The 5 truths I recently learned from living small and thinking big

During my recent travels here in the U.S, I  had the opportunity to live small and think big. My temporary home was a small off-the grid trailer. Having limited belongings to distract me,  I was able to gain quite a bit of mental clarity during this experiential endeavor. I gained some wisdom that I’d like to share with those of you interested in receiving it.

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Warning: graphic images are in the content of this post.

1. ” We can never live in harmony with each other unless we can first live in harmony with nature, which shockingly includes plants and animals.” 

I recently visited a place where I witnessed vegetables being polished. They were radiant, healthy and delicious to eat. It was the kind of food that you didn’t know existed on Earth. I felt like the grocery store tomato that I had previously known needed to be renamed. It seemed unfair to use the same word to describe such a different experience with food. It was clear that time, energy and love were put into producing these beautiful food items. There was a loving energy surrounding the people that tended to these crops, but a few hundred feet away a very different story emerged. This story included a depressed, sickly and underweight dog and a bunch of diseased and dying chickens living in filth.

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This is the opposite of living in harmony with nature. I am skeptical of anyone who tells me that I can expect to be treated with dignity and respect by a human who doesn’t see the value in caring for any innocent creature that doesn’t have a voice of its own. An eggplant is not more important than a dog or a cow or a chicken. All of these animals are just as alive as the food that is grown from this precious Earth, each with its purpose and role as a part of a greater ecosystem.  In my personal opinion, undermining the value of the animals that tend to and protect our land is the opposite of sustainability. In this new year, I  invite you to bring a new level of mindfulness into your life. Many of us have pets in our homes. We will say that we are not advocates of animal abuse and that we will protect our pets at any cost, yet we purchase our eggs from places like that which I describe above. We use body care products daily that are tested on animals, packaged in bottles that can’t be recycled, yet we choose not to know the impact of these chemicals on our water systems and our land where we grow our food, raise our children and where our cattle graze. We get upset when we take a hike in nature and see a piece of trash in a stream, yet on a daily basis we don’t connect the dots of our own footprints of abuse, which are often chronic and deeply hidden in our lifestyles.  The good news is that I am hopeful that most of us will do what is good and right given the knowledge and the opportunity to be empowered. I challenge you to start connecting your own dots, to keep asking why and where until your questions are answered and your own hypocrisies have been revealed and released.

2. “Actions are more important than words.”

It’s easy to speak pretty words. The exchange of pretty words can literally cause chemical reactions to occur in our brains that make us feel loved and at ease in a moments time. Words are most beautiful when they are backed by actions. Backed by actions, words can be the ultimate foundation for growing trust, respect and loyalty, which have the capacity to blossom into love and love is a beautiful thing. Yet, it is easy to be confused by beautiful words in the absence of action to support them. It will take you a moment or in my case a year, to remove the veil and realize that words are just words unless they are backed by actions. The abundance of all of the  delightful feelings listed above start to dwindle and sap our energy when words and actions start quickly traveling down opposite paths. If you see this happening, remove the veil and move on from these relationships. Words as words are a waste of energy and time.

3. “What is right is right, even if no one is doing, what is wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.”

First, we should define what it means to do the right thing. What is right, is what is respectful and honest. Doing what is right is not always comfortable, fun, or rewarding to anyone except for ones conscience. Doing what is right can be lonely, sad, and empowering all at the same time. Doing the right thing allows you to sleep at night. Doing what is right, will almost certainly eliminate what is wrong and will guide you to your ultimate truth, even if that means it’s just you and your truth on that journey. Previously, I always thought that everyone wanted to reach their truth, to get to the core of ones wisdom, leading to clarity, mental and physical wellness, and joy. In my travels I have realized that some people do want to reach their truth and there are others who will eventually do what is right, but will do so only after repeatedly doing what is wrong becomes unbearable.  I’ve realized that there are other humans, that might be good and well in their intentions on the surface, but when they are ultimately challenged to make honest, loyal decisions, they will be the first to encourage you to continue to do the right thing, but on a personal level they are ashamed to do what is right, so they default to doing what is wrong. This particular scenario is the most painfully shocking to witness. To see a person full of right, committing wrong, out of fear and pressure to conform truly breaks my heart. In this new year, I hope you can take the time to re-assess your values and your dedication to being true to yourself.

4. ” This is what I know, so this must be the only way.”

This truth is slightly different from what I describe above in bullet number 3, because in this particular circumstance, what is right and wrong is most likely buried in belief or assumption.  In this situation, we are all lemmings, blindly following each other off of the cliff. For example, yesterday I walked to the dumpster in my friend’s apartment complex. When I arrived, there were many bags of trash outside of the dumpster. Now, it would be easy to assume that the dumpster was full, right? Why else would people place trash outside of an empty dumpster? This would defeat the purpose of a dumpster in the first place. I could have placed my trash outside the dumpster as well, but instead I opened the dumpster to find that it was almost empty. One person had put their trash outside, only to cause a cascade effect of people that weren’t willing to look even slightly below the surface. I think most of us engage in mindless following more than we would like to admit. My next example, again involves the treatment of animals within the culture of farming, as I deeply feel it is a culture that needs to be exposed, unlearned and offered healing.

I recently had the opportunity to travel to a farm. There seems to be this mentally that creeps up within the culture of farming, particularly in the mid-west and west, that believes that animals are simply around for profit, not to love, or treat kindly. The mentality is that every animal that lives on a farm can “fend for itself”. The trouble with this mentality is that farm animals are not wild animals. As humans, we chose to begin the process of domesticating these animals thousands of years ago. For example, the domestic dog, is not the wolf and when we take on the responsibility of having a dog in any capacity, we must protect, guide and care for that dog’s emotional and physical well-being. It seems strange and quite bold that we would expect a dog, steer or a chicken to provide us delicious meat, eggs or protection in the name of neglect. It always baffles my mind that people can’t see the full picture and understand that by investing in the mental and physical well-being of your farm animals, you will be saving tons of time, money and frustration in the future. Also, bonding with these animals whether a chicken, dog or steer, will create a foundation of trust, decreasing stress and increasing the ease of working together for both parties involved. As humans, it is our duty to have kind and respectful interactions with all living creatures, regardless of if that creature will eventually land on our plate as dinner. Neglectful and abusive actions such as yelling at animals and failing to provide sanitary living conditions resulting in disease or death is unacceptable. We must also remember that neglect is a form of abuse. If your chicken dies because you beat it to death, it is no different than if it dies because you allowed it to suffer in unsanitary conditions. The end result is death. If you can’t provide the financial, emotional and physical support to your animals, then you have no business having animals. An animal that provides food, protection or companionship, should do so as a result of our respect toward that animal. When I spoke with the farmers in this area about my concerns for the welfare of their farm animals, I was told that what I was seeing was the norm. I was told that farming was an abusive line of work for the humans and animals involved. I challenge this view and I challenge these farmers to seek out the opposite. While there is certainly a prevalent culture of abuse in farming and in rural communities in general here in the U.S, I know there are many farmers who embrace a delicate, loving approach to tending to the land. I challenge you to seek out the opposite of these negative stereotypes. You might uncover a new and beautiful truth.

5. “If we omit self-care, our actions will never be sustainable.”

You might be asking yourself, “what is self-care?” Self-care is a practice of nurturing and loving ones self by simply becoming more attuned to meeting ones basic needs (nutrition, sleep, exercise). These are the basic needs that sustain us in life. These basic needs are often compromised or completely neglected in today’s world. In fact, neglecting self-care practices may be the norm. Self-care allows us to create a strong foundation to live a healthy life where we exit survival mode and  can fully participate in the process of meeting our basic needs in order to serve ourselves, thus the people we love. When we practice self-care, we gain mental clarity and physical strength. We begin to fully thrive instead of survive. When our minds and bodies are cluttered with toxic thoughts or chemicals, it is impossible for us to be advocates for the well-being of our fellow humans, animals and the environment. Our society has taught us, especially as women, that the needs of our children come before our own. While we all have busy days and moments, it is important that this way of being doesn’t become habitual. We often neglect feeding ourselves or even the act of elimination because we have been taught that it is selfish to make sure our needs have been met.  This is not a sustainable practice and this mentality needs to shift. Constantly ignoring self-care practices as basic as elimination, eating and sleeping can lead to chronic and irreversible health conditions. If we want to be healthy and strong for a long time for our animals, children and family, we must take care of ourselves first. This is not selfish, it is selfless, sustainable and a powerful model to teach sustainability to future generations. Furthermore, if our basic needs aren’t met, we will have very little attention left to give to our Earth and our Earth is desperately calling for our assistance.

May we all invite truth, compassion and wisdom in our lives in the new year. May we continue to think big collectively for the betterment of Earth, our home that sustains us and all that we love.

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The 5 things I learned from running a crowdfunding campaign!

I woke up this morning feeling inspired to sit down and reflect upon my “Tiny Living, Big Thinking” crowdfunding campaign. It has been about a month since the campaign has ended and since that time I have had the opportunity to gather my thoughts. I’d like to take a moment to share what I have learned throughout the duration of this project.

1. Don’t let someone else define success for you.

If you haven’t met someone else’s definition of success, does that mean that you have failed? What is failure anyway? Who defines failure for us? The truth is, you don’t know unless you try and while you are trying, you get to be in charge of creating your own definition of  your personal successes and failures. I spent months researching and preparing to launch this campaign with a supportive and talented campaign team. I put my all into this project knowing that my goals might not manifest as acutely as I had hoped. I was a sheer optimist.  I raised $1,208, which was just about 2% of my goal. I spent many hours researching crowdfunding platforms, setting up my campaign page, networking, sharing my story, and beginning the process of education, because I knew that education would be a key player in setting a strong foundation for myself and other people considering the value of the tiny house movement now and in the future. In my personal opinion, I succeeded. My campaign was featured in news articles, a radio show, and I was supported by tiny house enthusiasts and leaders from all over the country. My campaign page had 1,996 visits from 30 different countries. Contributions came in from strangers from all parts of the globe. My “Tiny Living, Big Thinking” facebook page is still gathering momentum and new people are liking my page daily! I have met life long friends, mentors and supporters! I even had the opportunity to live in a tiny home on wheels for two weeks during my campaign! These opportunities were all by-products of following my heart and setting my own definition of success. I would have failed had I not endeavored to succeed.

2. There are good people in this world. 

People want to help. People want to support good causes. Allow people to help you. For many of us, including myself, asking for help can be challenging, but when we can open ourselves up to the idea of working together, we see that assistance creates momentum, we save time,  strong bonds are formed and we build community. It’s true,  people believe in you just like you believe in others.

3. Slowly and Slowly. 

Life is not about speeding to the finish line. It is important to pause in our daily lives, to be present so we can enjoy life now. When we stop in the now, we have the opportunity to gain so much clarity and wisdom as to our potential to create meaningful tomorrows. When we are moving full steam ahead we miss all the subtle messages and wisdom that our environment and the people around us are trying to share with us. By definition, a movement, is the act or process of moving. Whether movement is occurring externally in our bodies or internally in our thoughts, it can take time. Education precedes movement. So be patient with your dreams. Don’t be so hard on yourself. More is happening in those moments of stillness than you could possibly imagine.

4. You don’t know what you don’t know. 

It is ok that you don’t know everything, even in today’s world where most of us have google search within reach 24 hours a day . You have to start somewhere. Stay open to receive new knowledge and allow others to help you fill in the blanks. I had several supporters gently show me where I could have improved my campaign and where I was spot on. We need others to give us perspective and to guide us, so that we can begin to know what we once didn’t know. When we open ourselves up to receive the insights of others, we embark on a journey of trusting, questioning and reevaluating our truth to allow our creativity the capacity to manifest in the greatest possible way.

5. Be kind to people, you never know how they might be of service to you in the future.

Life really does come full circle. Some of my most amazing supporters were people who I knew as a child. We may not have had many interactions in our childhood days, but enough for us to reflect and remember that we treated each other well. One childhood acquaintance supported me wholeheartedly throughout the duration of the campaign. Her consistency and loyalty to my personal project was truly humbling and I will be forever grateful.

So, what is next for me and my tiny house project?

As I mentioned,  the funds gathered from my campaign aren’t enough to start the build of my home,  so I will use these funds to continue taking baby steps toward my ultimate goal. I will continue to educate myself and the people around me. I will continue to participate in tiny home workshops like the one I recently attended at the Big Tiny House Festival in Somerville, MA. It was wonderful to learn from tiny home builders, tour tiny homes and connect with other tiny home owners, lovers and supporters in the community!

There is talk of relaunching a future campaign because I feel strongly that my story (yes, it’s your story too) is  too important to go unheard. The future campaign will explore a different crowdfunding platform, using all of the amazing knowledge that I have learned from the launch of this campaign! I am deeply excited about moving forward with a new energy and perspective. I want to thank all of my friends, family and supporters for offering me unconditional love and support as I continue forward on this path!

Words from my heart

Here are a few words from my heart, and a sneak peak as to the upcoming launch of my personal project!

I’ve had people laugh at my lifestyle and consider me some kind of hippie. I’ve been called weird. People look at me strange when I tell them I feed my food scraps to worms and that they produce beautiful compost which I can use to grow my food. They are shocked that I don’t sleep in a bed and that I only have one suitcase full of belongings. I see the look of pity on their faces as they try to offer me more stuff, not considering that this way of life is a choice. The truth is that I am not some weirdo. I am a human being just like the rest of you. I am choosing to live an intentional and conscious life because I think we have lost our connection with the Earth, which means we have lost the connection to ourselves and each other. When we stop working from the root, it is impossible to create sustainable change. I can’t think of anything more sacred than the Earth that we walk on, yet we knowingly and unknowingly abuse it daily as if we are entitled to own it and destroy it in any way that we choose. 

I feel sad that my lifestyle is considered extreme. I have a comfortable place to sleep, clean clothes to wear and fresh, seasonal food to eat. I have my health, my friends and my family. I have community. I have my mind that is open and clear because it isn’t distracted with things. As of late, many strangers have expressed that they are attracted to my genuineness and they feel grateful that I have taken the time to listen to them. I also find myself shocked if people take the time to listen to me, to make eye contact, to have a meaningful conversation without a phone buzzing at their side. I feel sad that we place more value in our relationships with our phones rather than real people. I feel sad that living a life that values sustainability and health is looked at with skepticism.

I often wonder what has to happen for us to mobilize and take action to begin tending to our home, our Earth? What has to happen for us to start recycling, to stop using chemicals on our bodies and our children? What has to happen for us to believe in the power of fresh food? I’ve had conversations with educated people that argue that they don’t see the value in non-GMO food, or food that isn’t processed. This is really scary folks. 

Anyone who says that I am different and this is why I can live this way is missing the point. Anyone who says that I can live this way because I am without a child is missing the point. Anyone who says that they don’t have the time to live this kind of life is definitely missing the point. Let me give you an example. When you have a dog, or child for that matter, you realize that there is an initial investment that goes into training that being and learning the ways of that being. At first, you might be putting time into that being, which initially might present as frustration, perceived regression and discouragement. You know that if you nurture that child or animal with respect and love that it will eventually pay off, but in the beginning it is hard to see and we must consciously remind ourselves of this , especially during sleepless nights and after our favorite shirt has been destroyed. One day, we suddenly realize that we are in a beautiful symbiotic dance and we know that all of our efforts were worth it. Patience has paid off. We feel empowered and respected by this mutual understanding. From this point forward, things get exponentially easier.

I hope that in our lives we will all learn to see the value of tending the land. I hope we will ask ourselves why we are putting chemicals on our lawns so that they are “green” at the expense of harming wildlife, our children and our pets. I hope we will ask ourselves where our plastic bags filled with dog poop go after they enter our garbage cans. Have we really removed our trash or have we just moved it to a landfill that is someone else’s backyard? 

In a few weeks, I will be launching a personal project of mine that involves thinking big and living small. I have dedicated countless hours to this project, because it is the right thing to do. I want to invite all of you to do the right thing, which starts by being kind to the ground beneath your feet. Remember that there is nothing more important than being able to access fresh food and if we disrespect the ground beneath our feet, we lose the capacity to feed our bodies, our minds and our children. Without our health, we have nothing. 

Stay tuned for the launch of my “Tiny Living, Big Thinking” Campaign on Monday July 14th! Together, we can create sustainable change! The time is now!

#tinyhousetuesday #tinylivingbigthinking #tinyhouse #indiegogo #TLBT

My struggles with health and homelessness

When I was in college, I took an entire semester  course called,  “Homelessness in America”. When I lived in California, one of my closest friends was a woman who was homeless. We would meet in the mornings at a cafe and talk about her evenings on the streets of LA.  My exposure to this culture was quite humbling. You see, most of these people had lives similar to mine at some point. They had friends, families and jobs that quickly disappeared due to unforeseen circumstances, which were almost always related to losing ones health, most often a manifestation of stress indirectly or directly caused by the current housing crisis, which I explain in my campaign. Losing employment was commonly a byproduct of losing ones health. I am sure you can imagine how the rest of the story goes. Recently, I  have begun sharing my own story that involves battling near homelessness, which has caused a myriad of unsuspecting humans to open up to me about their struggles as well.

 

If you’ve been following the news over the last month, you will notice that this guy name Zack Danger on Kickstarter, has received over $61,000 in contributions to make potato salad. At one point, I think he had more backers, but some people have revoked their donations. Non-contributors were really angry at Zack and were speaking out in their personal blogs and in the media. They were questioning his integrity, values, etc. I am not one to join the masses without inquiring further, so I decided to personally write to Zack to hear from the potato salad master himself about how he had planned to use his money to serve the greater good. And let’s remember not to blame Zack. He only asked for $10. I think it’s the contributors we should be questioning.

 
He responded:

Hey Elizabeth! Thank you for your message and for your concerns! Skepticism is important and I would be in your shoes if I saw someone making 50k to make potato salad. First, I do plan to give a significant portion of the leftover money to charity. I’ll be creating a permanent fund to fight hunger and homelessness. Second, I don’t want you to feel like people are throwing money away. This is an upside down model of entertainment. Instead of charging people before entertaining them, I charged after! I think this is a fun way to spread a joke. And I like that people who can’t afford to pay still get to experience the humor. I wish you luck on your campaign! Peace, love and potato salad!

His response led me to ask many questions about the collective consumerist culture here in the United States? Do we really need more entertainment? Will we ever understand the value of using food as medicine? I responded to Zack Danger by sharing my story and my campaign link. I let him know that my “Tiny Living, Big Thinking” campaign was about hunger and homelessness. I never heard back from Zack.

Zack’s response essentially proved to me how much the world needs my campaign, but here are the staggering facts:

  1. We are 6 days into my campaign and contributions are totaling $595. Our goal is $60,000.
  2. Our campaign page has had 776 visits.
  3. We have had a mere 14 contributors.

A friend of mine came over for lunch the other day. He runs kickstarter campaigns professionally. We watched my campaign video and read my campaign content together. He explained to me that I would have trouble gathering contributions, because my call to action wasn’t soon enough for our culture that has a limited ability to pay attention and focus on any one given task. He said my expectations were too high, hoping that people would sit through a video of a few minutes in length and then read through some meaningful content. Furthermore, I wasn’t giving away anything to consume, so it wouldn’t help the “what do I get?” mentality of potential backers. I was thankful for my friend’s expert advice, but I also felt really sad. I felt sad that we have trouble giving selflessly unless we get something tangible in return. I felt sad that I am expected to cater to a nation of people who don’t have time to read anymore. I thought to myself, “this is a major problem and if we keep plowing through life at this pace, without a focus on quality, there is no way we can be in touch with our bodies and our minds, which means that many of us are closer to crossing the threshold into the cycle of homelessness than we might have previously suspected.”

My conclusion is that I am not going to change my campaign to cater to the potato salad contributors of the world. Just in case you weren’t aware, Zack’s campaign page has no video. In fact, it is just a stock photo of potato salad. He only wrote one line in his campaign which read, Basically I’m just making potato salad. I haven’t decided what kind yet.” There are still 12 days left to Zack’s campaign. As I conclude writing this post, he has accumulated $61,151 and has been backed by 6,281 people.

I challenge viewers to spend under 10 minutes to watch a video and read a story of a real person who has struggled on the verge of homelessness in pursuit of health. I think it is great that people like Zack plan to contribute to help fight hunger and homelessness, but I think that we often forget that we don’t need to search far and wide to find people who need our help. These people are our family members, friends, colleagues and mentors. I challenge people to break down stereotypes involving homelessness. I have to wonder if Zack took me seriously based on my well-written inquiry. Educated people can’t become homeless, right?