Materialistic Mindfulness

AmericanBeauty

After my first 10-day meditation retreat, something within me really snapped and shifted.  All of a sudden I wanted to get rid of a ton of personal belongings.  I still found a few items very meaningful: my journal, coffeemaker and hygienic tools were things that were important to me. However, my shelves upon shelves of dusty DVDs, CDs, books, and random knick-knacks felt heavy. Impulsively, I grabbed a few large garbage bags and just started pulling all of these items that felt heavy to me and gently placed them into the garbage bags.  Without thinking twice, I jetted the collected items over to my local thrift store and dropped them all of without looking behind.  I felt a lightness in my mental and physical state instantly.

Materialism has never been my thing, but especially since starting meditation in 2011, it seems that any fractal of interest in it has dwindled even more.  Almost a year into my 20-minute daily meditation practice, I was inspired to write a piece for Lightworkers World about how I feel in regards to the idea of physical things creating inner happiness. The deeper and deeper that I have gone into the depths of my soul, the further I have gotten from caring about comparing what others’ have to what I have. I have instead thought more and more about how I appreciate the things that I do have and truly taste the blessings that I am given on a daily basis. The cravings for more lessen as I see how amazing it is that I have a fully stocked kitchen, efficient means of transportation, and ohhhhhh so much more!

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When I was visiting my sister on the East Coast over this past winter, I had a couple of Netflix binges and upon doing so came across an incredibly inspiring documentary entitled “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.”  The main two cast members of the documentary Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodermus also have an inspiring website, The Minimalists, which you should definitely check out if you have time.  A lot of what they mentioned in their documentary was exactly the same thoughts that I had been having shortly after my first 10-day meditation retreat.  They touch upon the last few decades of American culture and how it has heavily influenced our consumer mindset.  We have somehow been driven to think that things create happiness, but as the late George Carlin would state “trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all of your body.”

Over the last six years, I have moved about eight times (what can I say, a spiritual awakening can cause a bit of chaos, hehe) and one of the moves was cross-country. With each move, my amount of possessions has lessened and I find myself only holding onto the things that I find necessary.  Not having a whole lot of clothes makes life so much easier to me and the few clothing items that I do have are my absolute favorite, so I get excited to wear them.  Everything that I own, besides some old mementos stored in family and friends’ attics, fits into my vehicle. It feels so freeing to be able to pick up and go to a new place if my heart is calling it, I feel incredibly blessed to be able to do this.

I am excited to see a lot of other people feeling the same way about materialism, how it’s not truly all that it’s cracked up to be.  Advertisements are unfortunately always going to be around as long as money is around, but at least as we get more and more in touch with ourselves and remembering who we truly are, we will be able to get less swayed by those advertisements.  How are you feeling about all the things that surround you right now? Do you truly need all of it?  Or might you be able to donate some of those extra items that you haven’t touched in ages?

344Everything that I owned in 2011 as I made my way from the Midwest to the West Coast of the U.S.

As always, please comment and share your thoughts with me, I love feedback 🙂

Take care, much peace and love!  ❤

Freak Alley

On a recent solo road trip I took to visit a friend in Salt Lake City, I stopped in Boise as an interval to break up the long drive. I had never been to Boise, I honestly wasn’t quite sure what to expect except for maybe a lot of potato references. There was actually no mention of potatoes my whole time there. Instead, I met a handful of joyful and friendly residents of Boise, some of who showed me the beautiful culture of the city. One friend brought me down a road called “Freak Alley” which is a whole alleyway dedicated to graffiti art drawn by local residents. As we strolled down the alleyway, I got absolute chills (it helped that a group of three young men were in a circle in the middle of the alleyway serenading us with jazz tunes–one on drums, one on guitar and one on the trumpet.)

I went back the next afternoon to snap shots of all the art that moved me. I had been feeling pretty lonely during a lot of my solo road trip and this art work I came across touched me in a way that I needed it to the most at that time. I realized that this is the beauty of art–these artists, who knows where they are right now, but they were with me that night and day that I viewed their work. Kindred spirits, all of them. Check out their amazing work below:

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Following the Heart; Adventure Part Uno.

I woke up today with intentions to get all of my “adult” stuff in order.  There are certain forms that I need to fill out, emails that I need to respond to, and passwords that I need to remember.  Then it hit me that all of the paperwork that I need to do is in my car which is miles away from where I am and a record breaking snowstorm that hit Portland two days ago literally has me snowed in.  My egoic mind was very displeased with this “but you have to do that paperwork now, if you don’t get all of that in order now, your world will come crashing down.”  I laughed out loud when I heard that one and then a more gentle feeling came over me.  The knots in my stomach released and a soft voice said “write.”

I haven’t touched my blog in months and it has been painful not doing so.  Every time that I leave my writing hanging, it feels as if there is a gaping hole in my soul.  I journal pretty consistently which helps, but there is something about blogging that fulfills that feeling of emptiness that ensues every time I drift away from it for months.  So here I am, showing up to it and it is feeling great so far.

The last month and a half has been filled with many adventures that I have been blessed with.  My heart called me to a few different places that I didn’t think I would ever actually get around to going to.  In this was: The Redwoods of Northern California, volunteering at a 10-day meditation retreat, Iceland, Ireland, New York, New Jersey, New York once more and then back to home sweet Portland, Oregon.  All along the way trying to come back to the breath at every moment, despite how uncomfortable it felt at times to be completely out of routine and not knowing where I was going next.

The Redwoods of Northern California was a welcome bliss after having worked for the last year in Portland and taking classes simultaneously.  I packed up my car, jetted down south from Portland and arrived at the cutest little Air BNB  in Crescent City.  My first full day was spent at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park hiking the beautiful Boy Scout Tree Trail, a 5.6 mile jaunt through peaceful and quiet Redwoods.  I found the most perfect tree to sit in and meditate halfway through the hike.  Afterwards I opened my eyes to pinch myself and double check to see if I was dreaming up this amazing solitude in the trees, but the pain of the pinch reminded me that this was indeed the material world.

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Two full days were spent hiking different trails in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and Tolowa Dunes State Park.  I also had a brief stop into the city of Arcata where I picked up some delicious coffee and some new thrift store threads for the coming winter months.  Between Crescent City and Arcata, as I was speeding along Highway 101, I came across a herd of wild elk that were peacefully gazing to the side of the highway, reminding me to slow down and enjoy the journey.  I had never seen anything like it, it was pure beauty with the sun setting behind them.

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After giving a gigantic hug to my Crescent City, amazing Air BNB  host, it was back to the road again to embark on a four hour drive to where a 10-day meditation retreat was awaiting me.  I arrived to the location a bit earlier than everyone else, I set my giant backpack down in the quiet home where us volunteers would sleep.  I had initially signed up to sit the course as a student and not volunteer at it, but I had a sudden inspiration to change my registration to volunteer instead one week prior.  Even though I knew that the next 10 days was going to be a lot of strenuous work, mentally and physically, I had the feeling that I was exactly where I needed to be.

This would be my third time at a 10-day silent retreat, my second time as a volunteer.  After sitting quietly and meditating with my fellow bodhisattvas the next morning after my arrival, down to the kitchen we went to unload the first delivery of fresh produce.  We started cooking up the meal that the students would get upon their arrival.  Having had worked the kitchen at that location the year before, everything came back to me with ease and I was able to assist the new volunteers instead of standing around looking confused as I had the first day I ever started.

It was intense work as I had remembered before, waking up between 4:30 and 5:30am to get breakfast ready for the students and being on our feet for the whole day besides the three group meditation sits that we sat in with the students.  Despite the madness that can go on in the kitchen, my practice was always in effect at every moment,  always coming back to my breath and centering myself.  We started to get into a groove in the kitchen, with all of us volunteers seemingly floating through all the tasks that needed to get done.  Hiccups came up, of course, but the fact that every single volunteer there had sat a 10-day meditation retreat created an empathy in the kitchen like no other.

Halfway through the meditation course, the course female manager/assistant to the meditation teacher fell and had a concussion.  This threw things of course, quite literally as I was catapulted into the position never having done it before.  All of sudden, instead of sitting up front meditating with my fellow volunteers in from of 70 pairs of eyes, I was to keep track of 32 of those 70 pairs of eyes.  Anytime a female meditator cried, made significant noise or walked out of the building I was to open my eyes and get direction from the female meditation teacher on how to comfort the meditator or track down where they went.

“A new female manager halfway into a 10-day silent meditation course, there really is no other worse thing that I can think of to happen.  Every student is such in a difficult spot, I really can’t think of a more challenging situation occurring than this” the kitchen female manager stated to me as I walked into the kitchen on my first “official” day of being the female students manager.  I took a deep breath and realized that my meditation practice had prepped me for that exact kind of situation to arise.  And from that moment forward I stayed present with every single situation that arose, including assisting with five ladies over the next few days that made the difficult decision to leave the 10-day retreat early.  I was constantly on my feet and always alert during the group meditation to make sure I wasn’t missing any direction from the meditation teacher.

Before I knew it, the last morning of the meditation retreat arrived and I decided to go AWOL as soon as the last group meditation was over.  When the ladies at the retreat were able to talk on the previous day, I graciously accepted a few compliments from them, but I decided I wanted to take off before any more compliments could be said.  It hit me that I completely followed my heart correctly with that retreat, coming in to volunteer instead of being a student was exactly what was needed.  In the spirit of modesty though, I didn’t want to hear any more compliments.

Into the foggy clouds I went back up to Portland where I reorganized my backpacks and tied up a few loose ends before taking a flight out to Reykjavik, Iceland.  The flight was booked rather impulsively months prior when a friend invited me to travel with her and her husband throughout Ireland, Reykjavik was a relatively cheap stop-over flight to Ireland.  Reykjavik had been on my radar for a while as some friends had recently told me about how amazing it was and it was a quick stop over flight before Ireland.  I figured that it would be great to have some solo travel before joining them.

Cutting this short and will make a part two about Iceland and Ireland, so I hope that you stay tuned :)!