Shopping until you drop - Hong KongI was shopping for a new propane hose for a camp stove.  A big box hardware store was selling it for $25, and at the small local hardware store it was $40.

Both stores were about the same distance out of our way, my first thought was what a ripoff, why pay more for the exact same product?  And then I wondered if I really wanted to go to the huge warehouse megastore and feel unknown in some cold uncaring system?  In my feeling torn over where to shop the question that came to me is what is that extra $15 supporting?  Or what does our world look like when our custom(er) is to support local mom and pop shops or huge international chain megastores?

When stuff is mass produced and shipped all over the world what do we need a lot of?

Infrastructure, roads, trucks, ships, docks, cranes, warehouses, factories, mines, oil drilling rigs, workers, and police and armies to forcibly take all the land, water, and air that these industries consume.  I grew up believing this way of modernizing the world was a good thing – progress and success. I was excited by the idea of getting rich and being able to buy whatever I wanted, and get the women who seem to come with this kind of wealth.  I never asked how I would feel and I just assumed this lifestyle equals happiness.

The actor Jim Carrey said, “I hope everyone makes a lot of money and gets everything they want, and then they will realize that’s not the answer.”  When this statement comes from a famous multimillionaire celebrity who left his wife for a hot sexy actress, it gets my attention.  If money and achievement are not the answer, then what is?

Have any indigenous peoples ever voluntarily sold their land and given up their lifestyle in exchange for money?

How about for jobs?  Celebrity?  Sex? Shopping malls?  Health insurance?  Pension?  What is so fulfilling about their way of living that they refuse to sell?  What are the first things colonizers do to indigenous first nation peoples?  Usually they outlaw the native language and most rituals and ceremonies, then use shame and or threats to coerce compliance with modern dress, and demand the locals abandon their “heathen” spiritual beliefs for a civilized religion.

Dolphin Club swimmer alongside a handmade wooden support boat in SFBefore I started re-indigenizing myself this treatment of seemingly primitive and backward people was viewed as the right thing to do.  To the modern mind the ancient ceremonies are barbaric and these people needed to be liberated from their savage practices.  Also their undeveloped land is seen as a waste of space, and is driving up the cost of our housing and energy.  We are doing these people a favor by offering free “education” so they can get jobs, earn money, and buy stuff that will improve their lives.

How much is enough?

Every couple needs their own house complete with a refrigerator, stove, private dining room, washer and dryer, microwave, a TV in every room, fenced in private yards, two cars and a garage, a personal workshop and their own set of tools.  This is success and the only civilized way to live, how can anyone possibly survive let alone thrive without these modern amenities?  Of course the smart thing is to go shopping for this stuff with anonymous strangers who we don’t know and never meet, and buy from whoever charges the least amount of money.  What is this stuff made out of?  Who makes it and what is it like to work in these factories?  Can we go talk to these folks, see what their life is like, do we feel good about their employer’s practices that we are supporting?

Recreated Polynesian voyaging canoeThere are stories of Native Americans and other indigenous peoples who loathed giving up their traditional ways in exchange for factory jobs.  When I was younger I explained away these complaints by assigning blame to the awful working conditions of those early factories, and told myself our modern jobs are much more civilized and humane.  Now we have all kinds of laws against dangerous or hostile work environments, who wouldn’t want to spend a third of their life on a state of the art assembly line or in a high tech “campus” office cubicle?

I often find myself looking to the great outdoors for answers.

The more time I give to observing nature the more I wonder how these wild animals survive the four seasons?  How do they live without online shopping, grocery stores, refrigerator, freezer, and a stove?  Why do we live so different and apart from nature?  Can humans live and thrive if we lived a wild outdoor life, going native as they say?  Would it be hard, brutish, and short?

I have been chewing on the following idea for some time now:  One of the biggest and most widespread myths of modern conditioning is the belief that indigenous people have inferior immune systems and have no protection from modern diseases.  Underlying this myth is an even bigger myth and it seems to be the cornerstone to the modern belief system.  The idea that the human body is to fragile and weak to thrive on planet earth without modern human made technology.

The proof of this, I was told, is that we modern humans have a much longer life span, we live well past 70 years of age while not to long ago we were lucky to live to 35.  The story goes that the credit is due to modern food production, modern birth and health technologies, and modern gear that protects us from the harsh natural environment.

If this is true than surely any people who go wild and try to live off the land will have a short, hard life of poor health, right?  This modern way of thinking has been the most challenging for me to let go of and replace with a more empowering belief.

Every time I have the courage to try a “crazy” ancient indigenous “technology” I am amazed at how good I feel and how effective it is.

Whether it’s eating wild plants, or freshly killed meat cooked raw or not at all.  Drinking some raw fermented concoction that someone in my community made, or eating my own fermented veggies that have been sitting at room temperature for days or weeks.  Ditching my shoes and walking or running barefoot.  Bathing and washing myself in water and oils free of chemicals and toxins.  Saying no thanks to doctors and hospitals and taking responsibility for my health and well being.  “Wasting” time giving thanks and appreciation to everyone and all of life.  Sitting and meditating with and through my worries or problems.  Trusting that these scary feelings have a gift for me and the discomfort will pass and the answer lies within.

Ice Bath - Wim Hof Method Workshop in SFMy most recent challenge has been learning and practicing the power and importance of deep breathing while exposing my body to the cold – the Wim Hof Method.  What a challenge it has been, and at the same so empowering and exciting to realize I can do it.  I am beginning to experience, understand, and accept the idea that our bodies have the technology to survive and thrive in the “harsh” elements of nature.

Songs like John Lennon’s Imagine and Can’t Buy me Love mean a lot more to me now.  I thought they were naive and foolish, written by bleeding heart morons who didn’t understand economics or business.  It has been humbling to realize how little I know, and challenging to unlearn all the disconnecting and unsustainable ways of modern thought.  I also feel excited and it is exhilarating to feel the power we all have within us.  I am reminded of superheroes or Jedi Knights in that seemingly superhuman ability is available to us all.  It can not be bought nor taken away from us, which is good news, and it seems we can take this inner wealth with us.

Rereading this article it seems to wander and change and I am tempted to try and “fix” it with some kind of straight line path or order.  The more I embrace the ancient ways the more comfortable I am with trusting that whatever comes to me or flows through me is the way life is “supposed” to be.  Just go with it, and enjoy the ride.  I am not sure how this fits into a modern culture where everything is uniform, processed, and packaged, especially since I have yet to see this in nature.  Nature has been making the world go round for billions of years, it seems to me that any “technology” that has been at work for that long is pretty reliable.  Maybe it is time we unplug and go outside and give some time to asking what kind of world are we trying to create, and is it working?