Mountain Spirit and Simple Living


by Bob Stremba, PhD
MSI Board Member

TV- Not all it's cracked up to be

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled onto the Simple Living Network and was reminded about what’s important in life. I don’t think it’s Thanksgiving day football games on a bazillion inch widescreen flatscreen high def LCD 1080p 120 megahertz TiVo Wifi iPod-enabled TV. What’s important, I’m convinced, is authentic connections to self, others and the environment, and that happens to be what Mountain Spirit Institute (MSI) is all about.

The Simple Living Network has its roots in a movement, which began in the 1970’s with publication of the book, Voluntary Simplicity, by Duane Elgin and Arnold Mitchell. Simple living, according to their website, is about living an examined life—one in which you have determined what is important, or “enough,” for you, discarding or minimizing the rest. Living in a way that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich. So I recently cleaned out some closets, donated more clothes to the local thrift shop, and got rid of more clutter. More stuff brings more stress.

Weaving in Willoc, Peru

It struck me that Mountain Spirit Institute is doing today what voluntary simplicity launched over 30 years ago. The values at the heart of a simpler way of life are…

1.    Material simplicity: Owning and buying things that promote activity, self-reliance, and involvement, rather than items that induce passivity and dependence.
2.    Human scale: A preference for human-sized living and working environments, rather than institutions and living environments that are anonymous, incomprehensible, and artificial.
3.    Self-Determination: Less dependence upon large, complex institutions whether in the private sector (the economy) or public sector (the political processes); a desire to assume greater control over one’s personal destiny and not lead a life so tied to installment payments, maintenance costs and the expectations of others.

Field/Lake near Chinchero, Peru

4.    Ecological Awareness: The interconnectedness and interdependence of people and resources. This awareness often seems to extend beyond a concern for purely physical resources to include other human beings as well. A preference for living where there is ready access to nature.
5.    Personal Growth: For many persons taking up a materially simple way of life, the primary reason is to clear away external clutter so as to be freer to explore the “inner life.” The goal,  is to free oneself of the overwhelming externals in order to provide the space in which to grow — both psychologically and spiritually. Although personal growth often includes a distinctly spiritual aspect, involvement with the inner/non material dimension of life should not be associated with any particular philosophy or religion — its scope embraces activities ranging from biofeedback, humanistic psychology, transpersonal psychology, Eastern philosophy, fundamentalist Christianity, and more.

Tai Chi at Altitude, Hauraz, Peru

These values from the voluntary simplicity movement of 30 years ago I find are also present today with Mountain Spirit Institute. MSI’s trip to Peru in July 2009 provided the space for a small number of dedicated individuals to look inward by being immersed in a culture simpler and, I would say richer, than our western culture. Ten years earlier, when I was trekking and traveling in Peru with some friends, this is what I experienced. The group of eight on this MSI Peru’09 experience was of a human scale not possible on cruise ships or large guided tours. And by living in small Peruvian villages for two weeks they were able to not just see, but live in a way that was interconnected and interdependent with the people and the environment there.

So, whether it may be trekking in Peru, or cleaning some of the material clutter out of my life, I’ve found that living simply, (or having fewer “things”),  is a refreshing opportunity to have more by experiencing connections with self, others, and the environment.

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