Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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The sandy beach was sunlit and appealing as we stepped ashore. We had all been on a picnic party out to the island that had become a bit too rowdy for some of us. We left our jolly drinking friends to make their own way back, since they had become argumentative and feisty in a rude way. We could see that they had more than enough rum left to bring the evening to some kind of roaring conclusion, but we had roared quite enough with the crowd. They were always the same. We rowed the short distance back to mainland and felt the peace descend gently just as the sun sunk lower on the horizon, reflecting in the water.
I like to watch the sun go down from those dunes when the summer is starting to warm up. The sailing and kayaking pick up as weather permits. The bay becomes crowded with vessels, visitors, pretenders, and kings. The cottages are rented or opened for the just summer by those who can afford multiple dwellings. The visitors employ plenty of staff in the kitchens, gardens and drawing rooms. There are chauffeurs and butlers hanging out at the tavern in town late at night telling all the stories of their households to the other servants.
No secret lasted long, and no juicy gossip traveled on unembellished. Stories of wild lavish parties, intrigue and financial ruin were the daily bread of this summer society. They did not separate themselves from city life to be out of touch with all the news. They savored the tales of family strife or business struggles with relish. We enjoy a week at the cottage my aunt lends to us every year at this time. We do go to a few parties, like the picnic today, but we don’t really come for the social life. We like the beach when it is empty. Our pleasures are simple and all our needs are easily met. We pull our green rowboat out of the water and lift it over our heads to carry it back to the boathouse. The day is complete.
I have started to read about the Danish version of minimalism known as hygge. I purchased a few books on sale and have started to read Hygge: A Danish Concept of Cozy Simple Living, by Noah Neilsen. This simple but elegant lifestyle is core value centered as opposed to consumer centric. Keeping a mindful ritualistic pace as well as a clean clear space leads to happiness and contentment with life. This Danish version of minimalism is more multi dimensional than the similar Spark Joy book about tidying up, Japanese style. I believe the lessons and the system proposed by Marie Kondo in her joy through tidying books, but I have not yet managed to follow through with the whole system. Her books have guided me to vastly improve my tidying and set a long term goal of carrying out the system from the first step to the last. She has outlined what I know will be the final solution to clutter in the space and on the schedule.
I am successful at keeping my time to myself and my schedule light and easy to accomplish. I begin early on most chores, like filing taxes. I have certain ritualistic practices at the end of the year designed to make the first of the next year run smoothly. I clear my desk and clean out my files. There is always a pile of paper I can use for starting first in my wood stove. I keep an IRS pertinent file which I carefully fill for my trip to the accountant. I file as soon as possible in order to experience the great feeling of relief from having finished it. I never let it slide because the reward is to be basically finished with the year in taxes until my property taxes are due in November. That is a wonderful vacation from concern. I don’t make resolutions. I work for an early tax return in order to liberate myself from that drudgery for an extended period.
I like the elements of Hygge that go beyond cleaning and clearing clutter. Meditation, simple hospitality, and artistic self expression are part of the Danish happiness template. Dedicating time to pleasurable shareable activities is stressed over using time to consume things. A monk like attention to the meditative qualities of daily work and life creates a person who is fully present. Yoga is designed to train the mind to focus in spite of distractions. There are other practical ways to unplug from the constant clammer of commercial interests to be closer to nature and to friends and family. Any chore can become a source of pride and contentment. The satisfaction in doing little things adds up to a content way of living.
I practice a few rituals upon which I can build my hygge. My gym time, followed by steam room is a part of my life that reward me directly and over time. I also exercise at home in my community hot tub. Few others use it, so I virtually always have the pool deck to myself for a morning or evening stretch and relax in the water. In summer I enjoy using the big pool as well. This lifts my spirits and keeps me flexible. I incubate ideas, but do not allow any worry or distress to enter my work out time. The movement is a remedy which needs to be applied in a pure state. The steam room and personal grooming time that follows the gym time is part of my daily ritual that makes me feel good as well as look a little better. I leave refreshed, relaxed, and ready to face any task. The gym love is probably my strongest positive practice.
I believe the key to happiness is to find contentment in every moment, the face of God wherever one looks. In 2017 I plan to hone and perfect some rituals I love, as well as find some new helpful ways to be present and find joy. I believe that less is more and that simple pleasures are always abundantly available. Here are some examples I find very pleasurable:
The Danes are some of the happiest people on earth. I had heard that this was because they have low expectations. Now that I am intrigued by the hygge concept I see that they have very high expectations for presence, for authenticity, and for intimacy. I have a couple of other books to read on the subject, but I have already embraced this idea. I believe that coziness and simple abundance are much overlooked sourced of fulfillment in our society. It is no wonder these Danish writers are all the rage now. We need a big dose of it in the United States. How is your own hygge situation, gentle reader? Can you think of ways to leave bad habits in the dust by taking up purposeful happiness?
Chris Brogan was my first teacher of social media by way of his books. He is very smart in my opinion, and constantly evolves. One of his practices for which he is now very well known is finding three words to inspire at the first of every year. To replace resolutions, the words are meant to inspire and represent goals. On January 1 Chris will drop his words, as is his custom, for the eleventh year in a row. Well done, Brother Brogan. I know I am not the only one who appreciates your leadership in this exercise. Three is plenty if they are kept alive daily for an entire year. That is the idea of having only a few….. no excuse not to work on them. I am looking forward to a happy and fun 2016. My words are:
I plan to combine forces with a wonderful woman I met in Phoenix by chance. She makes the best artisanal sauerkraut I have ever tasted. The Garden Goddess was planning to expand her distribution to Pima County, where I live, when we met. There are some logistical issues to work out, but we are looking at an arrangement that is extremely simplistic and independent. I am very interested in the teaching part of the concept because I have become a fermented foods crusader and believer. I am reading books and experimenting like a mad scientist in my own kitchen as well as eating Suzette’s kraut daily. This is a very exciting adventure for me. I know most people might not be so turned on about teaching others to make their own sauerkraut, but I feel a complete sense of mission to teach the world to ferment raw food and feel so much better. Fermented foods themselves are a simple, independent adventure you can enjoy at home. It is an explosive and exciting new hobby/passion I look forward to cultivating in 2016.
I am a hedonist. This archetype is a prominent part of my persona. I don’t mind being considered to be a Sybarite. I think I might inspire some people to experiment with allowing a little bit more pleasure into life when they see it does not seem to do me any harm. Art, taste, harmony of elements are all of great importance to me. Often it is much better for me to go to a museum alone because I normally want to stay at least twice as long as most others. I also adore very long, lingering dining experiences that are memorable because of the good company and good cheer. My good friend and fellow hedonist Eric Ellenberg and I once went to the restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center for lunch (long before 9-11). The food and the view were grand. We stayed for hours and I remember it vividly. I have always been happy we went because now we could not if we tried. Most full on pleasurable experiences can’t be repeated. The synchronicity of the moment and all its glory comprise the ecstasy we feel, but that does not mean we should not plan and create pleasurable times. Authenticity is the main ingredient of truly memorable fun times. Holiday excess and obligation often conflict with inner peace and joy. Here are some ways to be festive without breaking the bank or cramming the schedule full of stressful events:
This season many Americans go into deeper debt. From now until next year we will be bombarded with advertising designed to drive the economy. This year you can avoid buyer’s remorse and debt by lighting your own way through the cold winter’s night. Be particular instead of excessive. Use discernment to create gifts and experiences that show how much you appreciate individual taste. I wish all the Gentle Readers good health and financial freedom this winter. Stay solvent, my friends. It is much more festive in the long run.