I am an Intentional Lifestyles Advocate…

(Originally published for The Liberty Project)

Stand behind any protest you make with some action that helps solve it.

Otherwise you are only giving yourself the power to complain.”

It increasingly seems that civilization is facing too many woes.  We are surrounded by cumbersome and outworn systems that have been broken by greed and a consumer mentality.  But blame at this point is futile.  And unless you take action on behalf of change, protesting to the same mindset that has either created or turned their eyes from woe in the name of material gain only feeds the world’s problems more of your energy.  As Einstein suggested, problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.  Thus it amounts to insanity for us to keep waiting for the profit-driven Hearts to have an epiphany and aim for a trajectory other than their own gain.

So, what action can we take?  What functional solutions are there in the face of such complex, world-wide challenges?  How do we heal the rifts that alienate us from one another, from the natural world and from our greater hopes and dreams?

We begin with the understanding that the answers are subjective.  Meaning, we all want and need different things so the concerns of each person, each household, each community, and each region are going to be different.  This also means that because we want people to be able to know the freedom of expressing themselves authentically, the answers won’t require us to establish a critical mass or convince a large group to change their ways.  But because the answers are subjective, they must start from within our own lives.  And within our own life, they must be born from inside of us, out from our Heart.

This means that you have the power right now, today, to start changing your experience of the world.  Think about the choices you can make to bring your life and your Inner Truth into a greater sense of accord.  Withdraw your support from all those things you would protest and see changed.  Release from your life what isn’t working or doesn’t fulfill you.  Stand-up for the sort of world you envision in your Heart and thoughts.

But don’t stop there.  For what is certain is that the world doesn’t really change one person at a time, unless that person is networking with others.  This is because the Human organism is a living system, which like any living system requires a certain amount of unity and exchange to not only stay organized but to change and evolve.  Thus the Human is truly a social organism with very real social needs.  This tells us that in whatever problem we’re looking to solve, community (or common unity) is part of the solution.

Once we have figured out what it is we need to make our own life authentic we must network.  We must find others who share our common cause and vision of what’s possible and foster critical relationships with them.  We must collaborate and experiment.  We must become pioneers and pathfinders together, forging a way to put our shared ideals and mindset into practice.

Of course we must also consider that the social organism is likewise a living system, requiring a condition of interdependence, accord and interaction with the surrounding substrate.  That is to say, we all live on and from the Earth.  As much as we need to cooperate with one another, we need to cooperate with the world around us just as much.  For we can’t live an authentic life if we fail to consider that which is natural and intrinsic to the composition of the Whole.

There are no blanket answers or tried recipes.  But in every change we are able to make, the possibility of success is greatly pronounced by assuring that you account for three factors – how you will express your Inner Truth, how you will join in that expression with others who desire the same experience or outcome and how you will account for the interwoven world-at-large in any desire you express.

It all boils down to living with conscious, well-focused intentions.  This is why we say that intentional lifestyles are the solution and call ourselves intentional lifestyle advocates.  Living with intention isn’t just a nice idea or a philosophy for the future.  It is a necessity.  Now.  If there is to be any sort of far-reaching solution, it is this.

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Living the Vision

Darrington, WashingtonLast June my world was transformed by a seemingly simple event.  I woke-up to an e-mail from Dear Friend Amy passing along a Craigslist ad advertising eight traditional Mongolian Yurts at the insane price of $500 a piece.  I was certain they’d be gone or there’d be some crazy catch, but I immediately grabbed for the phone.  A day later I was sitting beside my husband in the front of a large U-Haul truck, making the eight-hour round trip to Darrington to pick-up our new yurts.  It felt like winning our own private lottery.  We thought we’d be lucky to find one traditional yurt for under $10,000 – but we’d just bought three for under $3000, the entire cost of the trip to retrieve them, included. 

A few months before this moment we’d arrived at the conclusion that a traditional Mongolian Yurt – the type with horsehair ties and no proliferation of metal parts – was the answer to an equation that would get us onto land and closer to our sustainable, intentional community dreams more quickly.  From that conversation we’d both agreed to add a traditional yurt to our individual vision boards.  We didn’t realize until a few days after we’d actually brought the yurts home that both of us had drawn a semi-circle of 3 yurts on our board – not because either of us had anticipated being able to purchase three of them, but to depict the community spirit underlying the vision!  To us this seemed to be a strong confirmation from the Universe to dive into our dream.  Strengthened by a new faith, we sped-up the timeline of our plan and made some bold decisions.

Yurt DoorWe left the great job, the house we loved, the region we loved, the son in college, the dear friends;and dove in.  It took six-weeks to pull off what we’d been dreaming of for eight years.  Without any significant savings.  Without any clear idea of how it was all going to congeal.  We only knew the general location of where we were heading (we’d narrowed it down to a county, 3 1/2 hours to the east); and that we had three yurts to make it happen.

We started out looking for raw, off-grid land on owner contract, with the side agreement that we would explore any option that presented itself.  We ran ads in the region’s papers, posted to Craigslist and perused land auctions.  We made day trips on days off to explore our findings, the clock now ticking toward a deadline.  Though there was a ton of great off-grid, raw land for homesteading selling on contract, the responses we kept receiving were mostly from other homesteaders heading back to the city and eager to sell.  All of our best options were turning out to be developed properties with amenities we hadn’t anticipated starting out with.  So we changed gears.  A simple shift of focus and we were no longer in the position of just needing to find a place and trust that it would be right; we were now searching for the right place for us.IMG_1656 (1024x768)

We finally decided on a rustic A-frame cabin, on 20 wooded acres with a year-around creek.  The payments were really low and the cute factor was high.  Yet our excitement seemed overshadowed by a sense of reluctance we couldn’t put a finger on.  It wasn’t perfect, but two weeks before we’d been eager to live on land with only the most primitive amenities so “issues” seemed more like “resources to work with” to our eyes.  That wasn’t the problem.  For my part of it, I didn’t want to admit that either of us were feeling a “bad vibe” when we’d been riding so high on following our Hearts and feelings of faith and gratitude; I just wanted to stay thankful and receptive for what was coming our way.  But of course the listening was a necessary part of the following (our Hearts)!

We made one last trip.  We looked at the A-frame, several other properties and then the A-frame again.  It still looked like the best option and we still couldn’t put our finger on the source of our reluctance.  As we drove out of town it seemed clear we’d be signing the final papers for the A-frame in the morning.

Although we were running late, it was still light enough out that we decided to try a new, supposedly more scenic route back home.  It was because of this that we stopped to get gas at a new place; a small junction about 15 miles further into the mountains than where we’d previously ventured.  And it was at this gas station that my husband found the ad.  When he read it to me, the proposition seemed insane.  I protested vigorously.  It appeared to be off in some other county.  We were already further out and the wrong direction from where we wanted to be.  We were already running behind schedule.  The property was still another 17 miles away.  For the price it had to have some horrible quality about it.  I guess I wasn’t being as receptive to exploring options as I thought!  Thankfully he persisted and this is how we found our dream property.

The place had sat empty in the mountain woods for several years, but 30 years ago it had been the flourishing homestead of a bona fide Master Gardener.  Better still, it had been shaped by back-to-the-land intentions and born from community dreams.  It came with producing fruits, nuts, grapes and herbs and amenities like a greenhouse with a seed starting room.  This is where our three yurts have ultimately led us:

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We pulled out of Wenatchee in the early morning hours of August 1st, 2011 – and the adventure has yet to stop.  In fact it’s only just beginning.  We’re enjoying the love affair with the ever-changing beauty that surrounds us.  We’ve seen animals we never imagined seeing (think – a sky full of eagles, an elk taller than our truck, a jet black wolf slinking across the snow).  Filled up pantry shelves with the products of our own land that were simply here, ready for harvest in the weeks following our arrival.  Learned what it’s like to “take a trip”  just to get to the store.  I wouldn’t change any of it.

We spent the first 114 days without internet (yes, I counted each one) and only started watching a spot of TV again last week.  Cell phones don’t even work out here.  But I guarantee you that my from-scratch baking and crafting adventures have gone through the roof (a slice of fresh bread or a soy candle, anyone?).  And every single day since August I’ve had something new or interesting to report to my journal.  (Example:  “Day 15 – A clear sky full of the brightest stars I’ve seen since Arizona lured me out the front door.  Found myself in the midst of a yard-full of skunks digging for ground hornets.  Can’t get over their size!  They all immediately raised their tails but thankfully fled the scene without a smell.”)

In the next few months we will have the yurts set up on their floors and others will join us here.  I’ve turned the page from living and envisioning to living the vision.  And because these changes accord with the original intents and purposes underlying this blog, I now hope to turn the same page here as well; documenting and sharing this new lifestyle with you.  Follow your dreams!  Namaste.

Spiritual Sustainability: Save the Earth Without Killing Yourself

I found this thought-provoking article posted to a sustainable communities forum under the title Something to Think About: A Death-Blow to My Sustainable Living Ideal.  Having my own sustainable living ideals, it grabbed my attention; I wondered what a death-blow might represent.

It turns out that in this case the death-blow is a loss of two-thirds the author’s income.  As Amanda Rooker contemplates the discrepancy between her good intentions and the reality she’s faced with, a powerful transformation unfolds – her belief of being too poor and too busy to live sustainably is replaced by the realization that it was, in actuality, her “product-based, practice-based ideal of sustainable living that was not sustainable.”  This leads her to some intriguing revelations about what sustainability truly implies.  In the end, Amanda comes to see sustainability as a spiritual practice and process in parallel to the natural world –

Even if the body is deficient in many areas, it will only take in what will address the primary deficiency.  Pouring supplements into your body (or in this case adding sustainable practices) to address visible symptoms, is a waste of time, money  and energy.  Only when the core deficiency is met will the body be capable of absorbing what it needs to address the next core need.”

Very refreshing!

Prevent Food Waste, Save Money, Help the Planet

The results of an intensive 10 year study of food loss recently published through the University of Arizona reveals just how wasteful our nation is with its bounty.  The study, which also made use of decades of earlier research by the same UA Bureau, is the first to quantify the nation’s edible wastes with accurate percentages that track the entire production/consumption equation.  For example, at a commercial level the study finds that nearly half of all perfectly edible produce, nuts and grains are discarded without ever reaching intended markets, often plowed under due to failed bets on the high stakes commodities market.  This constitutes a major impact to the environment as mature crops are discarded in favor of a new bet on a new potential crop.

At a consumer level, the study finds that the average household ultimately discards 14 percent of all food purchases.  Nationwide this is the equivalent of 43 billion dollars each year!

So the question becomes, what can be done about it?  I believe we can turn this knowledge into a positive by letting it spur us to action.  In fact, the study noted three consumer actions that will have a big impact on the future direction these percentages take (given in all caps; the expounding is my own):

  1. PURCHASE PLANNING.  Keep a well-stocked pantry, free of lots of store bought cans and processed junk.  Repurpose glass jars and fill them with organic, whole foods bought locally in bulk and representative of everything your family eats the most of (i.e. don’t buy things just because they happen to be on sale).  When something is used from the pantry or you notice the bulk-jar needs a fill-up, immediately add the item to your next shopping list.  This will help you avoid impulsive trips to the store (the most likely time for you to buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need; 15 percent of such purchases statistically go to waste).  Plan your shopping trips wisely.  Examine the pantry, look in the freezer, examine the sale-ads for the store(s) you’ll be visiting, and then make a meal list for at least a week, if not two or more.  Buy on sale, but not just because it’s on sale.  For example, don’t let cheap prices lure your family into stocking-up on processed foods.  Instead look for good prices on fresh foods that can be paired with items on hand in your pantry, or turned into pantry items (i.e. a cheap price on strawberries becomes a year’s worth of homemade strawberry jam).  Also look for good sales on your common pantry items.  Try not to buy anything at the store that isn’t on your  list, unless you find a good deal on a healthy item that will expand your running list of meals.
  2. RESPONSIBLE USE.  If you appreciate flexibility like we do, avoid planning your meal list by the day of the week and instead just keep a numbered list of the complete meals you have on hand.  Remove meals as they are consumed and add them as they are acquired.  Put the meals that utilize the most perishable ingredients at the top of the list and make choices that don’t allow those items to go to waste (i.e. take-out can truly wait a night if you have fresh ingredients on hand you are letting spoil).  Save any leftovers from your prepared meals for lunches, save the unused portion of any ingredient for use in other meals (in fact, count on this when planning your list), and save the best scraps of meal preparation in freezer bags (for making great stocks, broths, gravies, casseroles, etc.).  If you see produce moving toward over-ripe, preserve it through freezing, dehydration, or canning; or let it motivate you to make something from it in impromptu fashion.
  3. EDUCATION.  Learn about the ingredients you buy and consume and how they are best stored and preserved.  Always take the extra moment to store things properly.  Label and date anything you freeze or otherwise preserve.

And if you really want to see our nation start to break its ties with the specter of mindless insatiability, I recommend a fourth.  Support one of the many programs nationwide that collects surplus foodstuffs from restaurants, grocery chains, produce warehouses, and distributes what would otherwise be thrown away to those who need it most.

The Impossible Hamster

The New Economics FoundationOne Hundred Months,  and  Wake Up, Freak Out have joined forces to produce this poignant video called The Impossible Hamster.  I really felt this and think it is probably the most adept illustration of the senselessness of unbridled economic growth anyone could hope to make in 1 minute 10 seconds:


Sustainability means Forethought

I originally composed this in response to Questions and Reflections in March of 2008.  I think it’s worth sharing here…

For me sustainability means Forethought… Fulfillment of needs (first) and desires (second) with consciousness of that fulfillment’s true impact and cost. In a sustainable system every player and every part must be considered in context of the Whole of which it is part.

It is my belief that the present civilization has everything it needs for ALL to live in sustainable abundance. The appearance of scarcity and lack are not Actuality but a reality based in horrific mismanagement and parasitic mentalities. It is accepted practice for an individual to seek out the greatest material gain regardless of larger imbalances; regardless of the risk, expense, and short fall to any other organism. Yet the economy of any organism/organized system is very much the corner stone to the sort of energetic dignity the organism maintains. (Think – root law of Cause and Effect necessitating Awareness of action and energy exchanged; economy is energy exchange; the quality of the harvest reflects the quality of the cultivation.) An economy of hording and greed propagates a reality of shortage, depletion, and extinction. An economy of Awareness and sustainability, based on Wholes instead of parts, creates sufficiency, refinement, and renewal.

Thus I feel that in our quest for sustainability, personal and collective economy will require refinement and redirection. Sustainability is greatly facilitated by eradicating the consumer mentality which values production and consumption above responsibility and true quality of Life. As our consciousness of Resources increases, so will our sustainable state.

(Note: I define Resources as the goods and services of both Nature and Humanity.)