I have spent roughly a third of my life in each of three vastly different geographic regions and cultures, changing houses frequently. This has shaped the way I view the world and people. Though my country of origin still has the deepest emotional hold on me, nowhere ‘feels’ totally like home. This causes me to reflect on what is ‘home’. Eight months ago I sold my house and disposed of all my possessions other than my essentials which fit in a rucksack, giving me the freedom to travel (and change home) at will. At times, this freedom can feel homeless, no roots, no anchor. But I am exploring redefining ‘home’ for myself. After walking the Camino de Santiago and sleeping in a different bed every night, the second night in the same room suddenly felt like home. After seven months away, returning to England, to a different apartment, but seeing friends felt like home. The modern world of virtual meeting spaces of friends and family may mean that ‘home’ does not even have to be defined geographically. I think home is where I rest my spirit, where I am welcomed, where I am nourished – for a season – two days, two months, two years. For me, embracing the transient nature of our physical life on earth demands embracing change and acceptance that every thing is temporary. Not having to carry my home with me but being able to make my home wherever I am is very liberating. For those wandering spirits out there searching for a home, be still, breathe deeply, for in this moment and for this moment, you are home.
Beginners guide to minimalism.
On New Year’s Eve as the clock struck midnight after I’d tucked into a fantastic meal of beef wellington and roast duck, I made a resolution – I would not eat meat for the month of January. My waistline had increased a bit after a month of celebration with friends, family and food, so this was all part of my ‘get back to health’ plan for January. As a meat lover, I thought that giving up meat for a month would be very challenging, so instead of simply eliminating meat from my normal diet, I looked for wholesome plant substitutions to expand my normal diet. I discovered a love of sweet potatoes, quinoa, falafel and lentils. I rediscovered my childhood love of avocados and beans. As I eliminated dairy, I discovered that I love almond milk and as I radically cut back on added sugar, apples and bananas taste sweeter every day. Well, one month has turned into three and I can’t see myself ever going back to eating meat. My waistline is back to normal, my energy levels are higher than ever and I’m exercising more. I feel lighter and healthier in body, mind and sprit. So try going meatless for a month, you may just love the results.
I encountered a sad situation today. A couple were on the telephone to the police trying to find a lost bag containing all their money, credit cards, phones, tickets and passports. They had just been dropped off by taxi on the street of their resort. After walking up to the resort with their baggage, they realised that they had left this bag on the pavement, but it was gone when they returned to where they had left it. Hopefully a Good Samaritan found it and has turned it in at a resort office in the area. In life generally, but especially when travelling, keep it simple.
I’ve just finished reading the biography of Steve Jobs; an amazing story. Each of us wants our life to count for something. We are told from an early age to ‘be somebody’. Some of us have great aspirations for the world stage – build a great company, win a gold medal, be elected President, set a world record. For others, the aspirations are smaller in scope – get a college degree, own a house, win a beauty contest. All of these ‘be somebody’ aspirations imply being admired and celebrated by others. We can’t really be ‘somebody’ if we impress nobody.
But I wonder if impressing other people really matters. Maybe we should turn our eyes to heaven. With the things that they’ve experienced, I can’t imagine the angels of God are too easily impressed. What if our life could reflect God’s goodness in a way that was so honest, so consistent, so gentle, so loving, that someone who encountered us said “I want some of that” and turned to God? What if our life led to the angels of heaven throwing a party? Now that would be a real accomplishment.
the angels of God rejoice over one sinner who repents – Luke 15:10
Experience the Beauty
Yesterday I went to a photo exhibition and was drawn to a set of beautiful images of simple things like a leaf floating in a puddle or a feather caught in a branch (much like the image I’ve reblogged above). It got me thinking about how we continually encounter yet don’t register beautiful things in our life. And about how we really take for granted the senses that enable us to experience this beauty. If I knew that tomorrow an accident would cause me to lose my sight, I would spend today absorbing every wondrous sight I could. Or if that accident would cause me to lose my hearing, I would be listening to every birdcall or dog’s bark. So tomorrow when your alarm clock wakes you, give thanks that you can hear and when you open your eyes, give thanks that you can see.
I’ve just spent the last ten days in a Bed & Breakfast and will be here for another ten before moving on. This is a radical change from both my recent Camino life of a different bed every night as well as my life a few months ago in a four bedroom house. This lifestyle creates a difference in the way I interact with the world around me. I am using public spaces (coffee houses, parks, library, etc) for relaxation and work, even finding that I’m developing a favourite seat or spot much like I would have had my favourite chair at home. It’s also now two months since I sold my car, relying on walking or public transport. Not having a kitchen forces me to think of my food needs in daily terms and to keep it simple. I’m finding two distinct changes occurring with me. My normal thought timeframe is dropping from weeks or months down to days – grounding me more in the moment. And I’m becoming more observant of and interactive with the people around me. So far, so good.
SIMPLICITY TURNS ME ON
As I celebrate three years of simplicity, I look back and remember the hundreds of blogs and sites that I read. To celebrate, here are the top 5 links that inspired and helped me when I was starting. These are amazing people who practice what they preach. Simplicity turns them on!
1. zenhabits – Leo Babauta was the first minimalist I encountered on the web. Start with the Beginner’s Guide to his site. Leo also has another blog called mnmal which focuses more on minimalism. Check him out at simple links here on Tumblr. If you want an e-book, I read his e-book Focus and Simple Guide To A Minimalist Life.
2. becoming minimalist – One of my favorites then (until now) is Joshua Becker. I like his writing style and topics. He has inspired me to be a great minimalist husband and dad. I highly recommend you subscribe to his newsletter (I do). You can also follow Joshua here on Tumblr at substance over stuff (I do).
3. far beyond the stars (archive) – I learned a lot from Ev Bogue when he used to write primarily about minimalism. So I’m sharing with you the link to his old site. Start with his October 2009 posts.
4. the value of voluntary simplicity – Richard B. Gregg wrote this mind opening piece in 1936. This has had a great impact on my philosophy about simplifying / minimalism. 15 pages only. By the way, I learned about Gregg when I read Voluntary Simplicity.
5. laws of simplicity – John Maeda is a graphic designer, computer scientist, university professor and author. He wrote the book ‘Laws of Simplicity’ which also had a great impact on how I simplified things. Here’s a video of John on the simple life.
How about you? Which online resources focused on simplicity and minimalism have turned you on? Write me 🙂
Simplicity turns me on,
These twelve Jesus sent out … no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff. Matthew 10:10
As I pack and repack my rucksack, debating the necessity of every item for my Camino, I think about how we evaluate the necessity of stuff for the journey of life. I read somewhere that we pack out of fear. I’m afraid of blisters so I pack lots of plasters. It might rain so I have a rain jacket and waterproof over-trousers. One extra shirt will do but two will be better.
Life is the same. We’re afraid of being homeless, so we aspire to buy our own house. Three bedrooms will do but what about guests; should have a guest room or better yet two, in case they bring their kids? £10,000 in the bank is a good cushion but £20,00 is better. Ten pairs of shoes will do but twenty pairs are better. Out of fear, we seek security in our possessions, our money, our job, our abilities. But what if those very things distance us from our only true security – our faith in God. Are these false idols that draw our attention from our loving Father, the Creator of the Universe? Do we live a life of faith or a life of fear?
So as I repack for what seems like the hundredth time, I’ve decided to add a small bottle of hand wash (because I’m afraid catching a stomach bug). But, I’m leaving behind my expensive, waterproof over-trousers because I have faith that the rain will be warm and my quick-dry shorts and skinny legs will be just fine.