it, for some reason, I felt obligated to finish it. That is one thing I’d like to be able to stop doing. Just recognize that a particular book has nothing of value for me at the moment, set it down, and return it to the library unfinished the next time I go in. There are enough good, valuable books that I will never possibly have the time to read, so why waste my time on the mediocre or downright rotten ones?
Then let’s look at the books that do have significant value to me--like books on simplicity or environmental issues. Just how many books on a particular topic do I need to read? Do I need to read everything I can get my hands on? When do I set aside the books and just be, and do my own original thinking? Or write?

Sunday, June 3, 2007

I’m not sure what to write about this morning. I’m sitting here at my “new” writing desk, sipping my morning coffee and looking out on the beautiful day. When I sit here, I can’t get over the perfection of this world and its forms. When I see Little walking by, so beautiful and perfect in her sleek, black catness, I’m overwhelmed with emotion. Even the view across the street, somehow in its exquisite dereliction, is perfect. The sagging trailer, the tall grass and weeds, the dead tree with its gnarled bare branches framed against the blue sky, the gray adobe bricks and rotting green roof of the boarded-up old house, the rusty clothesline poles whose cross bars have wilted--what makes this scene so exquisite? To most people, this is what you’d call an eyesore. How does this register as beauty in my heart? What is the quality present there that overwhelms my heart?

I think about the countless suburban neighborhoods, so drab and lifeless and sterile, that do nothing for my heart. Yet aren’t the gray adobe blocks drab? Isn’t the ghostly white trunk of the dead tree stark? How can I look at this scene and be uplifted? Maybe because I sense that it holds memories and history, it’s a place marker for what was. Because my soul needs to be rooted to the past and this scene reminds me that there is a past.

Part of the disease of modern culture, I feel, is that there is no honoring of the past. We’re not connected with anything but the superficial now. There’s no reverence for the past and no thought of the future. How can people have so totally forgotten the timelessness of their own souls, the ancientness of their own being? If we deny that even in our own selves we certainly won’t have reverence for it in the physical world. When you’ve quit tending to your own soul, the world correspondingly shrivels and loses all nuance. The outer world becomes a simple prop, a backdrop, for mindless humans caught in their own unconsciousness.

This time in my life is such a period of struggle. I want to live a meaningful life, and not just a meaningful life, because my life has always seemed quite meaningful, but I want to contribute something. I like that this urge to write has reawakened in me. I feel like I was asked to write by those spirits that were haunting me in March. As soon as I began to get the urge to write, the haunting imagery stopped. It was as if they’d finally gotten through to me. Now the burden is on me to make it happen. My path is somehow through my writing to share the Native American sentiment, which really is the fully human sentiment, with those who are asleep. I don’t think the first thing that I write for publication, or the second, or the third will succeed in doing that, but I will keep at it and at some point I may get there.

I’m thinking of giving up reading for the summer. Reading stimulates my thinking so much, but I spend so much time with it than I never get around to writing. If I need to do it to research a topic I’m writing about that’s one thing, although that’s dangerous because all of the reading I do is research anyway. I just want to be more mindful in the next few months about how I’m using my time. I want to make sure I’m writing something every day.

Lately I feel like I’m being remade. Simplicity is changing me. I’m not sure I could put it into words just yet, but everything feels different. Simple pleasures are confoundingly beautiful. I just don’t even know what to do with the joy that rises in my heart. It reminds me so much of the bliss I felt as a teenager--so in love with the sensuousness of the landscape that I longed to hug the hills. What do you do with bliss? It feels like you need to do something, but what?

One night last week I went out to pull weeds in the yard after we had an afternoon rain shower that had cooled things off into the sixties. The storm had been short enough that the soil still held the heat of the day. The humid warmth that radiated from the soil onto my hands was sumptuous. I can’t even describe it, but there was something very intimate about it. I think the heat felt like that which is given off by a lover’s body. It was the most amazing thing.

Friday, June 1, 2007

It’s a beautiful, cool evening. The temperature is in the upper sixties, the sky is the deepest, most incredible shade of blue against the fluffy white clouds, and the grass is absurdly green. There’s such clarity to the light today. It reminds me of other times and other places, other lives, and makes my heart ache.

I’ve been feeling strange all day, like something fateful is about to happen. I’ve got that odd sensation again in my solar plexus that radiates out from time to time as chills and goose bumps up and down my arms and spine.

Gosh, the shadows are so deep and luscious today; I just can’t get over it. The world is so perfect. Days like this make me miss Pennsylvania so terribly.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The day after I wrote the entry about wanting to get rid of the TV, VCR, and DVD player the VCR died. I thought it was just a fuse (it has clearly blown) but when I replaced it the thing still didn’t work. I told Collin I had jinxed it and he better watch out because the TV could be next.

Then, about a week after I started thinking it might be nice to live without a computer, it crashed. I guess I jinxed it too. But it’s actually nice. I like it. I took the computer off the desk and moved the desk in front of the front window where it is now serving as my writing and reading desk. It’s really pleasant to sit here and feel the breeze through the window, to take in the greenery, to listen to the rain and thunder.

I’m not going to be in a big hurry to get the computer fixed. In fact, I canceled my Internet service and, at least temporarily (if not permanently) took down my website.

This process of paring down my life to the essentials continues. I’m not really sure what will be left when all is said and done. To have a roof over my head and a source of heat, those are things I’d like to keep. Electricity isn’t so vital, but a way to heat food, at least some of the time would be nice. Clothing of course is a necessity, but it can be cheap, second-hand or homemade. Paper on which to write. Pens. Maybe access to books, but I’m sure I can also do without them. There’s not much I really need, not much I really can’t do without.

There’s still far too much clutter in my house. It doesn’t help that one whole (albeit small) room in this house is totally dedicated to my sewing stuff, which I don’t even use any more. I’m tempted to get rid of it all, change that room back into Collin’s bedroom and give myself a bedroom. That would mean I’d have to buy a bed, since I sold mine at our yard sale last year after having kept it in storage for a year.

The sewing machines would be useful to keep though. It’s just that they take up so much room. It’s a 500 square foot house, but only about 430 square feet is livable space because of the sewing room. If I could afford to, I’d build a shed and put the sewing stuff in the shed, but that’s not a possibility at the moment.

I’d like to buy some clothesline and hang all the clothes out to dry in the warm months. My summer electric bill only averages about $30.00 per month, but I’d like to see how much I could decrease it. I also need to replace all of my light bulbs with compact fluorescents. I attempted to start using them a few years ago, but they would flicker and go out a lot. However, I just read an article that said that compact fluorescents have improved dramatically over the past two or three years, and the price has dropped considerably too. So I may give them another try. I may get a timer for the water heater too.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I’m reading a really good book. It’s called Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. The author is Jared Diamond. I’m about three-quarters of the way through it. The last chapter, where he’ll be applying the possible lessons of previous cultures to our current one, should be the most interesting. But so far, he’s examined a spate of ancient cultures that failed (and a few successes) and several modern ones. I’m just starting on his chapter on China.
In my mind, China is what makes this whole end of oil, environmental crisis, climate change issue a runaway train that can’t possibly be stopped. Even if the rest of the world suddenly started living sustainably, China would take all of us down with her.

In my mind, there’s no stopping the fall of civilization worldwide that’s about to happen. What country is going to step forward to implement draconian environmental measures in their own land, when doing so puts them at an economic disadvantage in a world context? The economy within the country would crash, and it would then snowball around the world.

If leadership’s choice is between starting the collapse of society now, or putting it off until it just plays out in naturally unfolding consequences a little further down the road, of course they’ll wait. Why risk being overthrown and throwing your country into anarchy?
It’s just a runaway train were on. I’m convinced of that.

In playing with this in my mind, I’ve been trying to figure out, if oil runs out and society collapses, where the best place to be would be. I would love to be back in Pennsylvania. My dream is to have 50 or 100 acres, partly wooded, partly pastures and fields, and to live without electricity. That’s my “retirement” dream, to live self-sufficiently off the Pennsylvania land I love so dearly.

But were society to collapse, Pennsylvania probably wouldn’t be the best place to be. The whole eastern seaboard is one great megalopolis. When all of those millions of people are forced to leave the cities in order to survive, they’ll flee to the hills. They’ll chop down the forests for fuel and shelter through the long cold northeastern winters. The hills will become denuded and eroded and sterile. Topsoil will run off, down the rivers, killing fish along the way. People will fight over land and resources, the locals trying to fend off the invading city people. Even though the land there is so fertile, I think the stress of too many people, especially those who don’t know what they’re doing, will be its undoing.

And what if I’m stuck here when society classes? I’ve always thought this would be a horrible place. It’s high desert, so there’s not much rain and the soils are poor and sandy. Though if John gets his farm and I join him there, could we become self-sufficient?
The dust bowl is not so very far in the past, and farmers are still fleeing the plains, finding it too difficult to eat eke out a living here. Without irrigation it’s a very iffy proposition. John’s new property is not irrigated, but it’s on the floodplain of the river, so there may be somewhat more fertility there than elsewhere in our region. There’s a well for household use, but who knows ultimately how reliable that would turn out to be. You would want to catch all of the rain water from your buildings to use on your gardens and drip-irrigate and mulch heavily so as not to waste it. There would be so much to learn, and initially so many tools needed to get set up adequately.

But the good thing is millions of people wouldn’t be fleeing to such a marginal area. They won be that dumb. There would be virtually no wood to speak of. How would you heat your house and cook? If I saw society’s collapse coming and had the resources to deal with it, I build a small passive solar straw bale house with a masonry stove. Granted, you still need wood or some type of fuel for the stove, but at least it would use it efficiently. And the combination straw bale/passive solar design would go a long way in keeping the house warm on its own.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

I’ve been in a rut for the past week or so, feeling kind of paralyzed. I can’t get anything done, nothing is calling to me. I feel no motivation.

This is a good sign, now that I picked up this journal and I’m starting to write. Maybe I can get the energy flowing again.

I’m still mulling over the issue of my place in this crazy society. I had a crazy, irresponsible thought the other day. If our consumer culture is destined to fall with the depletion of the world oil fields, why not hasten it along by consuming as much as I possibly can, and encouraging everyone else to do the same? The faster we deplete the earth’s resources, the sooner will come our culture’s day of reckoning. And the sooner the earth can begin to return to balance.

It’s clear no one is going to change their ways until it’s way too late, until there’s no time left to begin adapting to the changes that are necessary. People love to live in denial for as long as they possibly can. So they will, inevitably.

What could be happening, what should be happening, won’t. Moving out of the suburbs, developing local resources to meet the community’s needs for food and goods, getting rid of cars, re-learning the old skills--using draft animals, hand tools, carding, spinning, weaving, hunting, gathering, preserving food, saving seeds, chopping wood, making charcoal and lye, pottery, baskets, raising animals, butchering, smoking, tanning leather, developing true community where neighbors come together with neighbors to help build, grow, cook, preserve, or whatever.

It won’t happen. Who wants to give up what they have? Who wants to admit that their lifestyle is untenable, destructive? If the choice is between obliviousness and feeling the full moral weight of our choices, why not remain oblivious?

I’ve come across a web site on eremitism, which has been some really fascinating reading. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a hermit, but it’s been especially good to come around to these writings now, when I’m in the midst of my exploration of voluntary simplicity. Simplicity has led me to think more deeply about silence and solitude, which has brought me back around to my need for an eremitic lifestyle. In stillness and solitude, the world of spirit opens up. I long to inhabit the world of spirit.

Friday, April 27, 2007

If I didn’t have Collin I would be taking my experiment with voluntary simplicity much farther. I have the worst urge to toss out the TV, VCR, and DVD player. Granted, we haven’t had cable or satellite TV service for years, and since we moved to Snyder receive no over-air reception. So we have a TV set, but no TV service. Our TV is about eighteen years old, a small 13-inch color TV that no longer has a remote control. Collin uses it to watch his videotapes and DVDs. The only TV show we watch is “Survivor” (of all things). Collin has been following that show for several years, so we watch it at Di’s house.

I’ve been discovering the profound spiritual value of simplicity. One aspect of simplicity is silence. The noise alone of the television (let’s ignore the actual content for now) would keep me from the spiritual place of stillness that insight flows into. Would I be able to become who I'm meant to be with a television set blaring in the background?? I just don’t think so. I feel pulled to explore simplicity in even greater depth than I have up to this point. A quiet environment becomes a critical requirement for me.

I would love to experiment with giving up all TV, Internet, radio and newspaper exposure for a year, and minimize even telephone usage. I would totally give up the telephone if Collin didn’t require an easy way to reach P. But for now it’s a necessity.
Collin certainly wouldn’t like it if he had to give up the Internet. Of course, he would be forced to find other, presumably healthier, ways to fill the time he would normally waste on the computer.

And once Collin’s grown my real dream is to build a small passive-solar straw bale post-and-beam house in Pennsylvania, heated only by a masonry stove. There would be no electricity, but hopefully an indoor hand-pump providing cold fresh water. I would like to grow and raise more or less all of my food, have looms and a spinning wheel again, and woodworking hand tools. And be a writer. What a good life that would be.

The writing bug has been biting harder. I have the beginnings of a crude outline for a book as well as some rough ideas for magazine articles. Why have I continually overlooked the pretty obvious fact that I meant to be a writer? Granted, I need a lot of practice and refining of skills, but I have no doubt that will come. I’m intimately familiar with the creative process, the “zone” you enter where miraculous things happen. Writing is sacred in that you tap into the creative domain, which is really pure Mind. Mind manifesting in words, language. You never know where your writing will take you because largely you’re channeling the Divine.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

When I try to imagine our human destiny, try to peak in on us in a little while, say in a mere 10,000 or 20,000 years, the world I see is not one of space travel and Jetsons cityscapes. Instead I see a return to living among nature in beautiful simplicity, with our energy spent on spiritual and communal living, living mostly as hunters and gatherers with maybe some supplemental cultivation and animal husbandry techniques thrown in. I see a drastically reduced human population and a return to balance and ecosystem health.

I stumbled upon a book at the library that addresses our future and makes me hopeful that my vision will become a reality. The book is called The Long Emergency, by James Howard Kunstler. It’s about the end of oil and the end of this crazy consumer-mad culture.

Before this book I had never completely thought through our immediate future, the next hundred years or so, or even the remainder of my lifetime. Most people would be horrified if reality plays out the way this author believes it will, but I am so excited by the possibility.

The decadence of the past two centuries, the rape of the planet, will turn out to have been a strange, temporary anomaly. All of the nonsense of our culture will be cleansed. There will be no more megastores with 30 styles of toasters to choose from, no Hollywood, or fashion industry, cars will become untenable. We’ll have to return to the land, living locally, and rebuilding true community. We will have to return to our rightful place on this earth, as a small part of the whole, letting go of our delusions of grandeur.
I know the readjustment will be tumultuous--there will be a lot of childish temper tantrums as nations and individuals revolt against the inevitable and necessary turnabout. Imagine how yuppie-dom will rebel as they’re forced to give up their behemoth cars, their lives in suburbia which can no longer provide for them, their gym memberships, season tickets, dry cleaning, cheap electricity to power all of their gadgets, trips to the mall, the cinema, the nail salon and tanning booths, their lattes and 57 kinds of imported artisan cheeses.

Imagine the unrest! And of course it will be more dire than that. In many places there will be mass starvation, disease, lack of health care, lack of water, depleted soils, and unpredictable climatic change. It’s all a recipe for war between and within countries, for mayhem and anarchy.

I understand the magnitude of suffering that will result and yet I celebrate our likely fate. This cancer needs to die off. This monstrosity of selfish, gluttonous, irresponsible “culture” (if it can be called that) that is our modern world needs to be excised. I don’t mourn the loss of human life, even possibly my own, which will result from this readjustment, because spiritually I know we all go on in one form or another. I’m excited for future generations who hopefully will have the opportunity to inherit a better world. Of all the lifetimes I sense I have lived, this has been the hardest to come to grips with. For my whole life I’ve been bothered by the excesses of this world. The grief I carry is terribly deep. The full realization now that this culture is a very temporary one comes as a huge relief.

Before I read this book, in working with my forest meditation, I had imagined that maybe someday, tens of thousands of years from now, this forest would again exist on this earth, and humans would walk and live amidst it and experience the radiant spirituality of these great beings. Now having read this book I think Yes, the great for us will return one day. What a miracle that would be.

So again, all of this thinking brings me back to my great moral dilemma, livelihood. What should I be doing in this lifetime given our situation?