with An Expert
LIVING SIMPLY IN A COMPLEX WORLD
(Excerpts from an article that originally appeared as a cover story
for Yoga Journal)
I stood on the deck outside my home, gazing into a meandering stream
threading its way through my back yard, I was physically exhausted
and emotionally out of breathe, running as fast as I could to keep
up with an out-of-control lifestyle of my own making. As I gazed
across the wooded lot and listened to the bubbling of the water
across the rocks, I realized the scene before me had been much of
the reason I had purchased the home about a year before. At the
time I had imagined spending countless hours out on the deck, basking
in the sun, watching the seasons roll by, but the seasons had rolled
by without me. I'd not so much as stepped foot on the deck in all
that time. I'd been too busy working 50-60 hours a week at my veterinary
practice so I could pay the mortgage on the house, not to mention
keeping two car payments up, and the three credit cards paid down.
Like Alice, I realized something was wrong with this picture. I
was running as fast as I could just to keep up.
I'd like to say that out of that realization I put the house on
the market, traded the cars in for older models without payments,
cut up my credit cards, and started living a simpler life. Unfortunately,
it wasn't that easy. I hadn't suffered enough yet. It wasn't until
my second marriage ended in divorce and I came close to burn out
in my profession before the lesson finally hit home. However, the
seed of an idea was planted that day, many years ago, and though
it took a while, the harvest of a simple life my new wife and I
have designed is sweet and well worth the wait.
THE COMPLEXITIES OF SIMPLE LIVING
My personal journey to a simpler life was motivated by two factors
fatigue and frustration. I'd been on the fast track ever since taking
my first part-time job at the age of 15 working at the library downtown.
I held my nose to the proverbial grind stone through junior and
senior high school, being sure to make the types of grades that
would prove to the world that I was worthy of attending veterinary
college. I even managed to rush through undergraduate school, completing
a four year pre-vet program in less than three. By the time the
mid-eighties rolled around, I'd been hoofing it hot and heavy for
over twenty years, and by American standards, I was a success. Yet
despite all the success trappings, I kept thinking, "Is this
all there is?"
My frustration grew out of a lack of finding meaningful ways to
express my natural creative interests. Although my art teachers
in high school had urged me to continue studying art in college,
I would hear none of it. I knew artists starved and veterinarians
didn't. Yet, by the time I found myself standing on my deck contemplating
the similarities between Alice's predicament and my own, I was starved
creatively and spiritually.
Selling my veterinary practice in 1989 to become a freelance writer
seemed like an excellent way to take a long break from running as
fast as I could just to stay in the same place. I envisioned sitting
on my deck tapping away on the keyboard for a couple hours each
day, but when I realized how much money the deck was costing me,
I decided if the little nest egg from the sale of my practice was
going to last more than six months, I'd better find a less expensive
deck to sit upon.
Although at the time I hadn't even heard the term "voluntary
simplicity," these moves to simplify my life just "felt
right," even though some of my friends and family thought I
must have brain damage from breathing too much anesthetic while
performing surgery. About this time Ann and I met and fell in love.
Ann not only supported the career change but had a small townhouse
complete with deck. I rented out my home in order to reduce expenses
and paid Ann rent on her spare bedroom. Could life be this easy,
I thought? On this occasion the answer was no. I discovered over
the next year that making a living as a freelance writer wasn't
as easy as I thought it would be. After a year of rejection letters
and watching my savings rapidly dwindle, I jumped at the chance
when a good friend of mine offered me the opportunity to come to
work as a business consultant. The regular salary allowed us to
move back to the larger home and lease the smaller one. Two years
and one marriage later, I realized I had come full circle, once
again working a 50 to 60 hour job that paid well but didn't give
me the time for my creative outlet.
A pivotal time came with the arrival of my daughter, Amber. While
she was still an infant, I slowed down long enough to notice the
families around me. With most of our friends, both the husband and
wife worked, and the kids were farmed out to overflowing day care
centers. Neither Ann nor I wanted that for Amber. It had taken me
over forty years to get around to having a child and I wasn't interested
in being an absentee father.
Still, it took me several weeks before I built up enough nerve to
discuss my thoughts with Ann. After all, I had a secure job complete
with an excellent salary and long term benefits. So what if I wasn't
happy? I was a good provider. Finally, one afternoon while driving
home from visiting friends, I poured my feelings out, ending with,
"I think I should quit my job and go back to writing. What
do you think?" To my astonishment, Ann replied, "I agree."
Instantly, a great burden lifted from my shoulders and we started
making plans for "right-sizing" our life to fit our new
After struggling to keep two different houses for over two years,
we sold the larger house within a few short months, in the process
consolidating two houses of furniture into one. The more we sold
and gave away, the more freedom we experienced.
Looking back, I realize now that there was a certain "chicken
or the egg" phenomenon to simplifying my life. There was an
inner as well as outer process that seemed to work simultaneously
or were so interwoven that it's difficult to tell which came first.
Richard Gregg, who coined the term "voluntary simplicity"
back in 1936 points to this outward slowing down process that frees
up ones time to pursue the inner work that continues the cycle.
One of the first things our decision to slow down gave us was time
time to take long walks with Amber in the stroller; time to get
to know each other better and to explore our values. Fortunately,
we discovered we shared many of the same values. With each discovery
our relationship grew stronger. Gregg, himself an interesting mixture
of Eastern and Western cultures, having lived in India as a student
of Gandhi as well as attending Harvard, describes this inner and
outer work in this way:
"Voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer condition.
It means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, as
well as avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant
to the chief purpose of life. It means an ordering and guiding of
our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions
in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions.
It involves a deliberate organization of life for a purpose."
While I wasn't sure what my life purpose was yet, the urge to write
was too strong to ignore, and it became increasingly clear that
we were willing to reduce our material wants so I could focus more
on my writing and so we would have time together as a family. Ann
learned from reading The Tightwad Gazette by
Amy Dacyzyn that we could save significantly by buying our food
in bulk and storing it under our bed. We cut back on eating out
as well as our movie going. Instead we waited a few months for the
movies we wanted to see to come out on video. Then we discovered
if we waited a few more months, we could find the same videos for
rent at a local discount store for one-third the price. Each discovery
was a small victory for our new lifestyle.
Although these steps might sound like a move to deprivation and
austerity, we didn't find it to be so. "That is the greatest
misconception about what simple living is about," says Bo Lozoff,
cofounder with his wife, Sita, of the Human
Kindness Foundation. The Lozoff's have practiced voluntary simplicity
for close to thirty years, after living on a boat while in their
twenties and realizing the joys of such simple living. "If
someone approaches it in that way, they will feel poor," says
Bo. "The whole point of giving things up is that you feel the
richness that results, a psychic release of just not having a bunch
of stuff, and not having to be on this constant treadmill to keep
the stuff. Simplicity is a great joy, not a punishment or stern
Meanwhile we continued making inner discoveries as well, including
that we shared an intense interest in further developing our spirituality.
A whole new dimension of simple living began to unfold. Having turned
my back on my southern Baptist background around the fourth grade,
I had missed Jesus' message to "not store up treasures on earth,"
but to share our wealth and ourselves with others.
I've since learned that Jesus wasn't the only spiritual leader who
advocated the virtues of simple living. Buddha also urged a balanced
path between indulgence and deprivation, and Confucius, Lao-tzu,
Mohammed, and many others also taught the value of simplicity as
well as finding a balance between the inner and outer aspects of
The idea of simple living isn't new in our American culture, dating
back at least to the days of Thoreau's two-plus years at Walden
Pond, as well as to the frugal, self-reliant lifestyles of the Puritans.
The idea has, at times, struggled with its own identity crisis,
being called many different names including, "the frugality
phenomenon," "creative simplicity," and more recently
"down-sizing," "right-sizing" and "downshifting."
Although we weren't sure what to call what we were doing either,
we did notice that the more steps we took to simplify, including
purging the clutter around us through yards sales and through donating
boxes upon boxes of clothes, knickknacks, and household items to
the Salvation Army, the more time we had to explore what truly satisfied
We began volunteering some of our newly found time to organizations
and causes we believed in. Again, many of our friends didn't understood
what we were doing. "You spend that much time working without
pay?" they'd ask incredulously. We tried to explain that, although
our pay could not be socked away in the bank, we were being more
than adequately compensated by being able to contribute to others.
Some understood, others walked away shaking their heads. In this
way we slowly found ourselves encircled with people who understood
and supported our efforts, and we started to notice there were more
people interested in living a simple life than we'd first imagined.
Then one day, while reading a book review in the newspaper, I found
out what we had become: DOMOs. According to the book, Trash Cash,
Fizzbos, and Flatliners: A Dictionary of Today's Words, DOMOs are
"downwardly mobile professionals, typically under 40, who abandon
a successful or promising career to concentrate on more meaningful
or spiritual activities." It was a relief to realize that there
were enough other people out there doing what we were doing to finally
be named. Down with Yuppies, up with DOMOs.
Despite having trouble coming up with a term that satisfies everyone,
we may look back at the nineties as the decade when simple living
finally caught on as an "idea whose time has come." According
to a recent study, Yearning for Balance, prepared for the Merck
Family Fund by The Harwood Group, the road to DOMOdom is filled
with former Yuppie baby-boomers with 72% of people aged 40-49 agreeing
with the survey statement, "I would like to simplify my life."
Of course, that doesn't mean everyone who would like to simplify
has taken the necessary steps, but many of them appear to be moving
in that direction. Twenty-eight percent of all the respondents said
that "in the last five years, they had voluntarily made changes
in their life which resulted in making less money not including
those who had taken a regularly scheduled retirement."
THE OUTER ROADS OF SIMPLICITY
"It's not a cookie cutter lifestyle," says Vicki Robin
of the New Road Map Foundation and co-author of the book, Your
Money or Your Life, referring to the varied approaches people
have taken to simplifying their lives. Vicki and her partner, Joe
Dominguez, have lived for over twenty years on about $6,000 of annual
investment income each, even though their book has been a top seller
since being published in 1992. The proceeds of the book go to organizations
that promote a sustainable future for our country and the world,
such as the Northwest Earth Institute which offers classes on voluntary
simplicity. Along with Joe and Vicki many other DOMOs are simplifying
their life by becoming debt-free. According to John Cummuta, president
and founder of Financial Independence Network Limited, Inc. (F.I.N.L.),
the Yuppie model of the eighties has turned up empty for many people
living it, and the next generation that would be expected to step
into that lifestyle is rejecting it, saying, "No, these people
Up until a few years ago, Cummuta led such a lifestyle, working
in a top paying position for a company that was doing very well.
"I thought, 'this is it, we've achieved the American Dream.'"
At the time Cummuta drove a leased Corvette, his wife a leased Oldsmobile
Regency Brougham, and they were making payments on an airplane they
kept at the airport not far from their large home. "We did
it all on credit," admits Cummuta, "but we could make
all the payments. We were not being irresponsible in terms of our
Then the company Cummuta worked for suddenly went out of business,
and he found himself without any income. "It was the worst
two years of my life, and also the best two years of my life because
it burned into me an understanding that I was not a success. I didn't
own anything. I was renting a lifestyle and when I could no longer
afford the rent payment, I was evicted from the lifestyle."
Out of that experience, Cummuta developed a system that allows people
to get completely out of debt, including their mortgage, in about
five to seven years and F.I.N.L. was born. Even though Cummuta's
company has experienced rapid growth and was listed as one of INC.
Magazine's 500 hundred fastest-growing companies in 1994, he continues
to run the company with no debt.
Cummuta's approach to debt elimination is simple. Start by cutting
up your credit cards. When I heard this, it made sense. If you have
a patient who is bleeding to death, first stop the bleeding. But
I found doing it not so easy. "What if an emergency arises?
I'll need that credit," was just one of several excuses. When
I listened to myself justify keeping my cards intact, I realized
how hooked I was on them. Instead of going "cold turkey,"
I weaned myself off of them, keeping one card safely tucked away
in a safe deposit box to avoid impulse spending.
Once you've stopped the bleeding, Cummuta's Financial Freedom Strategy
has three major stages: Pay off ALL debt first, operate strictly
on a cash basis, and then focus all available cash on wealth-building.
A fourth stage that Cummuta claims more and more Americans are choosing
is to move to a cheaper, safer, and more enjoyable location.
This was the case for Frank Levering and Wanda Urbanska, who acknowledge
they were 'fast trackers' living in Los Angeles. Frank was a successful,
though harried, screenwriter and freelance journalist, and Wanda
a newspaper reporter for the Examiner. But after seven years of
LA living, they realized they were miserable. "It reached a
point that the marriage wasn't going to make it without more time
for each other and other pursuits," says Levering.
When Frank's father, who owned an orchard in Virginia, suffered
a serious heart attack and none of the other six kids expressed
an interest in taking over the orchard, Frank and Wanda decided
to move back east. While they were fortunate to have such a place
to move to, the orchard also came with a debt of over a $100,OOO
and was going down hill. "Those two factors forced us to simplify,"
admits Levering, and with such a large debt, all their spare cash
went to paying it off. "We were looking for ways to cut costs
and save money. In a number of areas we started cutting costs and
found out that we liked it."
After moving into an old farmhouse, they decided, rather then go
deeper in debt to furnish it, to live with what they had and economize
wherever they could. "We discovered that we liked the whole
process and we were feeling better about ourselves, despite the
hard work," in part because they often worked together which
gave them back time for their relationship which had been missing
in L. A. Since they were both writers, they eventually decided to
write about their experiences, and co-authored Simple
Living: One Couple's Search for a Better Life.
Although many people have found moving to the country approach works
well for them, it's not a necessity. Jeff Beal, his wife and child,
live in the Los Angeles area because that is what works for their
careers. As a song writer and singer, respectively, the Beals prefer
the city setting, although they do feel that moving to a more country
setting may be in their future. "Because I'm an artist, some
of the things that mean the most to me as a composer don't generate
the most amount of money. I'm concerned with having a lifestyle
that isn't so extravagant that I have to sale my artistic soul to
support my lifestyle." The Beals have managed to live simply
despite their urban setting by becoming more conscious of what they
spend their money on. Rather than trading in their cars every couple
of years for new models, they've chosen to keep their older ones.
Around the house, they're much more likely to try to fix a broken
appliance than rushing out and buying a new one, as well as making
their own home repairs rather than hiring someone. Eating out is
another place where they've been able to save substantially. "People
in L. A. tend to eat out a lot," observes Beal. "We've
found that when we do it less, it's more enjoyable when we do go
Penny Yunuba is another example of someone living the simple life
in the city. She quit her job in 1988 to live her life the way she
wanted. She rented one of her bedrooms to someone and sold her car
because public transportation and friends made it possible to live
without one. She volunteers her time to an organization that in
turn pays her health insurance. In this way she has designed a life
far different from the get-ahead treadmill of her previous career
in microcomputer sales. Yunuba says one of the side benefits of
living a simple lifestyle is the depth and closeness of her friendships.
Although it was not something she expected, it is one of the greatest
joys in her life. Simple living "gives people a fresh set of
eyes to look at old habitual patterns to discover for themselves
empowered new ways of doing things," observes Vicki Robin.
"It's the joy that comes from that awakening that leads to
tremendous savings and feelings of freedom and control."
One of Vicki's favorite stories comes from a family who followed
the steps outlined in their book to simplify their lives. After
following the program for awhile, they suddenly noticed they were
not using their dining room, preferring to eat their meals in the
family room. So, they sold the dining room furniture. They, then,
converted the room into a spare bedroom and had a couple move in
trading room and board for yard work, house work, and child care.
The room became known as their "$6,000 room" because they
calculated they had been spending that much for those services.
Such creative ideas become the norm when people begin to take back
their lives and have time for what's truly important to them.
THE INNER ROADS TO SIMPLICITY
As Mark Burch points out in his book, Simplicity:
Notes, Stories and Exercises for Developing Unimaginable Wealth,
simplicity starts with a fundamental shift in consciousness, otherwise
you will continue to be uptight, worried and stressed, whether you
have a lot of possessions or you have none at all. For Burch, simple
living "does not begin with discarding personal possessions
and then searching for alternative, simpler ways of meeting the
same needs. Rather, the technology begins with the cultivation of
mindfulness. As we grow in our capacity for and enjoyment of mindfulness,
then the outer aspects of our lives eventually and progressively
come into alignment with this changed consciousness."
As Ann and I continued along our path of simple living, we found
this process occurring naturally and with little effort. Even though
we enjoyed living in Greensboro NC, a midsize city in the central
part of the state, we found we shared a hidden fantasy of one day
living in the mountains, so we began taking weekend trips exploring
likely locations. In the process, we found the mountains soothing
to our inner nature. It gave us both a feeling like we had come
home, even though neither of us had ever lived in the mountains.
One area in particular beckoned to us, but we heard from everyone
we talked to that it was a resort and retirement community and far
too expensive an area to settle in. Still, we couldn't get it out
of our minds. We each sat with it, meditating and praying. A few
months later, upon returning from a spiritual retreat in Alabama,
I swung out of my way to drive through the area once more. Within
less then 30-minutes of returning to our "favorite spot"
I discovered the perfect house for sale. On further investigation
we found that since the home had a lower level apartment which could
be rented at seasonal rates, we could live exactly where we wanted
to in a larger home for significantly less money. It even had not
one but two decks. Such synchronicity seems to run hand-in-hand
with the mindfulness that Burch speaks about. The inner knowing
becomes clearer as one becomes more focused in life.
Another aspect of the inner journey of simplicity is the willingness
to simplify mentally, emotionally and spiritually -- to let go of
old ways of thinking that no longer serve you, old emotional wounds
of regret, jealousy, and resentments. As Birch points out it also
means for many of us, letting go of what we think we know about
God. "I had to let go of huge hunks of stuff that I was taught
in the name of religion," says Birch who was raised as a Roman
Over the years I have come to realize as I simplify my outer world,
that my inner world deserves equal time. A simpler life provides
this time to focus, to stop, breath, and reflect on what needs to
be released as well as examine what is really important. Whether
this is done in a quiet mountain setting, at the local coffee house,
or privately in one's home, the opportunity to reflect upon one's
life is an important one. When one takes the time to do this, one
of the things they realize is that there is a close relationship
between simplicity and spiritual growth. Often, it is also a part
that terrifies many people. "What happens if I turn off the
TV and there's silence, then what?" asks Burch. "That
idea is so anxiety provoking that usually we keep the TV on, or
go to the beach, or get a new car, or stay busy and in motion? But
if I turn off the TV and it's quiet then what do I do? Where will
I point my mind and what will I do with my will? The spiritual writers
tell us that if you will stay with that, stay in that quiet, in
fact, enter it more deeply, and you move beyond the feeling anxious
and be in the silence and emptiness of that moment, then grace and
God be willing, you will know God a little more."
Ernest Callenbach, author of with Style and the classic, Ecotopia,
says it more bluntly. "I don't think it's possible to live
a rich spiritual life if you are very concerned with buying and
selling as the main thing about your life. Leading a reflective
life requires you to detach from a lot of petty, passing human concerns,
and consumerism is about the most petty and passing human concern
that we're exposed to.
"To my knowledge, all known religions, including Christianity,
recommends, not austerity, but simplicity as a spiritual discipline,"
continues Callenbach. As it says in the Bible, "it is easier
for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man
to enter the kingdom of God."
"I think we can translate that pretty directly into modern
terms. If you are caught up in the consumer economy to the extent
that it impoverishes the rest of your spiritual being, you certainly
aren't going to obtain any kind of enlightenment."
If however one uses the practice of simplicity to free up some time,
then uses that time to deepen spiritually and emotionally, it tends
to motivate the person to simplify further which leads to more free
time. For some, this newly found "free time" may lead
to a renewed level of creativity; for others the time may be spent
more introspectively in meditation or other spiritual practices;
still others may find their time spent in service of their fellow
human beings. "You'll find what your time is for once you start
to have it," observes Vicki Robins.
SIMPLE LIVING AND GAIA
Many of the people who choose to live a simpler lifestyle, do so,
at least in part, because it allows them to walk gentler upon the
face of Mother Earth. According to the Yearning for Balance study,
environmental sustainability is an important question for many Americans,
with 86% of the survey respondents saying they are concerned with
the quality of the environment, and 93% of them admitting that an
underlying cause of environmental problems is that "the way
we live produces too much waste."
"The level of consumption that we identify with success is
utterly unsustainable," says John Robbins, author of Diet
for a New America and the forthcoming Reclaiming Our Health:
Exploding the Medical Myth and Embracing the Source of True Healing
(H.J. Kramer). "We're gobbling up the world." Many Americans
are still coming to grip with the fact that the world's resource
base is limited. More and more, living simply is not only a good
idea, it is becoming paramount to our survival. "Prosperity
based on pollution is not prosperity," continues Robbins. "It's
short term profit, long term disaster." Robbins, the heir-apparent
to the Baskin-Robbins ice cream fortune until he walked away from
it at the age of twenty-one, has an interesting prospective on the
affluent lifestyle so long held as the American Dream. "I had
the privilege of growing up in a very wealthy family. Among my parents'
friends were some of the wealthiest people in the world, and, I
must tell you in all honesty, they were also some of the most neurotic
people in the world. So I've had the opportunity to learn first
hand that acquiring things can be a total distraction. What we've
done in our society is to make greed into a lifestyle; we've almost
made it into a religion."
his book, Living
Cheaply with Style, Callenbach points out that, as with other
aspects of simple living, leading an ecologically responsible life
doesn't mean self-sacrifice or austerity. It does, in fact, result
in a richer, fuller, longer and healthier life. One way to understand
this is to consider what Callenbach calls the Green Triangle. The
three points of the triangle are environment, health and saving
money, with the basic connecting principle being, "Anytime
you do something beneficial for one of them, you will almost inevitably
also do something beneficial for the other two whether you're aiming
to or not."
claims this principle holds true 96-98 percent of the time. He cites
as an example, people's diet. The American culture is obsessed right
now with eating less fat in their diet. Interestingly enough, "eating
a lower fat diet also saves you, sometimes astonishing amounts of
money," says Callenbach, "and of course, it's also good
for the Earth since raising cattle is ecologically destructive."
Dick and Jeanne Roy are two people who have not only promised to
tread lightly on the earth but are also teaching thousands of others
how to do the same through their nonprofit organization, the Northwest
Earth Institute (NWEI) in Portland Oregon. For over 20 years,
the Roys have held true to their promise, despite their six-figure
income from Dick's job as managing partner of one the largest law
firms in the Northwest, a position he retired from in 1993 to work
full time as a volunteer at the Institute.
NWEI offers three discussion courses in workplaces, churches and
schools; Deep Ecology and Related Topics, Voluntary Simplicity,
and The Bioregional Perspective - Discovering Your Natural Community.
Says Roy about the Voluntary Simplicity course, "Once you've
gone through the course, it's hard to live in denial. Fundamentally,
people find that simplicity is taking control and through simplicity
you enrich your life. It's hard not to come to that conclusion."
Unfortunately, according to the Yearning for Balance study, although
Americans realize something must be done, many are "waiting
for somebody else to act first: their neighbors, big corporations,
or the government." Others feel that technology will be our
environmental savior. As one participant of the study said, "technology
will make your life easier and cheaper and environmentally ...safer...as
it develops. I don't think simplifying your life is going to do
If such thinking persists in our culture, we may be in for a rude
awakening within the not-too-distant future. "Probably in the
2020's we, as a planet, are going to hit an ecological wall,"
predicts Duane Elgin, author of The Awakening Earth: Exploring the
Evolution of Human Culture and Consciousness, and his 1983 book,
Voluntary Simplicity, which is considered a classic by many people
pursuing a simpler life. Elgin has chosen to take an "earn
as you go" approach to simple living, rather than build up
a nest egg and living off the interest. "I don't think there
is going to be some magical transformation within the year 2000.
There might be a TV special, but that's about it. If we have not
prepared for this, in terms of evolving our culture and consciousness,
and in terms of creating tools of mass communication so we can talk
our way through it, we're going to descend into resource wars, massive
civil unrest, and a huge die-off of people on the planet. The combination
of the ecological adversity and the psychological and political
problems could send us into an evolutionary detour."
THE NEXT MILLENNIUM: GLOBAL COMMUNITY OR THE
NEXT DARK AGE?
In November 1992, the Union
of Concerned Scientists met in Washington DC where 1600 of the
senior scientists, including a majority of the living Nobel Laureates
endorsed a statement entitled, "World Scientists' Warning to
Humanity." It stated: "A great change in our stewardship
of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery
is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be
These are decisive, pivotal times for the evolution of humankind,
points out Elgin who, after twenty-five years of studying the situation,
says, "I'm not all that heartened by the swift mobilization
of the body-politic to respond to all this. I thinking we're sitting
on our hands, for the most part."
But humanity's future has not yet been engraved in stone. We still
have time to make the difficult decisions that lay before us. Necessity
is, after all the, mother of invention. Although our future is uncertain,
we need not be paralyzed by despair. Interestingly enough, arising
with the challenges we face are the solutions, both in technology
Building a sustainable future is well within our grasps if we are
willing to take the steps necessary. In The Awakening Earth, Elgin
says two of our priorities which will need to be addressed are:
breaking the cultural hypnosis of consumerism and developing and
maintaining ecological ways of living. But perhaps our most important
priority is the creation of "compelling visions of a sustainable
future. We cannot consciously build a future that we have not imagined,"
writes Elgin. "Many people can visualize a future of worsening
crisis ecological destruction, famines, civil unrest, and material
limitations but few have a positive vision of the future. Without
a hopeful future to work toward, people will tend to withdraw into
a protected world for themselves and focus on the short run."
Our destiny has never been more in our hands. If we live in a complex
world, it is one of our own design. Perhaps it is time to create
a new vision of a sustainable, simpler, more spiritually directed
world one based on our mutually shared intrinsic values rather than
one based on the value of a dollar. I believe the Universe is on
our side, deeply committed to our success while at the same time
completely unattached to the outcome. We each have the opportunity
to choose, moment by moment, what kind of world we bring forth.
Perhaps we will find after so many years of running so hard just
to stay in the same place, that there really isn't anywhere to get
to. It could be that in slowing down we'll find that we've been
living in the land of plenty all along. Now, it's time to start
taking care of it.
Notes, Stories and Exercises for Developing Unimaginable Wealth
by Mark A. Burch, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC and
Cheaply with Style by Ernest Callenbach, Ronin Publishing, Inc.
Berkeley, CA 94701
Awakening Earth: Exploring the Evolution of Human Culture and Consciousness
by Duane Elgin, William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York NY
Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin, Quill William Morrow and Company,
Inc. New York NY
Living: One's Couple's Search for a Better Life by Frank Levering
and Wanda Urbanska, Viking New York NY
Money or Your Life by Joe Domingues and Vicki Robin Viking,
New York, NY
Road Map Foundation is an all volunteer, nonprofit organization
that promotes a humane, sustainable future for our world. P.O. Box
15981, Dept. BK, Seattle, WA 98115, 206-527-5114.
Earth Institute, offers programs on the environment as well
as voluntary simplicity. 921 SW Morrison, Ste. 532 Portland, OR,
97205, 503-227-2807. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Financial Independence Network Limited, Inc. is a publishing company
that markets and distributes personal finance and small business
publications and programs including the Debt Free and Prosperous
Living program. For more information, call 1-800-321-3465 and mention
0BTW for bonuses.
Life on Purpose provides educational material and programs on living
lives of service, simple living and spiritual exploration. 1160
W. Blue Ridge Road, PO Box 834 Flat Rock, NC 28731, (704) 697-9239.
The Simple Living Journal, a quarterly newsletter that includes
practical tips and the philosophy of slowing down. Editor Janet
Luhrs, 2319 N 45 Street, Box 149, Seattle, WA 98103. For information
call (206) 464-4800
Simple Living News, ten issues a year about "making sane choices
in an insane world." Editor Edith Flowers Kilgo, P. O. Box
1884, Jonesboro, GA 30237-1884.
Living Network, makes finding Healthy, Natural products easy
on the Internet. Their site offers low priced, helpful items including
books, natural foods, vitamins and supplements, and natural pet
products. E-mail: email@example.com WWW: http://slnet.com/ or call
C 1998 Brad Swift. www.lifeonpurpose.com,
or call 828.697-9239 for more free information. This material may
be transmitted freely with this contact and attribution information.