This is a first in a series of introductions to some of the wonderful people who bring life to WHAT Simply Living is. We introduce to you:
Karyn lives in a modest home in Clintonville and is very devoted to simple living in many facets. She began her journey when diagnosed with cancer in the early 1980s. Wary of western medical approaches to deal with the disease, she began to explore other health care, diet and lifestyle changes. These changes led to physical healing that her family and friends were not yet able to support. Choosing to live very simply, she soon found support from new friends, Earth Institute courses, and, in the early 1990s, Simply Living. She also became involved with teaching vegan cooking classes, non-violent (compassionate) communication, and more recently the Transition Central Ohio project of Simply Living. She is a Trager practitioner, using a mind-body approach to movement education.
SL: One of the questions new people involved in living simply ask is "What does Voluntary Simplicity really look like? What do I do first? What do you do to live more simply?"
KD: The first two things I did were to begin cooking my own food and to stop watching television. These are two very powerful things to do to simplify. First of all, ending my connection with television caused my fear level to go way down. I do have a TV, but I only use it when my grandchildren visit to watch videos together. When we’re together, there are no video games or computer games. Another thing I do is walk. I do my best to walk three miles a day, and I average that 4-5 days a week. I walk to the market or on the local bike path. The bike path is great because I sometimes meet a friend on the way or at least make eye contact with others and share a smile. I have a garden where I grow flowers and vegetables.
I've certainly replaced all my lights with CFLs. I keep my thermostat low in the winter, no higher than 67 degrees. I did that gradually, a couple of degrees at a time over the years. It took some determination, but over time, I found that my body adjusted to temperature more easily. I don't need an air conditioner in the summer. I've insulated my water heater, dry my laundry outdoors, and am looking into portable solar panels.
I guess I just continually look for ways to do things differently. This brings me joy. I have found joy in discussing Your Money or Your Life and other consumer issues with my 14-year-old granddaughter, who has really come to recognize the difference between a gift of "stuff" and a gift of time.
SL: I know you're involved with the Transition Central Ohio (TCO) project. Tell us about your role in it.
KD: The TCO project is a way to raise awareness in the community about diminishing fossil fuels, climate changes, economic unrest, our addiction to oil, and the lifestyle that it engenders. We want to support people in waking up to what the world will be like with less oil. You know, when I think of the Transition Initiative I recall a year and a half ago when the electricity was off for a week. Our neighborhood came outside, and we had bonfires and shared food from our freezers. There was a genuine feeling of fellowship. People talked together for a change. It made me remember a time when there was less fear, more of a feeling of safety. You knew your neighbors. People watched each other’s kids. When you aren't relying on oil or coal you can learn to rely on each other again.
SL: There's another group you're involved with through Simply Living, The Non-Violent Communications Coalition. Tell us more about that.
KD: In Central Ohio it's called Compassionate Communication of Central Ohio. It started 30 years ago. It’s a way of communicating that focuses on feelings and needs rather than who's right or who's wrong. It is a whole different paradigm. We encourage people to tone down violent situations and communicate by observing what's happening and not judging the situation; to focus on what feelings are evoked and determine what needs require fulfilling. We need to give up the stories we live by as if they're true and have empathy with others. The local organization (CC-CO) works with professionals to lead workshops for others. I don't plan to become certified, but I lead practice groups like the Institute courses, and we practice the principles of compassionate communication together.
SL: What or who inspires you?
KD: Recently it's been Robert Gonzales who is the national board president for NVC. He's done so much work emphasizing the beauty of the needs that people have and connecting with the life energy that's within all of us. It connects me with a life energy that helps me live without judgment. This is something you can't teach. You have to live it.
Frankly, Marilyn Welker inspires me as well, just because she's able to hang in there with so much going on in this organization. She is a very compassionate person, and she can relate so well to everyone in this diverse group of people.
Our thanks to Karyn for her hospitality and gentle spirit. Our visit was a joy, and I hope that this article will be the first of many to introduce you to the wonderful people in Simply Living.