Here is what I know: If we are to learn anything, if we are to see clearly where we belong in the world, if we are to love truly and deeply, if we are to learn mercy from our suffering, if we are to tell the best stories, if we are to laugh from our bellies- we must be truly vulnerable and honest. I wrestle with this lately, because being honest with myself and with you means sharing about how I’m deconstructing the ways in which I have always expected to find God. It means learning a new language to express who God is to me. It means stepping away from the current structure of my faith experience and starting again. It’s incredibly uncomfortable- incredibly uncomfortable- but it’s where most of my stories begin right now. It’s where my deepest experiences happen. I haven’t written much lately because I don’t yet have a very good grasp on this new language, and I’m walking around in the rubble of my faith life, just barely starting to rebuild. I’m trying to find my feet. When I wrote that last post, it was the first time outside of my therapist’s office that I was able to verbalize where I find myself right now, and it scared the hell out of me to post it. Here is what I have found, though: the posts that scare me the most to write (many of which I delete before ever publishing, a habit I’m ready to quit) are the ones that catalyze the most thoughtful, meaningful, and vulnerable conversations with you guys. Several of you wrote me after that last post. Thank you. Your stories and dialoguing with you helps me find my way and see that I’m not alone in the mess. Whether it’s about sex, God, love, body image, relationships, or otherwise, the times I am most honest are the times we have the best conversations.
Honesty ain’t pretty. It’s messy. It means saying things like “I’m feeling lonely,” “This scares me,” “I don’t know if God is real, anymore.” For me, right now, it means having conversations about sex and love and creativity and God and not being afraid of what people (read: the overwhelming majority of adults in my family who are preachers and teachers in the evangelical church) will think. These conversations that I so deeply, desperately want to have are not taking place on Sunday morning. The Sunday morning church dialogue is not currently the dialogue I want to be part of. I want conversations that flow freely, without fear of judgment or condescension. The conversations that are filling my soul happen around bonfires, they happen around glasses of wine and whiskey, they happen during the podcasts I listen to, they are peppered with profanity and colored with candor and the people I’m having them with don’t give a shit about who might find them insensitive. I’m spending time with comics, some of the most irreverent people on the planet, and learning about life with them because they seem not to give a single fuck about what might hurt my feelings. It’s refreshing. I’m listening to Christian teachers who have walked from conservative evangelicalism, through atheism, into mystical and progressive Christianity and their conversations challenge me SO deeply and help me see the other side of this thing. I’m reading as much Rob Bell as I possibly can because when he talks about God, something hums in my soul and I feel I’ve found a kindred spirit. I’m learning about science because she makes God bigger than any so-called historical record from the Bible. That’s another thing- I have released my expectation that the Bible must be literally true in order to be the Truth. The overwhelming majority of Jesus’ teachings were parable, myth, story. What if the Bible is meant to be the same thing? Not necessarily a record of historical fact (although some of it certainly may be- hello, Book of Numbers), but a narrative that points to Christ- God with us. I don’t need the Bible to be literally true, anymore, and that has liberated the way I read it. Was the Earth created in 7 literal days? Certainly not, but that is not the point. The point is there is a Creative Being who wants to know us, and this Being wants to express and design and paint and sculpt unimaginable beauty from the darkness, which is what Christ does in us when we love and forgive and show mercy. Was there a giant fish who swallowed a guy named Jonah and then spit him up again so he could preach to the heathens in Nineveh? Seems unlikely, but that’s not really the point, either. I do see in this story that God can act in incredible ways to make sure people know He loves them. I don’t need for there to have been a guy in a fish belly in order to see that Truth any more than I need Jesus’ woman searching for her lost coin to have been an actual lady or his prodigal son to have been an actual dude.
Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar who has some helpful insights, said in a conversation I heard today with Pete Holmes on You Made it Weird that “literalism is the lowest form of meaning” and I wrote it down and underlined it because that is so rich and good and AMEN. If all we ask of the Bible, or if what we primarily ask of the Bible, is that it be literally true more often than not because that fits our beliefs better, then we’re in for a boring, binary, exclusionist, punitive faith life wherein we get to be right and everyone else gets to be wrong. And that sucks, and I’m not interested in playing along.
I’m yet to visit a church addressing this stuff on Sunday mornings, even though LOTS of us are asking these questions. In fact, another podcaster I’m listening to, Mike McHargue, a former Southern Baptist minister turned atheist turned progressive Christian mystic, says he hears from clergymen and women daily who wrestle with this stuff but are terrified to speak it out loud in their churches. There’s a lot going on there- the idea that leaders must always have the answers, that they’re impervious to doubt, that they’re always going to have a good handle on the things the rest of us struggle with- but it really bums me out that we have, for the most part, a local church culture that has so latched onto the binary, black and white, good and evil, God and Satan, Heaven and Hell thing that we rarely if ever even acknowledge the tension that exists in the middle. Church is rarely even a place where the middle gets talked about at all. I’m desperate to live in the tension, because that’s where the best life is. I want to spend time with the people who are more interested in questions than answers. I want to surround myself with folks who are willing to say, “The hell if I know,” rather than make something up for the sake of defending the “Good Guys”.
When I talked about leaving church in my last post, I want to be very clear- it is not because I have been hurt or shamed or betrayed. I don’t think church is bad, in fact I think it can be a life giving place for community and companionship- if you’re inside the circle. Rohr says he is “on the edge of the inside” and I think I like that. More and more, I’m digging the fringe dwellers. What about those who have historically been excluded from church life? Why aren’t the people in church who curse like sailors on Monday over a beer with me doing the same thing in their conversations with their church friends? Why aren’t we talking about sex? I have sex. Hell, I smoke a little weed on the weekends. Tonight, I’m drinking an entire bottle of wine and it won’t be the first time (this week). I also spent two hours this morning deeply connected to God in a transcendent way, taking the Eucharist from a priest of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, inside of a beautiful Parisian cathedral. I looked into the eyes of God today, I think. And I also think there is a good chance that the sex and the weed and the wine could elicit a stronger reaction than the fact that I met God as close to face to face as I ever have in my life. This is a problem.
We are integrated beings. We are not fractionated, separated, or compartmentalized, as much as we may try to be. We are YES AND creatures far more often than we are EITHER OR creatures. We’re not black and white, and the world in which we live is rarely as binary as we want it to be. I don’t think we need to find all the answers, you guys. I just really hope we can show mercy, forgiveness, love, and kindness to one another while we live in the tension and ask all the questions.
Pope Francis defines Mercy as love in action. I have that word, mercy, tattooed on my left arm, so I see it all the time. What I really, really want, you guys, is to live it.
I walked into St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Austria full of expectation. The past few months I’ve spent time far more time searching for God than I have in a while, and I thought walking into this beautiful, sacred space built as a place of worship would fill me with a sense of “I AM.” I thought surely if I can find God on my yoga mat, in comedy, in science, in moments around a bonfire, in eye contact and lovemaking and dinners with friends, I could find Him here. I’ve grown weary of church in the way I’ve always known it, quite honestly. I’ve grown deeply tired of evangelical Christian rhetoric, tired of the patronizing “love the sinner, hate the sin” mentality I encounter when dealing with my LGBT and non-believing friends within the evangelical church, and tired to the point of annoyance with the poor writing and emotional boy-banding of the songs we sing and the lights we so expertly manipulate when we sing them. I’m over it, you guys. I’ve finally entered a space in my searching, thanks to excellent new teachers and friends, wherein I allow myself to admit that I’ve stepped away from the Sunday morning church scene. I need a damn break. More often than not I leave feeling irritated rather than inspired and I don’t feel God inside those walls in any deeper ways than I do outside them, so I’m taking a break and setting Sundays aside for brunch, like a respectable heathen.
However, I have been listening to and learning from teachers who create liturgies for the church and frame their search for God with the creation of art and music. They have been, and many currently are, as full of doubt and as tired of the Sunday morning scene as I am, and I feel deeply connected to their art, their conversations, and their searching. In this vein, I felt certain walking in a centuries old cathedral, full of sacred art and beauty, would fill me with reverence that I haven’t felt in the walls of a church in a long, long time. It didn’t.
He didn’t meet me there like I thought He would. I didn’t have the “I AM” experience I’d been counting on. I looked around, eyes wet and desperately searching, and I knew that I wasn’t going to find God there. Some of the most beautiful architecture, painting, and sculptures on earth are inside that church and others like it. The details in each pane of glass and the grandeur of each marble column make it clear that this is a place meant to house God. We built Him a church, and dammit if He wasn’t there.
Can I tell you what I did find? What I did feel? I felt deeply, viscerally connected to hundreds of years of people like me who have walked through the doors of that cathedral looking for God. I felt every one of them. In my search for God, I found… people. I felt their panic over lack, their fear of sickness, their terror over losing the people they love, their doubt, their anger, their cynicism. Looking back I feel now that my longing to meet with God there is but an echo of the longing expressed in every painting, every sculpture, every note of every line sung within those walls over the hundreds of years St Stephen’s has kept watch over Vienna. And, all of the sudden, I felt Jesus.
God baffles me. I don’t know what’s going on there. It’s too big. Science is making it even more complicated to get God, because all of a sudden the universe He created is way bigger, more majestic, and mystifying than I ever knew. God is just too damn big for my brain, but I’m trying. I am trying. You know what, though? I really, really dig Jesus. The few things I’m certain must be true about God are because of Jesus. I’m not talking about the felt board cut-out, blue-eyed, handsome white boy Jesus of Sunday School. I don’t want anything to do with that guy. That guy keeps a list of how often I say fuck and how often I fuck and I don’t want to hang out with him because he’s boring and judgmental and not very nice to my gay friends, despite how much he looks like Jared Leto. But the guy who turned water into wine for a bunch of partiers because His mama wanted him to, the guy who shamed a hoard of angry church leaders who, according the rules they lived by, were perfectly justified in dragging a naked woman into the streets to be killed, the guy who hung out with people who had nothing to offer him except their company, the guy who treated women with respect beyond his time, the guy who wanted nothing to do with the religious establishment of his day, the guy who said we should be kind to one another, love one another as we love ourselves, give what we have to those who have less, the guy who cooked for his friends (Hello, 5000 fishes?), the guy who wept when his friend died even though he knew it wasn’t permanent, the guy who met everyone right where they were, the guy who called for forgiveness always, always, always… I really dig that guy. I feel like I can know Him, but I’ve got to get some space from the people who talk about Him all the time. I can’t see Jesus very clearly when I’m listening to all the conservative evangelical talk about Jesus. Mostly, I see that felt board cut-out guy I can’t stand. It’s nothing to do with the intentions of the evangelical churchgoers I know, it’s just that I’ve heard those stories in that way for so many years they don’t mean anything, anymore. Like saying a word over and over until it sounds like nonsense, trying to understand Jesus in that way is like trying to make the word buffalo make sense the 542nd time in a row. I got nothin.
When I walked into that church, though, I felt people. I felt people who had no idea about God and people who desperately needed something to get them through the night. I think Jesus must be God’s answer to those people because Jesus always meets us right where we are. He gets dirty. He drinks the wine. He invites us to be ourselves, to bring our good and our bad and our cute and our ugly and be present with Him and with all of it. Together. So, ultimately, what I felt in St Stephen’s that night was… together. And for a girl who felt alone, that was pretty damn good.
I heard an interview with consummate badass lady comic Aisha Tyler last week, and something she said in that interview has really stuck around in my thoughts. This is a woman who hosts her own podcast, hosts Who’s Line is it Anyway? and The Talk, voices a character on a cartoon series, writes, and does standup. I mean, this woman is good at what she does. She spent a good deal of time in the interview talking about the process of arranging her life to maximize her effectiveness. She said, and I love this, “I want to be a razor all the time.” This woman is sharp. If you’ve never seen any of her stuff or heard her speak, you should. She is fucking sharp. She talked about coming to the point in her life that she had to get intentional about structuring her life for maximum effectiveness, and one of the things she talked about specifically was drinking. Not an alcoholic by any stretch, but a social drinker, she talked about how light recreational drinking nonetheless dulled the edges of her effectiveness, and how it was not worth any temporary high to lose her ability to be sharp. I respect that. To hear a woman I respect and admire speak so candidly about the practical steps she took to be a razor all the time really challenged me to step back and look at my life, and see where I have allowed my effectiveness to become dull.
If you’ll allow me to quote Ellen’s favorite granny, Gladys, “I love Jesus, but I drink a little.” It’s true. I’m a shameless wine lover, in my late twenties, and living in one of the coolest damn neighborhoods in the country. I have thoroughly enjoyed my single, childless years, especially these last few months. One fact, however, has become as crystal clear as champagne flute: I’m not 21 anymore. Mercy. Something happened. I can’t just sleep off a night of casual wine drinking with friends, anymore. A night of wine drinking means a day or two of fogginess to follow. Now, let me be clear: I’m not binging or going on week long benders with the girls, out here. No one needs to call Intervention, but I have indulged enough lately to know that I’m not sharp on Monday or Tuesday when I’ve gotten even a little boozy over the weekend. If I can borrow from another great lady comic, Sarah Silverman says in her book, The Bedwetter, that her mantra surrounding all her vices has become “Make it a treat.” I’m adopting this bit of wisdom as I take a glaringly honest look at what dulls my ability to be effective in my life. What are the things that need to shift from habit to treat? What causes me to be ineffective in work, relationships, and personal development? I want to be sharp. I want to be a razor, all the time. What’s gotta give?
Drinking is obvious. Take it down a notch, wino. That part is easy and already well under way, and this isn’t a post about drinking, anyways. So what else? What sneaky habits or unconscious patterns have worn down my edges? As I spent some time thinking about this, I thought I’d cast a line on Facebook and see what other people would be willing to share about their own journey to be their most effective. I asked this: “What could you let go of to increase your effectiveness (in work, relationships, personal development)? What holds you back from being at your sharpest?” It was important to me to recognize the things that hold us back from being effective are often things that we could let go of, if we did the work. There are some things in our life that we have no control over, and those can certainly affect our ability to be sharp, but more often than not the things that keep us from being our best, most effective selves are our very own choices, patterns, and reactions. So, I threw out the line. I got some really honest responses, and I wanted to share some of them with you.
One friend of mine said she could see herself succeeding at the things she dreams of, that she would be her very sharpest self were it not for fear of how her family would react. Her family, while incredibly loving, has a history of casting sideways glances in her direction, heaving exasperated sighs, and questioning her when she opens up about the dreams she has for her life. This dear friend told me that while certain she would ultimately have their support in whatever she did, she would have to do battle to get past the initial demands for explanation and she didn’t want to fight the battle, anymore. This incredibly talented, deeply passionate, self assured woman can actually see herself taking her life by the balls, she’s confident that her sharpest and most effective self is waiting to be found on that adventure, but fear of her family’s reaction is keeping her from stepping into her biggest life. Sometimes, the things that hold us back are practical and easily adjusted- don’t go to the liquor store. Sometimes, they flow in our blood and are coded into our DNA and what do we do about that? This friend of mine told me it eats away at her, this dulling of her edges. It bothers her deeply that her loving family cannot seem to support the bigness of her dreams, because her most effective self needs to be chasing after them.
A second friend said the desire for instant gratification dulled his edges. Social media, Netflix, hours spent on the internet; these distractions actively keep him from being at his most effective. What an easy trap for any of us to fall into, right? I’ve certainly gone through entire weeks accomplishing only the bare minimum because I poured all of my extra hours into Orange Is The New Black and House of Cards. My friend struggles with stepping out of this pattern and into his great ambition because of how drained he feels by his distractions. Not only are they a time suck, but they’re robbing him of mental and emotional energy better spent on his relationships and work. He pointed out that it’s not even necessarily about the act itself, it’s what we’re avoiding by engaging in it. The screens we look at are maybe the most universally dulling agents in our lives. We instantly check out when we’re surfing the internet, our eyes are constantly darting across the screen, we’re not focused on or accomplishing anything at all. Sharp? Effective? Not even a little bit. When we spend most of our time chasing the distractions that promise instant gratification, we resemble an old butter knife far more than we do a razor.
One correspondence that was particularly poignant, and I’m so thankful for this friend and her willingness to open her heart up so bravely, was with a friend of mine who has a child with some significant special health needs. This kid is a damn warrior, and his parents have done a truly masterful job of creating a life where he can thrive. Still, she told me, the things that keep her from being her sharpest and most effective self are guilt, the need to control, and fear. She knows families who have lost their children, but she still has her beautiful boy. She spends nights checking on him in his sleep to make sure he’s still breathing. She knows he is more fragile than other children, but there he is, thriving. I asked her specifically how those three things- guilt, control, and fear- affect her day to day life. She shared that guilt causes her to wonder if she, in some way, caused his health situation. It demands energy from her that she can’t invest in her marriage, which feeds the guilt. The fear of what could happen to her boy robs her of the ability to be present, to sleep through the night, to let the little things go. Enter, need to control. Given this delicate situation, you can see how those three feed one another, how they weave in and out of one another in a paralyzing spiral.
Here is the amazing thing: This woman has not let herself be paralyzed. In discussing how she keeps it all together, she said, “I pray a lot, like on your knees praying. Yoga keeps me balanced. It really helps me.” Here’s the rub: None of us has to figure this thing out all alone. None of us are expected to be our sharpest selves on an island. There is a Proverb which says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” You and I will never be our sharpest unless we surround ourselves with people who sharpen us. We will remain dull until we demand something better of ourselves and do the work with the people who matter to us. As these friends of mine opened up about what dulls their edges, they sharpened their blades. They certainly sharpened mine. I spent very nearly my entire therapy session today excavating my own life, digging up my self doubt, my inner critic, my insecurities. These brave friends of mine got that process started for me when they shared their own stories with me. The very act of opening up, of showing what makes us vulnerable, of exposing our hearts does the work of sharpening us. When we trust, we share, we invest in relationships, we face difficult truths, we sharpen everyone around us. Vulnerability is fucking inspiring. Resilience and grit and perseverance are the stuff of people who live sharply, like razors.
Now, dear readers, let me ask you: What could you let go of to increase your effectiveness (in work, relationships, personal development)? What holds you back from being at your sharpest? What would your life look like if you let those things go? What would it take to get that process started?
If you have thoughts, please share them. I’m expecting to write at least once more on this topic and I’d love your input, stories, or experiences as I tease this out. Comment below, find me on Facebook and send a message, or email me.
Grace and Peace,
A friend wrote me this incredibly generous message yesterday about self confidence- specifically, mine- and I felt thankful, bashful, and a little bit like a faker all at once. Finding and fighting for self confidence is a daily practice, folks, and sometimes my daily battle takes place on a minefield of self doubt. We all, I’m hopeful, have days where we feel right on point. These days are sometimes collected into entire seasons where we just keep crushing it no matter what walls we run into and sometimes these days are dim glimpses of hope, like flickering light on a black sky. Sometimes confidence comes easily, and sometimes it is simply the stubborn choice to ignore the voice in my head telling me just how much I’m screwing everything up, look up, and keep moving forward.
The voice in my head belongs to a crazy lady, and she is terribly unoriginal, often obnoxious, and consistently unreliable. Listening to that chatter never ends particularly well. I’m sure you have one of these voices, too. Mine plays this delightful little loop: You probably shouldn’t expect too much out of this project, you’re not that great at it. You know, there are a lot of people who know so much more about this than you do and they’re going to see right through you. 27 is not old enough. 27 is too old. You really shouldn’t write that blog, it’s nothing new and you’ll probably come across as pithy and self indulgent. Your face is weird, today. You’ve got a long way to go before you’ll really be respected in this yoga business. Just keep your head down and don’t make too much noise. You’re bloated. It’s not cute. You’re not cute. And worst of all: You’re cute, and it’s a good thing you are because you clearly don’t know what the hell you’re doing, ever.
Really great, right? The voice in my head is one moody son of a bitch. Fortunately, I have an excellent therapist. I also have incredibly supportive people in my life who sound nothing like the voice in my head, and for them I am endlessly grateful. Perhaps the most helpful is the work I’ve done in myself, for myself, to learn to distinguish what the voice in my head says from what I actually believe about myself. I cannot emphasize enough how important this step is in finding your own feet, your sense of self, a confidence in the person you are. Doing this work is like gardening on the battlefield. If there is any hope for cultivating a garden in soil stained with the blood and tears of self doubt, we must deal gently and intentionally with our own hearts and minds. Confidence won’t happen on accident. We have do to the work. To know the difference between the voice in your head which only wants to slaughter and steal, and the still, small voice which says, “You are good. You are enough. You are valuable and important and loved and your dreams are worth chasing and your story is worth telling and you have good things to share with the world,” you have to do the work.
For me, doing the work involves mindfulness and dealing gently with myself. This is harder than it seems. There is a lot of sitting still and journaling involved. When the voice in my head says, “This is not your best work. Do better. You are failing,” my natural reaction is to agree and insist that I suck it up and step it up. This mental climate is not particularly conducive to cultivating confidence. The first step out of this trap is to recognize that the voice in my head is just that- the voice in my head. I get to choose whether I believe what it says, or throw it out. Just because the voice in your head says it does not make it true. Did you catch that?
Just because the voice in your head says it does not make it true.
When I realized I get to choose whether or not to believe the voice in my head, it was like a pressure valve released a little. I realized I didn’t have to fall down the shame spiral every time my brain said something crappy to me, and neither do you. There is a difference between “This is not your best work” and “You are a failure” and the two are not intrinsically connected, although the voice in my head might have me think they are. “This is not your best work” may be based in truth, but it means I am capable of so much more. It does not mean I am currently a failure or a slacker.
The crazy lady in my head would have me believe anything less than meeting the often unreasonable expectations I have created for myself is failure. First, I have to step back and recognize what I’m hearing. Is this reality? Is this consistent with what I know to be true about myself? Or is this the voice in my head shooting bullets at my heart? If it’s the crazy lady, I toss it. Second, I ask myself if I’m dealing in reality, assumptions, or expectations. Is this train of thought based in what I know to be true? Is it based in what I have assumed to be true without actually doing the work to find out if it is or not? Or, is it based in expectations I have created? Doing this work has helped me realize just how much I assume and expect out of myself and others. Assumptions are dangerous because they prevent me doing the real work of knowing myself and others. They keep me at a distance from really understanding myself and the people I care about. Expectations are the quickest way to set myself up for a fall. As soon as I attach myself to an expectation, anything apart from the ending I’ve already imagined is going to be jarring at best, disappointing at worst. Much better to let things unfold as they are meant to unfold and experience each moment with openness and gratitude, because the alternative is mindless drifting through life until you’re dead. I choose the work, because there is life in it.
Thich Naht Hahn said in an interview on the podcast On Being that suffering because of the voice in our head is like an artist becoming terrified of a ghost he drew on paper. Why would we let ourselves suffer over chaos we created? Disassemble the chaos. Grow a garden.
Confidence grows when I put energy into knowing myself, into spending time doing the things I know I’m meant to do, in investing in the relationships that produce the sweetest fruit in my life. Confidence grows when I’m taking care of my mind and heart well enough to bring my best self to creative and work projects. Confidence grows when I act on the things I know to be true about myself, even if it’s scary and vulnerable and intimate. Confidence thrives when I’m serving others. It grows wild when I’m giving without expectation of something in return. Confidence, when it’s flowering and blooming and blossoming, is most likely growing out of soil that was once the site of a raging battle.
One of the really great things about confidence is that when you find it, you don’t have to make a production out of it. The most confident people I know don’t go around talking about all the things they’re great at. They don’t broadcast all their big plans. They don’t drop names. They don’t have to talk about their awesome lives because they are too busy living them. They just do it. They live. They create. They produce. They fall down, they get up, and they keep moving forward. They’re doing battle with their own crazy, and they’re growing these wild, beautiful gardens out of the dirt. If you see someone who walks through life with confidence, you are looking at a person who has wrestled hard with the voice in her head. If you ask her about it, she may tell you about the battle that once raged there and ask about yours. Share your story. It is worth telling.
Let me begin by saying none of this is new information. I’m sure people have been saying this for ages, but I’m just now starting to see it.
In a scene from of my all-time favorite television shows, The Office, after Jim has transferred to the Stamford branch, the cameras pan around the office as the entire staff plays their intense and highly animated weekly game of Call of Duty. This is clearly a thing for this group of people. Everyone is into it. There is a lot of action on the screen. People are shooting, running, fighting. It’s a whole thing. Jim’s character, however, helplessly runs into a corner over and over again, as he’s clearly unable to get himself turned around and into the game and not terribly interested in figuring it out. I get it, Jim. I’m not a gamer, either. People like you and I, we don’t know how to control the little guy. We don’t know which weapons to use. When in a social situation involving any type of screen based game, we just push the buttons until something happens. Even when everyone around is very engaged in the action behind us, we’re perpetually banging our tiny digital heads into the corner, waiting for someone to walk up behind and put us out of our tiny misery. Solidarity, brother.
Last night, on my drive back from a week of intense lecture and practice with Bryan Kest, I listened to Love Wins by Rob Bell and had a pretty profound experience. I’ve listened to a couple of his books in the last week, and the way he talks about God completely resonates with me. In What We Talk About When We Talk About God, Bell opened my mind to the hugeness and the strangeness and the mystery of the universe and of the God who designed it. My week with Bryan opened my mind to a powerful way of thinking of consciousness and awareness- not merely as objectives for the time spent on the yoga mat, but as a way of living every moment of every day. In Love Wins, Bell talks at length about how the way we’ve viewed God and Heaven and Hell for the past generation or two might not be the absolute truth, after all. Maybe this fairly recent conception of having a “personal relationship with Jesus” (a thing not mentioned once in Scripture), of living a life based on the decision between Heaven or Hell, two places we’re taught to believe are actual, tangible destinations separated by an eternity… maybe that’s not really the point. Maybe God isn’t an actual guy with a book, in the traditional sense. Maybe Heaven isn’t a place far away that we meet up with our dead Christian friends and family, like catching a later flight to meet up in Europe. Maybe Hell isn’t actually a tangible lake of fire somewhere beneath the crust of the earth where a God who tells us he loves us tortures billions of people who never heard of Him in exactly the way we heard of Him, and are therefore damned because they didn’t believe in Him in exactly the way we believed in Him. Maybe we’ve gotten so caught up in the details that we’re missing the story.
From my understanding, which is limited at best, the culture into which Jesus was born was not one terribly concerned with the facts. They were storytellers who passed down their traditions orally, through generations, as most people were illiterate and the printing press was still several centuries away from even being an idea. These were not people will shelves full of books containing the precise and accurate record of historical events. They were not concerned with the details of the events, but the message contained within the story. This is why Jesus taught in parables. He knew His audience. Even the Gospels, the stories of Jesus’ life, were oral tradition until several decades after his death and resurrection. No one in that time would have said, “Oh, I need to write all of this down before I forget the details.” They told their stories out loud, as they remembered them, to communicate a message.
We start from the other end of things and that’s a fairly recent phenomenon, when you consider the length of human history. It’s only really been since the Enlightenment that we’ve been interested in evidence to support specific claims. We didn’t even start demanding “just the facts” until Dragnet. Okay, maybe a little before that, but you get the idea. In the entire expanse of human history on planet earth, we have been increasingly obsessed with facts for roughly 300 years, give or take a generation, with a special emphasis on the last 50 or so. Why on earth, then, would we insist that our current literal understanding, which has been shaped by an age in which information is paramount, of the New Testament – which was recorded and compiled thousands of years ago by people who wrote from their flawed human memories and didn’t care about the details in the first place- is the only right way to understand the New Testament? Put simply- maybe the way we see Jesus isn’t the only way. Maybe the way we tend to understand Heaven is limited. Maybe our understanding of Hell leaves something to be desired.
Didn’t Jesus spend much of His time here trying to open the eyes of the people around Him to the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven right now? A kingdom where the first are last and the last are first? From the disciples to the tax collectors to the wealthy to the downtrodden to the prostitutes to the preachers of his day, He taught that we should love one another. He taught that we should forgive. He taught that God loves the whole world and every person in it. He talked about the Kingdom of Heaven in those terms, and then He told us to live that way right now. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us that the Kingdom of Heaven is full of the meek, the broken, the gentle, the ones who weep and mourn, the merciful, the peacemakers. Then, He constantly told his disciples to be like those people right now. He taught that Kingdom of Heaven is like buried treasure, like a mustard seed, like things that are all around us right now. He taught people to love and forgive and share and trust right now, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Maybe, you guys, maybe Heaven is all around us right now. Maybe that’s what Jesus was getting at when He told the thief on the cross that they would be together in paradise. Maybe that wasn’t some alternate universe that vaguely resembles a wealthy suburb with gold paved streets, but a reality far closer than that. Maybe God can do better than that. Maybe paradise is the most perfect expression of what God has already created and is all around us right now. Maybe it a holy and sacred dimension that we cannot see or touch because we are stuck in these human container bodies, but we can feel it sometimes. Maybe that feeling you get when you look into a newborn babies eyes, or when someone forgives you of an enormous debt, or when you are broken and you feel an inexplicable sense of peace, or you make love and you know for just a few moments that you and your lover are somewhere else, maybe that is the membrane between Heaven and earth becoming just permeable enough for us to taste the other side. Maybe that moment right before a person dies, and they look off into something we can’t see, maybe that is a glimpse of this Heaven that Jesus talked about right now. Maybe the energy of Heaven spills into our human, earthly dimension sometimes and we get to see just how good it’s going to be- how good it already is. Maybe, when we die and our human container breaks, our spirit is just as present as it always was, only now it’s free. Now, it’s in the Heaven dimension and can see perfectly what was always meant to be. Maybe, when Jesus died and split the curtain of the Temple, He was splitting open what was meant to be God’s container so that Heaven and earth could touch. Maybe Heaven isn’t out there, up there, or somewhere far away from us, at all. Maybe it’s all around us every day, right now, waiting for us to feel it.
That would make sense, right? Have you ever felt the presence of someone you lost in a room with you? Maybe they were. Maybe they were in the Heaven dimension right there next to you, reaching across the membrane so you could feel them. Maybe they’re seeing things perfectly now, right next to you, with God who is all around you. Maybe it’s all happening right now.
I had a profound meditation experience the other night, and I wasn’t going to share this with anyone until all of these pieces started coming together, and I think it’s an important part of my understanding. First of all, if you think meditation is some highly esoteric, far off, new age practice let me clarify that for you. Meditation is the practice of quieting the mind, harnessing thoughts, and focusing all of your energy on a single thing. This happened to be a meditation on compassion. We spent some amount of time, I think about 20 minutes, practicing feeling compassion. Bryan guided us from a macro experience to a micro one, from feeling compassion for people around the world to those in our lives every day. At one point I began to sense, in a profound way, a deep compassion for a young girl. I don’t know her, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen her, but I began to see a young teenaged girl and she was crying. I saw that she struggles in a very deep way with self-hate, self-harm, and cutting. I also saw that she just somehow lost her mom. I’m not sure what happened, but it was a sudden, jolting, recent loss and I felt intimately connected to this girl in my meditation. I felt my heart expand and overflow with compassion for her and I began to weep. It was really overwhelming. The longer she and I sat connected in that meditation, the more I began to feel this incredible grief. It was as if her grief, which was clearly too much for her to bear alone, was filling the spaces inside of me because I had the room and she no longer did. Compassion poured out of me and grief poured in and I wept and wept with her. The words, “You are not alone. You are going to be okay,” came to me and I repeated them in my mind, like a mantra. Physically, the girl I was connected to was alone. I have no idea who she is or where on planet earth she is or if she is even experiencing this now or if it was sometime in the past and I was connected to the broken young girl inside of someone who is now grown, but on another level, in a dimension as real as my fingers and your toes and the Statue of Liberty, we were connected and she was not alone. Neither of us was alone. I think that was Heaven. I believe that she and I crossed the membrane and felt a little bit of the perfect love, compassion, and peace of God in that moment as we sat connected to each other.
Maybe it really doesn’t matter at all how many 24 hour days it took to create the world, or if an actual giant flood destroyed all of humanity, or if there were 5 literal loaves and 2 actual fishes or some other number, or if Jonah literally spent some time inside a fish, or if there is evidence to support the stories told in Scripture. Maybe Jesus doesn’t give a damn if we know exactly how many people were present at His birth, or if He really walked on the water that day, or if the wine was real wine or grape juice. (I’m going with wine, because Jesus wouldn’t have been invited to all those dinners if he was a dud.) Maybe those are all simply that- stories. Stories that invite us into a world where Heaven is real, God is loving, Jesus is with us, and the details aren’t really the point.
That’s why stillness matters. That’s probably why Jesus went into a garden to pray and meditate before He died. He needed to connect to Heaven in a way that the physical, tangible world restricts. If you were to ask me why I meditate, today I would say it is to quiet my mind so I can connect to Heaven and listen to God. Maybe it’s to connect to someone else who’s reaching into Heaven at the same time. I won’t know until I get there. But I absolutely believe I can get there because I’m starting to believe that Heaven is happening all around us, right now, just like Jesus tried to tell us.
So, Jim. Handsome, tall, witty, Call of Duty failure Jim may not have ever found the right buttons to turn his little guy around and join the game. In the past week and a half, though, I feel very much like someone showed me how to stop pounding my tiny animated head into the wall, turn around, and join the action. And, you guys, the action is pretty damn beautiful.
Today we discussed and practiced different meditation techniques, noticing how even 20 minutes in a simple mindfulness or gratitude meditation can radically shift the patterns of the mind, reduce stress, and improve the mental state. And those are just the immediate effects. Here’s something crazy: In a recent poll conducted by the Smarty Pants over at Harvard’s School of Public Health in cooperation with NPR and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Americans reported that the primary cause of stress in their lives is related to poor health. Guess what the primary cause of poor health is in America? Stress! What a cycle! We get stressed, we get sick, we get stressed about how sick we are, and then we get sicker. Throw in financial instability, family issues, work drama, and the everyday stuff like traffic, standing in line at the DMV, and taxes and what you end up with is an over-medicated, cranky, reactive culture full of people who hate themselves because on top of all this shit they ate too much free dessert at the all you can eat buffet dinner and now they also feel fat and ugly. Bah freakin humbug, Ebenezer.
What can be done? I’m going to argue strongly that yoga and meditation ought to be done. By all of us. Daily. Yogis have been preaching this for thousands of years, but we in America like to hear from the “Real Experts”, so here is what the good people at The Mayo Clinic have to say about it: Research seems to show that some emotional benefits of yoga include:
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
- Building skills to manage your stress
- Increasing self-awareness
- Focusing on the present
- Reducing negative emotions
Physical benefits include managing or eradicating the symptoms of:
- Anxiety disorders
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Sleep problems
Isn’t that what we’re medicating the crap out of ourselves for? That depressing list could be eliminated from our lives if we made time to sit still in focused meditation for 20 minutes a day. 10-20 minutes to focus on stillness, gratitude, and loving kindness could eliminate most or all of the emotional and physical pain from which we suffer. Imagine the money we would save! Imagine a world with no more pills, prescriptions, or procedures that are supposed to make us “happy” (until they wear off and we have to buy more). Yoga classes are a hell of a lot cheaper than decades of doctors bills and prescription medicine, yet so many people choose the harder, more expensive route. “There’s no way I could set aside that kind of time for meditation every day. That’s way too hard.” Well, then you might want to open a savings account and start tucking away pennies for the inevitable surgeries, medicines, and doctors you’ll be paying for in a few years.
Want to get healthy and happy? Join a yoga studio. Take a meditation workshop to learn some techniques that you can use in your own life. Sit still. Go for a walk or a hike in the woods. Turn off your phone for one full afternoon. Commit to a yoga practice, not because you want a toolbelt full of cool party tricks to show off on your instagram account, but because a strong daily practice will help you to develop a healthy body and calm mind for a better existence. Want to be able to put your pants on by yourself when you’re 85? Practice yoga to keep the spine strong and muscles supple. Want to maintain control of your bladder and bowels as you age? Practice yoga, because you will strengthen the muscles of the pelvis floor and also the ones that help you control when and where you poop. Want to play in the yard with your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren? Practice yoga and meditation so you don’t lose your life early to heart disease, hypertension, or diabetes because you spent 40 years stressed and sedentary and too busy to do anything about it. Want to ease or heal the pain in your low back? Take a weekly restorative yoga class to mindfully reverse the effects of sitting at a desk all day. Want to calm the chatter in your mind? Get your sweet behind to a yoga studio and surround yourself with people who are practicing doing that exact thing. Want to build healthy relationships with like minded people? Find a studio and join it. Want to repair and restore the relationships you are already in? Practice yoga as often as you can to cultivate patience, compassion, gentleness, and grace in your life.
It’s not too late. Still breathing? You still have time. Get on it.
A Bryan Kest yoga teacher training is not for the shallow end swimmers, the easily kerfuffled, or anyone who takes offense at the word fuck. You learn this within the first hour of your week with him. I knew this going into our immersion, and it is precisely why I paid lots of money to learn from him. This is a teacher who, in roughly the same breath, challenged us to learn from Jesus how to forgive and show compassion, proposed that we practice yoga as if we are making love, and be sure to take a good shit before we hit the mat. This guy speaks my language.
Now, this isn’t meant to be a review of the training itself, but a decompression from our eight hours of daily lecture and practice, meant to help me absorb what I learned and also share some of it with you. I’m taking pages and pages of notes each day and will give you a taste of some of the most delicious nuggets I bring out with me at the end of the day.
One of the reasons I think Bryan’s teaching style lands with me, feels natural to me, and makes so much sense to my brain is because of how NOT systematic he is- he relies on instinct, experience, and an informed intuition that comes from lots of study and even more practice. He is sharing his experience. Period. Isn’t that all we can hope to do when we teach? If a teacher – of anything- tells you he or she has found the right way for you, run. Humans are great at creating systems and systems tend to turn into dogma and dogma has a nasty habit of turning us into real judgmental assholes. Look at every major political, religious, philosophical, even yogic system on planet earth, the systems run by the humans who live here, and try to find one that hasn’t become polluted with, “my way is the best/only/right way”. What are we doing to ourselves? To each other? When we judge others according to the system we like the best, and that is exactly what we tend to do when we buy into a system, we slip into a toxic mindset of competitiveness, ego, and pride. Isn’t that exactly the opposite thing we’re after with our yoga? Isn’t the purpose of our yoga to allow us to sit still in our minds, to show compassion to ourselves and others, to hold space for all of our differences, to be gentle with one another, and support one another on the journey to becoming our best selves? We cannot do that if we’re upset by the fact that the guy across the room is doing his pose the “wrong way” according to our favorite system. All of that is to say I appreciate the fact that Bryan’s answer to “Where should my bottom hand be in triangle pose?” is “Wherever the fuck you want it to be.”
Consciousness over alignment. Intuition over dogma. Instinct over “the rules”.
Here is a really good reminder for all of us: We are all doing our best. The world and its systems tell you that you are broken, bad, and wrong, and that if you buy the most expensive stuff, upgrade to the latest technology, and chisel the perfect body, you might have a shot at happiness. Yoga asks you to look at yourself as an artful, beautiful, and unique expression of the creativity of God who does not need to be fixed. No amount of wrinkle cream, plastic surgery, or protein powder can make you any more perfect that you already are. Yoga never saw you as broken, ugly, or damaged. Do you see yourself that way?
Yoga asks you to be intimately aware of yourself. It asks you to strip away the layers of ego, self doubt, self hatred, anxiety, and expectation that you have built up around yourself and see yourself for who and what you really are: A unique manifestation of the imagination of a God who did not make mistakes when He crafted you, bone by bone. Yoga tells us to strengthen the muscles of humility, forgiveness, kindness, and unconditional love. Yoga doesn’t give a damn how many calories you burn in your asana practice. Yoga isn’t interested in feeding the monster inside of you that insists you must look a certain way in order to be valuable. Yoga says you are valuable as you are, and that monster is a damn liar.
So, go get on your mat. Breathe deeply and move through some poses and a meditation that helps you calm the chatter in your mind and see yourself and the world around you more clearly. Practice knowing yourself, practice honesty, practice vulnerability. Cut yourself some slack. Rinse. Repeat.
Here’s what I’m quickly discovering. When you plan to sell your home and build a 200 square foot tiny home on wheels, there are far more questions than answers. I don’t know exactly where I’ll build it. I don’t know exactly where I’ll park it. I don’t know quite what I’m going to do about sewage and gray water, although I have some ideas.. I haven’t ever designed and built a home from scratch before, so there are a lot of questions there. I have no idea how to put an electrical system in a home. I don’t even know what verb to use in that sentence, actually. Will I install an electrical system? Lay one? Rig it? I don’t know. I don’t know exactly what’s involved in putting plumbing in my tiny house. I’m not sure how long I’ll live in it full time before I’m able to buy a tract of land and build my little cottage.
I don’t know, yet.
If you’ve ever stood in front of a group of people and delivered any kind of lesson, speech, or other presentation where you weren’t working from a script you’ll understand this. Teachers of all kinds, preachers, public speakers, workshop leaders, training facilitators you’ll all understand. You know that thing where your mouth is moving and what you’re saying is pretty good, but you’re not entirely sure where it came from because you weren’t planning on saying it? Well, that’s happened in my yoga classes twice today. Sometimes we get these downloads from God and the right words just land with us. That happened for me today when, without my prompting them, the words, “Can you trust yourself, and choose to keep moving forward, when you don’t have all the information you think you need?” came out of my mouth as I led a small group of yogis through a self trust exercise where we flow through several sun salutations with our eyes closed. Something happens when your focus is turned completely inward and you have to trust that your hands and feet will land where they’re supposed to land, that your body knows what it’s doing, that you can trust yourself to move through these postures without seeing them. You feel things that you wouldn’t be aware of if you were looking around the room. You can soften into a pose and feel exactly what’s happening in your hips, your shoulders, because your gaze is focused on the inside of your body. You can feel energy rise up from your feet, feel your belly expand and lift as you breathe, sense the strengthening of your body in a more acute way when you’re not looking at your neighbor’s great pants/top/shoulders/ass… The fact that your shirt is a little crumpled no longer becomes an excuse to get out of the pose because you can’t see it. That speck of dust on your mat won’t bother you because you can’t see it, either. I gave slow, deliberate instructions and asked that my yogis trust their skin and bones to do what they knew to do… and they did.
I needed that exercise, too. I needed that divine download. I needed to know that I can trust myself, here. Just like those brave yogis who moved and flowed without any visual information, without the comfort of seeing someone else do the moves, without anyone to mimic or follow… I can do this. I don’t have all the information I think I need. It’s unnerving to have more question marks than periods, honestly. I can’t see the steps right in front of me… but I can trust myself, here. I believe there is always a way, and I will learn what I need to know as I need to know it.
I signed all the documents today to officially list my house on the market, and there are still a lot of unknowns. I don’t know what this is going to look like, exactly, but I don’t have to. I trust the community I’m joining. I trust they’ll help and share and hold me up. I trust my dad to work with me on this project and I know that we’ll build something strong and beautiful. I trust my friends and family to walk with me through this crazy adventure, and encourage and support me as I go. I trust that this new way of living will create financial freedom, sustainability, and set my life up to say “YES!” to opportunity and adventure. I trust that even though I can’t see the steps, they’re right in front of me. I trust that my hands and feet will land exactly where they’re supposed to land.
What’s your thing? Is there an adventure/a project/a life change/ a relationship, anything at all that you know in your gut you need to make a move on, but you don’t feel like you have all the information? Trust your heart. Trust your hands and feet to do what they’re supposed to do. Trust that your life has been preparing you to move in the right direction, and your intuition will show you just what you need. What are you waiting for?
I called my realtor today and said, “Let’s do it. Let’s sell a house.” Four weeks ago, I had no idea I would be putting my house on the market. No idea. Ya’ll. This is real.
Why tiny? Why sell almost everything I own to build and move into a tiny house? Why not just downsize? Why build it myself? Why move out of a house I love? Why 200 square feet? Why so tiny? I’m glad you asked!
Because if I sell everything I own to build and move into a tiny house, those pictures become memories.
The fact that it would put me in a position to accept opportunities to train and practice with some important teachers without stressing about money is huge. The fact that I could return to Kenya each year is pretty stellar. The idea of living comfortably within my means in a home that I design and build seems like a thing I definitely want to do. Living in a home that requires little maintenance and produces little waste would be great. Building it with my friends and family is going to be wicked fun. Having extra income to donate to things I believe in is a big deal to me. Saving for retirement can happen again. Owning my home outright would bring unparalleled financial freedom.
But, also, those pictures. I want to see those places, get to know those people, swim in those oceans, hike those ruins, eat Greek food in Greece…
I want to flip the script. I did the “buy the house, buy the car, get the mortgage and the HOA” thing, and it’s fine. But for me, right now, I want to go a different direction. A tiny house will give me freedom to see so much more of the world than I ever will if I keep giving all my money to the bank to pay for a bigger house than I need to hold all the stuff I could easily live without. What’s most important in your life? For me, right now, it’s flexibility and financial freedom. It’s knowing I can live the life I want to live: run the studio, teach yoga, and see the world. It’s running my own life and not treading water. It’s knowing that I can design and build my own home. It’s spending my free time with the people I love, even if they’re far away. It’s refusing to accept that the most successful life is the busiest one, full of tasks and obligations and no free time. It’s clearing out the clutter so I can see and surround myself with the people and the things that matter. It’s doing exactly what I love, with and for the people I love, without the burden of financial dependence or debt.
Right now, for me, tiny makes that possible. And why the hell would I do anything else?
The home you live in should empower the life you want to live.
Create the life you want.
Find the thing that makes your heart happy, and DO IT. Right now!
A little over a month ago, on an overcast Labor Day celebrated with copious rest and red wine, my girlfriends and I snuggled up in my living room to watch a documentary called TINY. Have you ever done something seemingly pedestrian that ended up changing the direction of your life? That afternoon on the couch lit something new inside of me. A fire. A longing. All of a sudden, I saw the path I’d been searching for in the dark. For the last month, I have immersed myself in tiny house research, contacted tiny home builders and bloggers, and spent hours collecting ideas on Pinterest for a tiny house of my very own, because all of a sudden I see my path.
There is a movement made of baby boomers and college kids, hippies and lawyers, wealthy and formerly homeless, environmentalists, minimalists, DIYers, and curious gypsies who have decided that the traditional model of “get career, make money, buy home, fill it with stuff” is not for them. Tiny housers are people who want to free up their income to travel and save, who want to leave a smaller footprint on the earth, who feel trapped and suffocated by the sheer volume of stuff in their lives and want to get back to the basics. They’re sick and tired of working their butts off to make enough money to buy stuff they don’t need, and pay for a house big enough to hold it all even if they only live in 2 rooms of that house. They’re sick of paying for storage units. They’re interested in taking better care of the earth and her resources. They’re prioritizing quality of life over quantity of items acquired. And I’m going to join them.
I closed on my house on October 1, 2010. It was my 5 year plan. I wasn’t sure if I would want to rent it out after 5 years, sell it, or stay put for a while longer. I was pretty confident, however, that I was looking at around 5 years in my first home. It’s been exactly four years, and I love my home. I have loved everything about living here, and I’m not in a rush to get out. My priorities, however, look nothing like they did four years ago. Four years ago, I was in a relationship that I thought was headed towards a marriage. I wanted to know that, as a 22 year old single woman, I could stand on my own feet. I wanted to know that I could take care of myself before I got hitched to someone and we started taking care of each other. I had this ridiculously well timed opportunity to get into this place as they were breaking ground, which meant I could hand pick everything that went into my home. It has been a dream, living here. And now it’s time for the next thing. Now, at 26 years old, I know I can do the homeowner thing, but I want to try it in a different way. I’m planning to sell this home that I love and build a tiny home.
Tiny homes are usually built on wheels, although you could absolutely put one on a foundation if it met building codes. My plans are for a home build on an 8′ x 24′ trailer, with a loft for sleeping. Yes, that means my home will be 192 sqft, plus the size of the loft. Currently, I’m in 1600 sqft. Why the trailer with wheels? Most cities and counties require homes to meet a minimum square footage in order to be classified as a primary residence, and the codes for these structures are not friendly to tiny homes. Building the homes on wheels allow tiny houses to be technically classified as RVs or accessory dwellings, which have much more flexibility as far as codes are concerned. The trickiest thing is finding a place to park your tiny home, as many cities also require an accessory dwelling to be on a property with a primary, full sized residence. (Anyone in the Nashville area interested in leasing part of your backyard to me, let’s grab coffee and talk.) The long term benefits of tiny house living, for me, make any logistical trickery completely worth the temporary hassle.
The most attractive part of this whole thing, for me, is that I’ll be able to pay off my car and build my tiny house with cash from the equity in my current home. The idea of owning my home outright, paying off every penny of my debt, and freeing up my income for travel, savings, trainings, and giving makes too much sense to do anything else. Why, why would I keep giving my money to the banks, the creditors, and the freaking HOA when I have an opportunity to get out from under all that and live the life I want? The idea of downsizing my life to fit exactly what I need into just enough space for my pup and I to be comfortable, and owe zero pennies to anyone is the most liberating thought. I want that life. I want a life where I can buy groceries for the person behind me at Kroger without having to stress about if I can afford it or not. I want to know that I can fly across the country to visit a friend whenever I need to, because my money isn’t tied up in a mortgage, car payment, and all the accompanying bills every month. I want to sponsor and mentor a yoga teacher in Kenya without worrying if I have enough extra to pay the expenses. I want to return to Africa each summer without the use of a credit card. I want to know that the money I work for is working for me, not paying off the banks that own me. I want freedom.
Tiny homes demand far less in the way of maintenance, obviously, and they can be incredibly self sustaining. Some TH people are completely off grid. I hope to have a solar panel to power my TH, and tap into city water. Less stuff equals less waste. Less space equals less energy required to heat, cool, and power. Everything has a place in a TH. I’ll document this process, because the decluttering, purging, and simplifying will be an adventure in itself. I want to share the TH planning, building, and living process with you guys, too. There is a large, well connected, incredibly supportive community of TH bloggers out there. I’ll be one voice in the mix 🙂
So, I’m getting tiny. I’m getting rid of a lot of stuff. I’m garage selling, Goodwill donating, inviting friends and family to get what they want, and getting ready to put my first house on the market. Dad and I are going to build this tiny house with our own hands, because I think that’s sacred. We could use a builder, but I want the experience of using my hands to build my home. I want to learn how to put in my own electric and plumbing. I want to know the bones of my house. I want to invest my time and tears as well as my money into this project. I’m not sure how long it will take, and I know I’ll have moments where I feel completely crazy, but that first night that Lucy and I spend curled up in our little home will make it all worth it.
Some people get it. Some people love it! Some people look at me like a second nose grew out of my forehead when I tell them my plan. I didn’t expect that, although I probably should have. I expected skepticism, but the resistance has been surprising. This kind of life, I recognize, is the opposite of what marketers and tech companies and big box stores preach at us every day about the amount of stuff we need to accumulate, and the myriad clever ways we can organize and display all of it. I get that. But freedom makes so much more sense to me, now. It’s helpful that I’m stubborn as hell and give exactly zero damns that some people will think I’ve lost my mind. What I’ve lost is the desire to keep working to pay for stuff and a place to put it all. What I’ll gain is independence, freedom, flexibility, discipline, and a space for simple living.
This path makes so much sense to me. I can’t wait to see where it leads!
And also… Why not?