Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mindfulness

To continue my thoughts on the last two posts on simplifying my life  and living in the moment, today I thought I would take a few minutes and talk about mindfulness in day-to-day activities.  This is something I have really been trying to grasp lately.

It started a few weeks ago after reading an article on why French people are not (for the most part) overweight.  The article, among other things, talked about how the French practice mindful eating.  As Americans, we are so used to eating on the go, in front of our tv or computers, that the thought of mindful eating is almost foreign to us.  I am as guilty of this as anyone, and in the past during my lunch break I would either browse Facebook on my phone or read a book on my kindle. Sometimes I even eat in front of my computer while reading blogs or sending messages! Remy and I have different lunch hours so it was easy for me to just pick up a distraction, and by doing so I would usually end up eating way more than I needed to.  

In an effort to practice mindfulness I have been taking my time, unplugging from electronics, and being mindful while having a lunch by myself.  I set out the placemat, napkin, plate, silverware, and pour my drink.  Then I sit down and proceed to eat slowly, concentrating on the different textures and flavors of what is on my plate.  I chew slowly, sip my drink, and savor the uninterrupted time by myself. To be honest the first few days I found myself inadvertently picking up my phone, but slowly I have been weaning myself off of the need for distraction.  Not only is this good for my digestive system, but it gives me time to pause and be grateful for the food rather than shoving it in my mouth without a thought. Since I have been getting so much of our food from the Farmer’s Market it gives me time to think about each vendor who sold me what is now on my plate. Knowing the person who grows your food adds another whole aspect to being grateful for the food and where it comes from.  During our evening meal we eat together as a family, but even during that time I can be mindful of the family time together while enjoying our food.

From this little exercise, I have now expanded it into my daily house work; whether it is helping Remy with school, hanging up the laundry, making my bed, cleaning the house, or cooking.  As I am doing each activity I try to be mindful of what I can be grateful for in this particular chore. I can value the time helping Remy and the opportunity to stay home with him for school. I can savor the sunny day, listen to the birds sing, and be thankful for living in the country while hanging my wash. I can appreciate the comfortable, large bed Chad and I have, and the good nights sleep that it gives.  I can be thankful for the shelter the house provides while sweeping or dusting and I can be grateful that I am able to prepare healthy food for my family.

This has really helped me to relax and be more focused on the positives in my life.  Many people think I have a easy, fun life. :-)  And while I do at times,  I will be honest and say at the moment there are many stresses in my life regarding those I love with sickness, struggling finances, and relationships.  I find myself easily sucked into worry, and then discontentment at being here in Virginia when they are so far away. By bringing myself back to the place I am now, practicing thankfulness and mindfulness, I can keep my thoughts in a positive focus, rather than constant worry. I honestly think everyone should do some sort of exercise like this and experience the difference in their lives. Taking time to pause and reflect, even for just a moment, is beneficial. 

Now I know many of my readers work full time and have a much busier life than me.  You might be thinking that you don’t have time to practice mindfulness, and that if you don’t eat in your car on the way to your kid’s practice you won’t eat at all.  I totally understand and have previously had a busy season like that in my life when my girls were younger.  Maybe start 5 minutes of mindfulness in the morning before you get out of bed, or at night before you go to sleep.  Take time to think about the positive little things in your day-to-day life.  If you spent the day working and running kids around, perhaps take time to be grateful for your job, the funds to pay for your children’s activities, and the opportunity to be a parent.  There are so many people out there who are not able to do those things.

But maybe you are going through hardships and think there isn’t anything possible worth being mindful and grateful for.  It might be a loss of a job or loved one or physical sickness   I would have to disagree that there isn’t anything to be thankful for even in these circumstances.  There is always something…even in the darkest points of your life.  I have been there and I know that taking time to focus on positives makes hard times not as bleak.  It might be something as simple as clothing to put on and having running water, but there always can be something.

I encourage you to take time today to practice a little mindfulness in your life.  I think you will be amazed at the results!



Sunday, May 11, 2014

Living In The Moment

Another thing that goes hand-in-hand with simple living is living intentionally in the moment.  This is a bit harder for me than simplifying my life; sometimes I get caught up with working towards my “ideal life” that I forget to enjoy the good things that are right now.

How many times have I robbed myself of today’s joy worrying about the future?  Or regretting the past? More times than I care to admit.  The fact of the matter is this:  95% of the things I worry about never come to pass! That right there should be enough incentive for me not to worry.  And what about living in the past?  What benefit comes from sitting around regretting the things I have done, or wishing to relive some good times?  While it is good to use past experiences to better ourselves, such as learning from mistakes, dwelling on and bemoaning past mistakes is futile.  Move on!

How many times did I miss my children growing up by not being intentional?  More times than I care to admit; whether it was me being so focused on myself that I didn't see them or so focused on some electronic that I didn't hear them. But if I take my advice from the paragraph above, I learn from my mistakes and move on.  Unfortunately, I can not go back and relive those years when they were little children, but I can learn from the mistakes and not make them with Remy.  I can be intentional now with my girls, even though they no longer live at home.  I can listen to them when they call or when they are home, and spend quality time with them when I do see them.



Sometimes I get all worked up about wanting my “little cabin in the woods” and “ideal life”.  I’ll spend hours on the computer researching the perfect spot. When I do, I miss the birds singing in the oak tree outside my window, the purple mountains in the distance, and the lowing of cattle down in the valley.  I miss the opportunity to sit on the rocking chair out on the porch with Chad sipping iced tea while listening to my wind chimes sway in the gentle breeze.  Maybe instead of sitting on my computer researching things that are not in the plan at this moment, I can focus on being grateful for what I have right now, at this point of my life. How many years did I want to move to a little house in the country?  Maybe I should enjoy what I have.



I leave you with a quote from Jim Elliot that sums up what I'm trying to say in this post.....

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Joys of Simple Living

We lead a simple life.  We always have for the most part, but we have even taken another step back towards simplicity since moving to Virginia. By Chad leaving a stressful job, selling half of our belongings, and downsizing to a little rental house in the country, we have left many stressful demands back in Nebraska.  Some people find it strange and think we are weird.  Others look at us with sort of envy – wishing they too could simplify their life, but not sure where to start.  Others ask us for advice on what they can do to live a simple life.  While we can give pointers, it is a very individualized decision to shun “normal” and do many things the way our grandparents or great grandparents did them.  Even Chad and I have some very different ideas on simple living.  While I could probably join an Amish community and love it, (I kid…..sort of) he has to have some modern conveniences like bathrooms and air conditioning.  J

My ideal life would be a simple house placed back in the trees with a big sunny place to grow a garden, have fruit trees, and a small barn to have chickens and goats. The introvert in me longs for a quiet place away from noisy traffic and people where I can go outside in my PJ’s and not worry about what the neighbors think. J  I would not own a TV, but I would own a computer and cell phone. (The cell phone only because I have children!) As much as I think I could do without electricity, the fact that I love to cook demands I have it.  I don’t think I would like to relearn to cook on a wood stove.  I wouldn't mind heating with a wood stove though.  I would make most everything we eat from scratch so I could get by with my garden produce, chicken, eggs, goats milk, and occasional trips to the farmers market for the few things I do not grow. I would own a clothes washer, but would dry my clothes on the line. My house would be small, therefore easy to clean, but my kitchen would be good sized.  People always end up in the kitchen anyway.  We spend probably 75% of our waking hours in it, and even when we entertain we rarely go into our living room!

 Because of my simple life I would be more of an extrovert when I go in public for church activities and other social gatherings.  Because I’m able to unwind in the privacy and quiet of home, when I do go out it makes it easier to chat, socialize, and be an active part of whatever activity we are involved in.

Obviously, I have much of my “ideal life” already.  Here are some simple things we do that I believe keep us moving toward our overall goal. And remember, just because I find these things important in my life does not mean I feel everyone should do them.  Everyone’s life is different; with varying goals and priorities….this is what works for us. Maybe a few ideas will speak to you.

  • We do not have cable.  While we do have a TV, DVD, and Wii, we do not have any TV channels.  TV is very, very limited in our house.  Chad and I watch maybe 1 movie a month, if that.  Remy on the other hand watches movies on the weekends and is able to play the Wii after school is done for the day during the week for a minimal amount of time.
  • We home school. This is one decision that many people disagree with, and while I respect that it may not be what works for your family; it IS what works for ours.  Having had Remy in public and private school in the past we feel that at this point in his life home schooling is the best fit for him. In my mind school outside of the home brings many unnecessary demands and distractions on all of our lives; demands that have nothing to do with education. But we take it year by year.  His education is what is most important and when the time comes where I feel he will not receive a quality one through home school he will go back to a “regular school.”
  • I cook from scratch most of the time.  I will admit we occasionally get take-out pizza or eat store-bought candy, but for the most part I choose to cook with whole, one-ingredient foods.  Look in my cupboard and you won’t find much in a box or bag, but you will find nuts, whole grains, canned vegetables, healthy oils, and dried herbs.  My freezer contains pastured meat, frozen fruit and veggies; my fridge has fresh fruits, veggies, cheese, and milk. I like to try to mimic my cooking to what a person would have done 100 years ago.  Simple and satisfying. And even though I can’t eat wheat and dairy, I still cook with it for Chad and Remy.
  • I garden.  Even this year with a small garden I will be able to provide my family with fresh vegetables at a fraction on the cost of buying them from the Farmer’s Market or store. By doing this I also spend less time at the store.
  • I hang my wash on the line.  Not only is this better for the environment, it saves on our electricity bill.  And I love the nostalgic feeling I get as I hang my wash on the line.  It is actually a very relaxing activity.
  • We limit our social calendar. Family time is very important to Chad and me. We entertain here at our home a few times a month and go to church Sunday and Wednesdays. Remy is involved with his youth group at church and occasionally gets together with friends outside of church.  Chad has several outside activities he is involved in with work and school during the day.  But for the most part our evenings are free to study, read, and play games together as a family.
     
  • Remy and I enjoying a leisurely evening by the fire pit.

  • We don’t spend a lot of money on “leisure activities”.  Part of this is a very small budget since Chad is in seminary, but even when he returns to the working world I don’t see this going up a lot.  We prefer to do activities that are free or minimal cost.  Chad and I love to hike.  Remy loves to fish and hunt. (Yes, I realize those activities can be expensive, but they can also be quite reasonably priced.  Even cheap fishing poles can catch fish.  And an old gun that was given to us is more than able to kill a deer.) We like to go to museums, too, most of which are free or minimally priced. We exercise outdoors or in our home.  
  • We don't have debtWe rent our house and if we ever buy a house again we most likely will buy cheap and pay cash rather than get a loan.  Our two cars are paid for, and actually, if it wasn't for Koda, we could get by with 1 car.  We keep our Suburban for hauling him around, road trips, and large items.  With 200,000 miles on it we couldn't sell it for much anyway.
  • We don't have a lot of excess "stuff"..  When we find that we no longer use things, we sell them or pass them on to someone who can benefit from them. Daily I can be found whittling my way through our possessions in an effort to minimalize.
  • We are our own hairdressers.  Chad cuts his own hair and Remy’s. 2 years ago I went back to my natural brunette color to save on trips to the hairdresser.  My hair style is simple and my hair products few.  Although Chad does a great job on his and Remy’s hair, I prefer to go to a stylist for a cut twice a year for a total of $50 a year.  Much better than before when I would spend $100 every other month on a cut and highlight.

Some look at our life and say BORING. And yes, I guess it may seem that way, but we love it.  By keeping our life simple we can focus on what is most important to us, God and family.  Because our life is simple we are able to spend more time reaching out to others through entertaining in our home, get-togethers over coffee, Bible studies with other believers, and writing on this blog.  Because our life is simple we can get by with less money, which means less time working and more time to do the things that are important to us.

People often ask me why I love the simple life.  Honestly, I think it was ingrained in me.  My earliest memories are of my mother doing many of the exact things I wrote about above.  Although she was an extrovert, she loved her simple quiet life that she led on her little farm.  J I remember as little girl of 8 having the exact desire for an “ideal life” as I do now. Some things never change…….

So how about you, friend?  Do you long for a simple life?  If so, what are steps you have taken to simplify?