Saturday, March 14, 2009

Alternatives For Simple Living

The Art Of Living
In Search Of Simplicity
By John Haines
Copyright © 2009

Editor's Note: This article is an entry from author's In Search Of Simplicity web site, reprinted with permission.

Our world of distinctions is built on paradigms, on the collective agreement of human-created models. Frankly, many of these models have outworn their welcome; many of them have stayed on the shelf long past their due dates.

There are numerous teachers today of something called 'The Secret', something called 'The Law of Attraction'. In many cases, these people have tapped into the Stillness and have gained the realization there are no limitations. But to bring that awareness back to this world and to teach that we can all have everything that we want is to forget that wanting is the source of suffering.

This craving for more is based on a limited understanding of the Absolute. When there is action without true understanding, it is action without heart. This has been the course of humanity, at least in the so-called civilized world, for long enough. Some would say for too long. Yes, we can each own and enjoy the luxury of things — the latest gadget, the biggest TV, the newest and greatest cell phone — yet we must not forget that someone else in this world may be suffering because of our greed, because of our lack of understanding.

When we are looking for economic solutions from within a model that is fatally flawed, we will not find lasting, sustainable solutions. We need to look outside the box.

It is a delusion to think that if enough is enough, then more is better. When we're in touch with who we really are, what is here right now is perfect. Then our needs, our true needs, are fulfilled. There is an immense sense of gratitude, an immense feeling of peace and spaciousness.

One of the messages of my first book, In Search of Simplicity, and other writings is that we need to take a close look at what our real needs are. We need to re-evaluate our lives. If we have enough money — and let's face it, most people reading this have enough since we have clean, comfortable shelter and enough to eat — do we have enough time? Do we have enough quality time? In today's world, some are money-rich and time-poor.

The art of living is learning to be content with where you are now, with what is. An example would be with relationships. Isn't it interesting that when we are in a relationship, we may think it would be better to be on our own? And when we are on our own we wish we had a partner.

Don't look for a partner when you are not content with yourself. Be happy with one and two will find you. When Lucia and I met in India, we were each content on our own and we became good friends. Our relationship grew out of this friendship, and it was possible because of the personal contentment we had each found at the time. We weren't consciously looking for each other. What we need finds us when we are looking the other way.

Yes, we can apply our will and certain techniques to get anything we want. Yes, we can use the law of attraction for this. The risk is that we become manipulative, that we are playing God. We are assuming we know what we need.

When we live each moment in a state of presence, when we look at the world with our 'child' eyes, when we stop to smell the roses, when we are happy, truly happy, what we need automatically comes. We don't need to ask for it.

It has been said that when the student is ready, the teacher comes. In this world, everyone and every experience can be our teacher. Be happy and allow what you need to come to you. Believe in magic, and magic is. Love what you are doing in the moment, and the moment will reward you in wondrous ways you least expect.

This is the art of living.

About The Author

John Haines was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario. He now lives with his family in New Zealand's lightly populated and stunning subtropical Far North. His simple life includes the growing of an abundance of organic vegetables and fruit and assisting his wife in the homeschooling of their two daughters. He broadcasts a popular weekly one-hour radio interview program that is simultaneously carried on local cable television. He's lived in The Netherlands (twice), Saudi Arabia, Australia, New Mexico and Arizona, together with his first 25 years in Ontario, Canada. He met his beautiful Dutch wife Lucia in India during an 11-month period in the Himalayas. He holds Bachelor of Commerce and MBA degrees, and is a qualified teacher of the Power of Sound and Touch for Health. Read more at John's web site:

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The World Has Changed
Alternatives For Simple Living
By Michael Mortvedt
Copyright © 2009

Many people around the globe have said that the "world changed" with the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. Of course that is hyperbole. But to have a man of mixed racial background as president is a dramatic change for the United States. Michelle Obama's forbearers came to this country as slaves. That is a big difference from some of the former inhabitants of the White House whose forbearers were slave owners.

A change I find very hopeful is that Mr. Obama is aware of environmental concerns, such as human-generated global climate change, and he actively supports the development of alternative energy production.

Am I hopelessly optimistic when I note that the instrumental music at his inauguration was a beautiful arrangement of Tis a Gift to be Simple?

If I had to choose what I am most hopeful about with our new president, it is that he seems to be a leader willing to listen to all reasonable opinions, even if he disagrees with them. He appears to be a leader who does not quickly divide the world into "Us" and "Them" or "Good" and "Evil" where inevitably we ("Us") are on the good side of everything. It takes a mature person to recognize that we are all mixed blessings (to quote Father Richard Rohr) and that even the United States is a mixed blessing to the world. Mr. Obama appears to be that kind of mature leader.

Having this kind of leadership in the White House, leadership that is open to alternative viewpoints, bodes well for the voluntary simplicity movement. It bodes well because voluntary simplicity challenges the over-consumptive and overly materialistic lifestyle of many North Americans, and questions many practices considered desirable by mainstream culture.

"The world has changed." We have a president in the White House who, I believe, will listen to our ideas and concerns with respect and openness. Our task is to continue to practice voluntary simplicity, publicly challenge consumerism, and express our desire to live justly and sustainably for the sake of all of the global community.

About The Author

Michael Mortvedt is a Lutheran pastor serving as Vicar of Trinity Episcopal Church in Kremmling, Colorado and CoDirector of Alternatives for Simple Living with his wife Sandy Olson. Together they enjoy traveling to congregations, retreats and conventions to speak and lead groups of all ages to explore the faith perspectives of sustainability and simplicity in this and future generations. When he has time, Michael bikes (even to the store followed by his Bob trailer), hikes, skis, reads a lot and searches the globe with his short wave radio. Alternatives For Simple Living can be found at

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Living Simply In A Living Universe
A Personal, Civilizational, & Species Choice
By Duane Elgin
Copyright © 2009

Materialism is a rational response to living in a dead universe. If the universe is a barren and inhospitable place comprised of non-living matter and empty space, then what matters most is matter: material possessions, material power, and material comforts. Where do I find significance and pleasure in a non-living universe? In things. How do I know that I amount to anything? By how much stuff I have accumulated. How should I relate to the world? By exploiting that which is dead (the universe) on behalf of the living (myself). Consumerism and exploitation are natural outcomes from a dead universe perspective.

However, if we view the foundations of the universe as intensely alive and the universe a place perfectly suited for our awakening to that aliveness, then it makes sense to minimize material clutter and distractions and to grow in the non-material riches of life-nurturing relationships, caring communities, creative expressions, and more. In a living universe, we will naturally want to reduce the busyness, clutter, and needless complexity that consume our time and distract us from diving deep into existence. In seeing aliveness rather than deadness in the world around us, we gather great satisfaction from the simple pleasures of sharing a conversation, a meal, or a walk. We see the significance of our lives in the size of our souls, not the size of our houses, cars, or bank accounts.

The Living Universe As we master the art of living on Earth, our mastery will be evident in the simplicity of our way of living. Simplicity does not mean turning away from progress; to the contrary, it is an expression of a maturing civilization. We can gain insight into the relationship between simplicity and progress from the eminent historian, Arnold Toynbee, who invested a lifetime in studying the rise and fall of civilizations throughout history. Based on his voluminous studies, Toynbee summarized the essence of a civilization's growth in what he called "the Law of Progressive Simplification." He wrote that a civilization's progress and growth was not to be measured in its conquest of land and people; rather, the true measure of growth lies in a civilization's ability to transfer increasing amounts of energy and attention from the material side of life to the non-material side — emphasizing education, psychological maturity, spiritual depth, cultural and artistic expression, and the strength of democracy and society.

Toynbee also coined the word "etherialization" to describe the historical process whereby humans learn to accomplish the same, or even greater, results using less time and energy. Buckminster Fuller called this process "ephemeralization" (although his emphasis was primarily on getting greater material performance for less time, weight, and energy invested). We can see material ephemeralization at work in many areas of our lives. For example, computers have evolved from room-sized giants to slim laptops with vastly more computing power. Libraries are evolving from massive buildings that warehouse millions of books to small computer chips that can store an even greater volume of knowledge. The telephone has evolved from a cumbersome network of telephone poles, wires, and transformers to cheaper, lighter and more powerful cellphone technologies that employ transmitting towers and get rid of the bulky, burdensome, and weighty copper wires strung across the landscape. Automobiles have evolved from heavy works of iron and steel to an increasingly lighter architecture of high-strength plastic, aluminum, and other exotic materials.

Building upon the insights of Toynbee and Fuller, we can redefine progress by expanding the definition of ephemeralization. Progress can be viewed as a two-fold process involving the simultaneous refinement of the material and non-material aspects of life. With ephemeralization, the material side of life grows lighter, less burdensome, more relaxed, more easeful and effortless. At the same time, the non-material side of life becomes more vital, expressive, informed, knowledgeable, wise, artistic, and nurturing. In short, ephemeralization involves the co-evolution of inner and outer, consciousness and matter. Ephemeral progress does not negate the material side of life but rather calls forth a new partnership where the material and the non-material aspects of life co-evolve in concert with one another.

The outer areas of our lives that are most important to ephemeralize are the basics: housing, transportation, food production, and energy generation. It is important to "lighten up" the inner side of our lives as well — learning the skills of touching the world and others ever more lightly and lovingly — in our relationships, work, community life, and more. With the combination of outer and inner refinement we have the potential for genuine progress, or building a sustainable and satisfying world for billions of people without devastating the ecology of the Earth. In place of a paradigm of consumerism we can embrace the more powerful, interesting and creative paradigm of ephemeralism.

There are many names that we could give to this new approach to living; for example, voluntary simplicity, green living, sophisticated simplicity, and Earth-friendly living. Whatever we call this shift in our manner of living, it has dramatic implications for the future of our world.

Earth-friendly or green ways of living are no longer alternative lifestyles for a marginal few; instead, they are becoming conventional lifestyles for the mainstream majority, particularly in developed nations. Even with major technological innovations in energy and transportation, we will require dramatic changes in our overall patterns of living and consuming if we are to maintain the integrity of the Earth as a living system. Simplicity is simultaneously a personal choice, a civilizational choice, and a species choice. We can make the choice for a sustainable future with enthusiasm when we recognize that it is also part of a path that calls forth our highest species potentials and leads us into ever-greater communion with the living universe.

About The Author

Duane Elgin is a researcher, author, and speaker with 30 years of experience in exploring the co-evolution of culture and consciousness. He is the author of three books: Promise Ahead: A Vision Of Hope & Action For Humanity's Future, Awakening Earth: Exploring The Evolution Of Human Culture & Consciousness, and Voluntary Simplicity: Toward A Way Of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich. He is also the author of two reports: Global Consciousness Change: Indicators Of An Emerging Paradigm and Collective Consciousness & Cultural Healing. In addition, Duane co-authored (with Joseph Campbell, Willis Harman, and others) the book Changing Images of Man (Pergamon, 1982). Duane's new book, The Living Universe will be published by Berrett-Koehler on Earth Day April 22, 2009. Duane's web site is Awakening Earth.

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