Live Within the Harvest of Your Own Creation

Live within your harvest

This phrase has woven itself through my consciousness ever since I saw it painted on a sign at the country store.

It seemed more than fitting in this time of economic craziness. We all need to reframe “greed is bad” into some sort of life affirming mantra.img_1052_2

A post that I wrote a couple of weeks ago about finding an alternative to the consumerist imperative has managed to get a little bit of attention. It also connected me to Catherine at Frugal Homemaker Plus and clued me in to the fact that there are a lot of people out there who are dedicated to living more simply, desiring both to leave less of a dent in their savings accounts and to leave a less toxic footprint on the planet.

It’s as much a spiritual exercise as it is fiscal one, this learning to decipher the difference between want and need.

This last windy evening of the year has me looking both at the year’s spiritual legacy, as well as some more practical elements of life.

We bought our first house this year, a decided stretch into the luxury of three bedrooms and a huge kitchen and a perfect writing/yoga/meditation space. Money is a little tighter than we might like. Luckily, we have mastered the teeter totter of marriage in this respect – one of us always seems to remain optimistic and calm enough to comfort the other through bank balance related panic.

Are we living within our harvest or within the bounds of what the bank was willing to loan a nice young couple with a great credit rating?

It’s easy, and probably pretty useless, to look at the monetary decisions we made this past summer through the gloomy lens of this fall’s economic, um, fall. Were we victims of easy credit living or part of the problem, Americans with aspirations bigger than their incomes?

Now, we try to pare down our spending. It’s not enough to make up for the gigantic leap up the housing ladder that we’ve made, but maybe I should quit worrying about that so much.

I have accepted “live within your harvest” as a sage bit of chastening wisdom. A sweeter, less cliched way of saying “live within your means.”

But what if I have been looking at it all wrong? What if we reexamine the meaning of “your harvest”?

img_1007_2I was wasting my energy on resigning myself to the limitations I have assumed were placed upon my harvest. There were thoughts of my paycheck and the hoped for tax return, but no trace of the metaphysical ramifications of the idea. I saw no more than a single August field, already having calculated how many rolls of hay it could produce.

In a matter of hours, a new year will begin. Many of my friends have already toasted its arrival and find themselves in 2009. I will awaken to fresh snow fall and the knowledge that I am the only one who can reign in my potential, who can set the boundaries around my harvest.

I look at this still inspirational phrase with fresh eyes. To live within my harvest is to exalt in all that I have created and be content with all that I have.

It is also a reminder that I must work to gather the sort harvest that I most need to live within. Why would I ever want to exceed my lot in life if I understand that determine so much of what my lot is in the first place?

Why not sow more powerful seeds so that the eventual reaping will be all the sweeter?

What do you want to harvest in this flawless, sparkling new year?

Frugality Is Not a Crime

German chapel ornament

When you have to do it, belt-tightening’s no joke. But, gladly, most Americans don’t have to — not even in this economy. […]

If you’re blessed with good fortune in these hard times, you’re not helping anyone if you let frugality chic stop you and yours from having a very Merry Christmas indeed.

I nearly choked on my soy milk when I heard this commentary on Marketplace this morning. It’s yet another story about how resisting the urge to spend as much as possible this Christmas makes you worse than Scrooge – it makes you the scourge of capitalism and the American way of life.

I make no claims about having much knowledge of the economy. Nearly all of my news comes from NPR, and I know that’s not like being a daily reader of the Wall Street Journal. Maybe the commentator, Will Wilkinson, is exactly right and austerity is one of the factors that makes an already shaky economy begin to look even worse.

My issue is not with this interpretation of the the law of supply and demand, it is that we are stuck in a system that can only be salvaged if we acquire more stuff.

Wasn’t it greed that got us into this problem in the first place? How can buying more Gap sweaters in bizarre colors just because they are on sale and your sweetie should have a few more boxes to open make the world any more livable?

Change is a scary thing. Realizing that the global economic structures are being turned upside down and may never look the same again is frightening. Trying to imagine what might come after U.S. domination seems unfathomable for most of us in these fifty states.

Clinging to the very structures that have been proven to betray us is not helping matters. Continuing to shop like everything is normal isn’t the soothing balm the ad campaigns and the radio experts are trying to convince us it is.

detail of our treeWhat if we are choosing to buy less and handcraft more? What if it just makes sense to give to charity instead of purchase a book that your uncle will never give himself time to read? What if this down economy, even if you are yet unscathed, is just the reason you were looking for to ditch materialism and show your family you love them by giving them less clutter, not more?

I cannot believe that this financial crisis is just a fluke of the markets. With all of the internal shifts that are forcing people to look at their lives in entirely new ways, we need our relationship with money and consumerism to be transformed as well.

Our souls need room to breathe. Wouldn’t there be a lot more time to figure out how to do that if we spent less time in the mall and less time dusting our new trinkets?

Our earth needs room to breathe. Won’t easing the yearly December burden of delivery trucks and crowded landfills and depleted resources be the greatest gift you could give to your Mother this holiday?

Graffiti Philosophy: Everything Will Be Alright

Everything will be alright”

This phrase is written in tiny letters on the bathroom wall at work. Assuming that the staff has not taken to expressing themselves through gentle vandalism, I can only guess that a student plagued by looming deadlines or a broken heart that might never mend took it upon herself to share her affirmation with the rest of the world.

I cannot help that smile that I am lucky enough to work at a liberal arts college library where the graffiti is dedicated to such sweet, pure wisdom. It is one more thing that helps put into perspective the world of work in times like these.

Heart in the drive

For all that I loved the scholarly life when I was in school, all the emotional turmoil that sprang from too many hormones and too much beer and too little sleep and too few quiet moments are still vivid. I would never discount whatever drove that student to express herself in that hastily scribbled line, but I cannot help but think of those of us who already have our diplomas and who live in the “real world.” What do we think when we read “everything will be alright” each day?

This phrase hold special significance to me because it makes me hear Stephen Cope‘s voice every time. This aptly named author a few great books on yoga employs this phrase often (though to be exact, I think he says “everything will be OK”). He uses it to bring the scattered “puppy mind” back to stillness, to stop that constant monologue spurred by fear and regret that plays constantly in our heads. It isn’t Sanskrit, it isn’t much of a mantra, but what else do you really need when you are looking to create a moment of peace for yourself in the midst of chaos?

“Everything will be alright” is such a simple phrase, almost trite and probably over used, but why complicate things? Julian of Norwich gave us “all will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.” Her line is little more like fine wine when it rolls off the tongue, but it is the same idea. We can wrap it around ourselves even when things seem to be at their darkest.

If the bedrock of capitalism starts to shift and a sanctuary like an elite college begins to feel the tremors when the greedy beast of our economy stumbles under the weight of its own foolish gluttony, is “everything will be alright” going to be enough?

If jobs are endangered and mortgage payments start to loom too large are those four little words going to protect us?

I think my answer to that is: they will have to.

We have always lived in an uncertain world, for all that it was not so obvious until this latest rash of bad news. It seems likely that all of our spiritual practices and all of our work to be centered and whole will be tested in new and powerful ways. I know I worry that my lovely little coping mechanisms might fail in those moments when “real life” in all of its insistent ugliness comes to call.

Again, I think there’s a simple answer: make sure those coping mechanisms are more than idle strategies you play with when life is smooth. Find a way to love yourself enough that you can gather your power and hone your strength and begin to truly believe, come what may, every little thing is gonna be alright.