Aparigraha April Challenge #5: Shop Smarter.

To test my aparigraha skills and move toward my challenge of a Reduced-Waste Home, I spent an afternoon in a large grocery store chain (with a bulk ‘Health Food’ section) and tried to do 3 weeks’ worth of shopping without buying anything that would be considered disposable.  (This includes recycling.)  My expert opinion: nearly impossible.  There are hidden traps EVERYWHERE.  I mean, even the bulk food section (I brought my own bags, one point for me) still printed labels for each bag, gave away twist ties, and required one-time use disposable plastic gloves (negative points for me).  Good God.  I should have just bought ONE pre-packaged bag of black beans instead of wasting all these extras.  Oh, and toiletries?  I have no idea how to buy conditioner that doesn’t come in a plastic bottle.  There are about a trillion Nature’s Conditioner recipes out there, but I prefer to eat avocados, not put them on my head.  Needless to say, it was tough.

This week’s challenge is about shopping smarter, because we know that we vote with our money.  Where you purchase items and how you purchase items tells the producer where your heart is and your loyalties lie.  Every penny is a vote for a more sustainable, ahimsa filled lifestyle.  But it’s not always easy.  So just remember my advice from Aparigraha 101: be patient and be kind to yourself.  Take this with a grain of salt and a sense of humor… (like you did during your first Vinyasa Level 2/3 class with me at Westport Yoga).

Aparigraha April Challenge #5: Shop Smarter.

1. BYOC.  Bring Your Own Container.  As in, bring your own fruit and veggie bags, or don’t use any at all.  No one ever said that your lemons need their own dinky plastic bag.  They can sit in your cart.  They can, heaven forbid, touch your other fruit.  If you DO need to bag your veggies (sometimes broccoli heads are wet from the ‘stay-fresh’ misters used in the produce aisle) then bring your own.  *Helpful Hint: If you do need to use one that is provided for you, be mindful to re-use that bag.  Do not tie the bag into a knot at the top, because it’s usually so thin that the plastic tear.  Also beware when buying in bulk—the barcode sticker that prints out after you weigh your items is, well, very sticky.  After emptying a bag of garbonzo beans into a glass container at home I tried to remove the sticker in order to re-use the bag.  “Wait!,” I thought.  “If I fill this bag up with pears next time I go to the store, the clerk will be confused that I’ve labeled my pears as garbonzo beans.”  Taking off the sticker tore a giant hole in the thin plastic bag.  Unusable.  Even for doggie-poop.  (Actually, especially for doggie poop.  Holes in poop bags = the worst.)

2. Buy in Bulk.  Reducing food packaging can have an exponentially positive impact on the environment.  In America, 80 million tons of food packaging enter landfills every year (Bach, Go Green, Live Rich).  At the grocery store, challenge yourself avoid buying anything in a plastic package.  Use the bulk item section to buy dry goods (you can even use your own bags from home to when purchasing, see above).  At home: store your nuts, beans, lentils in glass containers.  (Even treats like yogurt covered pretzels can be purchased out-of-the bag).  Don’t want to purchase a matching set of glass canisters?  (Good. That’s probably not aparigraha, anyway.)  Didn’t inherit 3 giant boxes of Ball canning jars from your grandma this winter?  Well… Have you ever purchased apple sauce?  Almond butter?  Cherry juice?  All of these things come in glass jars.  Eat/drink the jar empty, put it in the dishwasher, and then fill it right back up.  Easy.

3. Become obsessed with Re-usable Totes.  Even for Target runs.  We are totally used to bringing our own canvas bags to Farmer’s Markets and grocery stores, but you can put other things in those bags, too.  Like, um, every-thing.  Take your bags into CVS, Walgreens, Target, etc.  If you MUST have your items bagged in plastic bags, reuse them as: trash bin liners, doggie bags, packing padding for mailing gifts to your Mimi in California, etc.  Do your part to reduce the 30 million plastic bags that end up as litter each year worldwide (Bach, Go Green, Live Rich).

4. Refuse a receipt.  If you forgo printed credit card receipts for the rest of your life… you’ve just saved thousands of miles of bleached tickertape.  And probably a few trees.

5. Clean your hands.  Take your own hand sanitizer spray to the grocery store.  Avoid the extra trash created by using the complimentary wet wipes offered to clean the handles of the shopping cart.  My all-time favorite hand sanitizer is Clean Well Natural Hand Sanitizer.  1 full oz (a tiny bottle) is 225+ sprays of citrus-smelling cleanliness.

These may seem like small steps.  They are.  But if everyone takes one small step, then we are all walking together.  This Challenge will really test you: next time you go shopping, train your eye to survey all the disposables in the store.  Ask yourself: ‘Why would I pay for something, just to throw it away?’  Then, walk away.

Let me know how it goes,

-lisa

Earth Day meditation.

Sharing this meditation from my friend and spiritual guide, Katie Harmon-McLaughlin.

Happy Earth Day (which should be EVERY day).

“Meeting God is not a momentary ‘spiritual’ affair; rather, God is the ether, the reality, the body, the garden in which we live. God is never absent; God is reality (being). Everything that has being derives it from God (we are born and reborn by God). The entire cosmos is born of God, as is each and every creature. We depend on this source of life and its renewal absolutely. We could not live a moment without the gifts of God’s body- air, food, water, and other creatures. This realization is an overwhelming experience of God’s transcendence; it calls forth awe and immense gratitude. Yet, at the same time, as Augustine puts it, God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. Where can we go where God is not, since God fills heaven and earth?” -Sallie McFague, A New Climate for Theology

 

Take a few moments to breathe deeply and know that with each breath you are inhaling and exhaling divine love; the unifying, life-giving spirit in all of creation.

Consider how this matters for you now.

Consider your connectedness with all other life.

Consider all that you have done so far today; all that you have eaten, all that you have touched. Pay attention to the fabric of the clothing you wear and think about where it came from. Pay attention to the place where you sit and the materials that surround you. All of these came from the earth.

The gifts of God’s body, the earth, are sustaining your daily existence. Pause in gratitude. 

Some of the things you touch and wear and use today have caused earth destruction. Pray for forgiveness for the ways we sometimes live unaware as though we are disconnected. Pray for greater awareness and compassion in the days ahead.

Become aware of the surrounding air that embraces every part of you, touching your fingertips, resting on your shoulders and head. Know that embracing-stillness as God, holding you in each moment. Know that there is not a place you can go in this world where you will not be in this loving embrace.

There is no distance between you and God.
There is no distance between you and love.
There is no distance between you and the rest of creation because you are part of sacred creation and are daily sustained by this planet.

How will you live this holy connection today?

for more from Katie, visit the Community of Christ Spiritual Formation Center Facebook page.

photo cred HM

Aparigraha April Challenge #4: No-Waste Kitchen.

Welcome back!  How are your challenges going?  Feeling overwhelmed?  Inspired?  Intrigued?  In love with the Earth?  Tell me about your successful and not-so-successful moments.  Use the form at the bottom of this page or email me.

This challenge, the No-Waste Kitchen Challenge, was simultaneously the most fun and the most frustrating.  Fun because I learned so many ‘live-simple’ ideas, and frustrating because there are about a million more ideas that I don’t have time to try.  I spend a lot of time in my kitchen.  Here’s a rule: remove the trash can from your kitchen sink and hide it outside.  Game.  Changer.  I quickly realized how much extra food packaging I was tossing—most of it goes in the recycle bin anyway, but it’s still wasteful.  Remember, we are working to reduce our waste at all levels, in order to cultivate a wiser and healthier relationship with the Earth’s resources.  And with the Earth itself.  Even the Bhagavad Gita advises us to do this:

“Touched in this way by God, the yogi sees unity and the True Self (Divinity) everywhere, in every creature, in all creation.”  BG 5.29

So here you go:

Aparigraha April Challenge #4: No-Waste Kitchen.

  • Hug your food.  Stop buying Ziploc bags and disposable plastic wrap.  If you have some in your cabinet still, remember that a Ziploc freezer bag can be used a few times.  However, what’s even better?  Use glass Pyrex dishes for food storage.  These never need to be thrown away.  The most exciting thing I found when taking this challenge: Food Huggers.  Adorable, re-usable Food Huggers, silicone food savers that “hug” the half of any fruit or vegetable you want to save in the fridge.  Seriously?  Have you seen anything more adorable?

  IMG_1837IMG_1838

  • Re-imagine your morning routine.  Most of us love a warm morning beverage.  Most of us create an entirely ridiculous amount of waste to satisfy this craving.  At home, here’s your challenge to reduce your waste: avoid all single serving items.
    • Loose-Leaf tea.  (Have you ever thought about the extra waste from one TEA BAG?  Why even have a paper tag on the string of each tea bag?  Why have a string?  Wait… why have a bag?)  Buy a small tea filter and head to the local herb store to buy loose-leaf tea.  Much more delicious, much more sustainable.
    • French Press Coffee.  (No coffee filters needed.  No tiny one-time-use plastic cups for your coffee grounds.  I’m sure you can guess how I feel about Keurig cups.)
    • Add-ins that aren’t single servings.  Even when you are at a coffee shop, opt for the pourable raw sugar instead of tearing open a sugar packet.  Better yet, learn to sweeten your tea and coffee with honey.  Local honey companies will refill your empty plastic or glass honey jar.photo (8)
  • Can Cans.  Sure, aluminum cans are recyclable.  But it takes in exorbitant amount of energy (often fossil fuels) to recycle.  The goal here is to reduce ALL waste.  An average American produced 4.6 lbs of garbage every day, and about 1/3 of that is recycled (Loux, Easy Green Living).  Beans don’t grow in cans.  Tomatoes don’t grow in cans.  Stew certainly isn’t made in cans.  Buy dry, buy fresh, buy ingredients and make your own.  And do I even need to talk about soda cans?  Really?  Are you 12?  There are about a million harmful substances in soda that do not need to go in your body, and about a million un-recycled aluminum soda cans on my street alone. (I hereby give any person standing at the bus stop on my corner to put their Cherry Coke cans in my recycle bin.  Please stop leaving them on my sidewalk.)  This is the MOST wasteful.  Buy yourself a lemon and stick it in a glass of water.  Trust me on this one.
  • Chop it, Don’t Toss it.  Food waste makes up about 13% of the total solid waste amount in the United States.  Learn to use the ENTIRE vegetable for your cooking.  From Root to Stalk.  When chopping celery, broccoli and cauliflower, chop the stalks into small pieces, put them in your freezer, and throw them in a soup the next day.  Challenge yourself to use the entire vegetable.  Beet greens?  Sautee them and top your curried quinoa.  Carrot tops?  Blend them in tomorrow’s root-to-stalk1smoothie.  Stop buying fruit and veggie trays.  You don’t need the extra plastic platter and you are telling grocery stores that you prefer they throw away perfectly good (and nutritious) vegetable parts.  Take a look at Tara Duggan’s Root to Stalk Cooking which explains the Art of Using the Whole Vegetable.  I think we throw food away because we don’t know how to eat it.  Chop it, don’t toss it.
  • Make friends with your own dishwashing soap.  I used to buy the single-serving packets of dishwashing soap because they were adorable.  Yea… the plastic that holds together these cute little packets is completely irrelevant and unnecessary.  Just buy a giant box of dishwasher detergent (try Seventh Generation, because it’s been reviewed as one of the best “green dish detergents“).  I tried a DIY recipe for dishwashing detergent found on Mama Wellness’ blog and found that it worked well.  I understand if you don’t have time to make your own detergent (I only run my dishwasher once a week, so it wasn’t a big deal to make a big batch of detergent because it lasted about a month), but at least avoid unnecessary waste if possible.

Throughout my month-long experiment to reduce waste in my kitchen, I became increasingly aware how difficult it is to avoid food packaging.  As a general health rule, I try not to buy food that needs a nutritional label on their package.  This helps avoid sugar/sodium/processed death traps like crackers, cookies, and other goodies.  But during my aparigraha challenge, I noticed just how many fresh food stuffs I buy that are “packaged.”  Strawberries need their own plastic house?  Cucumbers come wrapped in plastic?  Even my health foods like soy milk, raw honey, olive oil, and cinnamon all came in their own disposable packaging. After much thought, I’ve decided on a list of Things I will not give up, even though they are inherently wasteful:

  • Soy milk cartons.  But I’ve cut down to one a month, which I think is pretty good.  I’m not adventurous enough to make my own almond or soy milk…yet… if you are, I’d love to hear your tips!
  • Chocolate bar wrappers.  Because I’m not sure how to buy chocolate that isn’t in a wrapper.  And we all know that chocolate cures everything.  Last fall, this article on CNN.com sold me on chocolate for life.
  • Trader Joe’s boxed soup varieties.  I mean, all of them are delicious.  I, of course, keep all my veggie scraps and crock-pot them with water to make my own stock if possible, but everyone needs to try TJ’s black bean soup.  Oh my word.
  • Aluminum foil.  I hate scrubbing pans.  Have you ever tried to scrape baked tofu from the bottom of your baking pan?  It’s not easy.  Aluminum foil I will keep.  It can be wiped clean, re-used two or three times, and then put in the recycle bin.  And of course, it’s my new re-usable dryer sheet!

Ok, for real, tell me how it’s going.  Happy Kitchen Cleaning.

-lisa

touched in this way, the yogi sees unity in everything

touched in this way by god, the yogi sees unity everywhere and in everything.

Aparigraha April Challenge #3: One bag of Trash.

Aparigraha April Challenge #3: One bag of Trash.

“The maintenance of the Earth is crucial to humanity.  Rather than fighting with each other, we should be concentrating on the Earth.  Looking after the Earth, because we all live on it.  That’s where we get our sustenance.  Our Home.  Our Food.  Our Everything comes from the Earth.  And if the Earth goes, we all go.  It’s that simple.”  – Lorraine Mafi-Williams.

Americans produce a frightening amount of trash.  I mean, we literally sell our compounded trash to other countries.  (It’s true, this article will make you think twice about putting your next garbage bag on the curb.)  If you REALLY want to SEE your environmental impact reduced (it’s difficult to see the electricity we are saving by turning our fridge warmer or the carbon gases we aren’t omitting by walking rather than driving a car) then take this challenge: One Bag of Trash.

photo cred EMA

photo cred EMA

After a month of experimenting and solidly committing to the One Bag of Trash challenge, I realized that I am not an island.  As in: the communities and the systems that I am a part of are integral to my interaction with the Earth’s resources.  Even though it wasn’t a part of my One Bag of Trash game plan, I had to be willing to accept gifts (thanks for the giant bag of almonds from Costco, Mom) even if the gift was packaged in plastic.  I had to take the credit card receipt that automatically printed from Mildred’s Coffee House.  I even took a one-time use to-go cup from B-R advertising when the uber-nice receptionist offered to make me a free latte.  (Yes, please.  By the way, I re-used this cup 4 times before the plastic lid broke.)  But throughout the month I began to transform my thinking from: ‘What do I want?’ to ‘What do I need?’  You, too, will find this challenge to be eye-opening. 

Here are 7 EASY things you can do to reduce the amount of trash (and recyclables) generated from your home.

Aparigraha Challenge #3: One Bag of Trash.

  1. Wipe your face softly.  Replace paper napkins with cloth napkins.  It seems absurd to throw away a tree every time you eat a meal.  Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home suggests using napkin rings so that each member of your household can re-use their own napkin to avoid sharing germs.  My suggestion (to avoid buying new things!): If you have little kiddos in your house, then save cardboard toilet paper tubes and hold monthly craft time to decorate them into napkin rings.  Just throw the cloth napkins in your load of towels at the end of the week.  It’s not that hard.
  1. Re-wrap your gifts.  My friend Mary jokes that she re-uses gift bags until they fall apart.  That’s great.  Do that.  And then never buy another gift bag again!  I wrap all my presents in brown paper bags from the grocery store (it actually is cute when you use twine and little ribbon… and I totally feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder). You can also use the funnies from the Entertainment section of the newspaper.  Automatic double gift: the gift of laughter AND your present?  Win-Win-Win.

    hi, it's adorable. and wrapped in recycled brown bags

    hi, it’s adorable. and wrapped in recycled brown paper bags

  2. Forgo copious paper towel use.  I put my paper towel holder in a cupboard for one month.  Guess what?  I didn’t need even one.  I used a towel.  (How is that novel?  For some reason it is to my generation, who grew up on Hefty Paper Towel TV commercials).  And forgo paper towel use even out of the kitchen.  Clean your mirrors with newspaper.  It’s surprisingly streak-free!  Don’t subscribe to a daily newspaper?  Me.  Neither.  And yet, I seem to have them constantly on hand.  Price Chopper ads, printed on newspaper, are constantly showing up in my mailbox.  This is a difficult mailing list to have your name removed from (see below).  But it allows you to stop purchasing bleached, disposable trees in the form of paper towels for your cleaning needs.
  1. Opt out of needless junk mail.  When was the last time you ordered something from the Home Journey catalogue?  Or even the Victoria’s Secret catalogue?  Or EVER from the AeroGrow catalogue?  Right.  I can’t remember either.  Most of us simply move the catalog from the mailbox to the recycle bin.  While that is better than throwing it away, it’s even better to take 3.2 minutes and call the number on the back of the catalogue to remove your name and address from their mailing list.  They will warn you that their catalogs are manufactured six weeks in advance and you may still receive one or two more before your name is removed from the mailing list.  Say, “Great, thanks!” and hang up the phone.  One or two more 65-page double sided glossy magazines are better than one or two more years’ worth of cutting down trees.  Trust me.  This can happen in the same time it takes for one commercial break in Modern Family.  According to Catalog Choice, more than 8 million tons of trees are used each year to produce 19 billion catalogs.  Also, the average American adult receives 40 pounds of junk mail each year (Bach, Go Green, Live Rich). If the mailing is local (like your neighborhood’s grocery store flyer), Google: “How to remove my name from ___________ mailing list.”  It’s worth it.  (Remember, this isn’t just about cutting needless waste from your life.  It’s also about the bigger picture:  rainforests in Bolivia are still being destroyed at an alarming rate in order to meet paper and wood demand of the American consumer.  Stop hoarding.)
  1. Opt in for email updates and paperless billing.  I know, I hate it too: I don’t like online things knowing my name, address, and personal information.  (I’m with you, Helen.)  But paperless billing and receipts reduce waste immensely.  Remember, the goal is not only to recycle (that’s easy!) but reduce.   Paper goods make up 33% of Americans’ annual waste, and 51.6% of that is recycled.  That sounds pretty good, but that’s still 88 billion pounds (Loux, Easy Green Living).  Billion.  With a B Just get your bank account statement emailed to you. Seriously.
  1. Dry your clothes nicely.  Replace one-time use (very wasteful) dryer sheets with one piece of aluminum foil.  Place one sheet in the dryer, then leave it in for up to a month.  The foil reduces static cling and can be used repeatedly, unlike a dryer sheet.  If you love the clean smell that a dryer sheet adds to your laundry load, just spritz your wet clothes with an essential oil mix before drying.  I’m a fan of ZUM Eucalyptus spray.  Better yet, reduce your carbon footprint and your electric bill by letting your clothes air dry.  I won’t do this in the winter (it takes forever, I’ve found) but even a few months out of the year makes a difference.  In fact, washing machines and tumble dryers can account for up to 25% of your home electricity use (Yarrow, How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint).  That is outrageous.
  1. Mop Again.  Hi, I love my Swiffer Wet Mop.  I cannot manage a giant bucket full of sudsy, dirty water being wiped, repeatedly, all over my floors. However, what I did find was that the disposable one-time use wet Swiffer wipes are extraneous.  Use a dish rag.  Get it wet, spray some household cleaner on it and mop away, my friend.  Put the dishrag in the washing machine and use it again next week.  Not only do you reduce one-time use waste, but you also avoid buying the plastic tub that holds the Swiffer replacements in the first place.

Ok, so there are a few things that I’m still going to use and then dispose:

  • Toilet tissue.  I’m not holding a discussion over how many squares of toilet paper to use per butt wipe.  Just, be respectful.  And try to buy recycled toilet paper.
  • Q-Tips.  I mean, I know you can use your finger, but come on.  Q-tips feel so nice.  I’m working on reducing the number that I use daily by designating a special cloth for removing eye-liner instead of throwing cotton away every day.  But it I definitely can’t call this a success yet.
  • Razor replacement heads.  Being a clumsy person doesn’t lend itself nicely to using a single blade to shave your legs.  Ever.
  • Doggie Bags.  No explanation necessary here.

Try it for a week and let me know how it goes.  If you are REALLY into this idea, check out a very detailed account from Bea Johnson of how her family went ‘Zero-Waste.’  As in: no trash, no recyclables, no food waste.  It’s a phenomenal resource and I absolutely aspire to this one day.

Can’t wait to hear from you,

-lisa

we only got one Earth.

   our everything comes from the earth

 

Aparigraha April Challenge #2: Save your Energy.

Aparigraha April Challenge #2:  Turn it Off.

If we are working from the framework of aparigraha as “trusting that we do not have to hold on to things for dear life, because life is already dear”, then we do not need to hoard the world’s most precious resources. 

These resources are buzzwords in environmental conservationist conversations. ‘Going green’ means using less resources like petroleum, water, and electricity.  And ‘going green’ is a natural extension of your yoga: realizing our innate connection to all living beings, including the Earth, compels us to live an ahimsa (non-harming) and aparigraha (non-hoarding) lifestyle.

Put simply: please stop hoarding the natural, or unnaturally and disastrously produced, precious resources.  We only have one Earth.

“What if our religion was each other,

If our practice was our life

If prayer, our words.

What if the temple was the Earth

If forests were our church

If holy water—the rivers, lakes, and ocean

What if meditation was our relationships

If the teacher was life

If wisdom was self-knowledge

If love was the center of our being.”

– Ganga White.

Blue Mountains, Australia photo cred EMA

Blue Mountains, Australia photo cred EMA

Wisdom in this case means seeing the intimate connection between honoring Earth’s resources and our yoga lifestyle. Overconsumption of the Earth’s resources is not yoga.  Overconsumption can be extremely disastrous (think landslides on over-logged hillsides and severe storms spawned by changing weather patterns and global warming) and even extremely violent (think communities of the Mexican desert who are downstream of the Colorado River and are limited to a trickle of water thanks to the massive hydroelectric dams providing electricity to Las Vegas).

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the popular lists of ‘Do This! to Go Green.’  I checked out over fifteen books from the library about this.  My book bag included a book titled something like ‘1,001 ways to Be More Eco-Friendly.’  (Are you kidding me?! One thousand and one things I need to do?!  Every day?!  No wonder people throw up their hands and say: ‘To hell with this environmentalist crap.  I’m just going to live my life.’ I was overwhelmed by page six!)

So, never fear, dear readers.  I’ve done the heavy lifting for you, and distilled 3 resource saving techniques to recommend.  I’ve tried them all and they seem… manageable.  Took a little getting used to, but I gave it a good shot, and I think you should too.

Aparigraha April Challenge #2: Save your Energy.

1.    Unplug everything.  David Bach, author of Go Green, Live Rich, thinks I could save $94.00 a year on my electric bills by unplugging everything in my house.  He also thinks I can reduce my home’s carbon-dioxide emissions by 1,430 pounds a year.  I wasn’t not sure about this.  But, because I rent a house (therefore I will not buy an Energy Star dishwashing machine, or replace my refrigerator with a highly efficient model) I had to start somewhere.  We’ve all heard of phantom energy by now: even when your appliances are turned off, they continue to suck energy out of the socket, accounting for 27 million tons of CO2 emissions a year in the United States.  Your phantom load is also known as your Stand By or Idle current, and can total up to 15% of your monthly electric bill.  That sounds alarming and outrageous.  I really thought I was good about unplugging things when I left the house: my two space heaters, my standing lamps, my straightening iron, etc.  These are all double-checks before walking out the door.  But what about when I’m sleeping?  I can’t believe I never thought of this: electronics do not need to be plugged in at night.  Unplug everything when not in use, you say?  Here’s what worked and didn’t work for me:

Worked:

  • Electric kettle.  Unplug unless you are, literally, boiling water for a hot drink.  Also, do not fill the kettle (stove top or electric).  Only boil as much as you need for the drinks you are about to enjoy.  This can be a huge energy saver.
  • Phone Charger.  Like most of you, even though I know that small electronics use up an exorbitant amount of electricity, I will not give up my iPhone.  But for God’s sake, do not leave your phone charger plugged in the wall when your phone is in your purse.  What are you charging?  (Just your wallet.)  This one is easy.  Every time you remove your phone from the charger, take the charge out of the wall socket.
  • Computer.  A few times, I’ve closed my laptop (idle, schmidle) and plugged it in to charge.  And then left it charging overnight.  This seems like overkill.  Now I check every night to make sure nothing at my desk is plugged in, including my small desk lamp.  Most Green Guides suggest a power strip that can be turned “off” with one switch, controlling your electronics.  You don’t need your internet wireless router on all night either!

Didn’t work:

  • Dishwasher.  This is a huge, energy-sucking, appliance.  And I turn it on once a week (usually less, mine is terrible so I end up hand-washing anyway).  Is it draining energy the other six days a week when it’s empty and idle?  Actually. Yes.  But I couldn’t manage to unplug it… It’s behind the cupboard with Russell’s dog food and dog treats. It was an ordeal just to look for the plug/socket combo.  I’m not going to do this every time I want to wash my dishes.  #fail
  • Clothes Dryer.  Same thing as the dishwasher.  My small storage/ laundry room is packed too nicely for me to move the dryer away from the wall to unplug it.  It’s just too heavy.  But there are loads of other energy-saving tips I learned about drying clothes: choose the Air Dry setting because it uses less energy to heat the dryer, hang-dry all delicates, and always use the ‘less dry’ setting.  #50%fail

Here are some phantom energy vampires to look for in your house:

Window A/C units, air humidifiers, air purifiers (which don’t need to be on when you aren’t home to breathe.  Better yet: buy a plant), your massive TV (no one should be watching it while you are sleeping.  Unplug it.), your DVD/Blue Ray player, your Xbox, your wireless router, your coffee pot, your microwave (that one is obvious: you can nuke something in your microwave in less than four minutes… why is it plugged in the other 23 hours and 56 minutes of the day?), your blowdryer, your curling iron, your bathroom fan, your electric toothbrush holder, your electric shaver.  It may seem like a lot.  That’s because it is.  Stop hoardingStart Unplugging.

 2Cook smart. I learned about a bajillion things from the book How to Reduce your Carbon Footprint, by Jane Yarrow, about how to conserve energy in my kitchen.  I usually bake 2 or 3 things at once when I’m using the oven to save energy, but here are other tips I tried (that worked!) to use less energy:

  • Size your pots and pans.  Use a pot that fits the stove-top heating unit.   Yarrow says that choosing the right size pan and keeping the lid on for most of the cooking process can reduce energy use by up to 90%.  I realized how often I let my veggies cook and my beans warm up without a lid on the pot.  Easy fix.
  • Don’t preheat your oven.  What a huge waste of energy to cook nothing.  Unless you are baking a soufflé or a pastry/goodie, you don’t need to pre-heat your oven.  You shouldn’t have to adjust the cooking time, either.  The food will heat up as the oven heats up.
  • Turn off the oven four minutes before the cook-time ends.  The food will continue to cook through residual heat. 

3. Chill out.  Fridges and freezers account for about a quarter of domestic electric consumption (Yarrow).  I’m not great at fractions (sorry, Dad, your tutoring helped me get good math grades, but I still don’t really get them), but that seems like a lot.   I’m not ready to forgo a fridge (this podcast about the No Fridge Movement is awesome, by the way) so I better look for ways to make it more efficient.

  • Check your Temperature.  Fridges don’t need to be colder than 37-41°F.  My fridge doesn’t have a thermometer… it just as a dial that says ‘colder’ and ‘warmer.’  I guessed and put the dial in the middle.  Guess what?  Nothing rotted.  Turn your fridge down.
  • Spring Clean.  Dust the coils at the back of your fridge and increase its efficiency by 30%.
  • Organize.  Lots of cold air escapes when the door is open.  Keeping your fridge organized makes it easy for you to grab what you need quickly and seal it back shut.

Ok, friends, that’s only 3 challenges, but each of them has a few parts.  I can’t wait to hear what you come up with.  (I bet you can find at least 6 things in your house to unplug.)  Happy Saving.

-lisa

Berkeley, California photo cred EMA

Berkeley, California photo cred EMA

spring specials on Private Instruction.

SprView More: http://janamariephotos.pass.us/lisa-ash-yogaing Specials on Private Yoga Sessions are here!   Work one-on-one with Lisa to fine-tune your current asana alignment or to learn yoga for the first time.

Classes sold in packages of 3 sessions.

3 Lessons ONLY $205  (over $20 in savings)

Classes can be scheduled as Private (1 person) or Semi-Private Lessons (2 to 3 people). 

(Prices valid April 10- April 30, 2014. Must be redeemed in full within 4 months of purchase date. Cash or check only.)

Email ash.lisamarie at gmail.com or use the form at the bottom of this page.

Locations and times are negotiable; private sessions are generally scheduled for Saturday or Sunday afternoons.  Early mornings are also available.  

Aparigraha April Challenge #1: make room in your closet and your heart.

Aparigraha April Challenge #1:  Make room in your closet and in your heart.

I am a big proponent of ‘less stuff.’  I’m also a big proponent of holding on to keepsakes and seemingly useless items that have accrued deep sentimental value. Actually, I’m a big proponent of never throwing anything away.  I think I get that from my grandma.  (While cleaning her basement a few years ago, I recycled 3 boxes of Better Homes and Gardens magazines.  From pre-1982.  Seriously?  Seriously.)  So how can I reconcile these two incongruent predispositions?

This is what I’ve set out to do over the past few years.  In three years, I’ve moved houses four times.  Moving all your earthly possessions is serious evidence for the case of aparigraha.  The experience of living out of a hiking backpack in sub-Saharan Africa for five months, a constant house-guest of families living meagerly, only adds to that case.  The basic rule is this: Life is not about things.  If you have less things, you have more life.  Aparigraha is about learning to trust that we do not have to hold on to material things for dear life.  Life is already dear.

“Most of our energy goes into upholding our importance. If we were capable of losing some of that importance, two extraordinary things would happen to us.  One, we would free our energy from trying to maintain the illusory idea of our grandeur; and two, we would provide ourselves with enough energy to catch a glimpse of the actual grandeur of the universe.”  – Carlos Castaneda.

I’ve developed the following five rules.  Here are your challenges for Week #1:

1. Set Limits.  There are things in your closet that you need.  There are things in your closet that you don’t need, but that you want.  There are things in your closet that you want, but you definitely do not need four of them.  Start there.  Look at items you have more than one of and ask yourself: ‘Do I really need this many?  When was the last time I used this?’  For example, nail polish.  My feet are literally in people’s faces when I’m adjusting a yoga pose.  I need my feet to look well-groomed and to feel professional.  I need one, maybe two, colors of nail polish.  I do NOT need sixteen.  No one needs sixteen.  Use what you have, and commit to not buying any more.  (Side note: your extra items and your lack of needing these items will soon become apparent to you… after committing to this rule, I immediately broke two bottles of nail polish and caught my extra hair straightener on fire.  Apparently, I didn’t need those.)

2. “Well…” = Sell.  I’m in my closet, unpacking my tubs of spring clothes and folding sweaters to put in storage until next summer.  This is a great time to decide which clothes were useful to me, and which clothes I no longer need.  Here’s my rule: if your sentence starts off with the word, “Well…” then Sell It.  For example: “Well… I didn’t wear it this winter, but next year I might go to the symphony and need a dress like this” or “Well… I don’t really like this sweater, but maybe I’ll wear it next fall” or “Well… it’s just such a nice sweater, I don’t want it to sit on the racks in a thrift store forever.”  This is futile, and slightly ridiculous.  If you aren’t wearing that sweater, find someone who will.  Create an eBay account and sell your stuff.  It’s easy.  eBay takes a small commission when the item sells, but listing items is usually free.  I’ve learned that you don’t have to sit by the computer waiting for your item to be off auction.  You can use an option called “Buy It Now” and list your sweater for a fixed price.  It’s beyond exciting when something sells and your phone makes that “cha-ching!” sound.

3. Give one box.  Carry one (just 1!) empty box around your house.  Walk through your closet, your basement, your spare room, your kitchen, your bathroom, etc. and simply ask: “What can I give?”  You will be amazed at what you discover.  Those three extra towels that are unravelling at the edges?  Doggies and kitties at the GreatPlains SPCA could use a bath.  The board games in your upstairs cabinet that no one has played since 2001?  Kiddos in after school programs like the Boys and Girls Club would love to play them.  The random candles you stuffed in a drawer after Christmas?  Your yoga studio would love to burn them.  Most of us think we don’t have time to overhaul and clean out our entire house.  We probably don’t.  But one box is not overwhelming.  It’s only one box.  And the sheer act of giving is rewarding and heartwarming.  I promise.

4.    Forgive. Internally, aparigraha asks us to make room in our hearts.  The biggest culprit of emotional constipation is resentment.  Make room for more enjoyable, healthy emotions by choosing one grievance and choosing to forgive it. You may need to forgive yourself.  You may need to forgive another person.  You may need to forgive a situation.  Research is clear: forgiveness is good for you and good for communities.  You can expect to feel better immediately.

 5.  Make a List.  Every day, practice gratitude intentionally by writing down one thing you are grateful for.  I started doing this on my Notes app (because I’m attached to my iPhone) to save paper (because I love trees) and it changed my entire perspective on the day.  I still occasionally complained when things didn’t go my way, but my frustration level dropped significantly every time I remembered my gratitude note.  For example: dirty dishes– which I hate to wash.  One morning I heard myself sighing in exasperation at the sight of pots and pans in the sink… silently complaining.  And then I remembered: Lisa, you are lucky to have pots and pans, and you are more-than-lucky to have food to cook.  In other words: Get over it, be grateful.  Are you going to forget to do this?  My Notes app reminds me every day at 9:00 am.

Remember:  Aparigraha is about learning to trust that we do not have to hold on to things for dear life.  Life is already dear.

Take the challenge and share with me.

-lisa

 

 

Aparigraha April 101: introduction to the how and why of life.

Aparigraha April 101: introduction to the how and why of life.

“You know,” Eric confided in me the other day, “I sorta wish my family wasn’t used to the lifestyle we live… my kids have so many toys that they are constantly bored. We are constantly stressed about cleaning our house and maintaining everything.  I get up every day and go to my J-O-B, but that’s all it is: a job to keep the money rolling in.”  Eric told me he wished that he could do something different with his days, perhaps become a personal trainer or a physical therapist, but he felt like there was too much baggage holding him back.  I told him: be patient, go for it when the time is right, and take the Aparigraha Challenge… maybe he’d discover that he didn’t have to hold on to all the things holding him back.

Aparigraha is the Sanskrit word for the yama commonly translated as non-hoarding. (Side note: I’m not talking about obsessive hoarders like that TV show…. I know Eric’s wife and she keeps a clean house; I’m talking about the simple non-relinquishment of all the ‘excess stuff’ in your life that magnifies discontent).  I’m challenging all my students and readers, for the month of April, to take my weekly Aparigraha Challenges.  Every week, I’ll post one 5 point challenge.  Read the post, (feel free to commiserate with my failures and celebrate with my successes when appropriate), reflect on your current lifestyle, and then follow the directions for one week.

Ok, so what does aparigraha look like and why would the yoga sages even care about how disorganized my closet is?

First is the obvious: having more ‘stuff’ in your life requires more energy to take care of that ‘stuff.’  Do you need one car?  Possibly, probably.  In Kansas City, Missouri, the answer is probably yes, because this is a geographically expansive city and distances between work and home are likely to be too far to bike or bus for most people.  But, do you need three cars?  Probably, no.  If you own three cars, you spend an exorbitant amount of time and resources taking care of those cars, licensing those cars, changing the oil in those cars, etc.  Time that could instead be spent loving your family, engaging in acts of personal healing such as yoga and meditation, or in service to others.  All actions that will, undoubtedly, enhance the quality of your lived experience and your community.  With the money you are not using to take care of three cars, you could save someone’s life (countless national organizations are looking for cures to chronic diseases like the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society) or create a more just and sacred community where all children are embraced as people of worth (check out The Children’s Place KC and Operation Breakthrough, which are outstanding local non-profits providing children a safe place be loved).

Have you ever heard the motto, attributed to Mother Theresa, “Live simply so that others can simply live”?  That’s what we are going for here.

The second perspective of aparigraha is internal.  Practicing aparigraha, at its finest, is practicing letting go of everything that is no longer serving you.  This means abandoning anger, righteousness, egotistical desires, frustration, and complaining.  It means letting go of worn out beliefs, deserting societal structures that you feel are unethical, and maturing your spiritual understandings.

This month, we will delve into the nuances of aparigrahaAparigraha doesn’t necessitate total renunciation of material items.  (I happen to think that, yes, I do need all four tubs of Christmas decorations that are stored in the basement, Mike.  And yes, I do need an entire set of Pyrex dishes, not just one bowl.  I’ll hold on to those, thank you.)  Instead, aparigraha is about letting go of things accumulated in our spiritual lives, emotional lives, and physical lives that no longer bring joy.

The Yoga Sutras say: “If you persevere in overcoming possessiveness, you will wake up to the how and why of life.” (adapted, II.39)

When my life is overrun by ‘stuff,’ I can’t see clearly in my busy, hurried, overwhelmed life.  It’s like looking for my missing sock in the depths of my sock drawer and realizing that my sock drawer has been invaded by scarves.  I can’t see to the back of the drawer to find the object of my desire (my REI merino wool socks, as it turns out) until the scarves are removed, re-folded, re-considered, and returned to their rightful place.  Overcoming possessiveness means learning through your yoga practice (that you don’t need socks? … we practice barefoot, after all) that the bigger picture in life is much less complicated than it seems:

You are perfect, whole and complete.  You are nothing less than a manifestation of Divine goodness and are created to exist in a state of authentic love.  You are meant for health, happiness, and wholeness at your Soul’s level.  That is the promise of yoga. 

Everything else is just stuff.

Time to wake up to the how and why of life.  Take the Aparigraha April Challenge:

  1. Read.  Each week, I will post actions YOU can take to live a simpler, aparigraha-inspired lifestyle.
  2. Try.  Follow my recommendations.  At least try one.
  3. Share.  Tell me how it’s going.  Individuals succeed at a higher rate when we are accountable to a community.  Share your successes, frustrations, failures and ‘aha moments’ with me through the comment section of this site, or email me at ash.lisamarie at gmail.com
  4. Breathe.  Making a lifestyle change takes longer than one week, and often longer than the required habit-changing 21 days.  Give yourself time.  Be Patient.  But go for it.  (Even you, Eric.)

The challenges will include everything from cleaning out your closet, healing your heart, reducing waste in your home, conserving the Earth’s precious resources, and relinquishing habits that no longer serve you.  Challenge yourself to live simply and tell me all about it.  I double-dog dare you.

-lisa

IMG_1831

photo cred EMA

 “If you persevere in overcoming possessiveness, you will wake up to the how and why of life.” (adapted, II.39)