Tiny Peruvian Pilgrimage part one: the essence of learning.

Tiny Peruvian Pilgrimage, part one: the essence of learning.

At least a hundred of you asked: “How was Peru?!  Was it fun?” when I returned from a seventeen day pilgrimage to Peru in August. It was difficult for me to answer with integrity: I felt, for the majority of the trip, ‘one step away from miserable.’ 

I underestimated the rage of altitude sickness (getting off the plane at nearly 12,000 feet above sea-level for the first stop on our itinerary at the legendary Lake Titicaca may not have been the wisest of choices).  I underestimated the magnitude of the Salkantay Mountain Pass Trek, which took my poor little legs three days to cover 40+ miles and 15,000 feet of altitude gain (and descent).  I underestimated the number of stairs in the sacred ruins of Macchu Picchu, the last Incan stronghold in the Cusco Region (last because the Spanish horses couldn’t manage to walk up the steep mountain switchbacks to find this gem of a palace city.  Smart horses.).  I underestimated the inevitability of traveler’s GI unpleasantness, the chill of the South American winter (no buildings have heat and windows don’t close) and how tiring it can be to pack and re-pack my one little backpack  every morning at 4:30 am to catch our next bus/plane/tour.  Saying the physicality of the trip was difficult is like saying Justin Bieber is a little bit popular.  But in the end (hindsight is reassuringly forgiving, isn’t it?) the trip was an invaluable learning experience and a cathartic spiritual pilgrimage. 

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photo cred: ME!

And I discovered something new about myself, about my connection (read: awe) of the earth and its sacredness, about the quality of my personal relationships, and about how I really want to spend my time in this life.  I learned.  And I was changed.  And, of course, I’ve got stories.  And some sweet pictures.  I read in a guide book that Peru will make a professional photographer out of anyone.

I only used my iPhone to snap pictures and they are incredible.  Maybe not as incredibly focused or detailed as Mr. Travel-guy with his 8-pocket vest, zip off pants, and water-proofed-four-lensed-nine pound-camera; but my little digital shots are fairly epic.  And certainly good enough for my travel-asana slideshow (go here!)

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my Ironman

My adventure trip to Peru was planned with my favorite person, my Ironman, who has set the lofty goal of taking an international trip every year.  He wants the total number of countries he’s visited to always be greater than his age.  So far, so good.  A year ago we started saving (read: selling lots of clothes on eBay, Aparigraha at its finest) for this trip to Peru.

Why?  I used to work for an anti-poverty, sustainable community development organization called Outreach International.  Outreach International (my friend Josh is their brand manager, check out their website!) has several promising reforestation projects in Bolivia; the pictures of the highlands and the communities who are involved in these development projects captured my heart.  I need to go there, I thought.  And see the intricately colored textiles and meet these hardworking people and eat their quinoa.  And also pet llamas.  But then I remembered that it’s ridiculously cold and windy and barren (there’s a reason Bolivians literally wear blankets)… so my thoughts shifted to Peru, Bolivia’s next door neighbor.  Where I knew I could step foot in my fairytale of a heaven: The Amazon Rainforest. 

lisa in kindergarten

little lisa in kindergarten

As an educator, my favorite definition of ‘learning’ is a change in an individual caused by experience.”  My most formative learning experience? I’m six years old, my hair is not yet permed, I’m wearing a black polka dot party dress and jellies, sitting next to my friend Bekah in circle time, and my kindergarten teacher pulls out a Big Book about The Rainforest.  I’m hooked.  Our kindergarten class created the rainforest within our classroom confines: covering the walls with trees, hand-painted animal portraits, tissue paper flowers, and creepy-crawly bugs.  We listened to cassette tapes called ‘Sounds of the Rainforest,’ we read books about the ecology of water cycles and life cycles of the flora and fauna, we watched video tapes featuring panoramics of the Amazon Rainforest, and we even researched our favorite rainforest animal (hello, Mr. Three-Toed Sloth, your smile is gorgeous!).

Then.  The truth came out: thousands of miles of this rich ecosystem, which harbors countless unique species and plants were and are being destroyed by logging, mining, and agriculture companies.  Little kindergarten Lisa?  Devastated.  (I’m sure I cried.  I cry pretty easily.  Remember this post?).  What I learned about the destruction of the rainforest changed me for life:  I spent my elementary career organizing penny fundraisers to buy parcels of rainforest in Bolivia for protection, I contributed my allowance to the World Wildlife Fund, I even started the first neighborhood environmentalist club.  Some called me a nerd.  I called myself an environmentalist.  (Pause: do you have time for the BEST part about this story?  I wrote a monthly newsletter for our club, E.K.A.D. “Earth Kids All Day” and totally misspelled the word “environment” in all of the issues.  Where was spell-check when I needed it?  Wait… where was my professional proof-reading dad?  Looking back, that spelling mistake is honestly the only part of this episode that I’m embarrassed by.  Not the hilarious pictures of me posing by the pile of trash that my ‘club’ picked up in our neighborhood one summer day.  No, definitely not those.)

Today, I’m still influenced by the experience of learning about the rainforest.  I try to live gracefully, so that my actions have little negative impact on the Earth.  I eat vegetarian to reduce the demand for more ‘wild’ land to be converted to meat-producing-agriculture.  I reduce my waste by recycling, reducing, and reusing as much as possible and I practice aparigraha (non-hoarding) of the Earth’s resources in countless ways.  If you are interested, check out my April Aparigraga Series which offers advice on how you can also live more gently on this Sacred Earth.

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photo cred MAD

My learning experience in kindergarten (thanks, Mrs. Moore) set me on a path that clarified my life’s choices into adulthood.  And stirred within my soul a longing that inspired this pilgrimage to South America.  To the sacred sites of Peru.  To the heart of the rainforest.  To the base of a tree where a three-toed sloth stealthily made its way to its morning napping hammock, grinning at two ogling Americans and their silly little iPhones.

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If you ask me “How was Peru?”  I will tell you: It was not a vacation, it was a learning experience.  I learned about the traditional cultures of the Peruvian highlanders, about the medicinal potions of the rainforest shamans, about the sacred ceremonies of the Incan travelers on their pilgrimages to Macchu Piccu, about the Andean religion and the customs of the Guinea Pig delicacy, and about travelling with the person you love (and how to still love them when the travelling experiences are less-than-ideal.)  But more importantly, what I learned was this:

If you have a dream, follow it.  Focus, commit, choose a badass travel partner, and make it a reality.

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the walls in our Eco-lodge room were open to the Rainforest!

What learning experience has caused you to change as an individual?   Can you think of one specific ‘learning’ that changed your attitude, your perspective or your habits?  I’m so interested: tell me about it!

Stay tuned for Tiny Peruvian Pilgrimage Part Two (just a few days away!).  Thanks for your interest, support, and hunger to learn.

-lisa

 

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

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?

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  • 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 #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