Posts Tagged ‘Voluntary Simplicity’

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.” (more…)

Living Close to the Land, A Lost Art?

Yoga at the Tipi, North Cascades, Leavenworth, WA

Yoga at the Tipi, North Cascades, Leavenworth, WA

By Randy Richards, Founder
Executive Director
Mountain Spirit Institute
Images: R Richards

Alternative structures are getting more attention these days, especially with the spector of dwindling non-renewable petroleum products for building and heating materials. Simple living is more than an idealist notion. Cody Michaels, a longtime  friend and solo pianist extradonaire, just swung by my town for a performance at our local CoffeeHouse. His performance is a reminder that we actually need to live and  breath outdoors more. He and I went for a walk to the top of a hill overlooking Lake Sunapee just before his gig. We wer just in time to catch the sunset too. It seemed bitterly cold,  (read, There is no bad weather, just bad clothes), but it was worth it. Cody shared his appreciation of the wind whipping through the bare branches, and the artist’s light that cuts through the landscape at an obtuse angle this time of year.
Living outside has become a lost art for the majority of Americans. In my tipi days, I always enjoyed the circular living structure. Occasionally, when a visitor might bring a dog, often times, the a dog would go walk nerveously round and round along the inner walls of the tipi looking for a corner in which to sit. To no avail. Even our domestic pets are used to the square structures in which we all live. 

Home base, warm yurt, Sunapee, NH

Home base, warm yurt, Sunapee, NH

My tipi has been put up every year though,  for the Sunapee SunFest, but I don’t live in it any more. My yurt, now that is a cool structure. It’s toasty warm, and clean living off the grid with solar panels, gravity feed shower, composting toilet and a hand dug well. I’ll write more on yurt living in another post.  I had it up for 5 years in Sunapee, NH on Ryder Corner Road. The different reactions I received from different neighors was worth noting. The old time locals, who grew up on local farms thought it was the best thing, a great addition to the neighborhood.  Ohers were less clear about their feelings of the thing.

Yurt interior w/loft

Yurt interior w/loft

Reactions varied from polite disdain, a blank stare, or possibly a somewhat condescending chuckle. It’s only worth mentioning because as illustrated in the movie “Escape from Suburbia” we may be headed for voluntary simplicity whether we want to or not.  I’m not a Chicken Little thinker, however, watching the aformentioned movie made me sit up and take more notice. It might be worth your time.

A confession is due here. I’m not living as close to the land as I’d like. I’m not growing my own food, (although I do eat from friend’s gardens once in a while.) And I’m not in my yurt. However I forsee my partner and I taking action on this. I’m glad I have the background I do, having lived in my tipi and yurt. As Richard Louv says in his lecture and book “Last Child in the Woods”, my past experiences give me a touchstone, a reference point that helps me know my place in the natural world. My life is still more green than most, but I’ve still got goals to reach. I suggest you do the same. 

Living closely to the earth not only makes sense, it can be much more fun than being in the rut of spending all those non-renewables.