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Date:  Wed 7/17/2002 5:35 AM
Subject:  News from Peter Christopher - the latest from Vermont in July '02 !!

foo21


Dear Friends, July 16, 2002

Here's the latest news from Vermont!

In February I wrote about my upcoming spring travels - I spent a great week at Metta Forest Monastery near San Diego, several weeks with friends along the west coast, three weeks on Hawaii working on organic farms. The life of learning/traveling/teaching interchanged with periods at home in Vermont continues to be rewarding for me. For me, this lifestyle is much cheaper than formal education, more effective, more holistic, more empowering, more appropriate; I feel so blessed to have been able to live this lifestyle for the past several years. At the same time, I am also beginning to experience an openness to make a commitment to a place, task, and community -- although I'm in no hurry yet.

My overarching theme these days is the same as I mentioned in my February letter - the investigation and development of ideas and habits which result in happiness, peacefulness, and freedom from suffering. Right now, my perspective on this is to attempt to reduce my engagement in activities which result in unrealistic and unhelpful reinforcement of the importance of self. This is because I am finding validity to the 'spiritual' suggestion that the magnitude of the ego tends to be inversely proportionate to the magnitude of the happiness. So I am learning how to honor other aspects of life rather than my fantasies about myself - how to honor other people, how to honor the earth, how to honor different aspects of my physical being. So let me share a few thoughts I've had lately. How to honor my parents - develop a mature, adult-adult friendship with them: be clear about my emotions as appropriate; keep in contact; express interest in their emotional, intellectual, and physical lives; have some fun together; don't pressure them to change. How to honor friends and family - be truthful, precise, and literal in speech; share time and energy with them; reconnect from time to time; be open to recognizing what habits are active without judging the habits. How to honor people around the world: limit consumption of food and commodities to a nonexploitative level (ideally, the world average or median); learn about people and places around the world; strive to be comfortable sharing excess time, energy, information, and money with friends and strangers.

How to honor my self - honor my mind, body, and soul, and their relationships: so I've been learning about diet and physiology - reading nutrition, endocrinology, gastrointestinal physiology, holistic diet perspectives, and experimenting. (I think dietary choices are a great opportunity all humans have to effect their lives and the global community and ecosystem, for better or worse. What a great alternative to disempowerment!) The garden is kicking out greens religiously and I am eating a huge salad (or two) a day. Live a life of balance - balance production, consumption, and experiencing; balance present, past, and future.

Another helpful mechanism I'm using to reduce the strength of the suffering-producing ego/self is to be open to feelings of vulnerability which are generally associated with it. Interestingly, it seems that by getting in touch with those feelings of vulnerability, and by appropriately expressing those and not attempting to avoid them but simply being open to acknowledging them, the ego/self naturally fades in importance in the mind.

Of course, all these perspectives on happiness-producing behavior are general and could apply to most people in many situations. I'm working, however, with specific behavioral patterns most of the time - for instance, my tendency to undertake actions to prove how precocious I am. (Does it or does it not result in happiness/suffering? What do you think? I think not. And yet it can be a strong habit...) A favorite bit from a Buddhist sutra: "As long as evil has yet to ripen, the fool mistakes it for honey. But when that evil ripens, the fool falls into pain." And I enjoy this emotional work at this time in my life.

Having these long periods of self-reflection and personal development is really rewarding; on the other hand, I also am an American and do enjoy the pleasure of new information, new scenery, beautiful music, productive activity. I didn't expect that the contemplative/spiritual component of living in Vermont would become so important to me when I moved here three years ago, nor the importance of reconnecting with my family. And yet these have been two of the most important aspects of this time in Vermont. So - what happens next? Will I remain in Vermont, or turn elsewhere? Continue with life/travel/education/development or return to the "workforce"? Some combination? Live abroad?

This winter I will finally spend 4-6 months continuously out of the country, in the developing world (India and Thailand). I feel that these experiences (a significant exposure to the less-developed world, and a significant time outside the U.S.) are the two major elements lacking in my education/development before I can knowledgeably make decisions about where to chart my course next. (But that's not stopping me from brainstorming.) I do not feel that receiving a high school diploma (which I didn't) or a Bachelor's (which I did) or any other degree (none of which I have) accurately pinpointed the transition to adulthood or responsibility, where I am educated enough about this world to be able to make well-rounded, responsible decisions. I've often thought I could make such decisions "as well as other people" - but not well, objectively. I think my adulthood and global citizenship begins soon, after I've spent the time this coming winter in the developing world. Sure, I had the standard educational requirements by the end of college - research, writing, science, history, language, occupational skills. However, there was still a lot missing. Now that I have developed good emotional stability, now that I have seen more of the first world and will soon see some of the developing world, now that I have experienced both having a regular job and not having a regular job, now that I have seen the good and bad sides of both being single and in relationship, of being independently educated and institutionally education, I feel on the threshold to a level of "authentic" maturity. This doesn't mean that my education and development are over; just like in the martial arts, a black belt is just the sign of a beginner. And this idea of adulthood is a construct, which happens to be made by me for my purposes, just as the degrees were made by the educational establishment for its purposes.
But I think there may be something to it.

Upcoming travel plans - I'll be headed around eastern Canada with my cousin Larissa in August. We don't have firm trip plans yet but we will be driving in Naomi, my '77 GMC camper van and bringing hiking shoes... Then I'll be back in Vermont pretty much til my big Asia trip (which starts in mid-fall). My father has been living with me here in Vermont for almost nine months now and will be holding down the fort while I am gone.

Another tidbit - the 2 bedroom apartment on the top floor of my house will be available starting in early August. If you have any interest in moving to Vermont for a while, let me know. It's newly renovated and has a great kitchen and a bath with a clawfoot tub! The rent is really cheap, basically just your share of expenses, for the right person (or two) so let me know if you want to come join my little community for a while!

As always, I look forward to hearing any input you have about my current projects and plans, and to hearing what you are doing these days. Plan a visit to Vermont in late August or early fall. It is sure to be beautiful, and we will feast from the garden like you cannot imagine!

And finally, I need your help!! I'm brainstorming options for where to live after my trip to Asia this winter and what to do with my time. Can you help me by thinking up the top places in the world (location) and then occupation/activity where I could live most happily? I've made several lists to help with this process. It's not essential to get a place / field for everything on the list, but hopefully most of them. Thank you!!!

Best Wishes,
Peter
peter@peterchristopher.com

Prioritized list - location:

1) sufficient number of potential friends with spiritual, intellectual, athletic, holistic side
2) safe, pleasant places to walk, run, and cycle without too much traffic, not more than ½ mile from home
3) warm (high 60-95F) and mostly sunny most of the year
4) pleasant sights and sounds (especially at home) and friendly natives
5) no major deadly diseases and livably safe/clean; safe to explore
6) garden/farm/land to work in and eat from and have a relationship with - doesn't need to be mine - could be a farm/CSA up to an hour away where I go once a week
7) healthy food available for purchase
8) some dancing options (contra, swing) and broadway/opera shows
9) proximity to mountains (within view or at least several hours drive)
10) commuting distance to a metropolitan downtown
11) inexpensive, efficient transportation
12) public libraries with public computer access
13) near family
14) historical stuff to explore

Next, I need your help with a field of occupation - top job choices given these preferences, skills, and fields of knowledge: (all these lists are prioritized, most important first)

Working environment preferences:
1) I want to be in an environment where honesty and goodwill are helpful to success, and where I can sometimes come to work in casual clothes without being out of place
2) I want to have a sense of common purpose with a community of coworkers
3) I want to spend most of my time with individuals, a few people, or myself, and lesser (but some) time with larger groups
4) I want to use a variety of my skills
5) I want to have reasonably flexible working hours (possibly less than 40 hours a week) and ample time off
6) I want a medium level of responsibility
7) I want coworkers to value each other as people and sometimes spend non-work time together
8) I want to directly help other people (in or outside my organization) as part of my job
9) I want room for growth in the field of occupation
10) I want a moderate income but it can be sporadic
11) I want to have some goals/deadlines, but some variety as to the nature of the work and deadlines

Skills:
1) clear thinking and clear communication to individuals and diverse audiences
2) helping other people to be happy, clear and achieve goals / coaching / critiquing
3) prioritizing / decision-making
4) ability to make accurate timelines and deliver results as promised
5) researching
6) thinking outside the box - analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing
7) planning
8) writing / editing
9) outdoor work

Knowledge:
1) cross-disciplinary / diverse knowledge
2) psychology / spirituality / education
3) finance / business,
4) agriculture / homesteading
5) computer programming / databases / physics / mathematics

 

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