Paying attention in a particular way – on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally.”
~ Dr. John Kabat-Zinn
Part of our intention in building Tiny (and the inherent lifestyle it calls forward) was to be more mindful of where we put our time and energy. A simplifying not just of stuff, but also thoughts and actions – of our very outlook on life and our place in the universe. Are we choosing wisely in terms of our “one wild and precious life”, as Mary Oliver asks? [See sidebar for full poem]. Are we managing to put our relationships and spiritual lives in the center as we intended? While we engage in a constant checking-in with ourselves on the larger vision level, there is also a lot going on on a smaller day-to-day level. How have our daily routines needed to change in order to live more meaningfully and mindfully? How has Tiny living inspired us to live with greater awareness on a daily, moment to moment, basis?
Tiny inspires (requires!) us to be more conscious and mindful in so many ways. Here are but a few examples:
In a “regular” sized house one does not as easily notice the buildup of human detritus. However, in a tiny house with every surface visible and being used, what is trying to take up residence is blatantly obvious and needs to be addressed. This has led to a variety of routines that we share. Nicky usually uses our Dyson handheld vacuum (which we love!) for about 3 minutes every morning. This has assumed the feeling of a ritual, and she misses it when she doesn’t do it for some reason or another. Every few days the windowsills begin to show dust and Shanti hair and random other bits of who knows what? Judy is more apt to work with this level of cleaning as Nicky is allergic to dust mites.
We have become aware of the impact of winter in so many ways – not just the shoveling off of the outside steps or noting the number of times we needed to be plowed out that we’ve paid attention to in the past. Now we are really aware of such things as just how much snow we bring in with our boots. This was never something we were very conscious of in a regular sized house because the amount of moisture we brought in was small in comparison to the volume of air in which the moisture could be dispersed. (Plus, we usually had wood heat, which is VERY drying.) We now know that we can easily add a cup of water to the air inside Tiny when we are coming in and going out often with snowy or wet footwear. We have learned that humidity levels in such a small space are constantly fluctuating – and IMPORTANT. The plus side to high humidity levels is that neither of us has experienced the winter skin dryness and resultant itchiness. However, we are doing a lot of fiddling to keep the areas along the bottom of the walls, behind the cabinets where the (cold!) metal trailer comes into contact with the flooring, clear and dry.
Winter now means extra hooks in the shower for wet clothing & footwear (especially when guests arrive); consciousness about how much snow we bring in with our boots (we now have a tiny dustpan and brush by the door to take off most of the snow before we come in); and a big fluffy towel with which to dry Shanti off (Corgi’s low-to-the-ground bellies pick up a lot of snow and moisture!). And it only took one of us getting dumped on with a pile of falling snow to develop a routine that involves pausing momentarily after opening the front door to make sure that any snow or ice that needs to slide off the roof has done so! There is no blindly rushing out the door in Tiny.
Everything in Tiny has to be in its place or a sense of crowdedness can easily set in. We are aware that we’ve made accommodations/changes for one another in order to be comfortable living in a smaller space: trading off with one another in the kitchen and bathroom; Judy, normally an earlier riser, now reads in bed before getting up to keep the energy level low for both Shanti and Nicky; Nicky meditates when Judy walks Shanti in the morning so that there is both mental and physical quiet in her space; we’ve both come to realize that the guest loft/meditation space makes just enough of a separation that we can have personal or business calls up there without disturbing one another; and, of course, there’s nothing quite like a power outage to help us regain a sense of awareness around such things as how much water we tend to use (as the water pump is electric!) and how much time we generally spend online.
On more of an emotional level, we are finding that we are sometimes triggered by circumstances, or one another, more easily. That is to say that issues we might have diffused before by simply walking into another room are now in our faces to be dealt with. We’ve identified that we are either becoming more easily irritated or slightly more aloof than usual (depending upon which of us is doing the reacting!). This is not a bad thing, not at all. It’s simply something to be attentive to as we learn to be in this new physical, mental, and emotional space with one another. We come to awareness (often during the quiet space of a Shanti walk) and try to remind each other that this is a place of practice. When our different patterns are activated, we can just be with the feelings. Of course, we can still go into a loft or take a walk outside, but more importantly we try to be present and to stay honestly in the moments as they come and then they go. Recognizing our emotional states and creating space to just be with them is increasing our capacity to be healthy, whole, and honest, even in the midst of uncomfortable emotions. We’re developing concentration skills, sensory clarity, and equanimity. And somehow, in an odd way, this is ultimately helping us to feel more balanced and less likely to let experiences control us. These are the sorts of things that are always present in our lives, but we tend to create ways to avoid confronting them. When we struggle at work, we go home to complain; when we encounter conflicts at home we turn to our friends; when we have differences with our friends we talk about them at work. Again, not inherently a bad thing to make spaces between our reactions and our actions in the situations that are challenging for us. But living tiny, in the ways we have chosen, means that we talk to one another about what is going on. And there is a sense of releasing, accepting – “it is as it is” – the powerful opportunity to live a mindful life in a tiny house.