Mindfulness and Simple Living, the Only Way I Know How: One Small Step at a Time

Oh the jealousy, the greed is the unravelling, it’s the unravelling And it undoes all the joy that could be. Joni Mitchell, Blue

Since I am talking about who I am and what I’m doing here, I thought I would re-post this from the archives, from July 2011. Back to your normal viewing next week, when I have an exciting announcement to make (and just possibly a giveaway or two as well).

The Joni Mitchell song quoted above is about a love affair, but I was singing it as I cleaned my kitchen yesterday and thought how truly it applies to living a sustainable lifestyle.

It’s hard to reduce consumption when you are always seeing what other people have and wishing for it. It’s hard to be happy with your average size, west facing, three bedroom home when you are busy envying your mother’s lovely sunny north facing living areas, or your friend’s big north facing, fruit tree filled back yard with all its great nooks for kids, or another friend’s four bedroom home with large separate living areas and perhaps a study.

And importantly, if you are busy envying your friends, or even just lusting after the lovely homes you see (but can’t afford) in the real estate pages, it’s hard to busy yourself making the most of what you have.

I’m currently reading Buddhism for mothers of young children by Sarah Napthali, dipping into it here and there when I have a few moments. The idea of existing in the moment ties in well for me with the idea of learning to be happy with what you have and where you are. How can you live in the moment if you are constantly longing for more and better? Or to be more and better?

But by the same token, it’s tricky to appreciate the moment if you are constantly comparing your eco/sustainability/simple lifestyle creds with your friends or blogging mentors too (who me? would I do that?).

Napthali is big on being kind to yourself. Living mindfully doesn’t mean beating yourself up everytime you notice your thoughts straying to how much happier you would be if only you had that extra bedroom, or how much better your life would be if only you could declutter your house a little quicker. It means noticing those thoughts and then moving on.

Rhonda Jean from Down to Earth says there are no simple living police checking to see how well you are doing, so take things one step at a time, just do something. Make a start. Napthali has a similar attitude to living mindfully.

One year old Eliane modelling her square beany, and holding up for hand as if to say "what"?

One-year-old Eliane modelling my first attempt at knitting a beany.

I am taking simple living, living mindfully and decluttering each one tiny step at a time.

When I covet my friend’s house, I notice my desire and move on.

When I feel overwhelmed by the extent of the clutter, I pick up one piece of paper and file or recycle it, or put one toy back on the shelf or into the Vinnie’s box, which sits by the front door. At least, that’s my aim.

Tonight I really wanted to start on a new square beanie for Eliane, since the one I knitted last year is really a bit small, but I ran out of time. So I have wound off a ball of wool to be ready to start tomorrow. One small step at a time.

Now over to you: Are there aspects of simple/sustainable/less toxic living (or whatever kind of living you’re aiming for) that you struggle with? Do you sometimes feel jealous of your friends – online or off – or just inadequate? If so, what do you do about it?

Linking up with Jess at IBOT, because I do blog on Tuesdays. Also, ’cause it’s where all the cool people hang out :)

_____

PS Joni Mitchell is one of my all time favourite singers, and my favourite Joni album is Blue. That quote is from the first song, ‘All I want’.

PPS By the way, my book is now available on Kindle too! Woohoo!

  7 comments for “Mindfulness and Simple Living, the Only Way I Know How: One Small Step at a Time

  1. Justine
    January 29, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    I’m like you a bit, I struggle with the decluttering thing. It ties into my sense of complete hopelessness as a “housewife” (which I alternate celebrate and struggle with). I’d love to have one of those ultra-clean, minimalist houses, which some of my friends (yes, with kids) do seem to manage, moreorless. But I just don’t think it’s ever going to happen for me, so I am trying to be at peace with that. Though, I can’t help thinking how much easier life would be – so much less mess to contend with – if I could just toss half the toys and 75% of the clothes. Sigh.

  2. Margaret Richardson
    January 29, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    I was raised in a home that was so clean and everything in it’s place that one was almost afraid to sit on the couch (or anywhere else), because immediately after they rose my mother would swoop in to ‘re-plump’ the cushion and return it to it’s exact place…at equal distance to other cushions on the couch.
    Maybe that’s why I am so untidy, I’d far prefer that people feel comfortable in my house, that they aren’t afraid to relax and enjoy themselves. As to having a big house, well, frankly as an ex-cleaner of houses owned by elderly couples (usually huge residences that they moved into after their children left home), I’ve come to realize that having such huge spaces means there’s more to clean. I’d far rather have a small place (my current home is a one bedroom flat, more than big enough for me) and be able to clean it in only half an hour tops than to have a large space, the only thing I’d wish for is more storage space. Even though others may think my home is ‘cluttered’ for me it is filled with memories including artwork produced by my grandchildren and many other young friends.
    I have many friends who have huge houses, but just as many who shelter on the streets, they have no houses at all. For me, one’s home is where one feels safe. God bless.

  3. Gilly
    January 29, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    Hi Kirsten,
    I had to wonder if you tapped into my computer as I regularly dream of buying the block of land where I can have animals and live the good life; all the while forgetting that I already have that, I have my chickens and dogs and a much more manageable yard. Sometimes we just need a gentle reminder that it is all how we choose to see what we already have. Thank you

  4. January 29, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    Contentment is such a great life lesson to learn isn’t it?
    I honestly believe real happiness doesn’t come from getting everything you want, but learning to appreciate what you have. Which I practice daily, with my house ;)
    EssentiallyJess recently posted..Mad About Bridget #IBOTMy Profile

  5. January 30, 2014 at 6:33 am

    I tend to find myself wishing for a better view outside my window. During the warmer months I can head outside and enjoy the open green space but in the winter I have to look beyond the parking spaces to see nature. Then I stop and realize how fortunate I am to have what I have. See I live in an apartment complex and while most complexes you have your space, maybe a patio and if you are lucky a designated outdoor space. But here we have over an acre of untouched land we are allowed to do what we want with. We’ve started a community garden for the tenants and even begun to plant fruit trees as well. If I look in the other direction I have a lake to enjoy. What else could I want.
    Lois recently posted..Change the World Wednesday, Baby it’s ColdMy Profile

  6. Danni
    January 30, 2014 at 7:49 am

    This is a universal problem, but more evident in the west as what we often want is not what we need. Thanks for the article, it’s great that you highlight jealousy commonly felt by everyone. I think a lot of it’s linked to consumerism and the push of the media/advertising to convince us on every level (mental, emotional, sub-conscious) that ‘more stuff’ and ‘new stuff’ will make us happy.

    I’ve learned to enjoy my life fully as it is through meditation, it gives me that inner satisfaction. Every time I still feel a desire for more, better, bigger, it’s offset in equal measure by my inner satisfaction. I now no longer feel much desire for new, more or better things. Below is a link to an interesting article about taking the next step after mindfulness to mind emptiness. Mindfulness is great, but still works on a mental level, mind emptiness goes beyond that and gives you innate satisfaction.

    http://theconversation.com/meditation-mindfulness-and-mind-emptiness-21291

    Thanks again for the article and all your work towards sustainability and peace. :)

  7. Kirsten
    February 2, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Thanks Justine, Margaret, Gilly, Lois, Jess & Danni, for your comments, and thanks for the link Danni. It’s been a flat out week for me, so I’m sorry I haven’t replied, but I really appreciate all your thoughts on this topic.

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