Report Card Time



We’re about half way through the year long project of Mindful Living and Conscious Consuming so it’s time for a self assessment.  Some things have pleasantly surprised us, some things we have done well, and some we have failed.  This assessment will take a few posts, here is the first one.

The wonderful surprise is the sense of greater ease that we feel; this is something that we’ve written about previously.  In taking much of the noise and distractions of our media and purchasing off of the table, time has become more fluid and flexible and the beauty and wonder of life is more evident in all aspects of our life, both the fabulous and the challenging.

Now for the detail of how we think we’ve been doing.  I’ll begin with the areas of consumption and will address the areas of change following this assessment.

Purchases:  We give ourselves a grade of  B

We have mindfully bought things that we needed, like more irrigation hose and the parts to fix the mower.  We have also purchased some gifts that were “things” rather than experiences.  This marginally fits with our goals.  One of our sons lives overseas and one is training with the Coast Guard.  Both had birthdays this autumn.  We purchased scuba experiences for them but, as a mom, I simply wanted to send them a package with something to unwrap.  So, I indulged that with some small gifts.  We have also made a couple of purchases that were not necessary.  One is a new winter jacket for Bill, the other was shoes for me.  Bill lost his favorite jacket (light weight down that is flexible for working outside).  After searching for a month, we replaced it.  I purchased some new shoes because I injured my back and needed shoes that supported that healing process.  I could have worn my athletic shoes for this purpose, but they don’t go with the type of clothing I often wear, so I indulged in a pair.  We have also bought books.  We’re using the library more, but we have purchased some books that we want to keep as resources; most of these are about gardening and spirituality.

There are other purchases that we make that support our mindful consuming.  One is that we have a habit of buying meals for others when we are out.  For example, a few weeks ago I was grabbing a bite of dinner before an evening meeting and noticed a family with 3 daughters.  They were playing a clapping game while waiting for their food.  Once the food was delivered, the family was conversing and laughing together.  This is in contrast to many we see in restaurants who ignore others at the table while they scroll through their phones, or play a movie for their children rather than engage with them.  I bought the family a gift card for that restaurant and let them know how wonderful it was to witness their loving interaction.

We live in a small town (population around 6000) and decided that we would spend money at our local businesses.  Last weekend we went to two businesses with nothing we needed in mind but just to buy from our local community. Thank you Aztec Hardware and Lil Aztec Flower Shop for contributing to our community!  Because of the recent shootings, to further support our community, we to attended Aztec Sparkles, a community night and parade, and sought to buy a little something from as many businesses as possible.  We appreciate those who attended the event and the businesses that participated!


We have watched 5 films in the last 6 months.  The most recent was downloading a Christmas movie on Netflix the day after the Aztec High School Shooting.  We, like most of our community, were exhausted and needed some rest.  Another was Lion, the film version of a book club book.  We watched it because I was the only one in the club who hadn’t seen the film.  We went to one movie, All Saints, on an afternoon when we were just tired and wanted an escape.  It was based on a true story and was uplifting.  We also downloaded one film to watch on a cold, dark night after the time changed from daylight savings.  We do watch something when we work out because it helps us motivate to use those exercise machines.  Bill has a collection of old DVDs he watches.  One of them broke before the end of the movie, so we Netflixed it to see the ending.  Other than that, we have engaged in no television or movies.

Travel:  B

Our goal was to reduce our  routine driving and to observe our patterns with trips.  We have been successful in using our cars less, partially because we are purchasing less.  We can still improve here in terms of planning our trips to town.

We have taken several small trips.  What all trips but one have in common is that they were about building relationship.  We attended a wedding, graduation, friends’ daughter’s concert, and went camping with our son.  The one trip that doesn’t fit that pattern is our Thanksgiving sojourn to the Grand Canyon.  Nearly a decade ago Bill and I promised ourselves that we would travel on the first holiday that neither of our sons came home.  That happened to be this Thanksgiving and we chose to spend it in the grandeur of that magnificent canyon.

Food:  D

We did well in the summer with our local and organic purchases.  We also had a moderately successful garden.  We purchased beef from a 4-H youth and pork from one of Bill’s coworkers.  Our pantry is well stocked with a variety of local and home grown foods.

We utterly failed on the eating out component.  We mentioned this in a previous blog.  It’s largely a result of living in a rural area so we can’t pop home to grab a bite when we have 12 or 14 hour days caused by evening meetings after work.  That was further complicated by Bill being on a no carb diet for most of that time.  It was so much effort to continually make appetizing food that would travel well and meet Bill’s diet that we got weary and partially gave up.  This is an area where we need to set new goals and recommit!

Watching/listening to News:  Susan  A-, Bill  D     Exploring a topic from multiple perspectives:  F

I, Susan, have found it easy not to engage in the news.  I don’t miss NPR or checking out things online.  Occasionally I’ll listen to radio news when I drive but I usually find it to be disappointing.  Our news is often about things that I believe miss the boat or are not important.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t engage in community or world events, but that I do so from an energetic perspective.  More on that in the next part of our assessment.

Bill has a hard time not listening to the news or talk radio when he drives and he also regularly visits some blog sites.  We purchased some Great Courses cds to help with this but he’s having a hard time breaking his habit.  The course he’s currently enjoying is a CD set on “Books that have made History: Books that can change your life.”  In general, Bill thinks that taking some of the “dead time” spent in driving to further his liberal education is a very good thing.  As in everything else, what one chooses to attend to is key.  Does it develop my understanding of the world?  Does it enhance my appreciation for the magnificence of Nature or the higher callings of human beings?  Discernment is central this whole media question.

We thought that we’d jump into exploring how a topic is being discussed in multiple places around the world.  We were very excited about artificial intelligence and how it is being developed and discussed because it seems that we are at a decision point with this technology where we can either hurt or enhance humanity and we need to raise our voices.  Surprisingly, we haven’t had passion to engage in the research.  We have followed the areas of our project that excite us most and this one has fallen by the wayside.  Perhaps we’ll engage in it as the project continues.

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More about Fun



meditation walking

The previous discussion about fun brings to mind that often what we call fun and play is more of an extension of stress, competition, and comparison.  Now, of course some competition can be fun but that energy can also dominate and steal the fun.  For example, we may enjoy skiing or mountain biking, but do we feel pressure to get the newest gear to keep up?  I was discussing 4H programs with a friend whose daughter raises and shows steers.  She said that parents will spend tens of thousands of dollars to buy the right calf so their child can win Grand Champion.  These pressures to dominate and compare can remove the human element from competition, learning, and fun.  Frustration, failure, obligation and shame can overtake projects that were originally meant to bring fun and to open us to our glorious humanity.

This raises the question, “What is fun for you?”  Where do you find yourself lifted out of the moment and taken over by the engagement that you have with a project, nature, relationship, skill….?  Where do you connect with your soul?

As our niece, Beatrice, wrote about her newborn daughter, Eleanor, “We’re obsessed! Sometimes we just fall into her and lose hours of the day.”  Fun does that, love does that.  And, it doesn’t necessarily just happen; we need to create the time and mind/heart space to receive the gift of fun.  This project is thankfully giving more of that type of opportunity.
Share How You Care and have fun:)

Having Fun is Being Human



Last week I was talking with my dear friend, Rachel, and she asked about the project.  I mentioned that a delightful and unexpected result is a newfound sense of freedom, renewed curiosity, and fun.

After our conversation, Rachel sent me an email with some thoughts; here is part of her wisdom.  ” We were talking a little about your project, and what it’s brought you that’s unexpected: how you’ve discovered that the lifestyle changes you created for the project have opened up room in your minds and lives for – learning how to fix the mower motor! You talked about the freedom you feel, to have the time and energy do such a thing – although it wasn’t what you thought would flow into the life spaces vacated by screens, too much information and too much news. What a gift! Your newfound time is spent being human: discovering an interest, seeking out information, solving a new problem, using your body (hands, at least!), living through the time it takes for all the pieces to come together, letting your intelligence feed your physical ability to build/fix something you need to care for  your own environment.”

In the space that has opened up as we remove much of the distractions caused by consumption, Bill and I are exploring new arenas.  He’s mentioned fixing the mower and his fun with compost.  We’re also enjoying a Great Courses lecture series on comparative religions and I’m taking up the guitar and piano (ok, in fits and starts but it’s still fun to try and to honor my small accomplishments :)).  Our conversations on weekend mornings tend to focus on how we want to be agents of change and healing in the world (baby steps again).  Gone is the domination of duties and obligations that were very present when we allowed more of the noise of consuming into our lives.

In my conversation with Rachel, I mentioned how much more fun all aspects of our lives are.  She reflected,” It’s all play, really, now that I think of it: it’s how we human animals play. Only in our pressured lives it’s not play unless it’s by choice! We do a lot of this stuff much of the time, but against a backdrop of obligation and necessity. And then often we are allowed to do only some parts of the playing, and have to do too much of those other parts, and we don’t get to complete the process. Repair a motor, build a labyrinth. What a relief to discover  that what your mind and body choose, given an opportunity, is to be human, and play.”

Rachel also reflected that it’s important to see others engaged in real play, and that in doing so, we open our humanness to each other, and that is precious!  Thanks, Rachel, for your wonderful way of describing play and fun!


Books, Libraries, Local Booksellers

I am the type of guy that is reading 10-12 books at a time.  A few paragraphs there, a chapter here, etc.  Since stepping into our mindfulness project the public library has been getting more attention from me.  There a few edges with this choice that I am trying to get comfortable with.

First there is issue of actually getting to the library.  Our hometown book haven is a 30 minute drive from home.  So ok, I go when I am otherwise “going to town”.  Cutting down on extraneous trips, and planning ahead to cover many purposes in one trip is a feature of a great deal of our minding where we go, how often and what for.  Then there is selecting the books – wandering isles can be fun and yield unexpected treasures.  I am still figuring out the library website and on-line catalog.  There is waiting for the volume I want to be checked in (another corollary to Murphy’s Law seems to be: the book I want is the one someone is persistently forgetting to return).  But, there again, I have developing a greater friendship with patience as another of my ambitions.  Finally, there’s the issue of books I want that our library does not have.  Interlibrary loan can work but represents another blessing in the dance with patience.  New works?  Usually means waiting a couple of years.  Yet on balance, the benefits of using the library make this generally well worthwhile.

There is saving money, always a good start.  There is becoming aware of community events, typically offered at or advertised by the library.  There is also the phenomena of meeting real people with whom to share ideas.  It’s a place where you bump into old friends and discover new ones lurking in the stacks.

There are still some books I will find justification for purchasing.  Typically they are references in the “how to” genre.  Now since, among other things, I am learning to become “the gentleman farmer” (I am not sure why this characterization appeals to me), when I find a book like  “Home Grown Pantry”,  I am likely to dog ear, underline, annotate, and highlight enough to make purchasing one seem like good manners.

Well ok, I have justified the purchase, now where to cast the required donero.  Amazon is a very convenient place to shop and prices are typically good.  However, there is a seamy underside to serpents from this particular jungle.  I have just reviewed a sobering podcast “The Amazon-ization of the Nation and its Long Term Consequences” at  By virtue of the fact that Amazon has access to enough funding that they don’t have to make a profit on what the sell they can out compete any independent bookseller.  We have seen  the demise of many community bookstores.  The town I work in lost two book stores this year.  So my favorite independent and local bookshop, “Maria’s” will get this order.  It will cost a few more bucks, I will have to wait a while longer, (another gifting of required patience), and I’ll have to spend time on the phone, or in person, actually talking to another human being that lives in my community.  Very old fashioned, I know.  It is however, satisfying in a way that “one-click” shopping is not.

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Evaluation of the initial two weeks

We are off and running, despite a couple of hectic weeks!  Travel, visitors, and Jessie (our website designer, wolffmediadesigns ) marrying and moving presented some challenges.  We embraced the chaos and learned a lot.  Before addressing the categories we’re choosing to mindfully consume (purchases, entertainment, news, food, travel), I’ll address what we have learned in the areas we’re examining when the distractions generated by consumption are minimized (time, nature, spirituality, money, new skills, community).  Three of these areas stand out:  new skills, community, and spirituality.

Learning new skills is the area that rises to the top.  Prior to this project, neither of us had any experience with websites or social media.  Our learning curve was very steep in order to get the site up and running (thanks for your patience, Jesse!).  It has also been quite the challenge to learn how to moderate and update the blog and forum.  We still bumble around and aren’t quite sure how to relate the web site to Facebook, but we are learning and appreciate your patience and support!

Community and spirituality also stand out as we read your posts on the forum.  You have contributed fun, useful, and wise information that have encouraged us to pause amid the chaos.  You are creating a space of dialog and community that uplifts us and that we hope is also uplifting for you.  Thank you!

Now for the areas of consumption:  entertainment and food are where we indulged a little; travel was present, we made a couple of purchases, and we didn’t have time to focus on news.

As mentioned in a previous blog post, I traveled for our son’s graduation.  He then spent 5 days at home before heading off to more school and a new career.  Two things stood out about the trip.  One is the accomplishment and pride of our son, the other is the kindness of strangers!/actsoflovekindnesscourage.  We’ll see what patterns emerge with travel as the year progresses.

Because our son was here for less than a week, and during that time he was both resting and packing for his next steps, what he needed was a sense of normality.  This included visiting his favorite restaurant and catching up on the final episodes of a couple of his favorite shows.  Indulging his desires in these areas felt supportive of his transition and in the spirit of our project.  We also bought him some new towels and school supplies, because it was helpful and because I can’t resist being a mom :).