I've made the conscious choice to live small. I like so much about it. Small rent and minor bills mean I don't have to make a lot of money to live well enough. I need some - and more than I have now - but not like I once did. I live most of the time in my tipi near Bend. I love it. I love to be able to experience the weather and nature more directly than I can in a house. I love to hear the birds, especially the owls. Sometimes I wake up and the moon is so bright I can't get back to sleep. Those are the nights I'll walk outside, barefoot and barely clothed, and greet the moon. If I awaken and there is no moon, it's even more seductive. I can't remember a time I didn't feel the stars were like relatives to me.
It's tough sometimes, to be sure. This past winter was amazing. But I've found that through this minimalist way of living, my capacity for joy has grown. There seems to be something about being forced to more fully engage with natural rhythms that makes us more sensitive, capable of an articulated depth to go along with the soaring highs that naturally happen when we sense our place in the Universe. Contrasted with "civilized" life, with her gas ovens and central heating, it seems there may be higher costs for modern food and heat than the turn of a dial and a gas bill. There may be be a cost to our souls, as well.
Best yet, because I have fewer distractions at home, I feel connected to Life, and hence, to my Soul. My life now feels more and more like "serious play" that it ever has. As long as I feel this connection, I feel that all is well. Not on the surface, but far deeper. (This winter, it was mostly deeper - the surface reality was a serious challenge). Distractions make this connection harder to feel. This is why I've worked to minimize them.
Herein lies the subtle trap.
In the past few weeks, a few things have been taken from me. Keep in mind that all I own, I can fit in a truck and small trailer. Possibly only the truck, if we're talking about what I'd keep if I moved. It's been a joy to lose stuff I barely cared about anyway. They were distractions for me. As I've pitched it like so much ballast, I've risen in significant ways and life feels clearer (although to many, it looks messier).
What I've noticed as I've lost these things to mechanical breakdown or misplacement is that, the few things I still have, still REALLY have me.
For example, I have a picture that means a lot to me. Too much, probably. It's from the cover of a book called, "Cosmic Banditos." That book was a big part of my shift, so I got the cover from the artist that created it - one for me and one for my best surfing buddy - and framed it. I love that picture. I would fight a feeling of loss if it were to be misplaced.
Then, there's my iPod. I have always been a huge music freak. I think I have at least one artist that I like in every genre I can name. I have well over 12,000 songs on my computer - and there are very few iPod models that will hold them all - and they're all old models. I love my iPod.
Finally, I have my sunglasses. OK, I had them. And then I misplaced them. I have to admit that the wave of disappointment I felt was unexpected. I was discouraged and despondent; this must have been what a three-year old feels when he loses a favorite toy. It's not just a toy, it's himself.
By way of some kind of explanation (feels good to the ego), these glasses were Maui Jim's. They retail at about $300 and I loved the way they fit my head. As importantly, they were free to me, paid by insurance that just expired and that I'll not be able to afford for a while. And when I am able to get insurance again, no one covers a pair of sun glasses every year. That was a pretty rare perk.
The day I lost them, after I'd looked "there" and "there" and "there" about a million times, I had to admit they were gone. Unexpectedly, I felt an intense emotion arise that was out of proportion, so I knew that ego was afoot. The lesson came to me seconds thereafter: no matter how much you give away, ego can persist. That's why even very poor people can be egoic. You may not have much, but the attachment to a little is just as damaging as attachment to a lot. That's because the attachment is fueled by a wound that says, "I am not enough." The implication is that we need that object in order to be complete. When we feel that way, we have- however briefly - identified with the Illusion in that instance. The same can be applied to relationships, jobs, religions, countries... you name it.
So, what do we do?
We see it. We accept that illusion has us in the moment. We see ourselves with compassion and understanding and even more acceptance. We may give ourselves time to process, or even wallow, without judgement. And then, when the wave of egoic weight has washed over us like a breaker, we come up out of an ocean of self-compassion for air. Specifically, we breathe.
Why does this work?
I have my suspicions, but I'm certain that it's at least partly because we're employing the body - which only knows how to be present (ever seen one in the future?), to bring back the spirit, which is moved by our intentions and emotions, while using the life force, the breath. All three "components" are used; body, spirit, life force. There are likely other reasons, but this one works.
The good news is the same as the bad: we're never done. We can give away almost everything we own in order to follow our spirit... And still not be out of the woods, yet. That's ok...
(beautiful painting by Melanie Weidner)