I’m living in what you might call voluntary poverty. Perhaps since I am never worried about losing the roof over my head a more appropriate term would be voluntarily low income. During my time in Wilmington I held two jobs back to back that entailed such high levels of stress that my health was suffering and my soul withering. I contemplated the platitude that I was working all day to afford the house and car that I could barely enjoy because I was constantly working; my soul was utterly exhausted by the daily struggle to spend the bulk of each week in a situation I hated. I eventually walked away from every bit: the job titles and the house in Wilmington and the Lexus that they afforded. Now I reside in a small apartment on the “wrong” side of town, drive a pretty darn old 4Runner and cherish the hours I am now in control of. It is certainly not a choice without consequences nor always happy and easy…but I can never go back after tasting this new, simpler, more profound way of living.
Travel is not impossible on a slender budget, just a bit difficult to orchestrate, at least for me. There are many sites about budget travel and I am no guru on the subject. I am, however, an advocate of deciding to prioritize what has meaning in my life and committing to making it happen one way or another, come hell or high water. I am still amazed and impressed that I forced through to Málaga, it was not easy at all and Cam and I ate a bit of ramen following my return until I could get another paycheck in. I came very close to calling it off a month or two before I left, but I knew I would never forgive myself if I caved. It did end up being a life-altering trip whose memories will forever enrich me. The ramen memories will fade.
I am currently in the planning stages for a trip to Mexico City in June and the path is no easier this time around. Refraining from eating out, buying cost effective groceries, planning my driving to avoid unnecessary gas usage…all factoring in to force this trip to happen. If I can view it as simple living, as a form of mindfulness, as working towards a goal, it makes the sacrifices along the way easier to bear. Life is to be lived as fully as we can manage, and for me, that is always travel.
I need to define how I want to make my way through the world. Is my goal to accumulate more material wealth? Or is it to free myself from those encumbrances and travel the world light?
I love a good produce department. Strolling the aisles, I soak in all the colors and shapes and the subtle fragrance of life and sunshine. Since we embraced a real food mode of eating, this is the epicenter of our shopping excursions. When we lived in Wilmington, we had a wonderful mercado that we frequented; it was such a treat to walk through it. Familiar fruits and veg but also more exotic items that we were unsure about but game to try. I gave my son free rein one day to pick whatever struck his fancy. We came home with something prickly–I have no idea now what it was, nor did I on that day. After working to follow the shop owners directives for preparing it, the verdict came back from Cam that the taste was “mediocre.” We had fun with it anyway.
In each town or city we have called home we have been members of CSAs and co-ops with varying degrees of success. My favorite set up was when we lived out in our little country house and belonged to two different services. One was an automatic box every two weeks, which forced us to experiment with some items we never would have purchased at a store–some of which I had to go online to even figure out what it was and how to deal with it. Our doom that year was a plague of sweet potatoes–so many in each box that we struggled to get through with only two of us in the household. We finally went off them and could not bear the notion of another one for literally years. I’ve finally started bringing them back into our diet, but I’m still leery about presenting them to Cam (so I mixed some into refried beans last week). The other service that year was one in which you placed your order, everything from local honey to local beer. That style circumvented the problem of ending up with too much of one item, but of course eliminated the adventure of discovery as we opened the box to see what surprises lay in store each week.
There’s a beauty in a simple, basic, well-stocked pantry. I find it easier than my attempts at actual meal planning, which has always been a road of good intentions and not much else. Having a cupboard full of aromatic spices is a pleasure; I’m partial to all manner of curries. With spices and potatoes in the pantry and fresh veg in the refrigerator, I can follow inspiration and whip up dinners as my energy and motivation allow.
There’s a simple peacefulness in zoning out while chopping the carrots, tearing the lettuce, extracting the luscious velvet flesh from the avocado. Retreating into mindless chores is an opportunity to in fact practice mindfulness. Allow yourself time once or twice a week to slow down from our American habit of rushing out the door to “important activities” and enjoy the simple process of time in the kitchen. Chop, peel and slice and just be lost in that. Sip some tea while it all simmers and savor not just the aroma wafting your way, but the time it takes to come to completion. Quiet nights at home are antidote to the frenzy of overscheduling.
Chop. Stir. Eat.
Where can you find beauty in your daily life? Cherish it in all its simplicity and gorgeousness.
As I traveled alone through Malaga, Spain–the vast majority of my time in solitary hours among the throngs of people–I had a dawning realization: each step was so similar to the “mindful walks” of the spiritual retreat I had gone on last year–silent progress through the labyrinth paying attention to the sights, sounds and smells that surrounded me. As I strolled the Parque de Paseo I was aware of the crunch of gravel in the garden paths beneath my feet.
I lifted my face to the breezes cooling my sweat soaked forehead when I finally reached the top of the Alcazaba. I drank in the snippets of conversation of passing groups of fellow tourists: German, Russian, Dutch and the ears perked up when I chanced upon English. I had somehow managed to pass my elementary years of spiritual awareness and realized I had progressed a level: to finding opportunities for mindfulness in the mundane. No special occasion was now required to refill the waters of the reservoir. Even upon return from Europe, I acknowledged the strength of sitting on my porch with my coffee, of whiling away an hour at a downtown cafe with a glass of wine. My peace was finally self-generating.
My first memories of self-care are treasured stolen mornings in my sun room with coffee and newspaper. What began as an infrequent occurrence transformed into a daily routine as I realized what a bead of peace this small ritual brought to the start of my day. This is how simple it is to start your journey in bringing quietude and mindfulness into your daily life.