Living This Sweet Life

How can we begin to understand the nature of simplicity, here in the Western world? Is our restlessness symptomatic of a deeper yearning to know our sense of place more profoundly? Many of us are feeling called to a life less fettered with consumerist trappings and meaningless work.How ironic then, that nations only recently diverted from an agrarian base which ensured meaningful work with unwavering family and community support, and time-honored sacred daily rites and practices, now want what Americans have in the way of “quality of life.” Has one nation tipped the balance of an entire planet? What are we collectively seeking?

Finding time to meet ourselves honestly in the quiet and solitude of our own hearts seems key to discovering the nature of our place in the world. Only then may we feel the pulse of creation flowing in our veins; only then can we taste the sweetness flowing from the breast of Mother Earth.

The speed at which many of us hurl ourselves through life can be measured by reflecting on the past day or week or month, where we feel time steamrolling by, leaving us flat and dry. It causes us to wonder, wander and ultimately feel a growing sense of isolation from our own skins — our kinship to both nature and our own human nature. We become orphans on alien ground.

In A Sense of Place, Wallace Stegner offers, “In our displaced condition we are not unlike the mythless man that Carl Jung wrote about, who lives ‘like one uprooted, having no true link either with the past, or with the ancestral life which continues within him, or yet with contemporary human society. He…lives a life of his own, sunk in a subjective mania of his own devising, which he believes to be the newly discovered truth’.”

Does this subjective mania describe our cultural malaise as well, and if so, how has our American way of life inflamed virtually all of civilization with the desire to possess a lifestyle which promotes attachment to things and detachment to a deeply rooted sense of place? Is this forgetting something all human beings must collectively move through in order to reencounter a lasting, harmonious relationship with the planet we call home, else lose our place in nature’s scheme? To delve deeply within, to explore our inner life is not the same as isolating ourselves from family, community and our world. To meet the sweetness that life already offers us without condition, we need to reclaim simplicity, meeting life on its terms, not ours.

We Americans are still a young nation on borrowed soil, needing to come to terms with our arrogance and national philosophy and practice of eminent domain. We need to see ourselves less as owners of the land and more as citizens of planet Earth. However this plays out in our psyches, ownership is illusory, for our bodies are made of the same earth we stand upon, regardless of where we locate ourselves mentally in space and time. Our fleshy forms do not accompany us beyond this life. They are created from matter/Mater/Mother Earth. We are, at least temporarily in the span of a lifetime, of this place. And yet our minds continue tethering themselves to another home, we know not where.

How can we remain grounded with this kind of duality in a time where escape seems more desirable than ever? Presumably we are given what we need for this earth walk. Every emotion, every bodily organ serves our path. Many of us have become surgeons of the soul, cutting loose whatever pulls us into discomfort. Yet we also possess the threads which reattach us to community, to our sense of place in the world. When we reckon with our innermost yearnings, we reestablish a rooted inner life. When we encounter life on its terms, we find common ground in an unpredictable world. Ultimately if we are to create a quiet life, a serene existence, unpredictability becomes an acceptable state of grace. Without expectations of what life is here to provide for us, we take refuge in the wonder of existence. We meet life as profoundly as it meets us, with openness and a sense of being in a place we are meant to inhabit as fully as we are able.

A sense of place…again and again we return to this puzzling phrase. Wendell Berry, America's best-known bioregionalist, says if you don't know where you are, you don't know who you are. Wandering from place to place, looking for our environment to provide us with the deep inner peace our souls yearn for, may be futile. We have been culturally conditioned to look for what we need outside ourselves, making many of us road warriors, devoid of a sense of place and stewardship to the planet we call home. Committing ourselves to some corner of earth we choose to call home allows us to envision the greater sense of connection we share as planetary participants. If we live somewhere long enough, over time we begin to relate to our sense of place, to observe ourselves in the greater scheme of things. Constantly moving from place to place like the cowboy roaming the range has left many of us with an inner restlessness where we seem unable to sit still long enough to feel the rhythms which connect us with the lifeblood of Mater. Place your ear to the ground, and soon you can synchronize your own heartbeat with the pulse of the earth.

Feelings of isolation can cause us to move around unduly, to seek a sense of place, purpose and inner peace somewhere outside the self. When we journey inward, the rhythms we attune to in the pounding of our pulse are the same as the tides, as the terra firma on which we place our feet. We are not meant to wander from place to place and idea to idea, job to job in order to discover that which we seek. Rather it rests within our quiet, imponderable nature where we discover an inner strength we did not perhaps realize we had, and often to our delight, that we possess the will to embrace life, such as it is, with simple and profound acceptance.

Bela Johnson has practiced as a medical intuitive for 20 years. Formerly from Maine, she and her husband Chris have relocated to the Big Island of Hawaii where they are in the process of creating a vacation rental/retreat facility on the north Kohala Coast. She can be reached at