I don't know why the crayons bothered me so much. It wasn't the first time I'd realized she had too much stuff, but then it's easy to rationalize the other things, like clothes: she gets dirty often and she grows fast–90th percentile for her height and her weight according some weird standard that I'm convinced exists because parents are desperate for a way to measure their kids' progress and receive logical validation that they're doing everything right.
But fifty crayons? That's enough for fifty kids! It's just too much. She's already influenced by the excessiveness and overabundance that surrounds her every day. Why would I want to teach her that it's okay to have more than she needs all the time by allowing her to always have more than she needs? She doesn't even know what to do with fifty crayons!
So I took them away, all but ten or so, several of which were broken–I couldn't help but think about how some kids would be overjoyed to have even a tiny broken piece of just one crayon, let alone ten.
Going too far in the other direction–to the other extreme–isn't good either. It's a balancing act. She didn't cry when I took them away. I don't think she even noticed. She's still young and doesn't yet understand the concept of enough or not enough. That's my job, to guide her to a healthy understanding that being grateful for what you have is more important than figuring out what's enough.
Beginning on the New Moon of December 13th, 2012 and going through until the Full Moon of December 28th, 2012, I'm donating $100 every day to a different non-profit organization whose mission contributes to the welfare of humanity and to the preservation of our planet, without which the beauty of the moon would go unwitnessed.
Lunar Transformation Donations
December 13th, 2012
$100 donated to BlinkNow.org (Kopila Valley Home and School) "To create a self-sustainable living community for destitute children that provides their most basic needs and also contributes to post-war recovery and peace in the nation of Nepal."
December 14th, 2012
$100 donated to Charity: Water "90% of the 30,000 deaths that occur every week from unsafe water and unhygienic living conditions are children under five years old. Many of these diseases are preventable. The WHO reports that over 3.6% of the global disease burden can be prevented simply by improving water supply, sanitation, and hygiene."
December 15th, 2012
$100 donated to Alternative House "The mission of Alternative House is to facilitate the creation of a society in which violence against women will no longer exist."
December 16th, 2012
$100 donated to The Philippine Community Fund "Our goal is to permanently improve the quality of life for the poorest of the poor Filipino families who deserve a better chance."
December 17th, 2012
$100 donated to Skyla Knight Benefit Fund "Skyla was diagnoised with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma at the age of 15 months, she has been in treatments since then and she just turned 3 years old. She is now starting MIBG therapy."
December 18th, 2012
$100 donated to Adventure for Good "Using Adventure for Good in the favelas of Brazil to build the first-ever climbing wall for a marginalized community. Youth in these underprivileged communities are faced with an array of difficulties and negative influences like drugs, violence and gang life. Climbing can offer these youth a positive alternative to their daily struggles and the construction of a modern climbing wall will provide them with this opportunity."
December 19th, 2012
$100 donated to Nepal FREED "Make[ing] education more accessible for the children of Nepal [...], maintaining a learning environment where traditional Nepalese cultural values can flourish [... and], aid[ing] the local health post in widening the scope of its care."
December 20th, 2012
$100 donated to the Appalachian Mountain Club "Promoting the protection, enjoyment, and understanding of the mountains, forests, waters, and trails of the Appalachian region."
December 21st, 2012
$100 donated to the The Umbrella Foundation "Seeking to relieve the impact of poverty and war on the children of Nepal through projects which promote education, vocational training, and community enrichment, so that they may grow up to become responsible, contributing citizens of Nepal."
December 22nd, 2012
$100 donated to the The Street Culture Project "Mentoring and supporting under-serviced youth. Using social entrepreneurialism and positive adult role models, we connect with youth to help them work through changing their lives."
December 23rd, 2012
$100 donated to the World Wildlife Fund "building a future in which people live in harmony with nature"
December 24th, 2012
$100 donated to Anna Kham's Orphanage "giving orphaned children a home"
December 25th, 2012
$100 donated to Pencils of Promise "supporting a world with greater educational opportunity for all"
December 27th, 2012
$100 donated to Food for Life "bringing about peace and prosperity in the world through the liberal distribution of pure plant-based meals prepared with loving intention; serving more than 1.5 million plant-based meals daily"
December 28th, 2012
$100 donated to Haiti Outreach "To collaborate with the people of Haiti to build and maintain community-initiated projects that advance their development."
My initial intention was to donate $1,000 to Maggie Doyne's Kopila Valley Home for orphaned children and Kopila Valley Primary School in Nepal. I learned about Maggie and her work more than a year ago and I've been wanting to help support what she's doing ever since.
When my friend Matt Maderio put together a fundraiser for his 25th birthday to raise $25,000 so that the Kopila Valley Primary School could purchase a school bus and shorten the multi-hour foot commute that so many students were taking to class each day, I was inspired yet again.
As I prepared to make the $1,000 donation, I unexpectedly found myself asking why I was donating to just this one organization. Why not to some other organization? I realized that it was Maggie's story that inspired me, her passion and her commitment to making a difference in the lives of others.
But Maggie's isn't the only organization that's making a big difference in the world. There are many other organizations doing good for humanity and for the planet and for causes that I'm equally as committed to helping.
So instead of just donating one large sum of money to one organization, I've decided that I will make several smaller donations to various organizations that are doing positive things and working toward causes that I believe in.
Maggie Doyne and Matt Maderio helped inspire this idea, so Maggie's orphanage and school will be the first to receive $100. I will update the list at the top of this page every day for the next sixteen days as I choose organizations and make donations. The photo of the moon will also change to reflect the current phase.
If you know a reputable non-profit organization that is doing good, please share the organization's name in the comments below.
Why am I doing this?
This is not a race. It's not a competition. I'm not looking for any attention. I'm writing about what I'm doing here so that I can share my journey, but I'm donating because I feel a planetary social responsibility.
I'm doing this because I want to give back and because I recognize that I will always have more than I need, because no matter how much I give today there will always be more waiting for me somewhere down the road.
Everything you give without expectation the universe returns to you without hesitation.
The intention behind the donation is what matters, not how much is being given. It's the act of giving without the expectation of reward that's important. Any amount is worth giving when it's given without strings attached.
I'm not rich, but I am privileged.
As of this writing, I have a $960 US dollars in my bank account. I have about twice that in savings. I'm not rich by American standards. In fact, I'm poor by American standards. But I don't feel poor. I feel privileged.
I am lucky. I am a privileged member of Earth's society, a member of the top fifteen-percent of humans who can afford to eat three meals a day. I feel a sense of responsibility to contribute to the welfare of our human family and the preservation of our home.
Why the lunar transformation?
This was all very spontaneous. It happened over the course of a few minutes. I went from being prepared to make a $1,000 donation to a single organization to deciding that I was going to make several smaller donations spread out over several days.
When I looked at my calendar and noticed that it was a New Moon, I thought that making a donation for each day of the moon's transformation into a Full Moon would be a fun way of doing it.
In all areas of our life, we should be seeking ways to simplify. Simplicity, as Leonardo Da Vinci said, is the ultimate sophistication. When we simplify, we recognize what is non-essential and remove it, leaving behind only what is essential.
The act of simplifying is not easy, but it yields incredible power. When things are simple, we are not distracted by the non-essential. There is nothing getting in the way of what we're trying to achieve. This distraction-free environment empowers us to think and grow toward our goals more quickly, to feel clarity and ease where before there was always a subtle, seemingly unidentifiable resistance.
When we experience something powerfully simple, it's usually not obvious what makes it so powerful. Simple things exude a quiet confidence that seems to ooze from some distant magical world, giving it unexpected strength.
Think about the various famous quotes you've heard repeated over and over: "Be the change you wish to see in the world", "Love conquers all" "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." All of these exemplify simplicity because the non-essential has been removed. The statements have been reduced to clear, universal truths that we can all identify with.
Simplifying requires clear understanding of purpose. If the purpose is clear, the non-essential becomes obvious and can be removed. If the purpose is ambiguous or unclear, the non-essential mixes with the essential and a pool of chaotic confusion is created.
If I wanted to express that health is very important, more important than say money or treasures or fame or status, I could achieve that by saying, "there are lots of things in the world that are valuable but in the end it's health that is the most valuable."
However, if I identify the purpose of what I'm trying to say — that is to express that health is the most valuable thing — I can remove all the non-essential and arrive at the statement, "health is wealth". So simple, yet so powerful! All of the non-essential has been removed and what remains is a vehicle for fulfilling the purpose of the statement.
In all simple things you will discover this removal of the non-essential, this cutting to the core of what is intended. In powerful writing and communication you will see less ambiguity and more certainty. 'I think there's something powerful about simplicity' becomes 'simplicity is powerful'. 'I think you're very pretty' becomes 'you're beautiful'.
I arrived at my current website layout after thousands of iterations over the past ten years. I'm constantly seeking to remove the non-essential by clarifying the purpose of the website, which is to present my writing online and allow others to share the writing and leave comments.
I'll never be 'done' simplifying because the quest for simplicity evolves alongside the one universal constant in the universe: change.
In the emails that my subscribers receive, I'm constantly searching for ways to simplify. If you compare this Journal email to that of a previous one, you'll find that the footer and signature content have been greatly simplified. When I recognized that the singular purpose of these emails was to share newly published writing, it became obvious that providing lots of links to send people to various social media platforms was non-essential.
Again, removing the non-essential by identifying the ultimate purpose of a thing.
When I decided to make a lifestyle transition in 2010, I began by identifying my long-term lifestyle goal and revising it until it was crystal clear: to travel the world with all my possessions on my back. That clarity instantly identified the non-essential things in my life: my own apartment, a pickup truck, a snowboard, a mountain bike, extra clothes, extra shoes, extra bags, a big digital camera… the list goes on.
With all that non-essential removed, my life feels far more simple than it did before, but it also feels more sophisticated and full of potential. A simple lifestyle does not need to be primitive.
Remember, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication and identifying and removing the non-essential from your life will increase your ability to achieve your goals and free you to experience more of life.
What is your ultimate purpose? If that's too big a question, then what's your primary goal right now? What exactly are you working toward? Meditate on that for a few moments. Zero in on it. When you feel clarity, ask yourself what non-essential things surround that goal. What's getting in the way? What's not necessary?
Seek ways to simplify by clarifying purpose and identifying and removing the non-essential.
Have you ever seen a baby get excited about a new toy and then almost immediately turn around and hold it up with bright eyes and a big smile, pleading with you to share in the excitement? The baby has no expectations, only a desire to share.
When we share without expectation, we're sharing love. When we create without expectation, we're creating with love. But if we put a condition on sharing the things that we create -- I'll share this if you give me that -- then we disconnect from the ultimate reason that we possess the power to create: to share love.
That doesn't mean we can't receive something in return for what we create. Receiving in return for creating isn't the same as creating with the intention of receiving. The latter is based in scarcity, the former in abundance.
Like the baby pleading to share in the joy of discovery, we instinctively want to share what we love. When we do something because we love it, the act of doing it becomes enough. When we create with the intention of sharing, everything we receive in return becomes a gift.
Life is not an ever-growing collection of successes and failures. It's not a bag of decisions, opinions, mistakes, or mishaps, or a rucksack full of bricks that you're condemned to drag through the sludges of time.
Life is more like the stroke of a paintbrush, emptying itself of all that clings to it and refining its precision with the passage of time. It's the vessel that exists to hold water, effortlessly releasing its contents to the next destination.
It's important to remember that not every destination can be reached by a well-paved path: some destinations require taking flight. When it's time to fly you just can't fill a giant bag with everything in your life and expect that plane to soar.
If where you're going is important, decide what really matters and take responsibility for your freedom. Hold tight to everything and everyone that will support your voyage and let go of everything else. Embrace your essence and when there is doubt let love lighten your load: a life painted in love outweighs a voyage completed unprepared.
If you don't let go, you cannot receive. To receive, you must first give what you have. You must release everything you're holding onto and allow that space to be replaced with the present. All that you need is right here. Everything that feels missing is just waiting for a place to go, a space to occupy, a home to hold it. Empty yourself. Let go.
Being original isn't about creating something unique. It's not about saying or doing or thinking something that nobody else has said, done, or thought of doing.
Creating from a place of originality means creating from a place where all thoughts, ideas, and dreams originate. It's a realm we all share, a realm where exclusivity and favoritism do not exist, where you and me can be original while doing, thinking, and saying the exact same thing.
All great leaders, thinkers, and writers who have shaped history; all great philosophers, inventors, and revolutionaries who have faced the impossible and changed reality, all of them learned how to strip away everything and tap into this source of unlimited potential.
There is no competition. There is no you verses them. When you create from a place of pure love and creativity, a place without fear or competition, without self-doubt or limitation, a place void of ego and selfishness, then you will create work that is original.
"What if I had a clone? What if my clone wasn't complete and he needed some kind of information that would help him better understand who it means to be me?"
It was an odd thought, but I went with it anyway. I was sitting in an office, peering into the darkness that enveloped the city of Boston. The shapes of buildings were outlined with tiny lights and red, green, and white colors flowed on the streets below.
"What would I tell a clone to help him better understand me?" I began jotting down specific points that came to mind and stopped when I reached thirty-three.
"Was this me? Did this list convey the essence of what it's like to live in my head?"
Over the course of the next few days, I went back to that list and spent time pondering each point. I jotted down stories, described examples, and otherwise tried to define what each thing meant to me.
Now I'm sharing that list here with you in the hopes that you will glean something useful from it. Continue reading →
Last week my nephew celebrated his first birthday and over the weekend I attended two birthday parties for him. I watched as he opened numerous presents and found himself surrounded with more toys than he could possibly know what to do with.
He played with each toy for a few moments until he seemed to become so overwhelmed by everything around him that he reached up for his mother (my sister) with open arms. The abundance was too much. He just wanted simplicity.
It was easier to return to the familiar comfort of his mothers' arms than it was to indulge in the excess of toys surrounding him.
I realized that like my nephew being surrounded with toys, we often surround ourselves with more than we know what to do with and, as a result, we become physically and psychologically overloaded.
Stress, feelings of isolation, boredom, a missing sense of purpose and direction, confusion, self-doubt, a lack of enthusiasm -- all of these are evidence of living with more than we can handle. Continue reading →
Many people had told me that taking an airplane would be safer and on several occasions I found myself wondering if I should've listened to them. The eight hour ride on a tourist bus between Pokhara and Kathmandu wasn't the most comfortable, but that's what I get for spending $5 to take me more than 280km (170+ miles) over mountains where the roads were littered with evidence of total failure.
As I gazed out the window and watched the landscape change from city to mountainous countryside and then back to city, I couldn't help but feel saddened by how enthusiastically the cities seem to grow. So much pollution, waste, and destruction follow in their path leaving the Earth malformed, blackened, and bare.
It's the monsoon season here in Nepal and the rivers are raging. Small streams of water trickle down everywhere from the green mountains. The locals often cut the bottoms off old plastic bottles and use them as funnels to create small water spouts. More commonly though, they use flat stones or pieces of bamboo sliced in half to create channels that direct the trickling streams into neat little picturesque waterfalls. Continue reading →
Every time I have heard the response to what someone would do given a billion dollars, the answer always includes doing something that would change the world.
People are genuinely good at heart. Everybody wants to make the world a better place; everybody wants to help. Why then is there so much poverty and suffering in the world?
The answer, I believe, lies in our mindset towards life -- the established set of attitudes that we hold towards living, working, and existing. Such a mindset is not easy to change on a large scale, especially given that living standards generally remain the same, or improve, from one generation the next.
Most of us live in a bubble. We don't see the full picture of what's going on in the world. OK, we at least have an idea. We read news stories and blog posts, see pictures, and even watch videos. We have a general idea of what it's like out there. We know the world isn't all smiles and love. Continue reading →
I read somewhere recently that bloggers should be transparent to ensure authenticity. It made me think about my own writing and question whether or not I was being fully transparent with you, my readers.
I wondered, what does it mean for me to be more transparent? Since I'm traveling, does it mean writing about the little things that I generally avoiding talking about? Does it mean sharing my thoughts more often?
Perhaps I could write about my worries of running out of money or the several cases of mild travelers diarrhea that have started to get annoying. I could write about how I sometimes feel guilty for spending too much time in high-end cafes, enjoying the air conditioning and delicious coffee when I should be outside exploring the small local shops. (In my defense, it was a safe place to work on my laptop.)
What about writing how I felt for ignoring the handicapped guy with no legs who extended his hand and asked for money while I was in the beach town of Gokarna? If I help him, I thought, why shouldn't I help all of them? How do I choose who receives help? Continue reading →