breathe dearheart, breathe

Tag: Stripping away (page 1 of 1)

Hello authentic life

Yesterday I talked a little about how we could all be more ourselves – the individuals we are – and feel more empowered instead of running around like Loraxes.

But how exactly to do that? How do you live your authentic life?

First of all, you are an individual. It follows that your life ought to be one based on your individuality. You are not just a person in the system, a potential customer, a consumer or one of the target market. Yet so many of us are unwittingly brainwashed and just bob along with the waves of patterns of behaviour that move around the ocean of our populace.

It seems to me that while most people understand we have free choice – and so many less fortunate people in the world do not have this essential foundation of a free society – they don’t use their free choice. (However, there are anomalies in our society, for example, parents-to-be in New York have no choice about whether to have their baby at home or not.)

Free will and free choice means we have the luxury of being more conscious of the tiny as well as big choices we make every day.

Each choice has a consequence. When we choose carefully and thoughtfully, when we ask ourselves what we want to do instead of just automatically doing what we think society wants us to do, we instantly empower ourselves.

The more we listen to our inner Self, and act on our intuition, the stronger we feel, and co-incidentally happier. The more we consciously strip away unnecessary things by de-cluttering, creating breathing space in our lives, being more mindful, honoring the things that make us feel good and doing more of them, the more authentic our lives will be. Our lives reflect who we are.

So in the hope of inspiring you, I gave myself 15 minutes to write a little stream-of-consciousness list of my ways of authentic living – practical choices I’ve made and continue to make that have helped me strip away layers of accidental falsity and live a more fulfilling life.

Hello authentic living –

Hello handmade, nature, wilderness and conscious living. Hello make-do-and-mend and minimalism. Hello connecting with my community and guerrilla gardening. Hello buying local produce and seasonal food.

Hello stripping away unnecessary things, including people and ideologies. Hello looking at bees and butterflies instead of watching them on TV. Hello letting children feel free and safe and able to play without adult supervision and interference.

Hello walking instead of driving. Hello knowing more about my family and friends than I do about celebrities and TV characters. Hello Waldorf / Steiner education and toys made of things that once lived like wool and wood. Hello not window-shopping and buying into retail persuasion.

Hello wearing the same dress I wore ten years ago because I love it (fashion doyen, Vivienne Westwood would approve). Hello making your own clothes, buying vintage clothes, revamping your old clothes, buying clothes from charity shops and expressing your individuality through the clothes you wear.

Hello being indecisive so you are always open to something new happening. Hello being spontaneous and going with that whole “who moved the cheese” thing.

Hello learning to be storytellers again instead of always reading books. Hello buying online direct from artists and creators on Etsy instead of big brand manufacturers. Hello upcycling and finding new uses for things we might otherwise throw away. Hello guitars around campfires, sleeping  under the stars and taking courses like Guy Mallinson’s woodland camps.

Hello farmers markets and people raising animals and crops the old-fashioned, expensive way. Hello curative classical homoeopathy and the slow movement. Hello creating communities of like-minded people online so it’s like we all live together in a village. (I’d like WildelyCreative as a neighbour.)

Hello supporting the people working with white knuckles, gritted teeth and in tears to save our planet, the species we share it with and the welfare of animals. Hello the rebel, the maverick, the weirdo who stands up and is not afraid to go against the tide.

Hello having your baby at home, being supported by other parents and breastfeeding for as long as you want. Hello hand-me-down clothes that have the energy of other children about them. Hello dads being good at supporting and protecting their family and moms being good at nurturing and home-making and hello all parents feeling supported and confident instead of thinking they need to read parenting books <– although I recommend that one).

Hello feeling connected to people via the magnificent universe that is Twitter that you’d never meet in real life. Hello listening to our instincts and acting upon them so we get more gut instincts and start to rely on them instead. Hello thinking for yourself instead of what everyone else seems to think.

Hello doing the exact things we loved as children, not matter how childish like playing with modelling clay and crayons, making things from twigs and collecting feathers. Hello not feeling you have to see the latest movie. Hello walking barefoot and getting your hands dirty.

Hello attempting to fix something instead of just buying a replacement. Hello getting to know your neighbours even if you don’t like them. Hello having a cat or dog in your life to teach you important life lessons and bring you companionship, fun, love and joy.

Hello photographing wildlife instead of shooting it. Hello going on guided nature walks instead of shopping trips. Hello home baking, making meals from scratch and growing our own wild foods.

Hello taking things out of skips and picking up things off the street that people have put out as garbage (we got 4 rolls of thick cream wallpaper on the street yesterday, great for HUGE painting and pastel works of art).

Hello looking up old friends and just saying hello. Hello realising you are beautiful. Hello loving what you have and being grateful.

Hello more displays of public affection. Hello more adventurous sex. (Bye bye stupid inhibitions.) Hello sharing secrets and talking more about what you feel. Hello writing silly notes and saying thank you.

Hello finding out about the insects and other little beasties you share you home and street with and looking for them and being able to name them. Hello smiling at people and acknowledging people more.

Hello realizing how far you’ve come and helping those coming up behind you. Hello leaving whole days open and unscheduled to do what you like in the moment. Hello risking looking foolish when you ask a stranger if they need help with their bags, car, crossing the road or anything else. Hello getting better about saying ‘no’ without giving an explanation as to why not.

Hello having wildflower meadows and wilderness areas in our gardens. Hello making gifts and cards for friends and family instead of giving money to a shop. Hello more people doing things like moving your tomato plant so the noise won’t disturb a leafcutter bee’s nest.

Hello healing ourselves by listening to our inner wild.

I’d love it if we did a kind of brainstorming thing here and you added your individual ‘Hello‘s in the comments below. I might add a few more too.

What no television?

Maybe if TVs still looked like they did in the 1960’s I might still have one.

No. Maybe if television still ran the kinds of shows as it did then, and in black and white, I would not have felt an urge to “get rid” of our TV.

Getting rid of your television is a big deal.

Stripping away unnecessary furniture and clutter from your home is all well and good. But television’s phenomenal power over us is so subtle I think most people don’t even think of a television set as a piece of furniture. In fact, even I buy into the idea that those super-slim, wall-hung plasma screens are like art on your wall.

And yet getting rid of my television set has been the absolute, far and away, single most stupendously rewarding aspect of embracing my inner minimalist, my purist spirit, my inner wildness.

Adopting a simplifying attitude to your life, de-cluttering your home and stripping away unnecessary material things in your environment gets talked about a lot, because those things are obvious. But as a personal development attitude the concept of minimalism covers much more, including simplifying what you’re exposing your Self to in the bigger picture. And that includes media.

So I ditched television, I listen to one or two radio stations, read one paper once a week and go where instinct leads me on the world wide web.

I feel I have my life back. After several years of not having a TV I feel I’ve already gained millions of minutes that add up to years that would otherwise have been spent watching other people doing stuff. Now I wonder how I managed to do anything at all when I had a TV.

I first thought of becoming TV-free about 8 years ago. This was when I lived in New Zealand where the quality of TV shows is excellent. You get the best American, Australian and British shows plus great local content.

What I didn’t like was my slavish addiction to it. I found it difficult to turn the damn thing off. It was nice escapism. It was company. It kept me constantly ‘entertained’. I felt ‘connected’ to characters in sitcoms and series.

I stopped watching the news – I had read something about detaching from a desire to keep track of the international news media’s negative take on everything. Then I read an article about how TV is like having a stranger in the room who can pretty much say whatever they like. I muted the volume on every ad break – I couldn’t stand the intrusion of commercial hype. (And I was an advertising creative at the time!)

The whole TV abcess burst for me when I became a parent. I didn’t want my child to be a TV zombie. I wanted her to be a child. I wanted her to live life, not watch it. Simple.

So I only switched the TV on while she was sleeping. And then I kept forgetting to switch it on, not least because I became more appreciative of quiet. I can see now that this was a weaning period.

But actually picking up the TV and giving it to charity was an ambition beyond me until we moved countries. I was very attached to my television set. I had had it for years. Buying it was somehow a modern adult rite of passage. But we moved. It stayed, at the local charity shop – and I was so relieved.

I decided not to buy another TV in our new home and see how that went. That was about 3 years ago.

By now I’m used to the horrified expressions on people’s faces when they ask me if I saw the news last night or some other thing on the TV and I say ‘no, I don’t have a TV’. (People talk a lot about what they’ve seen other people do or say on TV!)

I really wish there were more people who didn’t have a TV. I would feel a lot less weird. People are kinda threatened by the idea of someone not having a TV. Yeah, I am dangerous – I have no telly, so there!

Now, please don’t think I’m some kind of guru because I managed to pull out the mass media IV cord and give up TV. I do still occasionally watch TV shows on BBC iPlayer. But since 6 weeks can go by without my having watched any moving picture I have to be prepared for things like sobbing over a scene with Kenneth Branagh in Wallander (which previously wouldn’t have affected me so dramatically) and being scared rigid by Damages because the effect of these dramas is magnified for me.

If you’re beginning to question having a TV, hold my hand and just get rid of it. You will not regret it for a moment. You will feel free. You may have to ride out some withdrawal symptoms, but it’s worth it. And you don’t have to go cold turkey on it. You will revel in your new active, selective viewing. And not accidentally scheduling your life around what time your favorite TV show comes on.

I’m sure there are loads of articles online that outline the benefits of unplugging from broadcast media – you get more stuff done, connect with your family more, talk more, are not mainlined into believing what other people believe, you’re not vulnerable to sophisticated advertising messages, whatever … and the drawbacks do include people thinking you’re a freak, because let’s face it, you are a freak if you don’t have a TV.

Quite apart from all the usual criticisms directed at TV nowadays, desensitizing us to violence and all the rest, as well as being persuaded to buy goods and services we didn’t even realize we wanted so badly before the ad came on, the thing I find poignant about TV is the empty streets and parks of our neighbourhood in the evening, the flickering of TV screens in every living room and people sitting staring.

Not out for an evening constitutional, not meeting each other, not talking to each other No. Sitting in little boxes staring at a piece of furniture in the corner. I find it really sad. But I guess the powers that be are real happy about this state of affairs.

Accelerating fast from car-less to car-free

Like many others, I’ve had to change gears from driving anywhere I want to go to being car-less. And quickly shifting up to fifth gear to feel car-free, rather than car-less.

It’s been a hard road my friend, I won’t lie to you.

Having had the dangerous thought last year that perhaps part of my stripping away unnecessary things in my life might possibly include my car – how irrational a thought that seemed at the time – the universe has responded by wrenching that car right out of my hands.

It started with not being able to afford to fill the petrol tank. Then putting repairs on to my credit card. Next, rationing petrol and journeys. Consciously not using the car, walking instead of driving. And so now, the end of the road.

A few weeks ago my car received, not an MOT certificate, but its Death certificate. The cost of repairs needed for a new MOT exceeded the value of the car.

Today my car was towed-away. The kindly vehicle wrecker, John, who took it away pressed a £20 note into my palm in sympathy.

Really, he could have charged me for taking it away because in active protest at being scrapped my car had set off its immobilizer – for the first time ever. Its flashing hazard warning lights and shrill screams of alarm going on and on, and even John not able to switch the immobilizer off, were like an external manifestation of my own tiny internal cries.

£20 for a beautiful, vintage Mercedes Elegance 180C. £20 compensation for my bubble of mobile independence and protection being burst.

I took the cash. He took the car. We walked to the local shop and used the money to buy ice-lollies, sucking them in the fresh air and sunshine.

I feel really vulnerable not having a car. But I like it. I am just another soul washed and rinsed by the recession and, like so many of us, queerly but resiliently appreciating the living-more-simply-changes a lack of funds has brought.

I feel inexplicably, wildly, excited about the prospect of living without a car.I am liking the idea of leaping on and off buses. And communing with all kinds of people on public transport instead of locked in my isolated, safe metal space. Walking and noticing things, talking with people, waiting at bus stops, hearing birds singing…

But oh my car, my dear car!

I have never lived without a car.

It’s a scary thing, especially with a child and a giant dog and um, 3 cats. Plus, I’ve almost always had beautiful cars. I love cars. As a teenager I drove two Triumph Spitfires. I drove a black, vintage 1952 Citroen Traction Avant Light 15 as my everyday car for years and years in my Thirties. I’ve had 4×4’s and oh my darling silver Subaru Legacy stationwagon with its faux walnut dash … sigh … it’s over for now.

Wait a minute! I love cars, can I just say it again? I like vans too. I love the perceived freedom they give us, the style and grace they afford us, they sheer pleasure of driving, a leather-wrapped steering wheel in my hands, and a wide, open road ahead. I love going on adventures in cars, just driving and seeing where you end up.

But it’s over, for now. And I am glad. I feel strangely relieved of a burden. How very odd.

I have just ordered our economy-bulk, multi-journey bus tickets for a full month online. Our tickets to ride will be here soon and oh, wait – another benefit – I shall regress to when I was a school girl with my school bus pass!

If you’re interested in living without a car, make it easier for yourself by reading how others have made it a wonderful experience – like lovely RowdyKitten, Tammy Strobel, with her Simply Car-free book.