We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, And know the place for the first time. ~T.S. Eliot Four Quartets

25 April 2007

Life in the slow lane

Since its national downshifting week I thought I'd write about what that means in my life, tying to live more simply with less stress. It's probably impossible to eliminate all stress from your life, and some stress is probably healthy and necessary. Moving back to England in 2004, was a major change as I was now staying at home, while my husband went to work. Having always been a somewhat compulsive 'doer', working since I was 16, this was a challenge. Being a mother and staying at home with kids requires more 'being'. Sure, there is doing to be done, lots of it, but not the same doing as going out into the marketplace.

Being, is alot harder than it sounds. Its the whole point of meditation, learning to be in the present moment. I have often thought that up until now, most of my life was about developing my ego, working to satisfy that. Having children has made me realise (along with my buddhist beliefs) that my ego is no longer important. Not that I am not important. But my main drive is no longer just about promoting myself, and I am comfortable with that. Its like listening more in a conversation rather than having to get your own point across..i.e. you are here, but you don't feel the need to prove it. {ok, ok I know the blog thing is promoting myself!!}

Raising my kids can be seen as some measure of ego, but I try and not impose any plans on them, other than to support them in developing into good, honest, loving people. I'm pretty satisfied with the life I've lived thus far, so there shouldn't be any of the 'trying to make them what I'm not' sort of thing.

Living semi-rurally without a car has slowed me down tremendously. I seem to live slower over here anyway.. even in Edinburgh (pre-kids), it still felt slower than America. Chicago is my home town, but having gone and returned I have noticed the feeling of underlying anxiety & tension in me, when living there. Perhaps its the constant hum of a big city, but it never disappeared even with meditation and acupuncture and other relaxation methods. I have a feeling though, that living in the country will cause me to become even more sensitive to this, so that when visiting chicago again, I may be overwhelmed, but we'll see.

Living at home with kids and on a limited income has given me time to express my creative side, which I found very difficult to do while being a workaholic. I have been able to assess my life skills a bit more, and rediscover & develop past interests skills. Cooking meals everyday, slow food, is also a great pleasure.

I realise its not possible for everyone to live in the same way, and some people say they 'have to work' to survive. Work can be good, work is love made visible (I have forgotton who said that, sorry) and it can be done with or without monetary compensation. Learning to reduce, re-use and consume less, helps in extending the money that does come in. Somewhere along the line I asked for these lessons about frugality and I am learning them slowly (as my husband likes to point out, it takes time to de-program the american dream). I'm not saying though that frugality equals deprivation.

The BBC reported that the average UK household spends more money per week on booze than on fruit and veg --is that related to dissatisfied lives? Well we don't, but a good portion of our budget goes on food (compared to any other 'luxuries') and yet we still spend less on average for a family of four. Our weekly spend on groceries hovers around £60. Not buying a lot of processed foods brings down the bill, while keeping us healthy. Buying the 'smart saver' or generic store brand also saves money and can even be a healthier option. The generic rice snaps cereal I buy from Tesco actually has less sugar in it than tesco's own brand and the big name brand. For some I suppose this would mean less flavour! but for a health conscious mum it means less sugar in the kids diet. I always read the labels and there are some brands I will never buy -see

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