Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How Simple Are You?

Have I posted a picture of my repainted Zendo (which is really code for a living room with no furniture)?  We lightened it up a while ago from a browny, pink colour to a soft green, a testament to how a paint colour can change a room.  But really all this chat stand in for the fact that I don't have any artwork to post.  However I can report that the little outbuilding that will become, at least my summer studio, is almost clean, after removing several vaccum loads of sawdust from it.  Now all that's left is the wall washing and moving in.  I am not convinced the roof holds water, so I  will move in a tentative kind of way.  The old workshop lends a new meaning to "living roof" with it's several inches of moss on cedar shakes.  We'll see.

Meanwhile I have time to post as I twisted my ankle in an act of over zealous gardening around the studio building.  Is this my body restoring some balance to my life?  "If you won't sit down, I'll sit you down."  But then sometimes a twisted ankle is just a twisted ankle.

And so I got to watch myself feeling a bit bummed out about this enforced couch potatoing I've done today. I get to see my busy, agenda setting self, sidelined.  It's not a bad thing to be reminded of your tendency to want to barrel through things, your impatience for a finished product.  It's a good thing to look at habits that are not altogether wholesome and be reminded there are other ways.

 I gathered drawing things and dharma talks and some Shamanic journey things I've been reading but in truth I ended up doing a lot of dozing and not that much else, a couple of small sketches, a half slept through dharma talk on creativity by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche that you can find here.  But by this evening I am letting go of all the expectations of how things "should" go.

On Friday we went to hear Jim Merkel, author of "Radical Simplicity" speak and I must admit all the talk of downsizing and living on $5000 a year made me feel squirmy, guilty and uncomfortable at first.  Oh no I've moved to the country, I need to drive everywhere.  Oh no we wanted a smaller house, but couldn't find one we liked.  After judgmental mind quieted down I realized we do a lot of things Jim recommends to improve your ecological footprint.  We are mostly vegan, we grow our own veg (make that, we're trying to grow our own veg, it's been a bad yr on the coast, no radishes, can you imagine??)  We don't go into town everyday and mostly do a bunch of errands,  and there's not much shopping to lure you in here.  One of the reasons for coming here.  Errands done in 1/2 an hour. Other things that contribute to a simpler life  here are the lack of places to eat out and  a choice to not hook up to TV, that visual crack box.

After feeling guilty about renos that were done mostly to please my aesthetic sense, I realized there are more things we can do to reduce our ecological footprint, mostly small things that constitute thinking before we buy things.  Do I need that soft tie for my tomato plants?   No, I can rip small pieces of an old tea towel to do the same job.  I can make sure we pick more blackberries for the freezer this summer, dry some apple rings.  Do I really need that new sweater?

I like his reminder that when you are buying something, you might consider the life blood of the person that went into to making it (and in "Your Money or Life" style, think about your own life energy that it took to supply the $$ to buy it).  This idea reminded me a lot of the Buddhist idea of interdependence which Thich Nhat Hanh is so famous for describing.  When you look at a slice of bread on your plate, think of all the people it took to make it, the person that planted, cared for and harvested the wheat, the person who took it to the flour mill, the people that ground the grain into flour, the people who baked the bread, the people that transported it to the grocery store, the clerk who stocked the shelf, the cashier who rang it up and popped it in your bag.  It took all these folks to get this simple slice of bread to your plate. We don't often think of this or feel grateful for their part in our slice of bread.

So that's where the Dharma went this week for me.  How about you?


  1. To create beauty for you to live in as you have is something I do not think we need to give up. Just keep simple. One year we were in the big box building supply store (the 5 year build your own studio project) and I/we were swooning over the granite counter tops...thinking ahead to a kitchen spruce up...a few days later I thought to myself "how many hours do I want to go to work to earn the money for those counter tops?" The answer - not any really.
    Recently read an article on an artist, Leo Adams, who creates his glorious space from scraps, the cheapest supplies and creativity. I'm inspired. An arrangement of a found feather, a rock and a sprig of something is beautiful to me.



  2. I know of Leo Adams! In fact years ago I tore some pictures from a design magazine I had and have kept them all these years. He is truly a creative and inspiring man. His home is an amazing, serene testament to that. I must go look at those links now! Thanks, Leslie. You are an encyclopedia of art and design!

  3. Oh, I would love to see the pages from the design magazine of Leo's home....I can't get enough right now. Such a kindrid spirit he is...it will be fun to see how you continue your simple need for beauty with his inspiration.
    Life is too short to miss out on beauty!

  4. I should see if I can scan the pages. Mostly they were the same as the pictures shown in the 2 links you gave. Yes, Leo works in your colour palette too!.

    It's funny I was just mentioning him to an American friend of mine, but couldn't remember his name, but knew I had the pages in a folder.

    And thanks for your kind words. I went to bed feeling happy and inspired. And you reminded me that we spent $300 on butcher block counter tops at Ikea rather than $8,000 on solid surface. We used bamboo plywood for bathroom counter tops, again spending $125 for each bath instead of $2000 a pop. And all the old fixtures and cabinets went to new homes.

    You are right, life is too short to miss out on beauty!

  5. Oh, I will make note of the bamboo plywood counter top idea! I like that!

  6. Interesting that we were both hobbled this weekend! I dozed a lot too. :) Both evidently getting the deep rest we needed - living more quietly than usual.

    We like the *idea* of "living simply." A while ago my husband got the idea that he wanted to live what he called - "minimally", (which sounds similar to what you are saying here), then got the job in Minnesota where he lived in one room without the comforts of "home." He has sense changed his mind, as he discovered that "living simply" doesn't have to mean living ascetically - at least for us. But to live according to our needs; in a way that feeds our spirit and allows us to thrive in an enlivened way.

    I would love to live more simply where there's not a lot of house or yard to take care of, more time for the important inner, creative things, living more contemplatively... :)

  7. mystic - to live simply but in a way that"feeds our spirit". I like that. It implies being careful about the resources of the earth, for how else could we feed our spirit but to care for this place where we live.

  8. Hi Zen Dot.. I will be back soon to read your post but I did want to leave a comment about the comment you left on my post-- I am planning to soon post more photos of my zen gardens.. and I will send you some book suggestions for more ideas..

  9. Thanks, Donna! That would be great as so many of the books and pictures I find are of formal Japanese gardens and a lot of the books just have a lot of text. I find it easiest to be inspired by pictures of what others have created around there homes. I look forward to seeing more of your garden and hearing about the books you like.

  10. I hope your ankle is feeling better. For years and years I lived a mega simple life, renting an old house very cheaply, being aware of doing many errands on one car trip, always thinking before buying hmm do i already have the solution to this problem right here now (like your example of tearing up the tea towel for tomato ties). I purchased clothes and other household items in thrift stores. in fact I had read the money or your life book and many others. I lived on $10,000 / year though am quite fascinated about how to live on $5000.

    However, for some reason I am no longer able to live on such a small amount as I did before. I own no house, I buy next to nothing, I never eat out, i seldom buy clothes and yet it costs almost triple the amount to live as I did before.

    I keep asking myself how I can cut back. With my very high rent my brother requires from me, it takes a big chunk of dollars each month. I will check out your Jim Merkel link and also the leo adams.

    i love your livingroom. it looks peaceful.

  11. Hi, Carole! Many thanks for your visit--I lover hearing about how your current place of living was inspired by time in Norway.! So sorry about your ankle... ouch... be taking it easy--dozing, highly recommended. ;o) Hope you will be feeling better soon. Your zendo is such a serene space--I love the jade-like green of the walls. Very exciting about your soon-to-be-new studio. All this talk of reno is timely, as my husband & I just finished a sprucing up of our kitchen. While part of me would love to gut the whole kitchen to make it into my "dream kitchen," the realities are that the room isn't that bad, and it's functional--small, but it's just the two of us. We weighed what needed fixing/changing against what would mean big expense/time to re-do. It was a real lesson in make do and mend in many ways. Over the recent years we've paring down a lot, going towards that more simpler life in ways that we can. I read a good many simple & minimal living blogs--there's a lot of great inspiration out there. Right now, I just do what I can each day, questioning and reminding--do I really need this?, can we make this go a little further?, don't forget the canvas bags for shopping--say no to plastic. :o)

  12. Such a great post, Donna! And since it was my first visit, I poked around and found you to be an amazing blogger...you shine!

  13. Thank you Carole. Love that picture of your zendo. What a lovely space you have created!

    In my experience, simplicity has been a process, not a state to aspire to. Mostly about disenchantment with all the things that add unnecessary complications to one's life. Shopping, multitasking, working more for more money, cluttering, owning things . . . It is not about torturing oneself with "I should . . . " Rather it is the result of thorough investigation of the effects of non simplicity on one's life, and having heart and mind convinced, naturally :)

  14. I've been going through this a lot myself. I've been unemployed for 2 months, and it's made it necessary to cut back on a lot of things. But I've taken a sort of hard joy with the experience. I'm struggling, but all of a sudden I have to work for what I have, truly work for it. It feels good.
    I like what you mentioned about being grateful for all the people it took to create a slice of bread. Most people say grace, but in a tradition that doesn't believe in a literal god, appreciate goes instead to the living souls who embody that energy. It's a beautiful concept that attests to the truth in every religion.

    Wonderful post =)

  15. Gee I enjoyed that, thank you.

  16. That happened to me in Spring ... I twisted the area that supports my arch. I guess it is our body's/mind's way of letting us know not everything is working in unison. Hope your ankle has healed up well.

    I look forward to seeing your outdoor studio which sounds so appealing with that living roof. I can see why you'd want to take it slowly since you'll have your art work under that roof.

    And thank you for the prompt to think about the chain of efforts that go into everything as simple as a slice of bread.