So you want to change the world, but you find that daily life can be pretty complicated as it is. How can we design whole new systems of living in harmony with the planet when we are still struggling to live in harmony with ourselves in these complex systems called families, relationships, or just the intricate system that is the human body?
Indeed, our species can certainly be a motley crew. But complex systems don’t need to be complicated. When we are designing systems in Permaculture, we look at the zones, stack functions (meet multiple needs with a single element of design) and start small. If the house and home are Zone 0 and the garden is Zone 1, then the people are Zone 00. The closest zone to us that we have the most control over is ourselves. Start with you, and start simple.
Simplicity can be a difficult, so here are some steps towards simplifying our daily actions to begin the work of permaculture in Zone 00:
1. Breathe. Just pay attention to breath. This is a wonderful first principle observation technique. When we notice our own breathing, deep or shallow, and where we are focusing our attention in our bodies, we can learn a lot about ourselves as part of a bigger picture on the planet. We are nature too. Breath like the clouds. Hearts pumping blood through our veins like the rivers of the world; oxygen feeds all of this and breath is where it begins. Simple, not easy…
2. Stop Buying STUFF and Start Relating to PEOPLE. Giving gifts is great but time and presence are presents enough. The world has too much stuff in it and also too many lonely people; lonely people filling the void by consuming and creating extra trash in the world. Let’s all stop this, and let’s stack functions instead: if you need clothes, which we all do from time to time, there is this wonderful event that you can host or go to called a clothing swap where you get to hang out with your friends and neighbors AND get cool new threads. How awesome is that?
3. Carry a Reusable Water Bottle. Please! Let’s avoid having plastic bottles everywhere and spending money on the privatization of that which is our birthright, what we are 72% made-up of. Plastic bottles make waste as you know, but it also gets in to your water and thus, into your body, which is really no good. What IS good is that you can be saving money (and your soul, as giving money to big corporations is the antithesis of simplification of systems…. even if it may feel “easy” to do at the time) by using a stainless steel water bottle. And the water will taste better this way, as well.
4. Enjoy Seasonal Produce. When we eat fresh bounty from the earth that is in season, we are taking a small step to live harmoniously with our environment and the results show up as increased health and wellness and less visits to the doctor. Try it out and see. And if you buy from the organic farmers themselves, you are also supporting the local people, not the petrochemical industry, and simplifying your food system while nurturing your body all in one transaction!
5. Consider a Weekly Digital Detox. Put down your phones, computers and laptops for a day every week or a whole weekend (if you can) and enjoy the outdoors. Go to a park or go on a hike. Your whole system will be rebooted when you take a break from technology and get a download from the natural world. Prepare to be amazed by the things you encounter and the people you chance to meet when you engage in a conscious digital detox.
6. Expand Your Circles to Include Folks of All Ages. Spend some time with children, or if you are a parent or a teacher already, spend some time with the elders in your family or in your community. Combined with your digital detox, your presence of breath, and all the other points mentioned above, you will see a great difference in your attitude about life when you take yourself out of context with your usual generation of choice to chill with, and find perspective around living more simply. From observing and listening to the stories of children and old people, you may be surprised by the gifts there.
7. Drive Less. You can design a life that requires little to no driving, and wow, how do you like this for stacking functions: you get more exercise when you bike or walk more, AND you pay less money for gas, tickets, tolls, maintenance and spend a lot less time looking for parking. Our ancestors were avid walkers. We were designed to walk! And bikes are just super cool. It is amazingly freeing to take this simple step.
8. Make Time to be Alone. Create time and space for silence and stillness. A cushion to sit on is sufficient, without a screen in front of you. This is a key to designing a simple life, because what you find in the calm space of listening to your inner-voice, is an offering for you alone that you may harvest for your highest well-being. It may not be comfortable at first, but this is a rewarding practice.
9. Plan for a Balanced Life in your Calendar. Create a routine that allows room for breathing indoors and outdoors, in social situations and in solitude, and write this routine down so that you can schedule your life with peaceful moments as well as fun rowdy moments to blow off steam with friends. All work and no play is no fun. All fun and no down time isn’t much fun either.
10. Be Kind. Balance is a process. Be gentle with yourself. Do something wonderfully delightful for YOU every day, and practice gratitude for yourself and all the good things that you are up to. And then pay it forward and surprise others with random gestures of kindness and generosity. This is the simplest path towards happiness, and if you do only one thing on this list, try this one.