Life on Purpose book cover

Living Simply in a Complex World

In Lewis Carroll’s childhood classic, Through the Looking-Glass, one of Alice’s misadventures in Wonderland is with the Red Queen who takes her on a wild run through the countryside. But no matter how fast Alice runs she can’t seem to get anywhere. Finally, breathless from her efforts, the Queen allows her to rest long enough for Alice to comment that “Everything is just as it was!” to which the Queen replies, “…Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

Several years ago, I remembered Alice’s predicament, as I stood on the deck outside my home, gazing into a meandering stream threading its way through my back yard. I thought Alice must have felt similar to how I was feeling about my life. I was physically exhausted and emotionally out of breathe, running as fast as I could to keep up with an out-of-control lifestyle of my own making. As I gazed across the wooded lot and listened to the bubbling of the water across the rocks, I realized the scene before me had been much of the reason I had purchased the home about a year before. At the time I had imagined spending countless hours out on the deck, basking in the sun, watching the seasons roll by, but the seasons had rolled by without me. I’d not so much as stepped foot on the deck in all that time. I’d been too busy working 50-60 hours a week at my veterinary practice so I could pay the mortgage on the house, not to mention keeping two car payments up, and the three credit cards paid down. Like Alice, I realized something was wrong with this picture. I was running as fast as I could just to keep up.

I’d like to say that out of that realization I put the house on the market, traded the cars in for older models without payments, cut up my credit cards, and started living a simpler life. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. I hadn’t suffered enough yet. It wasn’t until my second marriage ended in divorce and I came close to burn out in my profession before the lesson finally hit home. However, the seed of an idea was planted that day, many years ago, and though it took a while, the harvest of a simple life my new wife and I have designed is sweet and well worth the wait.


My personal journey to a simpler life was motivated by two factors fatigue and frustration. I’d been on the fast track ever since taking my first part-time job at the age of 15 working at the library downtown. I held my nose to the proverbial grind stone through junior and senior high school, being sure to make the types of grades that would prove to the world that I was worthy of attending veterinary college. I even managed to rush through undergraduate school, completing a four year pre-vet program in less than three. By the time the mid-eighties rolled around, I’d been hoofing it hot and heavy for over twenty years, and by American standards, I was a success. Yet despite all the success trappings, I kept thinking, “Is this all there is?”

My frustration grew out of a lack of finding meaningful ways to express my natural creative interests. Although my art teachers in high school had urged me to continue studying art in college, I would hear none of it. I knew artists starved and veterinarians didn’t. Yet, by the time I found myself standing on my deck contemplating the similarities between Alice’s predicament and my own, I was starved creatively and spiritually.

Selling my veterinary practice in 1989 to become a freelance writer seemed like an excellent way to take a long break from running as fast as I could just to stay in the same place. I envisioned sitting on my deck tapping away on the keyboard for a couple hours each day, but when I realized how much money the deck was costing me, I decided if the little nest egg from the sale of my practice was going to last more than six months, I’d better find a less expensive deck to sit upon.

Although at the time I hadn’t even heard the term “voluntary simplicity,” these moves to simplify my life just “felt right,” even though some of my friends and family thought I must have brain damage from breathing too much anesthetic while performing surgery. About this time Ann and I met and fell in love. Ann not only supported the career change but had a small townhouse complete with deck. I rented out my home in order to reduce expenses and paid Ann rent on her spare bedroom. Could life be this easy, I thought? On this occasion the answer was no. I discovered over the next year that making a living as a freelance writer wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. After a year of rejection letters and watching my savings rapidly dwindle, I jumped at the chance when a good friend of mine offered me the opportunity to come to work as a business consultant. The regular salary allowed us to move back to the larger home and lease the smaller one. Two years and one marriage later, I realized I had come full circle, once again working a 50 to 60 hour job that paid well but didn’t give me the time for my creative outlet.

A pivotal time came with the arrival of my daughter, Amber. While she was still an infant, I slowed down long enough to notice the families around me. With most of our friends, both the husband and wife worked, and the kids were farmed out to overflowing day care centers. Neither Ann nor I wanted that for Amber. It had taken me over forty years to get around to having a child and I wasn’t interested in being an absentee father.

Still, it took me several weeks before I built up enough nerve to discuss my thoughts with Ann. After all, I had a secure job complete with an excellent salary and long term benefits. So what if I wasn’t happy? I was a good provider. Finally, one afternoon while driving home from visiting friends, I poured my feelings out, ending with, “I think I should quit my job and go back to writing. What do you think?” To my astonishment, Ann replied, “I agree.” Instantly, a great burden lifted from my shoulders and we started making plans for “right-sizing” our life to fit our new direction.

After struggling to keep two different houses for over two years, we sold the larger house within a few short months, in the process consolidating two houses of furniture into one. The more we sold and gave away, the more freedom we experienced.

Looking back, I realize now that there was a certain “chicken or the egg” phenomenon to simplifying my life. There was an inner as well as outer process that seemed to work simultaneously or were so interwoven that it’s difficult to tell which came first.

Richard Gregg, who coined the term “voluntary simplicity” back in 1936 points to this outward slowing down process that frees up ones time to pursue the inner work that continues the cycle. One of the first things our decision to slow down gave us was time time to take long walks with Amber in the stroller; time to get to know each other better and to explore our values. Fortunately, we discovered we shared many of the same values. With each discovery our relationship grew stronger. Gregg, himself an interesting mixture of Eastern and Western cultures, having lived in India as a student of Gandhi as well as attending Harvard, describes this inner and outer work in this way:

“Voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer condition. It means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, as well as avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of life. It means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions. It involves a deliberate organization of life for a purpose.”

While I wasn’t sure what my life purpose was yet, the urge to write was too strong to ignore, and it became increasingly clear that we were willing to reduce our material wants so I could focus more on my writing and so we would have time together as a family. Ann learned from reading The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyzyn that we could save significantly by buying our food in bulk and storing it under our bed. We cut back on eating out as well as our movie going. Instead we waited a few months for the movies we wanted to see to come out on video. Then we discovered if we waited a few more months, we could find the same videos for rent at a local discount store for one-third the price. Each discovery was a small victory for our new lifestyle.

Although these steps might sound like a move to deprivation and austerity, we didn’t find it to be so. “That is the greatest misconception about what simple living is about,” says Bo Lozoff, cofounder with his wife, Sita, of the Human Kindness Foundation. The Lozoff’s have practiced voluntary simplicity for close to thirty years, after living on a boat while in their twenties and realizing the joys of such simple living. “If someone approaches it in that way, they will feel poor,” says Bo. “The whole point of giving things up is that you feel the richness that results, a psychic release of just not having a bunch of stuff, and not having to be on this constant treadmill to keep the stuff. Simplicity is a great joy, not a punishment or stern discipline.”

Meanwhile we continued making inner discoveries as well, including that we shared an intense interest in further developing our spirituality. A whole new dimension of simple living began to unfold. Having turned my back on my southern Baptist background around the fourth grade, I had missed Jesus’ message to “not store up treasures on earth,” but to share our wealth and ourselves with others.

I’ve since learned that Jesus wasn’t the only spiritual leader who advocated the virtues of simple living. Buddha also urged a balanced path between indulgence and deprivation, and Confucius, Lao-tzu, Mohammed, and many others also taught the value of simplicity as well as finding a balance between the inner and outer aspects of our lives.

The idea of simple living isn’t new in our American culture, dating back at least to the days of Thoreau’s two-plus years at Walden Pond, as well as to the frugal, self-reliant lifestyles of the Puritans. The idea has, at times, struggled with its own identity crisis, being called many different names including, “the frugality phenomenon,” “creative simplicity,” and more recently “down-sizing,” “right-sizing” and “downshifting.”

Although we weren’t sure what to call what we were doing either, we did notice that the more steps we took to simplify, including purging the clutter around us through yards sales and through donating boxes upon boxes of clothes, knickknacks, and household items to the Salvation Army, the more time we had to explore what truly satisfied us.

We began volunteering some of our newly found time to organizations and causes we believed in. Again, many of our friends didn’t understood what we were doing. “You spend that much time working without pay?” they’d ask incredulously. We tried to explain that, although our pay could not be socked away in the bank, we were being more than adequately compensated by being able to contribute to others. Some understood, others walked away shaking their heads. In this way we slowly found ourselves encircled with people who understood and supported our efforts, and we started to notice there were more people interested in living a simple life than we’d first imagined.

Then one day, while reading a book review in the newspaper, I found out what we had become DOMOs. According to the book, Trash Cash, Fizzbos, and Flatliners: A Dictionary of Today’s Words, DOMOs are “downwardly mobile professionals, typically under 40, who abandon a successful or promising career to concentrate on more meaningful or spiritual activities.” It was a relief to realize that there were enough other people out there doing what we were doing to finally be named. Down with Yuppies, up with DOMOs.

Despite having trouble coming up with a term that satisfies everyone, we may look back at the nineties as the decade when simple living finally caught on as an “idea whose time has come.” According to a recent study, Yearning for Balance, prepared for the Merck Family Fund by The Harwood Group, the road to DOMOdom is filled with former Yuppie baby-boomers with 72% of people aged 40-49 agreeing with the survey statement, “I would like to simplify my life.” Of course, that doesn’t mean everyone who would like to simplify has taken the necessary steps, but many of them appear to be moving in that direction. Twenty-eight percent of all the respondents said that “in the last five years, they had voluntarily made changes in their life which resulted in making less money not including those who had taken a regularly scheduled retirement.”


“It’s not a cookie cutter lifestyle,” says Vicki Robin of the New Road Map Foundation and co-author of the book, Your Money or Your Life, referring to the varied approaches people have taken to simplifying their lives. Vicki and her partner, Joe Dominguez, have lived for over twenty years on about $6,000 of annual investment income each, even though their book has been a top seller since being published in 1992. The proceeds of the book go to organizations that promote a sustainable future for our country and the world, such as the Northwest Earth Institute which offers classes on voluntary simplicity. Along with Joe and Vicki many other DOMOs are simplifying their life by becoming debt-free. According to John Cummuta, president and founder of Financial Independence Network Limited, Inc. (F.I.N.L.), the Yuppie model of the eighties has turned up empty for many people living it, and the next generation that would be expected to step into that lifestyle is rejecting it, saying, “No, these people aren’t happy.”

Up until a few years ago, Cummuta led such a lifestyle, working in a top paying position for a company that was doing very well. “I thought, ‘this is it, we’ve achieved the American Dream.'” At the time Cummuta drove a leased Corvette, his wife a leased Oldsmobile Regency Brougham, and they were making payments on an airplane they kept at the airport not far from their large home. “We did it all on credit,” admits Cummuta, “but we could make all the payments. We were not being irresponsible in terms of our culture’s norms.”

Then the company Cummuta worked for suddenly went out of business, and he found himself without any income. “It was the worst two years of my life, and also the best two years of my life because it burned into me an understanding that I was not a success. I didn’t own anything. I was renting a lifestyle and when I could no longer afford the rent payment, I was evicted from the lifestyle.” Out of that experience, Cummuta developed a system that allows people to get completely out of debt, including their mortgage, in about five to seven years and F.I.N.L. was born. Even though Cummuta’s company has experienced rapid growth and was listed as one of INC. Magazine’s 500 hundred fastest-growing companies in 1994, he continues to run the company with no debt.

Cummuta’s approach to debt elimination is simple. Start by cutting up your credit cards. When I heard this, it made sense. If you have a patient who is bleeding to death, first stop the bleeding. But I found doing it not so easy. “What if an emergency arises? I’ll need that credit,” was just one of several excuses. When I listened to myself justify keeping my cards intact, I realized how hooked I was on them. Instead of going “cold turkey,” I weaned myself off of them, keeping one card safely tucked away in a safe deposit box to avoid impulse spending.

Once you’ve stopped the bleeding, Cummuta’s Financial Freedom Strategy has three major stages: Pay off ALL debt first, operate strictly on a cash basis, and then focus all available cash on wealth-building. A fourth stage that Cummuta claims more and more Americans are choosing is to move to a cheaper, safer, and more enjoyable location.

This was the case for Frank Levering and Wanda Urbanska, who acknowledge they were ‘fast trackers’ living in Los Angeles. Frank was a successful, though harried, screenwriter and freelance journalist, and Wanda a newspaper reporter for the Examiner. But after seven years of LA living, they realized they were miserable. “It reached a point that the marriage wasn’t going to make it without more time for each other and other pursuits,” says Levering.

When Frank’s father, who owned an orchard in Virginia, suffered a serious heart attack and none of the other six kids expressed an interest in taking over the orchard, Frank and Wanda decided to move back east. While they were fortunate to have such a place to move to, the orchard also came with a debt of over a $100,OOO and was going down hill. “Those two factors forced us to simplify,” admits Levering, and with such a large debt, all their spare cash went to paying it off. “We were looking for ways to cut costs and save money. In a number of areas we started cutting costs and found out that we liked it.”

After moving into an old farmhouse, they decided, rather then go deeper in debt to furnish it, to live with what they had and economize wherever they could. “We discovered that we liked the whole process and we were feeling better about ourselves, despite the hard work,” in part because they often worked together which gave them back time for their relationship which had been missing in L. A. Since they were both writers, they eventually decided to write about their experiences, and co-authored Simple Living: One Couple’s Search for a Better Life.


Although many people have found moving to the country approach works well for them, it’s not a necessity. Jeff Beal, his wife and child, live in the Los Angeles area because that is what works for their careers. As a song writer and singer, respectively, the Beals prefer the city setting, although they do feel that moving to a more country setting may be in their future. “Because I’m an artist, some of the things that mean the most to me as a composer don’t generate the most amount of money. I’m concerned with having a lifestyle that isn’t so extravagant that I have to sale my artistic soul to support my lifestyle.” The Beals have managed to live simply despite their urban setting by becoming more conscious of what they spend their money on. Rather than trading in their cars every couple of years for new models, they’ve chosen to keep their older ones. Around the house, they’re much more likely to try to fix a broken appliance than rushing out and buying a new one, as well as making their own home repairs rather than hiring someone. Eating out is another place where they’ve been able to save substantially. “People in L. A. tend to eat out a lot,” observes Beal. “We’ve found that when we do it less, it’s more enjoyable when we do go out.”

Penny Yunuba is another example of someone living the simple life in the city. She quit her job in 1988 to live her life the way she wanted. She rented one of her bedrooms to someone and sold her car because public transportation and friends made it possible to live without one. She volunteers her time to an organization that in turn pays her health insurance. In this way she has designed a life far different from the get-ahead treadmill of her previous career in microcomputer sales. Yunuba says one of the side benefits of living a simple lifestyle is the depth and closeness of her friendships. Although it was not something she expected, it is one of the greatest joys in her life. Simple living “gives people a fresh set of eyes to look at old habitual patterns to discover for themselves empowered new ways of doing things,” observes Vicki Robin. “It’s the joy that comes from that awakening that leads to tremendous savings and feelings of freedom and control.”

One of Vicki’s favorite stories comes from a family who followed the steps outlined in their book to simplify their lives. After following the program for awhile, they suddenly noticed they were not using their dining room, preferring to eat their meals in the family room. So, they sold the dining room furniture. They, then, converted the room into a spare bedroom and had a couple move in trading room and board for yard work, house work, and child care. The room became known as their “$6,000 room” because they calculated they had been spending that much for those services. Such creative ideas become the norm when people begin to take back their lives and have time for what’s truly important to them.


As Mark Burch points out in his book, Simplicity: Notes, Stories and Exercises for Developing Unimaginable Wealth, simplicity starts with a fundamental shift in consciousness, otherwise you will continue to be uptight, worried and stressed, whether you have a lot of possessions or you have none at all. For Burch, simple living “does not begin with discarding personal possessions and then searching for alternative, simpler ways of meeting the same needs. Rather, the technology begins with the cultivation of mindfulness. As we grow in our capacity for and enjoyment of mindfulness, then the outer aspects of our lives eventually and progressively come into alignment with this changed consciousness.”

As Ann and I continued along our path of simple living, we found this process occurring naturally and with little effort. Even though we enjoyed living in Greensboro NC, a midsize city in the central part of the state, we found we shared a hidden fantasy of one day living in the mountains, so we began taking weekend trips exploring likely locations. In the process, we found the mountains soothing to our inner nature. It gave us both a feeling like we had come home, even though neither of us had ever lived in the mountains. One area in particular beckoned to us, but we heard from everyone we talked to that it was a resort and retirement community and far too expensive an area to settle in. Still, we couldn’t get it out of our minds. We each sat with it, meditating and praying. A few months later, upon returning from a spiritual retreat in Alabama, I swung out of my way to drive through the area once more. Within less then 30-minutes of returning to our “favorite spot” I discovered the perfect house for sale. On further investigation we found that since the home had a lower level apartment which could be rented at seasonal rates, we could live exactly where we wanted to in a larger home for significantly less money. It even had not one but two decks. Such synchronicity seems to run hand-in-hand with the mindfulness that Burch speaks about. The inner knowing becomes clearer as one becomes more focused in life.

Another aspect of the inner journey of simplicity is the willingness to simplify mentally, emotionally and spiritually — to let go of old ways of thinking that no longer serve you, old emotional wounds of regret, jealousy, and resentments. As Birch points out it also means for many of us, letting go of what we think we know about God. “I had to let go of huge hunks of stuff that I was taught in the name of religion,” says Birch who was raised as a Roman Catholic.

Over the years I have come to realize as I simplify my outer world, that my inner world deserves equal time. A simpler life provides this time to focus, to stop, breath, and reflect on what needs to be released as well as examine what is really important. Whether this is done in a quiet mountain setting, at the local coffee house, or privately in one’s home, the opportunity to reflect upon one’s life is an important one. When one takes the time to do this, one of the things they realize is that there is a close relationship between simplicity and spiritual growth. Often, it is also a part that terrifies many people. “What happens if I turn off the TV and there’s silence, then what?” asks Burch. “That idea is so anxiety provoking that usually we keep the TV on, or go to the beach, or get a new car, or stay busy and in motion? But if I turn off the TV and it’s quiet then what do I do? Where will I point my mind and what will I do with my will? The spiritual writers tell us that if you will stay with that, stay in that quiet, in fact, enter it more deeply, and you move beyond the feeling anxious and be in the silence and emptiness of that moment, then grace and God be willing, you will know God a little more.”

Ernest Callenbach, author of Living Cheaply with Style and the classic, Ecotopia, says it more bluntly. “I don’t think it’s possible to live a rich spiritual life if you are very concerned with buying and selling as the main thing about your life. Leading a reflective life requires you to detach from a lot of petty, passing human concerns, and consumerism is about the most petty and passing human concern that we’re exposed to.

“To my knowledge, all known religions, including Christianity, recommends, not austerity, but simplicity as a spiritual discipline,” continues Callenbach. As it says in the Bible, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

“I think we can translate that pretty directly into modern terms. If you are caught up in the consumer economy to the extent that it impoverishes the rest of your spiritual being, you certainly aren’t going to obtain any kind of enlightenment.”

If however one uses the practice of simplicity to free up some time, then uses that time to deepen spiritually and emotionally, it tends to motivate the person to simplify further which leads to more free time. For some, this newly found “free time” may lead to a renewed level of creativity; for others the time may be spent more introspectively in meditation or other spiritual practices; still others may find their time spent in service of their fellow human beings. “You’ll find what your time is for once you start to have it,” observes Vicki Robins.


Many of the people who choose to live a simpler lifestyle, do so, at least in part, because it allows them to walk gentler upon the face of Mother Earth. According to the Yearning for Balance study, environmental sustainability is an important question for many Americans, with 86% of the survey respondents saying they are concerned with the quality of the environment, and 93% of them admitting that an underlying cause of environmental problems is that “the way we live produces too much waste.”

“The level of consumption that we identify with success is utterly unsustainable,” says John Robbins, author of Diet for a New America and the forthcoming Reclaiming Our Health: Exploding the Medical Myth and Embracing the Source of True Healing (H.J. Kramer). “We’re gobbling up the world.” Many Americans are still coming to grip with the fact that the world’s resource base is limited. More and more, living simply is not only a good idea, it is becoming paramount to our survival. “Prosperity based on pollution is not prosperity,” continues Robbins. “It’s short term profit, long term disaster.” Robbins, the heir-apparent to the Baskin-Robbins ice cream fortune until he walked away from it at the age of twenty-one, has an interesting prospective on the affluent lifestyle so long held as the American Dream. “I had the privilege of growing up in a very wealthy family. Among my parents’ friends were some of the wealthiest people in the world, and, I must tell you in all honesty, they were also some of the most neurotic people in the world. So I’ve had the opportunity to learn first hand that acquiring things can be a total distraction. What we’ve done in our society is to make greed into a lifestyle; we’ve almost made it into a religion.”

In his book, Living Cheaply with Style, Callenbach points out that, as with other aspects of simple living, leading an ecologically responsible life doesn’t mean self-sacrifice or austerity. It does, in fact, result in a richer, fuller, longer and healthier life. One way to understand this is to consider what Callenbach calls the Green Triangle. The three points of the triangle are environment, health and saving money, with the basic connecting principle being, “Anytime you do something beneficial for one of them, you will almost inevitably also do something beneficial for the other two whether you’re aiming to or not.”

Callenbach claims this principle holds true 96-98 percent of the time. He cites as an example, people’s diet. The American culture is obsessed right now with eating less fat in their diet. Interestingly enough, “eating a lower fat diet also saves you, sometimes astonishing amounts of money,” says Callenbach, “and of course, it’s also good for the Earth since raising cattle is ecologically destructive.”

Dick and Jeanne Roy are two people who have not only promised to tread lightly on the earth but are also teaching thousands of others how to do the same through their nonprofit organization, the Northwest Earth Institute (NWEI) in Portland Oregon. For over 20 years, the Roys have held true to their promise, despite their six-figure income from Dick’s job as managing partner of one the largest law firms in the Northwest, a position he retired from in 1993 to work full time as a volunteer at the Institute.

NWEI offers three discussion courses in workplaces, churches and schools; Deep Ecology and Related Topics, Voluntary Simplicity, and The Bioregional Perspective – Discovering Your Natural Community. Says Roy about the Voluntary Simplicity course, “Once you’ve gone through the course, it’s hard to live in denial. Fundamentally, people find that simplicity is taking control and through simplicity you enrich your life. It’s hard not to come to that conclusion.” Unfortunately, according to the Yearning for Balance study, although Americans realize something must be done, many are “waiting for somebody else to act first: their neighbors, big corporations, or the government.” Others feel that technology will be our environmental savior. As one participant of the study said, “technology will make your life easier and cheaper and environmentally http://…safer…as it develops. I don’t think simplifying your life is going to do one bit.”

If such thinking persists in our culture, we may be in for a rude awakening within the not-too-distant future. “Probably in the 2020’s we, as a planet, are going to hit an ecological wall,” predicts Duane Elgin, author of The Awakening Earth: Exploring the Evolution of Human Culture and Consciousness, and his 1983 book, Voluntary Simplicity, which is considered a classic by many people pursuing a simpler life. Elgin has chosen to take an “earn as you go” approach to simple living, rather than build up a nest egg and living off the interest. “I don’t think there is going to be some magical transformation within the year 2000. There might be a TV special, but that’s about it. If we have not prepared for this, in terms of evolving our culture and consciousness, and in terms of creating tools of mass communication so we can talk our way through it, we’re going to descend into resource wars, massive civil unrest, and a huge die-off of people on the planet. The combination of the ecological adversity and the psychological and political problems could send us into an evolutionary detour.”


In November 1992, the Union of Concerned Scientists met in Washington DC where 1600 of the senior scientists, including a majority of the living Nobel Laureates endorsed a statement entitled, “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity.” It stated: “A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”

These are decisive, pivotal times for the evolution of humankind, points out Elgin who, after twenty-five years of studying the situation, says, “I’m not all that heartened by the swift mobilization of the body-politic to respond to all this. I thinking we’re sitting on our hands, for the most part.”

But humanity’s future has not yet been engraved in stone. We still have time to make the difficult decisions that lay before us. Necessity is, after all the, mother of invention. Although our future is uncertain, we need not be paralyzed by despair. Interestingly enough, arising with the challenges we face are the solutions, both in technology and in consciousness.

Building a sustainable future is well within our grasps if we are willing to take the steps necessary. In The Awakening Earth, Elgin says two of our priorities which will need to be addressed are: breaking the cultural hypnosis of consumerism and developing and maintaining ecological ways of living. But perhaps our most important priority is the creation of “compelling visions of a sustainable future. We cannot consciously build a future that we have not imagined,” writes Elgin. “Many people can visualize a future of worsening crisis ecological destruction, famines, civil unrest, and material limitations but few have a positive vision of the future. Without a hopeful future to work toward, people will tend to withdraw into a protected world for themselves and focus on the short run.”

Our destiny has never been more in our hands. If we live in a complex world, it is one of our own design. Perhaps it is time to create a new vision of a sustainable, simpler, more spiritually directed world one based on our mutually shared intrinsic values rather than one based on the value of a dollar. I believe the Universe is on our side, deeply committed to our success while at the same time completely unattached to the outcome. We each have the opportunity to choose, moment by moment, what kind of world we bring forth. Perhaps we will find after so many years of running so hard just to stay in the same place, that there really isn’t anywhere to get to. It could be that in slowing down we’ll find that we’ve been living in the land of plenty all along. Now, it’s time to start taking care of it.



Simplicity: Notes, Stories and Exercises for Developing Unimaginable Wealth by Mark A. Burch, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC and Philadelphia, PA

Living Cheaply with Style by Ernest Callenbach, Ronin Publishing, Inc. Berkeley, CA 94701

Awakening Earth: Exploring the Evolution of Human Culture and Consciousness by Duane Elgin, William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York NY

Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin, Quill William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York NY

Simple Living: One’s Couple’s Search for a Better Life by Frank Levering and Wanda Urbanska, Viking New York NY

Your Money or Your Life by Joe Domingues and Vicki Robin Viking, New York, NY


New Road Map Foundation is an all volunteer, nonprofit organization that promotes a humane, sustainable future for our world. P.O. Box 15981, Dept. BK, Seattle, WA 98115, 206-527-5114.

Northwest Earth Institute, offers programs on the environment as well as voluntary simplicity. 921 SW Morrison, Ste. 532 Portland, OR, 97205, 503-227-2807. E-mail:

Financial Independence Network Limited, Inc. is a publishing company that markets and distributes personal finance and small business publications and programs including the Debt Free and Prosperous Living program. For more information, call 1-800-321-3465 and mention 0BTW for bonuses.

Life on Purpose provides educational material and programs on living lives of service, simple living and spiritual exploration. 1160 W. Blue Ridge Road, PO Box 834 Flat Rock, NC 28731, (704) 697-9239.


The Simple Living Journal, a quarterly newsletter that includes practical tips and the philosophy of slowing down. Editor Janet Luhrs, 2319 N 45 Street, Box 149, Seattle, WA 98103. For information call (206) 464-4800

Simple Living News, ten issues a year about “making sane choices in an insane world.” Editor Edith Flowers Kilgo, P. O. Box 1884, Jonesboro, GA 30237-1884.


The Simple Living Network, makes finding Healthy, Natural products easy on the Internet. Their site offers low priced, helpful items including books, natural foods, vitamins and supplements, and natural pet products. E-mail: WWW: or call (509)-395-2529