A journey that lasts a lifetime
(final part, but certainly not the end)
Freedom truly is a journey that lasts a lifetime. I am not an expert. I am merely a fellow traveler discovering life changing glimpses of joy and serenity in an extremely insane world. There are days when absolutely nothing makes sense. I tumble. I fall. I lose my way. I get bruised. During the many times of difficulty, I question whether we have truly achieved any freedom at all….
When we dust we would like to believe that we are actually eliminating the ‘dirt and disorder’, sweeping away those fine, powdery particles of earth and waste matter lying on top of our refrigerator for ever and ever. But, as we all know, after just a short while the dust is bound to just resettle itself somewhere else.
… we have so much more to learn and to experience… so many more errors to make… so much more ‘dusting’ to do. But, we keep on trudging forward and challenging ourselves and our beliefs, searching for our child’s mind.
I don’t want to be the same person tomorrow as I am today. I want to teach my daughters, by example, that there is more than what ‘we all think is normal’. I want to actually offer them the possibility to choose- a real choice which requires that they see and personally experience something different, a choice which cannot be offered to them if I continue to do the exact same things, if I limit our life to ‘merely following the crowd’. My love for them reminds me that I too have a choice. After all, aren’t all our choices actually choices of respect, gratitude and kindness towards our family, our friends, mankind, the environment and in the end, towards ourselves? The thing I fear
most is not having tried my best to become the best person that I know I can become and not having left in my tracks a small, yet visibly significant trace of my love for those that will come after me to find, cherish and behold.
The following is just a mini guide to get you started on your journey. For those of you that like lists, this is for you. Follow it in whole, in part, in any order. Don’t allow it to limit your needs and desires. Modify it. Add to it. Evolve with it. While everyone’s situation is unique, there really is so much more that we all can do one baby step at a time…
BABY STEPS 101: 12 basic Steps to Freedom
(To help you get through the reading of this post I will be re-posting ONE baby step each day. Go to www.facebook.com/letterfromsantabook to like our FB page and visualize the steps I share.)
Baby Step #1:
Reduce or eliminate debt. Learn to live within your actual means. Most people don’t. Little by little sell excess luggage (assets that don’t add to the quality of your life). Hide or cut up credit cards. Pay off as much debt as you can. Becoming debt free is a huge step (perhaps the most important) towards gaining the freedom to do what you truly want to do. Remember that life is nothing but a journey and the first rule is learning to Travel Light!
Personal Experience: When we no longer needed two new cars because we no longer worked outside of the home so we sold them and bought a used car that my husband and I share. We spend a lot less on gas, repair and maintenance costs and insurance. It also helps us slow down the pace and stay active because one of us often walks or uses a bicycle to get around.
Baby Step #2:
Rethink your spending habits. What do you shop for and where do you buy it? Are your choices ethical? When we purchase something we usually don’t think about everything that was involved before it arrived on a shelf in the store. Most things don’t grow on trees or in supermarkets! Start asking yourself the following questions prior to your purchase: Where are they produced? Who is producing them? Is anyone risking their lives in the process? What natural resources are being used up to produce them? Are they healthy for you and the planet? Are they necessary? Are your spending habits improving your life or weighing it down?
Also, try this ‘courageous’ trick: Talk to your temptations: When you find yourself about to purchase something you probably do not need, get personal with it- Ask the following questions OUTLOUD (if you skip the out loud part it won’t be effective):
“Do I really need you? Do I really want you? Are you going to make me happier? How are you going to improve my life? How much of my free time do I have to give up to pay for you? How long will you be a part of my life before I will discard you? When it doesn’t answer, put it back on the shelf and you will be surprised how satisfied you will feel leaving the store with you non-purchase!
This exercise, which was actually put into practice by my husband, Andrea, many times over at the beginning of his journey, was taken from his book, Non Prendeteci per il PIL “The very effectiveness of this exercise lies in the act of speaking out loud. Doing it in front of strangers at the store will leave you feeling courageous, confident and with a wonderful combination of satisfaction and silliness”. (Non Prendeteci per il PIL, Andrea Bizzocchi, Terra Nuova Edizioni. Coming sooner (or later) in English!).
Baby Step #3:
Waste less. Reduce basic monthly bills (telephone, gas, electric, cable, but also ordering in, eating out, the cleaning lady, manicures, etc.). By gradually reducing your monthly consumption of certain luxuries and voluntarily downsizing you will hardly notice the difference, and the process will soon become easier and easier. You will actually begin to feel the freedom.
Examples: For many reasons, economic and health being just two, lowering your heat in the winter and you’re A/C in the summer by a couple degrees makes a lot more difference than you think.
Can’t do without the manicure? Consider getting it every other week.
Something else to consider: Can you barter your time for someone else’s? Can you exchange one service for another? Many people think bartering sounds like a quirky idea, but it was the way things worked (and still work in some countries) in the past and way before strip malls and megastores came along! You probably already barter in some way or another. Bartering is often just friends helping each other with time related issues. In this way, eliminating the use of money doesn’t always have to mean doing without.
Personal Experience: A couple of years ago I wanted my daughter, Havana, to have the opportunity to go to a private, bilingual school in Italy which I considered a much healthier environment than the public nursery she was attending (organic meals, more freedom of movement, two languages, etc.). I couldn’t afford it so I offered to organize a natural cooking workshop in English once a week in exchange for her attendance. It worked out really amazing for everyone. I have also offered Personal Training lessons for haircuts and massages, olive picking for olive oil, healthy meals prepared and delivered for babysitting time. You can exchange shopping, cleaning, laundry, fixing, chaperoning, sewing. The list goes on and on. Most people keep it informal, but visit: www.timebanks.org to get an idea and open your mind.
Slow down, reduce schedules of entire family, learn to enjoy silence. Un-plan your week days and weekends. Let your kids play freely without time limits and appointments to be on schedule for. Eliminate an after school activity. Skip a meeting. Don’t feel obligated to always say ‘yes’ to every invitation or event. Learn the beautiful pleasure of lounging and doing nothing.
Read & Learn to Do Nothing: How to be Idle & The Idle Parent by Tom Hodgkinson.
Baby Step #5:
When possible work less. Ask yourself if you are working to pay for things that you need or for things that you think you need? Would you rather have a new car, a bigger flat-screen television, switch smartphones or tablets every couple of months, or enjoy extra free time? Sometimes it is necessary to work the extra hours. Sometimes, however it truly is a choice.
Baby Step #6:
Purchase Green. Buying organic and locally produced products are good for you, the environment and your pocket. When you start choosing your purchases carefully, you free yourself of a lot of the unhealthy, impulse buying. Shopping in smaller, locally owned stores (including directly from farmers and farmer markets) may appear to be the more expensive choice. However, you usually buy less junk food and packaged food (for example, an organic head of lettuce is 8-10 times cheaper than a chemically grown, prewashed and packaged brand), less chemically made cleaning and personal products (there are many inexpensive, natural alternatives) and less one-time use products (paper towel, plastic plates and cups, etc.) – all these items substantially increase how much you spend each week.
IDEA: Starting an organic vegetable garden. Don’t have a yard, you can even plant on your balcony. There is a lot of info in bookstores and on the web. Here is one article to get you started.
Get FIT. A healthier person is a happier person and a happier person is a freer person: When you are healthy, you spend less money on all the stuff sick people purchase and you gain in freed time that you don’t have to spend in bed being sick, at doctors’ offices and in drugstores. Besides going green and adopting more healthy eating habits, overall health requires a healthy and positive approach to life. Going to the gym and getting regular exercise is great, but how about taking your bike or walking to the market whenever possible?… A stairs over elevator approach to life. Also, don’t forget about your mental health as well. It is just as important. The best fitness (mental and physical) partners are kindness and NATURE. Your decision to go on this journey to freedom will feed your spirituality and is definitely an amazing start.
Baby Step #8:
Choose your entertainment and open your circle of friends. When you make certain choices, the ways you entertained yourself in the past usually changes (they don’t seem as appealing anymore), along with the people that you feel comfortable with. At first, this is one of the most difficult things to accept. You may feel uncomfortable in places that felt like home in the past. Finding a new sense of community eases the growing pains. You will see that strength and security is much about creating bonds with people that make you feel good about yourself and your choices. You will feel less alone on this journey if you have the support of fellow travelers. This is extremely important when trying to change habits in your kids. Join a class or group that reflects your new values and involves your new interests, and start frequenting places where you can meet like-minded people and families. This doesn’t mean that old friends and family can’t also still be a part of your life. It just requires love and respect on both sides (no judging).
(photo above: with friends at Ashram Joythinat, Corinaldo, Italy, Summer, 2014)
WHAT WE DO AND DON’T DO for ENTERTAINMENT:
- We do potluck dinners (everyone prepares a meal). We rarely eat out or order in.
- We watch dvds once in a while. We read. We play games and cards. We rarely go to the movies. We don’t have televisions at home. We don’t watch movies or programs that involve violence or fear producing messages.
- Our kids don’t have tablets. They don’t have cellphones. They don’t have FB pages. They don’t have electronically operated toys. We don’t go to indoor amusement parks. We do allow them to play video games once in a while. We listen to music. We spend our time cooking and backing together, arts and crafting, playing at the park, hiking, bicycling and skating.
- Junk food at parties is an exception. We don’t drink beverages with chemical and sugar. We eat real food. We eat food that is grown in the ground and not a factory. We do not waste food. Food is a pleasurable way to entertain ourselves, but it’s main purpose is nourishment and it is important to remember that it is also a luxury to many.
Baby Step #9:
Say WHY NOT? Acquire the “Why Not” approach to life to break through negativity, control and fear. Don’t limit your life to the things you know. You are changing. Your attitude changes. Suddenly, things that seemed impossible in the past are becoming possible. Most of the no’s in our lives are caused by fear. Before evaluating whether or not something is right for you, you first (no matter how crazy it sounds) need to try it… fearlessly. Be adventurous and learn the art of flexibility. Look outside, there is a great, big, beautiful world out there.. closer than you think.
Baby Step #10:
De-TECH your life. De-Tech your kids. Some think that technology is amazing. Some say that it depends on how you use it. Either way, technology is harmful to our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing (I don’t need studies to tell me that it especially harmful for young children). There is no doubt that technology causes dependency. It is a DRUG. If you are dependent then you cannot be free. Decide for yourself. Planning one tech-free day a week, setting time limits, not allowing your children to possess or use cellphones, tablets, etc… these are all CHOICES.
Baby Step #11: :
Find mentors, but don’t become a follower. Reading books, talking to people and attending events can be very helpful along the journey. Listen and learn from other people who have found a way to make their life better. If someone has found a way, why not try it? However, always remember to adjust what you learn so that it fits your life and decide if it feels right for you. You make your own rules.
Baby Step #12:
Find gratitude and contentment from within. In the end, all this is just words. Real freedom is about finding joy, serenity and gratitude for what you already have. It is about seeing the beauty and accepting the pain. There is no need to struggle with difficulty. It is part of life. The world we live in is often strange and scary. The more you try to push problems away, the more resistant they become. Love grows from the inside out. Appreciate your home, your health, your food, your family and friends. Respect nature. Be kind to those who are different from you, even the seemingly mean, selfish, deranged or ugly. All they need is love.
Be kind to yourself!
When you are discontent, you always want
more, more, more.
Your desire can never be satisfied.
But when you practice contentment,
you can say to yourself,
‘Oh yes – I already have everything that I really need.’
– Dalai Lama
Leaving you fellow journeyers with this beautiful excerpt written by author and blogger Beth Berry. I adore it because it so simply sums up the joys and emotions my family has been blessed with in the past years and how intensely upsizing our life and following this journey to freedom has enriched our basic, everyday experience:
We’re still in Mexico and soaking up as much of it as we can (while we can). The pace is slow here, we have no need for a car and local businesses and farmers still dominate the economy. It’s one of the sweetest gifts I’ve ever received–a peek into a society not-yet-overtaken by big box chains and superhighways. One that values family above all else and where stress is not the norm. The hunches I’ve had all these years have proven true: local, walkable culture helps you feel whole, accessibility to affordable food from small farmers feeds your soul and the wealth of a people has less to do with money than it does thriving, connected community, tight-knit families and quality of everyday life.
Don’t limit yourself to thinking that you have to be in Mexico or Costa Rica or any other ‘exotic’ place to discover such pleasure. There are so many people baby stepping their way through this journey and planting their way towards a better future– just Roar and let them hear you!
‘til next time with love and gratitude,
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PPS: This post was written without stress and without stealing any of my freed time!