This year has called for quite a bit of extra time in the forest. Although I’ve taken hundreds of photos during these quiet times, I haven’t really shared any. These are just a few of my favorites from the last few months. Streams, deep-forests and lush rolling hills, caves, waterfalls, and cave pools. True love.
You Can Say No
As life’s journey continues, this process is gradual and ongoing. I’m beginning to feel the permanency of letting go. I can only hope this will be an example for my child as he grows into an adult, and I’m encouraged by friends who are also making these choices to live a simpler, more authentic life that is closer to what nature intended. A few years ago, I felt consumed by pressure to “succeed” — at least, by the mainstream concept of “success”. I caught myself mindlessly participating in consumer culture and spent several months mourning as I let go of patterns, behaviors, and relationships that simply could not continue if I was going to make the changes I knew were needed to reconnect with myself, reconstruct my system of beliefs, and get more in tune with nature’s design. Before I became a professional photographer, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. I took 2 years of college, then changed directions and graduated from cosmetology school. About a year later, I quit working at the salon I was in when the owner tried to convince me that it would be worth it to work an extra two days per week, away from my son, because “Michelle, you see how much money we make here.”
Money Above Humanity?
I saw someone holding a sign the other day that read “Humanity Before Money.” It really got me thinking that collectively, society is driven by making money and contributing to society’s current infrastructure… because we feel it is the only choice. I had fallen into that trap for a little while, even after quitting my job at the salon to pursue my passion for photography. I was listening to experts talking about how to maximize profits and studying marketing strategies out the wazoo. This is just a part of “getting your name out there.”
“NEVER WORK FOR FREE UNDER THE GUISE OF GOOD EXPOSURE.” — those icky words that I had seen on a meme a few years back still echo in my brain. I can even remember raising my prices and feeling good about the decision! Not what I stand for now, and not what I stood for before then. It’s easy to get caught up in what society says we should do, but there are other options. Of course as a single mother, I had to provide for us, but I turned to the current economic paradigm to provide for us rather than exploring other options. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that my passion for photography far exceeded any need to gain exposure for it (pun intended). I guess you have to go through these things to discover who you want to be, how you want to live, and how you can truly serve others in this beautiful life.
Disconnecting to Reconnect
We have to lose the idea that what is happening around us is the only way to live.
- No cable (since 2008).
- No more smartphone. In the last 3 months, I’ve experienced at least 75% less texting and more phone calls / video calls. Writing has increased drastically, too.
- No more alcohol and no more daily coffee. I’ve done a few spiritual cleanses and went 110 days without alcohol during the longest commitment back in 2012. After celebrating my 34th birthday this year, I decided to abstain from alcohol permanently — especially after taking a class with coworkers that discussed the body’s pH. Beer is one of the most acidic substances you can put into the body and alcohol itself breaks down into carcinogens (toxins), namely acetaldehyde, which is all-around damaging to the body’s tissues. Acetaldehyde even affects behavioral / cognitive function. Coffee is almost as acidic as beer! Here’s a chart I have in my office at work that is a great reference when discussing the relationship between pH and wellness with clients who are restructuring their diet. Side note: the body’s ideal pH is slightly alkaline – 7.30 to 7.45.
- No meat (recommitment). There are a number of reasons to stop eating meat, but the most important reason for me is that fresh, life-giving foods have all the nutrients our bodies need. Healthy fats, protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes are best utilized by the body in the form of raw food. Following Ayurvedic principles, and now making a conscious effort to ingest mostly raw foods, I’m feeling so much more energy than ever before. I’d say I’m currently consuming about 50% raw now… not something I ever thought would even work for me. Now I look back at the history of my eating habits (which weren’t bad, just not consistently healthy)… and I seriously cannot imagine going back! My first attempt at committing to a vegan lifestyle went awry because I wasn’t well educated on balanced meals and vital nutrients. Soy and carbohydrate intake seems to go up if you aren’t aware of what the body needs. My present job has educated me on these principles and this is now part of what I teach others in our classroom. I’d gone back to eating meat minimally the past few years, but ethically I’m just not okay supporting the meat and dairy industry anymore.
- No GMO’s. In last month’s issue of Popular Science, they introduce the Arctic Apple. This thing has blue skin. No thanks. Here’s an article that discusses how GMO’s are harmful .
- Cutting out big brand purchases. Purchasing from thrift-stores + locally owned business saves communities and saves the planet
- Reducing. I gave up having a bedroom in exchange for a good location / simpler lifestyle that allows Kyler and I to walk and bike most places. This is a temporary solution until I’m in a position to move forward with future plans for intentional living and further simplifying. I’ve decided not to talk about “The Plan” until it’s completed and actually happening, instead of rambling on about what I plan to do (haha). I attended the ’2014 Parade of Homes‘ with my Aunt today, who invited me and paid for my ticket. Some homes had more than 6,000 square feet! While they were absolutely gorgeous, I can’t imagine ever needing or wanting such a lavish lifestyle. My aunt made such a good point, that “Most people struggle to pay for the image of this life, but can’t really afford it.” I heard another parent saying to her teenage child in one of the mansions: “This is unrealistic. Children with this lifestyle couldn’t help but assume this is what life is about.” Perhaps, but not one of America’s own super-wealthy citizens, Jamie Johnson, who questioned aristocratic motives and filmed The One Percent (really awesome documentary). Since the end of 2011, I’ve gotten rid of most of my possessions, including about 80%-90% of my wardrobe, donated my washer/dryer, gave away my refrigerator, and donated most of my furniture to other people who needed it. Don’t miss any of it.
Rearranging Your Life Takes Time
It’s emotional, takes a ton of planning ahead, and forces you to be completely honest with yourself and to consider what is most important to you. It forces you to consider where you want your money to go. It forces you to consider what you’re putting into your body, how you’re treating the Earth, and what role you want to play in the community. But it is worth every second!
I Love Mother Earth.
I have been forest-dwelling yet again this past Friday, Saturday, & today and will be sharing some nice photos/videos this week. Words cannot describe the feelings you feel while rested upon rocks under a recess cave during a rainstorm, and watching/listening to the rainfall. I have also been working with expired film a little bit and hope to have some new personal work up on the portfolio site! Additionally, you can look for a post about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) this week with some photos of the fruit/vegetable share delivered 1x per week (year-round) from a local farm I now support… a great way to support locally sourced food, promote sustainable agriculture, and drastically improve the quality of the food you’re offering to your body.
After those posts are made, I’ll be taking a few weeks off the blog for increased spiritual focus (much needed), a hiking/camping trip to the mountains with my 12 year old, and some writing… both academic and personal. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by leaving comments, it feels really good to be going in this direction with the blog content <3
I just got home from a press screening in Columbus, Ohio where we viewed and discussed the film Money and Life. Please watch this movie and encourage those you know to watch it, if you haven’t already! Here’s a brief description of the film as quoted on the site:
“Money & Life is a passionate and inspirational essay-style documentary that that asks a provocative question: can we see the economic crisis not as a disaster, but as a tremendous opportunity? This cinematic odyssey connects the dots on our current economic pains and offers a new story of money based on an emerging paradigm of planetary well-being that understands all of life as profoundly interconnected.”
The best part of the night was seeing the community come together for such a heartfelt, open discussion. It has never been more clear that this is the time to change our perspectives, stop buying from large corporations, stop consuming so much stuff, stop participating in the system as it stands… so we can rediscover our personal values, reconnect with nature, and reconnect with one another. Tonight addressed all of the questions I’ve been asking myself and then some… including how to be more active and involved. While I’m feeling flooded with a sense of optimism toward one of the most pivotal moments in the history of the world… right now.. I haven’t even begun to organize an essay or structured blog post. However, I would like to post a link to the MOVE TO AMEND petition and invite you to consider closely what it stands for.
People are out there working so hard, doing amazing things for one another. Many of these people and efforts are right in our own backyards in need of more participants. They’re out there, and you can be a part of it… We all can!
Three powerful words, indeed. Walking out of work today, I noticed I had received a text from a friend who is away on vacation with her family.
“I miss you!”
It read, as I opened up my high-tech Razr flip phone (haha), while simultaneously digging for keys and nearly dropping the purse I was carrying. It brought a smile to my face.
“I miss you.”
Such a nice thing to hear! The feeling of being missed, such a comfort.
This was a nice reminder to me… the caring gesture of communicating the feeling of missing to people — right when we feel it. Otherwise, they won’t know we were feeling it.
Suddenly I’m sitting here thinking of people and moments that I miss, old friends, loved ones, family.
A time like this is cause to pick up “The Four Loves” by C.S. Lewis and read a few pages. Such a great read.
A time like this is cause to let someone know they are missed.
A time like this is cause to reflect on how much my son has grown. One of many memories shown above in the photo.
While I’m currently working on another essay post, as well as an inspirational piece for the blog… this issue is more present-tense. I wanted to write briefly about pain and working with negative emotions.
While positive thinking is a good quality to have, it becomes counterproductive when we fail to fully accept the pains we experience, restricting ourselves from working through associated emotions. Open expression of pain and emotions can foster healthy intimacy among relationships. Showing vulnerability can strengthen oneself and one’s relationships with others.
When we let emotions build and then cover them up with a positive attitude, it only clogs the soul. This past week, for the sake of protecting someone else’s emotions, I tried the “positive attitude” approach, but in doing so ignored the not-so-positive feelings altogehter; This only masked my truer, deeper feelings. I finally allowed the heavier emotions to flow, and shared them with someone who remarked: “It is an honor to be trusted with someone else’s tears. It makes my own pain seem more significant.”
Both meditation and yoga practices teach the importance of fluid breathing to center one’s awareness. A few minutes of slow, cleansing breaths and focused inner awareness each day increases one’s capacity for mindful, intentional living. Through mindful living one can open up to embrace each emotion as it happens. Emotions are gateways to ascension if we allow them to be.
I listened to a beautiful guided meditation by Anara Kashna earlier today… she uses the word “allowing” again and again throughout her message. Allowing is key in developing fluidity in our lives — acceptance of the yin and yang… raising vibration through the developing harmony between our darkness and our light.
Wishing you all a beautiful week.
Wow! After spending another weekend in the forest, I’ve been compelled to get rid of even more “belongings.” Attachment has been a theme this week, along with more discussions about intentional living. The closet will be left with 5 pairs of pants, 5-10 long sleeved shirts/sweaters, 5 short sleeved shirts, a few “comfy” items for bed/yoga, and 10 – 15 dresses. A coworker just gifted me with a bag of shoes (we wear the same size) so it’s time to get rid of shoes, too. While I’m not totally where I want to be just yet, I admitted to myself just this morning that there are still some little silly attachments I’ve needed to let go of.
Less Choices = More Time
Not only will a tiny wardrobe mean less time to think about what to wear to work, it will also mean more time to spend enjoying the morning hours — the most peaceful time of day! In truth, all anyone really needs is a clean outfit or two.
That special dress to wear on that special occasion, those perfect shoes to have tucked away just incase… these things are just unnecessary attachments, taking up space in the home and in the mind. It feels so good to let go!
While many of us already do take items to our local charity after we’ve grown bored with them, it’s worth mentioning again, just in case you’re on one of those cleaning sprees where the trash can is more convenient. Giving clothes to charity is an act of love toward the Earth (recycling), helps those in need, and is a nice reminder that we have enough to go around. Local homeless shelters, shelters for battered women/children, and local community centers are a few of the best places to donate your clothing items.
Some Other Inspiring Articles on Getting Rid of Clothes
becomingminimalist.com – How to Let Go Of Clothes
The Very Small Closet – Learning to Let Go
The Minimalists – Less Clothes, More Routines
If you’d like to voice your opposition to the partnership between Shell and Lego, you can do so by clicking this link. There are lots of other ways to get involved through volunteer work and activism by registering on their site. Sometimes I stop and look around and wonder to myself: when will the act of doing these things to our Earth in the name of profit come to an end? Before 2009, I wasn’t very well educated on the reality of what is going on around us all. I was one of the apathetic crowd, and skeptical of “conspiracy theorists”. At that time, I was putting my faith into the religious beliefs I had been conditioned to follow most of my life, even though I was very opposed to many principles, it was my loyalty to the religion (and the fear of what others would say if I followed my own path) that kept me from opening myself to looking deeper into Truth. I’m almost embarrassed by my own course of logic back then, and it was emotional to move forward from it, but it is very important to discover for yourself what your morals, priorities, and actions will consist of in this life. I will no longer support economic growth at the expense of our Earth and personal wellbeing. It started to feel so uncomfortable and so unnatural to self-promote in order to provide for my son and I. Maximizing our own profits is the same exact thing as big businesses seeking to maximize theirs (while they destroy our ecosystems and societal stability), is it not? The more I learn, the more compelled I feel to speak out.
Here’s an article on CNET about the Lego-Shell deal.
Also check out Greenpeace’s Video.
Inside the minds of most human beings lives the idea that a life-mate exists out there in the world. Some of us have found that person, some of us have not, and some of us do not believe in the concept at all. Love is the simplest, yet most complex of all emotions. So many factors go into what makes a relationship healthy, and as many factors go into why once-vibrant-romances become stagnant. I think about the movie March of the Penguins and am so moved by that level of commitment among wild birds in such extreme conditions. I’m equally moved by the idea of committing one’s life to spiritual growth and abstaining from a romantic partnership altogether. This is currently a period of self-exploration, reconsidering what fidelity means for me. I know I’m fully committed to being a good mother, a good friend, learning and growing from my mistakes, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and other existential and spiritual specifics. But when it comes to romantic matters of the heart, I’m a little slow. There have been a couple of painful endings, but very necessary endings. Right now, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to take time determining which direction to go (as far as what it could mean to move toward a deeper long-term commitment, or what it could mean to remain romantically uninvolved… while continuing to surround myself with other meaningful pursuits).
Most of us want to love, but sometimes we aren’t sure what we want to do with the love once it finds us. Sometimes both people don’t think through the emotion, but continue to follow the emotion simply because both enjoy the feelings and associated experiences.
Pleasant discussions with some very wise human beings have led me to the conclusion that romantic feelings can (potentially) be a terrible distraction: unless both parties have growth in mind, help one another achieve individual growth, and enhance one another’s contributions to The Greater Good. Certainly not the first time romance is being likened to distraction, but this expression feels different once it resonates within. It simply cannot be love if there are feelings of possessiveness, irrational jealousy, or desperation. This extends further to friendship as well; it cannot be a true friendship if there are feelings of possessiveness, irrational jealousy, or desperation.
Studying Metta has helped me understand that it is more important to have the capacity to extend loving kindness to all beings, rather than to allow one’s capacity for loving to be stifled by looming pains of a romantic-relationship-gone-wrong. (Not to say that commitments won’t have their disruptions, but when romantic love distracts one from his or her full potential… this illustrates an unhealthy dysfunction in one or even both partners).
I’ve witnessed healthy relationships and have also witnessed highly dysfunctional relationships. I’ve also been part of each. The key for me personally has been focusing on the growth that takes place following loss, and not allowing the loss of any relationship to drown my ideals or aspirations.
Faithfulness toward oneself is a pertinent characteristic for contribution to The Greater Good; commitment to The Greater Good is essential to bring one’s purpose to fruition. Combine the two, [faithfulness toward oneself + commitment to The Greater Good] and you’re on a path toward Enlightenment. The word Enlightenment is sometimes viewed as an absolute state of being. In the context of growth, my own definition of ‘enlightenment‘ would be:
the continuous evolution of pure awareness that facilitates growth, knowledge, and integrity to the degree that mind, body, spirit, and communication are each strengthened.
I don’t think it is possible to become perfectly Enlightened, but I do think it is possible to exist in a continuously Enlightened state where one is cognizant of intention, choice, and growth (and even aware of the state of being aware). Deepak Chopra explains the higher self as separate from thought, emotion, and action; we can learn to be more intentional along our journeys simply by taking the time to observe ourselves. A romantic commitment or friendship that distracts from the development of faithfulness to one’s self-awareness will only cause both partners to stray from each’s truest purpose.
To Be Free
Whether alone, or committed to another soul, the quality of being free to pursue growth is essential to everyone’s happiness. Everyone on the Planet. If we aren’t working on becoming more virtuous, the rest of our experience turns fragile, and sometimes fragile enough to break. I feel very blessed to have such deep connections in my life that allow me to explore, discuss, and grow from these ideas. Thank you
This article over on Planet Permaculture made me smile this morning, as I paused to ponder the many seasons this tree has endured… the many people who may have taken shade beneath its branches. A pleasant, gentle reminder about endurance. Endings and new beginnings are inevitable, yet life endures. I hiked deep into a caved area yesterday and noticed that, even in pools as shallow as 12″, there was an abundance of water-life. Little fish just bursting with energy in the smallest, most hidden pools of water. Life just can’t contain itself here on the planet