Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Reader comment on Duane Elgin's passage ...

Conscious Simplicity

On Oct 21, 2014 Shilpa K. wrote:

Short answer: by being present and living deeply, especially during daily hikes in wild spaces.

I also need to say that conscious simplicity would force us all to re-examine the definitions of "crude" and "cosmetic" and see whether they ring true. Part of conscious simplicity has to be cosmetic (because carpooling may still use fossil fuels, but at least it uses less) and part has to be crude (already, people are finding that relearning traditional skills increases their quality of life and reduces harmful impacts). The danger is in becoming self-aggrandizing for doing these things--because no, simply driving a hybrid car doesn't mean that the environment is being restored, and it's true that if people who live simply in a "crude" manner are isolated, they aren't affecting change in the mainstream--which is why articles like this can be written without accurately representing the diversity of back-to-landers.

The manner in which people marginalize and typecast a seemingly "crude" simplicity negates the beauty, innovation, and depth of all the people I know who choose to relearn how to live in "primitive" spaces. Additionally, such a scornful dismissal ignores the fact that many back-to-landers actually incorporate the experiences, technologies, and paradoxes of modern times. My neighbors who live in the woods in wood-and-earth structures they've built  have set up solar power and internet access and running water. It's possible to continue to learn and grow and participate in greater planetary discourse without needing to live in cities.

For that matter, there is nothing wrong with people who choose to live even more radically simple lives without technologies and in rhythm with one another and the land. They are not less conscious than people who choose to embrace the mainstream and may arguably be more so.

What, exactly, is "21st Century living"? While there are marvelous innovations and cross-cultural exchanges, there are also areas of the world where there are people at war, living feudally, without access to clean water, or endangered by nuclear meltdowns. All of this is part of the 21st century living, and so is an infrastructure that is largely unsustainable (which may demand crude changes sooner than people expect). What about the rest of the planet? Whether I want to or not, I am benefiting from the resources taken from other places and brought to where I live. For instance, I cringe at the amount of waste in schools (from paper and food waste to plastics that are routinely and cheaply bought that will never, ever decompose...all for the sake of "education").

My only response to this--the only thing that keeps me sane--is to attempt to live more simply myself. I've chosen to live on a 300-acre ranch/forest, and I hike in wild areas daily. I know the farmers who grow the majority of the produce I eat, I happily choose not to own a TV (although I love internet access and do occasionally join friends for movies or shows), and I can travel easily to cities around me. I dance to eclectic music (and I mean REALLY eclectic--the full spectrum) while washing my dishes. Right now, I have an indoor toilet, but I really enjoyed when I had access to an outdoor composting toilet instead.

I'm saying these things to contextualize my experience, which I consider middle-ground rather than marginal. Like others, I embrace paradox. I use far too many fossil fuels. I can also say that my experiences living close to the land have impacted me profoundly, and I would recommend that others do whatever they can to consciously reconnect with the earth.

On Oct 21, 2014 Ragunath wrote:

Ha, a fellow farmer! Could not see your profile at If you'd sign up and fill your profile, other farmers in this ecosystem can connect with you.

On Oct 21, 2014 Shilpa K. wrote:

 :) I am sadly not much of a farmer--wandering goats ate my starts before they could produce all that much, but I support the farmers who are my neighbors especially (and could try gardening again...) I'm more of a forager and walker of wild spaces...  I'll look into filing out a profile. It never hurts to connect with like-minded people!


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