Some great articles about how to simplify by Josh Becker

I have listened to a number of interviews and talks by Josh Becker, and I am inspired! I feel happy that people like him are getting such extensive attention, even by the mass media which perpetuates consumerism!  He has a lot of practical knowledge especially around the topic of minimalism and family life. I highly recommend checking out this link which will lead you to a lot of excellent articles, including “Don’t Just De-Clutter-De-own”

Married with Roommates

“Why my wife and I choose to live in a group house”

I found this article to be inspiring and practical. For those wanting to live a more simple life, living with others in some form of community can really help.  The author does not focus on living simply, but does emphasize the benefits of sacrificing privacy and other things for the benefits of community.

Responding to the Horrific Violence by ISIS in Paris on 11-13-15

When my former husband, Robert, came across the news last night, just about an hour after the attack by ISIS in Paris yesterday, I felt a bit numb. It didn’t seem real–that multiple, almost simultaneous attacks where so many people were killed in a western European city.I encourage you to watch this teaching by Bruxy Cavey where he shares how we can non-violently and lovingly respond to ISIS. I found it comforting to revisit this at this time.

When I let my self feel the feelings, I allowed myself to cry for the victims, their families, and the perpetrators. I put myself in their shoes. After all, this could happen in our city, Fayetteville, Arkansas. My children, two former husbands, friends, acquaintances and I could potentially be those who are hostages, wounded, or killed. Or, we could be the grieving families and friends who have to deal with their loss, or the unknown possibilities of what their loved ones might be experiencing as hostages. I  can empathize with all who are closely connected to this situation.

It was only a few weeks ago that I wrote the intention that I could be so connected to Jesus, that even if I was crucified I could, like him, say “forgive them for they know not what they do.” I would add now that I would want to be like John, his beloved disciple and Mary, his mother, who were there with him as he suffered and then died. They courageously endured the pain of watching him as he endured his torture. I would want to have that kind of courage.

I believe it is more important than ever that I live ever more simply and focus on what is really important to me, and that I help others do the same.  My path is to follow the non-violent teachings of Jesus, and to increasingly deepen my practice of the spiritual practices like fasting, solitude, meditating on scripture and practicing a healing modality called the Immanuel Approach with the foundation of completely surrendering to Jesus. I want to live in community with people dedicated to living simply and encouraging each other to draw closer to God.

I yearn to, in addition to helping people downsize, simplify, and de-clutter, start a school that teaches people healthy community building skills. I believe that the more that people can live in healthy communities, the better we will be equipped to deal with the terrible challenges that are facing our world today. As we join together in unconditional love, and learn skills that can help us to do so successfully, there will be more peace in the world. As there is more peace, and people have time and energy to spread the message of peace and non-violence, there will be a growing possibility of over-coming the evil of ISIS, and the evil that comes from within ourselves at times, with good.

I hope that my words give you comfort at this difficult time. It is not easy for me to write them, but I felt compelled to share my heart. Whatever your spiritual path is–if you are committed to non-violent resolution to ISIS–I would appreciate your encouragement. And of course, if you disagree, I am willing to hear your words as long as they are civil.

I find it very encouraging when USA Today is covering a story directly related to what I am doing. Here is a quote:

“The new minimalism is a shift away from the materialistic mindset that has been pervasive in recent years. It’s quite a lifestyle change for people who once strived for more and more stuff and now want to swap the material goods for experiences.”

Read this great article here:–has-americans-tossing-out-clutter-bagful/74467756/

Simplifying your life…God’s way

This beautiful devotional sums up how to live a simple life. It is basically all about surrendering everything in our lives to God.  If you are a Jesus-follower, I think you will be profoundly inspired. If you are not, you might appreciate the fact that more and more Christians are simplifying their lives.

Chapter 2: Switching Gears and Changing Plans

I had made absolutely no plans for what I was going to do when I got to Paris because I wanted to be totally open to whatever happened. I had confidence that I could figure out how to at very least find a Youth Hostel where I could stay for a minimal amount of cash. I got a cab to the train station, thinking I would find someone to help me find a youth hostel. I carried my bulky and very heavy backpack around as I tried to find someone who spoke English.  But I could find no one who was able (or willing) to help me.

After three hours of failed attempts to find information, I decided just to forget about this unfriendly city and go visit my sister in Mannheim, Germany. Thankfully, I was able to find out how to get a train to my new destination. It seems a bit silly now, in retrospect, to have left such an interesting city without making more of an effort to find lodgings. I must have been really tired!

The train trip was long and uncomfortable. After all, I had been on a plane for the past eleven hours, and I was tired. In fact, I felt bored. This was not at all what I expected on my grand adventure. After six hours, I wearily arrived in the German city and somehow contacted my sister, Jeane. Unfortunately she was at work, waitressing in an enlisted men’s club on the American Army Base. Even though I was exhausted, I now had to sit in the noisy club listening to loud music for a few hours. When Jeane got off work and we reached her apartment, I was so relieved and overjoyed to be able to tumble into bed and rest–finally!

My sister introduced me to a few of her German friends who were willing to show me the sights in this not very exciting city. After a few days of wandering around the town and visiting with her friends, I felt restless. I was ready for something else. One of her friends suggested that I visit the Odenwald, a nearby area that was scenic and had lots of castles, rivers, and interesting sights.

“Why not?” I said. I hitchhiked (yes, I know that was pretty stupid) an average of thirteen miles a day, going from village to village. I also walked many miles, at first fascinated by the beautiful countryside and the picturesque castles, rivers, cottages and landscape. My expensive tennis shoes did not protect me from having unbearable sore feet. The youth hostels I stayed at did not yield the friendly connections I had hoped for. The scenery started seeming like it was the same. And, as a vegetarian and a person not into beer or any kind of alcohol, the food and the restaurants seemed very bland.

I was devastated. Here I had planned, saved, and looked forward to this trip for a year, and now I was experiencing two of the worst feelings I could ever imagine–boredom and let down. I yearned to find my niche and to feel alive with joy and excitement. But it wasn’t happening.

After a week of wandering in the Odenwald, I returned to my sister’s apartment and poured out my woes to her. “Something’s missing. I just don’t get that excited about traveling around this area. What should I do?”

“Why not go to India,” she said pragmatically. “Kevin (her boyfriend at the time) went there and he though it was really great. I hear that it is really exotic and cheap. Europe is Western, and that means it is pretty much the same as the United States Besides, you’ll spend a lot less money there and then you can travel longer.”

To this present day (42 years later) I still remember those words, “Go to India–it’s cheap and exotic.” I feel very grateful to Kevin that he was able to impart this information to Jeane.

At first, I felt disappointed. After all, I had been preparing for a year to travel in Europe. I had pored over the travel brochures and had great expectations of how great it would be. And in retrospect, I realize that I could have found much more interesting places in Europe than the Odenwald! But I think that God was guiding me to a powerful experience that could not have happened in Europe.

But I also felt excited about the possibilities. It was not an easy decision for me to completely change my plans, but soon I made up my mind to go to India. “How do I get to India,” I asked Jeane. Her words were simple and easily remembered, even though I was about to travel thousands of miles in completely unknown territory.  “Take the Orient Express to Istanbul, and take the “Freak Bus” to Afghanistan. You’ll figure out how to get to India once you get to Afghanistan.” 

“What is a freak bus,” I asked.

“Afghani men come to Germany and purchase buses that are considered too far gone to repair by picky Germans.  They drive the bus to Istanbul, and pick up travelers, also known as “freaks” who want to go to Afghanistan. It only costs about $35.”

“Oh, that sounds good,” was my reply. You would really think that after my experience in Paris, I might be a little concerned about such simplistic directions. But time after time on my trip, my common sense seemed to stop working. It was as if an unseen power was guiding my path, and if I relied on my logic too much, I would have missed out on some amazing experiences. Yet at the same time, I was miraculously protected time after time.

I had to make some major changes in my already simple life. Jeane told me that I needed to get rid of the big, heavy frame pack I was carrying because it would be impossible to carry in the crowded busses and trains in India. I’m not sure what I did with the pack, but I must have been rather disappointed since it was expensive, and it had been my backpacking buddy numerous times. Yet I was good at following advice. Fortunately, the day pack I brought along was fairly roomy and I could attach my sleeping bag to the outside. I was definitely traveling lightly. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was definitely a minimalist.

After downsizing about half of my possessions, and making a few other preparations, I was physically  ready for this radical change in plans. I had only been away from home about three weeks, and yet here I was apprehensively standing in line to buy a ticket on the famed Orient Express. I was physically prepared, but emotionally I was not quite there. “Am I making the right decision?” I asked myself for the hundredth time.

As I came to the head of the line, I automatically responded to the clerk who asked me what I wanted. “A one way ticket to Istanbul,” I said. After I gave him the money and he handed me the ticket, I said in my very best German, “Danke shoen.”  I realized I wouldn’t have many more chances to speak German (which I had studied for 3 years in school) for the rest of my travels. Oh well!

I settled into my seat in the train. My new adventure had begun!

Travels to the East: Chapter 1: Preparations for the Journey

In August, 1973, as I gazed out over the breath-taking scene of snow-capped mountains, a feeling of expansion and freedom overwhelmed me. I realized how much I wanted to be free–to be released from the burdens and cares of responsibilities, schedules, and humdrum of daily life. I resolved at that moment while I was on a five-day backpacking trip in Yosemite National Park, that I would travel to Europe and experience freedom to go wherever I wanted to, whenever I wanted to.

My trip to Yosemite was one of many backpacking trips which I had taken in the past two years with two other girlfriends. At that time, I was attending San Diego State University. I had gone to college for a year, having gone there straight out of high school. I was doing well. I had even made the Dean’s List. But that was not to continue because travel fever had consumed me.

In retrospect, I can see that I was inwardly ready to travel at this time. About six months earlier, I had also resolved to travel to Israel, where my sister was staying in a Kibbutz. But when I was fired from my job as a hostess in a high class steak house, my 11 year old Volkswagen Bug  needed major repairs, I lost hope of ever saving money. But this time, I set the goal of traveling. I wasn’t willing to let go of the dream. I had a vision, and I was going to see it become a reality.

I believe now that God was talking to me and giving me this message: “You need to change your life style with the values ‘if it feels good do it’. I have better things for you.”  He enabled me to surmount the trials I was to face in the coming year, and there were many. The funny thing is…I was an agnostic.

I returned to my home in National City, California and took the steps necessary to follow through with my resolve. I researched charter flights and found a cheap one costing only $210 for a one way ticket to Paris from San Diego. I didn’t want the limitation having a return flight that would limit my ability to stay as long as I wanted.

I decided how much money I would need to stay for a long time. $1000 was the figure I came up with. I secured brochures describing the different European countries and got a passport. Although I was going to college full time, I worked at a Fotomat kiosk 20 to 30 hours and made $1.65 an hour. However, I did not apply myself to my studies as much as I usually did. Still, somehow I maintained a B minus average, which was really a miracle when I think about it. But that was not up to my usual high standards of B’s and A’s.

It took me a ful year to save enough money to go because of so many other expenses. My VW Bug often needed work. I had my wisdom teeth taken out. I was in a bicycle accident which caused a painful injury to my leg and emergency room charges. I stepped on a stingray while I was surfing…another emergency room charge.

The most dramatic thing that happened–which did not cost me a cent, but could have easily stopped me from going on my trip, occurred only two months before my departure date. When I was driving my car, I hit and killed a little old man crossing the street. This was totally traumatic to me, of course. I went to court and the judge decided that because of the dark night, no street lights, and the fact that the man was wearing dark clothes–it was impossible for me to see him. Thus my only charges were involuntary manslaughter. No jail time or fines meant freedom for me to go. But I was beginning to believe I was not meant to go.

Yet it would seem that a higher power was at work, because in the end, I did leave as scheduled, against tremendous odds. But it was hard going. Going to college was so boring except for my volley ball class. I had to work full time during the summer to save up enough money. But even then, because of all the unexpected expenses, I was $500 short of my $1000 goal. I really wanted to stay a long time, and didn’t even think of the possibility of working or finding cheap ways to travel. So when my parents gave me the extra $500 I thought I needed, I was overjoyed and grateful to them.

Although I was dropping out of college, they knew traveling would be an educational experience for me. I am so glad they did not try to hold me back so I would live a more conventional life. I know that earlier in their lives they had lived in adventuresome ways, and I think they wanted to give me the same freedom. My older sister was already in Europe, and I was planning on visiting her, so perhaps that gave them more confidence. My parents taught me about how to be responsible. But little did they know that they were assisting me in a bigger adventure than any of us ever expected. I am so grateful to them.

I was determined to go alone on this trip. My thinking was this: if I went with someone, what if he or she wanted to do something I didn’t. I did half-heartedly try to find a traveling companion as my time drew near for my departure because I was becoming nervous about a solo trip. After all, I had never even lived on my own! I was still living with my parents at the time I left on my journey. How else could I have saved that money! When no one was able to go with me, I was relieved. I was 19 and totally ready for adventure and the unknown–and above all–freedom!

Finally, the long awaited day arrived. It was August 28, five days after my birthday. My parents took me to the airport in Los Angeles. I was so excited! My glamorous new life was about to start, and I could not wait to get there.

I remember little of the eleven hour flight except that we stopped in an obscure town that I had never heard of, Bangor, Maine, and that the passengers were friendly. Some of them were seasoned travelers. Landing in Paris seemed so exciting. Little did I know that I was in for a big let down.

Travels to the East: Preface

I wrote this book in 1987, 13 years after I embarked on a solo journey at age 19 that would change my life forever. I am now freely sharing this story as a part of my history of why I am now a Simplified Living Coach. I hope you are inspired. Any words in italics are things that I have added to the original story.

This book is lovingly dedicated to my now diseased  parents, Beverly and H. Donald Hughes, who encouraged me  and enabled me to take this journey. They believed in me, and for this I will be forever grateful

In 1974 I dropped out of college in order to travel in Europe. But after spending almost two weeks in Germany, I decided I wanted to take the overland route to India. Before I arrived in Europe I had never even considered going to India. This book is an account of my travels through Southwest Asia to India and Sri Lanka and back again to Europe. In the 1980’s the overland route has been closed to most wandering travelers because of the revolution and war in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It is my hope and prayer that peace with justice will come to these countries of Southwest Asia, home of some of the world’s oldest known civilizations.

Southwest Asia is the place where Asia, Europe and Africa meet.. Since earliest times it has been a crossroads for trade, people, armies and ideas. Camel caravans have carried goods all the way from China to Europe and back again, carrying gold, silver, silks, rugs, spices, gems, dates, perfumes, and many other items. Great civilizations there have risen and fallen over the centuries. The Persian empire was dominant for a long time during the years before Christ; then the Greeks under Alexander rule; and they were followed by the Roman empire. After Islam was founded, the Arabs conquered the area. During the Middle Ages the Turkish people established the Ottoman empire. They eventually gave way to the British power. By the 20th century, all of these empires had vanished, replaced by the modern nation states, most of which have fallen behind the times in terms of industrial and material development. Nevertheless, they have a rich culture in many non-material ways.

On my way to and from India, I spent much time in the countries of Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan. The climate of those countries is predominantly hot and dry.  Most of the interior is high desert or dry grass-land. Although people have lived in that area since the earliest known times, the climate has limited the population. Many of the people are still nomads with herds of goats and sheep. Islam is by far the dominant religion in that area of the world.

My goal, of course, was India, but I also stayed for a while in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. All of these countries seemed “exotic” to me. I didn’t study about them before I learned about them as I traveled. I didn’t go as though on a conscious pilgrimage. I wasn’t seeking God or a guru at that time in my life, but I did learn many lessons that have helped me in my life. Much of this story was printed in our Cosmic Connections Newsletter, but it has been re-organized and edited into a book form by my husband (now former husband), Cliff. I have also added some more recollections. I hope that you will enjoy reading this story and gain some positive benefit from it.

I would like to thank the people who encouraged me to put my “Travels to the East” in book form, especially Sally Green who contributed for the printing expenses and sent me several inspiring letters.

Patricia Mikkelson

Encinitas, California