Saturday, November 28, 2009

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

I do not think that Dylan Thomas was a very happy man. I fully intend to go as gently as possible.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Planning a Minimalist Christmas

I think one of the greatest benefits of living a minimalist lifestyle is that it helps you live a life with more meaning. When you have less stuff to worry about, you can spend more energy on what is more important. To me, a minimalist Christmas is not just about less stuff, it is about using your energy to focus on yourself and your relationships, the people in your life that are important to you. If you are spiritual, it about having time to focus on that.

My plans for this Christmas are to not buy any significant presents. My daughter Kasie will get a few little things in her stocking (like a lump of coal), but no big presents. Instead, I will give presents that give more of myself. Cooking special meals and treats that I know people like, taking time for conversation and listening deeply, spending time doing something they enjoy. Kasie likes to go places with me, so I will plan a little trip with her, perhaps a couple of days in Sedona and some hiking in the winter snow. I want to go for a walk with a few special friends, share a meal or even just tea together, and have a meaningful conversation where I listen more than talk.

I am sure my minimalist Christmas will also be the most meaningful.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Simple and Minimal

I am a simplifying and minimizing nut case. Truly I am. As I sit here writing this and look around at my possessions, I see both very few and still too many. I feel driven to take minimizing to the extreme. One goal I have is to live with no more possessions than I can fit into my van. Ideally, the van would be my entire home. But that still leaves plenty of room for lots of stuff I don't need, so I want even less. I picture one bin for clothes, another for personal items (including toiletries and electronics), another for kitchen stuff, and another for food, four bins total. One crate for books. My bed, pillows, and sleeping bag. My guitar. In the back would be some space for my spare gas can, jump starter, and tools. My backpack, daypack and a foldable camp chair. A water jug. I think that is about it. Ideally, I would limit my total list of possessions to 100 things.

I also let my thoughts wander to living entirely out of one backpack, to live as if I were always backpacking, even at home. My only possession that does not lend itself to this ideal is my guitar. I could make an exception.

Why do I do this? Because it feels good. I feel relaxed and open when my life is uncluttered. The less I have, the better I feel. I discovered a long time ago that I am an organizer. I have trouble relaxing if my living space is not organized. I need the dishes washed and everything put in it's place to feel completely relaxed. I like my clothes folded or hung up and organized. T-shirts together, button-up shirts together, socks together, and so on.

One day I realized that the less stuff I had, the easier it was to organize. That started me down the road of minimizing my possessions. I also realized it was more than just that, more than just easier to organize. There was something else going on that contributed to my ease of mind. I'm still not completely sure what that something else is, but it has to do with psychic energy and space. I feel lighter when I have less.

As we head into the holiday season I think about what a non-minimalist time of year this is, even non-spiritual, for far too many people. Winter is a time of rest and renewal, for our spirit as much as our body. This is the time of year to slow down and enjoy our relationships more than our work. This year I am going to give less stuff and more of myself. I am going to give presence.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nonviolence and Peace

I used to be the sort of person who was just not cut out for activism. I am still that sort of person. I am, however, willing to stand up or speak out against social injustice, especially if it affects me or my loved ones personally. There is so much injustice in our world that I often feel overwhelmed and ineffectual. And then I remember that the source of peace is within each one of us.

I attended a two-day workshop on Kingian Nonviolence this past weekend. It was interesting and it was useful, but it is not something I am going to pursue further at this point. Not because I do not believe in it, but because I want to focus on the source of peace within me. I feel that Kingian Nonviolence is geared toward groups involved in nonviolent resistance, towards a form of activism. I feel that it focuses on the outer with little more than a passing nod to the inner. But the outer expressions of peace need that foundation of inner peace to be truly lasting and effective.

I think about nonviolence in my personal life and have for many years. Unfortunately, many years does not translate into effective practice. I have observed that all of my favorite television shows are very violent. Heroes, Fringe, Bones, Burn Notice... even House. Much of my own language is violent and my humor is often based on violence. I have seen this for years, yet I still practice violence.

For someone who is as calm and peaceful as I am, this all must sound pretty weird. I feel if I am treating someone in a way they do not want to be treated, that is a form of violence. Conversely, I feel that if I am not treating someone the way they want to be treated, it is also a form of violence. Sometimes these forms of violence may be necessary, such as in raising children. So much of parenting is treating our children in ways they do not want to be treated, but this is how we help them be better people.

If you are talking to me and I am not listening deeply, I consider this a form of violence. Disrespect is a form of violence. Humor that makes fun of somebody, even slightly, is a form of violence. Acting out of fear rather than love is a form of violence.

One of my favorite teachers is Thich Nhat Hanh and my favorite book of his is "Peace Is Every Step". I am currently re-reading his book "Creating True Peace" and I feel that reading and discussing and understanding this book should be part of any nonviolence training. The tagline for this book is "Ending Violence in Yourself, Your Family, Your Community, and the World."

Where do I go from here? I plan to walk every step in peace.