Andy Couturier moved to Japan in mid twenties with his partner Cynthia to teach English. Their plan was to save money then come back to the US and buy some land. After returning, they built a house in California using only hand tools, developing a piece of raw land into a functioning rural homestead.
Andy has studied Buddhist meditation and many other Asian philosophical systems. He has been a researcher for Greenpeace and has taught writing for more than twenty years.
In this episode, we discuss:
- Andy and his partner built a cabin using only hand tools
- If you give yourself time, a lot of things are enjoyable
- Making sure you’re enjoying the process
- The misery of too many things going on
- Putting buffers in so you’re not rushing from one thing to the next
- Making time to look at how you operate
- Andy’s flip phone and how it helps him slow down
- The tools you use craft who you become
- What is efficiency getting you?
- Moving to Japan in his mid twenties with his partner Cynthia, to teach English
- It’s a precious opportunity to think for yourself
- What does it mean to be alive?
- The origins of Andy’s draw to nature
- Our health depends not just on ourselves but also on our community and being connected to people
- Making time for contemplation each week
- A day in the life of Andy
- The modern predicament is a puzzle we all need to figure out
- Assess, be/think critical, and choose what is true for you
- Going deep into things
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Andy Couturier – The Abundance of Less (book)
The Abundance of Less (Andy’s book website)
Andy Couturier – Writing Open the Mind (book)
The Opening (Andy’s writing website)
Cecile Andrews (books)
Listen to Ryan Nicodemus previously on TUHP (episode #132)
Jesse: Hello and welcome to The Ultimate Health podcast episode 227. Jesse Chappus here with Marni Wasserman and we are here on a weekly basis to take your health to the next level. This week our featured guest is Andy Couturier. He moved to Japan in his mid 20’s with his partner Cynthia, to teach English and save some money to come back to the U.S. and buy some land. After returning to the U.S, they built their house in California, using only hand tools which we talk about in the show, and they develop a piece of raw land into a functioning rural homestead. Andy has studied Buddhist meditation and many other Asian philosophical systems. He has been a researcher for Green Peace and taught writing for more than 20 years.
Marni: It was truly a pleasure having Andy on the show this week. There is something just so special about him. He is very Zen, and you guys are gonna hear the calmness in his voice. And the message he brings to the podcast is something we all need to hear. We talk a lot about the process of slowing down. And not making endless to-do lists, that we have our day’s jam packed. And something else we talk about is enjoying the process more. Not getting so caught up in the end result, but really enjoying the process. And, we also get into how it’s really important to think for yourself. Make your own decisions and you’ll understand a little bit more about what that means. And, also to make time for contemplation every week. Spend some time, sit back, relax, grab a cup of tea, and slow down! So lots of great messages in today’s episode, here we go with Andy Couturier.
Jesse: Hello Andy, welcome to the podcast. How’s it going today?
Andy: Oh, thank you so much. I’m doing great.
Marni: Well we’re so excited to have you on the show and Andy, I think a really important place or interesting place, shall I say, to start is, you built a cabin from scratch, with hand tools with your wife Cynthia, and I think that is a really fascinating story to tell so if you want to tell us a little bit about what that journey was like.
Andy: Sure. Well, contextually we bought a piece of property in Northern California. We wanted something small and, the only thing we could buy was 27 acres which seemed like way too much but, we also wanted to buy something with no debt. So we wanted to purchase it all outright. We made our money teaching English in Japan with the goal of buying land so, when we finally found something cheap enough, it was very, very far out. And we wanted to, in any case, get what they call a raw piece of land, that had no development. We wanted to really just do it for ourselves and experience what that was like. So, we started with developing the spring and getting the water to go under the road and, pick axing the gravel and, running the pipe underneath it and, putting it in tanks and, sleeping outside in the summer. The land itself is 3 seasonal creeks, mixed Douglas fur and Oregon white oak and meadows. We put in the garden even before we put in the first pure block of the house. And we tried to think of where we wanted to put the house and we wanted something with a view. We found something that was reasonably flat but it’s not a flat piece of land and then, Cynthia, was the main carpenter. We like to joke that she’s the exact one and I’m sort of the grunt. And she had taken a few carpentry classes at the building educational center, a group of women called “WE women”, women empowering women, which offered instruction and everything from plumbing and electricity to basic carpentry so she had those skills. And we wanted to do it with hand tools, for a number of reasons which, if you’d like to hear, I can tell you about our choice to do that, which of course is slower. And we started with a deck, on which we put a, a geodesic dome made of canvass. And from that we had that for a couple of years. We were in our 20’s, I should say. Very doctrinaire view on only doing it a particular war but we had always loved geodesic domes. And we had a, I would have called it a tent. And eventually, we didn’t want to have it coated with anything, so we wouldn’t be breathing any toxins, so after a couple of winters, it started to decay. It was also very cold so, we decided that we would build, on top of that deck, a house. We had a mentor, Mike, kind of a jack of all trades and a brilliant renaissance man and he also was a timber faller and he also helped us design the house and how high the walls were gonna be, and he sawed up the timber and brought it over to our place and we teared [xx] it down the hill one piece by one piece and started building the walls.
Marni: And I think you should explain why you did just use hand tools and not power tools. Because I think there are a lot of people maybe building, well maybe not a lot, but I think people are starting to embrace the cost of building their own homes, or tiny homes but they are probably using electricity and you know, power tools. Let’s have you elaborate on the fact that you just use hand tools.
Andy: Sure. Well it’s a lot more pleasant, so everything for us is you know, not everything, I mean it’s more environmental of course but the very pleasure of using a hand saw…there was no electricity, so we really are off the grid and still are off there. So there’s no electricity polls bringing petroleum fire power plant electricity over the mountains to our house so we would have had to run a generator which is loud, both of us need to not like loud motor noises. It’s dangerous using a band saw. Say well okay, you just be careful, and you don’t…but, what about that day when it’s late and you’ve been working hard all day and you’ve been trying to get it done as quickly as possible and then a mistake happens. Or you worry that, that mistake will happen, maybe it never does happen but you’re…it’s a different feeling in your body. It’s a different state of consciousness. And then there’s the slow aspect, so a lot of The Abundance of Less is really about the pleasures and deep satisfaction that comes from doing something slowly and well. And so, if you’re in a hurry or like okay I’ve got two months off from my job and I’ve got to build the entire house and you get ramped up. You’re almost losing the pleasure of building your own house. There’s a funny story in this uh, we had had the deck as I said, and we were building our first wooden wall, and we got the instructions from Mike, and we worked on it and it was about five days, and we caught all of the joists and pieces and we nailed it together, and then mike came by…we were very proud of ourselves and we said, “you know, for a regular downtown carpenter, this thing that we spent five days or a week on you know…how long would it take him?” And he said, “I’m sorry to hurt your guys’ feelings, but it, probably take him about an hour.” We laughed. But, we saw a lot of people, and this was in the early 90’s, around us building houses, with power tools and I’ll just share with you that almost all of those people are no longer actually living in those houses. It was kind of a quick, throw it up. There wasn’t a lot of love and care. I wouldn’t say that generally about everybody who uses power tools but there’s just that sense of using a machine, of pushing a button, to get something done faster for you that just creates a completely different experience of the heart, and the body you know, the anxiety and the worry and then the feeling that we have in that house. I would say there’s even a sense to being into, when you’re in that house, that it was made by hand.
Jesse: And you talk about this in the book how when you actually have a timeline to do something, a project like this, and you’re feeling rushed, it affects the whole process of enjoyment of doing that actual activity. And you get some different examples in the book. I know one was doing dishes and, I forget the other ones but basically, the point being is that if we actually have the time in our calendar and we’re not rushing through sometimes what are looked at as tedious tasks, they can actually become fun. But when you’re under the crunch and you’re, you’re rushing, you know, to get out the door and get to that next appointment, and you gotta get your dishes done, then it can become more tedious so can you elaborate on that a little bit.
Andy: Sure. This might be a good time to introduce one of the people that I write about who, you know, many of these people I regard as my teachers although I don’t know if they would take that word. You know, we’re friends, I met them through the process of doing the interviews in the book and writing about them. His name is Osamu Nakamura, and he lives in a small cottage deep in the steeply folded mountains of Shikoku. I am not living Nakamura’s life, and he really lives an extremely simple life, but he’s got so much time for himself, and for his artwork. He does so much artwork. And he lives in a very quiet way, but he has such a rich both intellectual life and, physical life and, I was looking at I think it was one of his handmade books. So he, he’s a wood block carver but he also hands binds books. You know it’s something I didn’t really know much about but I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a Japanese hand bound book, it’s gorgeous. He was sort of explaining how you have to fold it exactly and you have one millimeter around all the edges and, you know, don’t fold it this way and do fold it that way. I’m kind of a rabbity kind of person, my spirit animal is some kind of rodent. I just kind of move quickly and like to jump around and I thought, this would be really tedious for me. You know, wouldn’t’ you wanna just get it done, especially if you want to bind a bunch of books. And he said “well actually”, this is a quote from him the book, “If you give yourself time, a lot of thing are enjoyable. Whether it’s doing the dishes or carving this wood block, when you put that time in and you make something of quality, every time you touch it, every time you look at it, it’s a pleasure.” And I really tried to envibe [sp] that and imbue my work with it and, The Abundance of Less actually, the first sentence was written 27 years so I have worked on this book for a long time, and every time I do pick it up or read a passage or hear the audio book read by the professional narrator, I was like wow… Nakamura was right. Putting a lot of time, slowly into it, it’s just pleasurable. I’m not wincing that the sentence was written you know, in a rush and, and I wasn’t in a state of hurry when I was writing the book. I would work on a translation of one of the writers in the book, one of his or her passages. Sometimes I’d spend the whole day on a paragraph, and I set up my life so that I could have that time. And it was just a lot of fun and it was really different than working as a journalist on deadline, which I’ve done, where you just have to bang things out and its just misery. And you know, we’re so lucky to be alive at this time and to have our good health and to sort of ruin that by just trying to crank as many things out as possible. It’s just a shame and it’s too bad and, and our lives could be a lot richer if we reoriented. And on how to get to there, that’s a different thing but I do take that up in the stories in the book.
Jesse: And to further elaborate on this point, we really want to enjoy the process. I think a lot of times, whatever art or project we’re working on, we’re looking at the finish line, we’re pushing forward, you know, that’s when we feel like the enjoyment’s going to come when we get to the end. But whether it be, you know, a project around the house, a painting, whatever it is, actually enjoying that process of creation is just something I think a lot of people forget about.
Andy: And I don’t think it’s an intentional thing. I think it just happens, from a number of different factors. Of course it’s, you know, how expensive it is to generate rent in the city and then why are we in a city in the first place. Well we want to be able to participate in the cultural life of the city, for example. Or, we bought a piece of property that’s very expensive, so we have to generate a lot of income for that. Or just the nature of our graspy minds. I being [xx] involved in that and fighting against that all the time. There’s so many interesting things to do and I think maybe even now where there’s so many cool YouTube videos and kind of new projects we could do or, different kinds of sports or, whatever it is we could just try to cram it all in. How does that happen? How do we get to that place where our schedules are so full that we have no time to breathe? And I think it’s because we don’t give ourselves the time to examine our own lives and to have, as Atsuko Watanabe who I profile in chapter three said, “just time to simply stop and think.” To contemplate and to see how we run our lives get set up and see if that does give us satisfaction or not. And to continually do that, to do that on a regular basis, to review, you know, because we can just get carried away by that’s an exciting project and I’d love to do that too, and that sounds fun and even if it’s all pleasurable experiences…A lot of people who are my writing students are retired and some of them have enough money to live for the rest of their lives and they still get into this hamster wheel rush of just adding the next thing and adding the next thing and adding the next thing…so they get to the point where they’ve created the misery of too many things going on.
Marni: And I love how in our little pre-call before we pressed record is you’re telling us how you actually set up your days and you made sure that you had buffer on either end of this interview. And, it sounds like you’ve really put buffers into your life. You are living this, you are living this way of life where, where you’re not rushing from one thing to the next. You are mindfully going through your day. So, let’s maybe talk about this, how can people maybe look to start putting in these buffers and not slamming things into the hour one after the next and just being exhausted by the end of the day.
Andy: Okay, well I want to say that I am, I’m no expert. I am a pilgrim on this journey on the path, but maybe that’s why I might have something useful to say on this is that I find myself getting to that state of trying to get as many emails out before I get to my writing class for example and, rushing myself to the very last minute. And I think, first of all, just being aware of it. So this kind of brings in a little Buddhist meditation. Or just a simple mindfulness, let’s not even call it Buddhist. Just being aware of how your mind is behaving. Of looking at it and seeing oh, I’ve just made myself miserable. You know, I’m doing the dishes here and why am I feeling so bad? And you know my meditation practice, as intermittent as it is, does give me the mindfulness space when I’m luck to say oh here I am, unhappy. Why? Oh yeah, I’m trying to make sure that everything is done and, I’m able to get prepared for my writing class and get there. Maybe I don’t need to have the kitchen clean. I may have to leave without it being clean but at least I’m not in a misery state. So I’d say the first thing to do, is on just a general level to have some experience of what it’s like. And I think everyone has had this. Maybe they’re on vacation…you know that’s why those seductive, beach, travel posters and advertisements are so seductive. Like oh, wouldn’t it be nice to just be on a white sand beach, forgetting of course the airplane travel and the customs and immigration and finding a hotel you know…wouldn’t it just be nice to be on that white sand beach. So having some experiences in your own home, in your own life, maybe even in your work place, where you have like, five minutes of just being, drinking a cup of tea, or just enjoying one of your work mates, or their, their conversation. Just finding that in your life. And then when you’re experienced it then you notice when you’re out of alignment. So that’s on a micro level but I would say on a larger level, if you’re life has gotten to a place where you’re like slamming back a coffee and shoving a donut into your mouth before a day of 20 meetings, it’s hard to stop that because it’s got its own momentum. You’re gonna be in meeting number 12 and then, someone’s gonna say you know, when is our next meeting and then you slam that and you look at your calendar and you’re like, well I can squeeze it in here. And it just keeps going. What I recommend in the afterword of the book where I talk about my own journey is, can you, and I’ll say this directly to you guys and to your listeners…can you find a place in your calendar, it might not be next week, maybe it’s two, three months from now…can you make a space that’s at least three quarters of a day long, but maybe two days or three days with the express purpose of looking at how you operate. At what things are changeable in your life, and what things are not changeable in your life. And then seeing how you might experimentally and, first try, second try, third try, make some changes in the way you setup your life. But I do think you need that time, I mean the first two or three hours you’re just going to be powering down. You’re not gonna fill it up with a Netflix movie, you’re not gonna fill it up with a book. You’re just gonna, be. It might be uncomfortable at first because you’re used to rushing around but eventually, your mind settles down and you have some clarity to think about it. And you say, you know what, when I go back to work, I’m only going to schedule 10 meetings a day and if they want an eleventh meeting, two meetings a day might be better. But if they want an eleventh meeting you just say maybe you guys need to hire another person because, this is as much as I can do and have the life I want to have.
Jesse: And, what are your thoughts on how technology fits into all of this. So, we now have these devices, these smartphones where, we’re connected by email, social media, you know we can always just go into our web browser on our phone and search things out. We have this efficiency and this connection but, how is this feeding into the problem or do you think it is feeding into the problem of us always being busy, and us always, you know, rushing to the next thing.
Andy: I do think it does feed into it. I have met people on the way who can use all this technology, but I think it takes again, some mindfulness. I mean let’s start with the word, connection. It’s connected, I ‘m connected to hundreds of people by email. You know. They can email me; I can email them back. But if I don’t have time to answer their email or I’m not connected to myself or I don’t actually have time to sit in a conversation with them when we do get together so we schedule something, okay but all I have 45 minutes, am I really connected. I think there’s a pernicious aspect, you know, of the smart phone. I actually still use a flip phone. It works for me really well because you know, I still can send a text but it’s slow. So I can’t send a lot of texts and I don’t do a lot of it and it actually helps me stay slowed down. I have a little bit of an addictive personality. I think you know; we have an addictive society. I think addiction is one lens, not the only lens, but a good lens to see what might be happening outside my door right now. I live near a university. There’s a bus stop. University students are waiting for their bus and, although a few of them are studying their books, most of them are looking at their phone. I remember, just standing at the bus stop, and it can be boring, you know. But maybe I can talk to the person next to me. Maybe I would just be with myself. Just look at the trees, you know, and see quality of light going through the trees or hear a crow or a thrush. I think that because we can’t stand to have a minute that isn’t filled up with some kind of next stimulation where there is an addictive quality to it. I need to have the next thing, I need to have the next thing, I need… And I think some of the standard you know, ways of coming out of an addiction can be useful to that. If you think there’s an addictive quality to the way you use your smartphone, the way you use your technology. Because it’s easier to just sorta not have it but maybe that’s difficult in your life right now so, so it takes more work, in some ways to, put it in its box and…I mean, if for you looking at your phone and what’s happened to you on your phone is a source of great satisfaction and joy and connectivity in a real sense then, maybe there isn’t a problem for you I think. People say, “well, you know Andy it’s just a tool”. And using a lot of tools, hand tools for example to build our house you know, a screwdriver is different from a saw. And a chainsaw is different from a hand saw. And it changes your consciousness to use it. It makes you into a different person. So, the tools you use they are going to craft who you become.
Jesse: And I think another way of kinda pivoting this a little bit and looking at it in a bit of a different light, is that even if these devices, these smartphones, are making us more efficient, what are we creating more space for? So, is it just allowing us to get caught up in that whole cycle and get to more emails and you know what I mean? Get connected to more people through text. I think it’s important to look at it that way too where, even if it is efficient, what is that efficiency really getting us?
Andy: I mean I think it’s a good question. It isn’t just a rhetorical question. Maybe that’s a question to ask yourself right now as you listen to this. What is the efficiency getting you? And then try to enumerate that. One of the reasons why I teach writing and I, I like to help people use pen and paper or even their laptop to kind of reflect and to ask those questions. Make a list, what is the efficiently getting me and then what am I losing? This is bit of a joke, but I can imagine a New Yorker cartoon where someone’s gravestone said, “he looked at his phone the whole time”. You know I don’t no one really wants to think of their lives at the end if that’s what they did. “He was very efficient” or “She was very efficient”.
Jesse: And now we are going to take a quick break, with our chat with Andy, to give a shout out to our show sponsor, Four Sigmatic.
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Jesse: As a listener of our show, you get 10% off all your Four Sigmatic purchases. To take advantage go to ultimatehealthpodcast.com/foursigmatic. Again that URL is ultimatehealthpodcast.com/foursigmatic. Listeners in the US and Canada, you can bundle your order together, spend a hundred dollars or more, and you get free shipping. Go and check out the whole line up of Four Sigmatic products, right now.
Marni: And now another shout out to our other show partner, Sunwarrior. And, if you guys haven’t tried the warrior blend chocolate yet, you’ve gotta get your hands on it. As you guys probably know, Warrior Blend is the protein of choice for Jesse and myself. It is grain free, it is delicious and especially when you get the chocolate one, it’s so good. For an afternoon snack, you can just put a scoop in a little shaker bottle put a little nut milk or coconut milk in there, shake it up and you’re good to go. If you decide not to get yourself a big container you can also get individual sample packs, too. So if you are on the go, in the gym in the office, you want to throw it into your purse, your backpack those are super easy to use. Tear open and pour into your shaker bottle, or your blender. So give yourself the opportunity to try warrior blend chocolate.
Jesse: As a listener of our show, you get 10% off all your Sunwarrior purchases. To take advantage go, all you need to do, is go to ultimatehealthpodcast.com/sw. Again, that URL is ultimatehealthpodcast.com/sw. For Listeners in the US and Canada, again you can bundle your order together, spend a hundred dollars or more, and you get free shipping. Go and get yourself some warrior blend chocolate, today. And now back to our chat with Andy.
Jesse: So Andy, I think it’s important we kind of take a little bit of a step back here, and give the audience a little bit of perspective on the book The Abundance of Less. This is going to tie into the original story of you guys building your home, with hand tools. Before that all happened, you guys had a plan, you and your partner Cynthia. You went to Japan, you’re in your mid 20’s, and you guys go to teach English, to make money to come back to the US and actually buy that land. And in this process, you meet a bunch of really interesting people. And this is what the book is based upon, these stories, these interviews with different people you met over in Japan. Take us from this point and just kind of explain what happened when you arrived in Japan with your partner.
Andy: Sure. And that’s exactly what happened. We didn’t go over there intending to meet those people we just heard that you could do something that we felt was ethical and saved some money. And that was in the middle of the bubble. Just by total happen stance I was looking for organic food actually, and I came across a meeting that was some political activists working around Earth day, which was coming up. Earth Day 1990. All of a sudden, walking into that room, I was like oh, these are my people. People that were like the kind of people I would hang out with, in California. Many of them were anti-nuclear activists, which is a part of the book. Japan has 53 nuclear power stations and of course we had the disaster, the ongoing, the continuing disaster of the Fukushima Meltdown in 2011. But these people way back in 1990 were trying to expose the government lies and, trying to protect their children from radiation and protect the rest of the world from nuclear radiation in the aftermath of the Chernobyl Incident of 1986. So, we met these people and, I started offering a free English class for environmentalists and one person came to that class. She was very forthright. In fact, the first thing she said to me challenged me like, about what I was doing. You know teaching English to businessmen. And, I tried to explain. But we got to be great friends. And her name is Atsuko Watanabe. She’s the person who introduced me to almost all the other people in her network and many different places in Japan. But that first time she said, “would you and Cynthia like to come up to our house, in the mountains, where we grow our own food, and we live in an old Japanese farm house, on Sunday?” Faithfully we said yes. And, we had not seen how incredibly beautiful the Japanese countryside was. I mean, these clear running streams, and these tile houses and these weathered boards and, due to the very quick industrialization of Japan, I think it’s one of the most industrialized countries in the world…more than 94 percent of the population lives in cities. All of these farm houses had been rapidly left empty so, a number of people who in their 20’s and early 30’s had decided that they didn’t want to be on that rat race, that they didn’t want to be in that rush, and if you think people are busy in North American then you should see the way that people are in Japan. Everything is so…intensely scheduled and very difficult to spend any quality time with a friend. You know, which it all comes down to me. Can you sit and talk with your friend? Do you have time to think about your own life? So here in Japan, these people have broken away from it and that’s why I wrote the book about Japanese people because if they could do it in that society where the pressures to conform are so much greater and the repercussions of dropping out are much greater…it’s not like you can just drop out and drop back in as you can, in many ways, in the United States and Canada…I think you see the achievement they have. But at the same time, it was so beautiful going to their house and cooking on wood stoves and, incredibly delicious meals. Many of them are great chefs of, believe it or not, of Indian food. Many of them have lived in India and Nepal, some of them in Tibet and China and Korea, for years. And so, here was this pan Asian culture, not in Tokyo or Osaka but in these small rural villages, eating these delicious meals on the pottery that they had thrown themselves. And I thought this is an incredibly attractive way of life. Just physically beautiful, and the way their thoughts were very elegant. And their intellectual lives hadn’t suffered at all from being in the country in fact, they were some of the most well informed and deeply considerate, wise people that I’d ever met. And I thought I really would like to share the wisdom…not just in bullet point of like the 6 ways to you know, have a life hack to decrease your stress hormones but, the story of how they went from not being raised on the reservation as a traditional person in Nepal, but growing up in a city themselves. She’s the daughter of a doctor, Atsuko, and deciding that she wanted a different kind of life, traveling to India, seeing hand work there in the tradition of Gandhi. Seeing the way people provided for their own needs. Seeing how happy they could with so much less than they had in Japan and saying we could live this way ourselves. And then discovering how they do that. So telling these peoples’ stories became very important to me because I thought that would help people in the United States. So this is really a gift in North America, in general I should say…live a more rich life. That this is actually not just a pretty picture or something hopeful that’s a dream that can’t be accomplished. These are people who have done this for ten years, twenty years and now, some of them forty years, and have lived this rich life with much less consumption, more time for themselves…telling it as a story opposed to a series of bullet points, I think is a better way to get beyond our subliminal ways of being that are sometimes creating lives of misery for ourselves even though we think we’re trying to choose the best possible way. And that was the genesis of this book.
Marni: So in hearing all these stories, what was the one story, the one thing that made you reevaluate your own life and seeing a pattern or something that you were doing, that was totally contrary to what you were learning. So what was the first motion towards living this simpler life?
Andy: It’s hard to pull off. One person and I almost want to turn it around and ask you which story most inspired you. I will answer, to not be evasive, with one of the stories…there’s a man named San Oizumi, he’s in the very first chapter of the book and he’s a potter an activist. He describes himself as an anarchist. And before that word creates any problems, you know, I think we’ve been fed that the media this idea of anarchism throwing bottles through windows and being violent. That it is not what anarchism means and it certainly doesn’t mean that–very peaceful person. But what he meant by that is, when you join a group and japan is the land of the group…he said something to me and I’ll quote him, “when you have a machine do something for you, or when you have a group decide something for you, you lose the opportunity to think for yourself and it’s a very precious opportunity to think for yourself. And we’re not here on this earth very long. It’s just too valuable to be wasted that way.” That’s a very clear statement and I know we could debate it in certain ways but when I learned…well let me give you an example from our property. The electricity we use in the winter when it rains is from the little hydroelectric pelton wheel. To get the water from the creek bed into a pipe is actually pretty difficult thing to do. And I’m not an engineer, I’m not a carpenter, I’m not a professional at all. But I learned how to go to the culver, and get the water, slewest [sp] down into the pipe. You know doing it’s hard. You know, the water’s cold and it’s rushing 50 miles per hour and you’re trying to get the water into the pipe and I could’ve hired a professional to do that for me, but I’d lose the opportunity to think for myself, to think my way out of the problem. And so, when I’m there in the icy water you know shouting over the rush of the creek to Cynthia, neither of us like shouting at each other, you know, it’s hard. It’s frustrating. I was like oh this is what Noizumi’s talking about, this opportunity to think for myself. How can I do this well, how can I learn how to use my own hand, these amazing things that are at the end of our arms that have such dexterity and such possibility to…accomplish this task so that the pelton wheel turns and generates electricity so that we have lights at night in the winter when it’s cold. When we conquer that, it’s incredibly satisfying. So I would say that was one of the deeper lessons is, how much can I do for myself? It’s not like I do everything for myself, I don’t repair my own car, I don’t know how to do that, could learn how to do that. I certainly haven’t built the computer that I write my books on. How many things can I do for myself? Like grow, you know, a small percentage of my own food, I’d like to grow more. I cook pretty much all my own meals. Cynthia or I hand prepare everything. How much can I learn about my own humanity and my own you know this sort of being that I am that manifested as Andy Couturier in this world, how can I learn about that through doing as much as I can for myself and he was right. Be it tremendous opportunity, be a tremendous loss to not have that.
Jesse: And well, I think part of that too is, when you start doing things for yourself, you’re not spending money hiring people to, if you’re having somebody come in to do work around your house, or if you’re going out to a restaurant instead of making your own meals or going out to buy groceries instead of growing your own produce. So let’s tie that into the whole picture as well. People can get caught up in this and then they end up having to work more and not have this time abundance that we’re talking about here.
Andy: Well you know Jesse, I don’t think that I can say it any better than you just said it. I think that was very eloquent. I think that’s exactly the dynamic. Look at the things say, oh I’m going to have more time if I have a housekeeper come in and clean up after me. I mean besides having a bit of an odd relationship with another human being, like, paying them to do my dirty work. It’s a relationship that I don’t want to have even if it takes me a lot more time to clean up after myself. Or even if sometimes the house isn’t clean as I might want it to be in an ideal state, but I don’t have to work as much. I sleep 7 to 9 hours every single night. I have a ton of time for my love with Cynthia and my time with her, you know, talking. You know, I see a lot of people don’t even have time for their own relationships. Because they’re working, because they’ve got the big mortgage, because they have the housekeeper, because they have that childcare, because they have all this…and it’s never ending and we lie to ourselves that well if I can just get caught up then there wouldn’t be as many tasks. I don’t think that happens. I think it’s really about reducing the amount of thing you have, and reducing the amount of tasks you want to accomplish in a day and then enjoying them a lot more. And it’s true. You do enjoy it more. I’m enjoying having this conversation with you guys, meeting you, and listening to you and having this conversation. But I think if I was trying to do five podcasts a day, I wouldn’t have that enjoyment.
Jesse: Let’s bring this back to Japan and talk about the money, when it comes to the people over there. How important was it for people to have careers and be making a lot of money? I’m assuming it wasn’t but let’s, let’s talk about that factor.
Andy: Sure. I’ll just take out yet another person as an example. There’s a man named Akira Ito. I.T.O. And he’s profiled in Chapter 6 of the book. He’s probably the oldest person. He was born in 1935 so he grew up during World War 2, and the city next to him was firebombed and, the whole traditional way of life that his family went through was destroyed. He couldn’t return to it. And he was the second son and the third son, so he couldn’t take over his father’s business. So, he like many men of his generation he went to work in an office. He became a petroleum engineer and, was doing wat everyone else was doing. He was…the Japanese economy was sky rocketing, and there was more and more money coming in and I think we’re sort of in a…those of us who have worked in our economy right now…I can make more money I can make more, I may take on another job…He was involved in that. He went back to that experience of the war and, when he was a child and the city was, next to him was firebombed, and he became aware as a very young boy of the existence of mortality, of death, and a question was born into him at that time. Where from, where to? Very simple sentence. Where did we come from before we were born and where are we going to afterwards? And I know the standard answer like there’s nothing before and there’s nothing after…but I don’t think we’ve ever really answered where consciousness comes from and that was a very important question to him. And he had no time to think about it cause he was working all the time. So at 28, quit his job, very difficult thing took a lot of courage. But he did, and he headed out on the Tran Siberian railroad to Europe first and eventually ended up in India and, you know, he worked off and on as a teacher, primarily also as a working in publishing but he never got onto that I have to work that much, and he always had time to explore this question. Primarily in his artwork, of where from and where to and what is, what is the spirit of the universe. And he wrote many books, children’s book as well as books on theoretical astrophysics, and yoga, and Chinese philosophy, and T Ching [xx]. All of these different fields, exploring that question and coming up with an answer for himself of what does it mean to be alive. I know that we think about that as a bit of a sophomore question that we get into a sophomore philosophy class, what does it mean to be alive but it’s actually an important question and we can ask it if we give ourselves time and I think the answers or even the pursuing of the answers holds a lot of meaning for us.
Jesse: Andy, I want to take a step way back and actually go to your childhood and get a little bit of perspective on, what might have led up to, this alternative way of living you eventually found yourself in. Was this something like, growing up your parents, lived this sort of lifestyle and you grew up in it? Where was your first taste of living rurally and and out of the city.
Andy: Great question and thank you. I think there’s a push and a pull for everyone. And one of my earliest memories was a push away, and it was at a Passover Seder [sp], and my grandma had a bell on her table. And she rang the bell and there was this servant, a woman who came out of the kitchen to take my grandmother’s orders. I mean she wasn’t a slave; she was being paid but she was a servant. And I understood as a four-year-old boy, she wasn’t invited to sit down at the table with us. She was there to bring our food, and to take it away and there was something that rebelled in me, at that time. I thought this isn’t right I don’t like the feeling of this. I wanted to have everyone included. And I mean, at four years old I probably couldn’t have been that much help, but we could’ve done it all ourselves and it just wasn’t the culture at the time. And I saw that all of the other adults around us look at that and didn’t seem to have any problem with it. So that, do it for yourself and that value of being able to do things for yourself I think, was a very early in my consciousness. Where did that come from, I don’t know. I also went to a boys’ summer camp when I was 9 through 13 and it was a very interesting camp in the mountains of Pennsylvania in the Poconos…and we were taught how to do things like canoe, and sail, but also wood craft, and we built a treehouse, and we camped and it was just so great to swim in a lake in the summer and to have a campfire…this was just so pleasurably to see the stars above at night and learn about the birds and the animals and the whole life’s worlds, I was very drawn to that. And then you know I was growing up in the aftermath of the 60’s I was five-year-old when they ended but, I could still feel that this value system of like, being more connected to the earth. You know we do get alienated in our modern industrial machine and that leads to all kinds of problems. Health problems, stress as you guys know as health educators is that the number one killer. But alienation from self, epidemic levels of depression, lack of connection with community and even suicide rates. You know, all of that has to do, I think, in a large part with our alienation from nature. So I didn’t want to live my entire life separated from green plants just, netocative [xx][sp], I don’t think that’s a word, medicinal, that’s the one I’m looking for, aspect of just looking at trees and plants and flowers. I wanted to be involved in that. And then I saw some people in my early 20’s who were growing their own food and the food was incredible and they were learning about how plants grow, and they saw the whole life cycle. I thought, this is thrilling. If I could do anything to have some of that, maybe a lot of that in my life, I’d like to do it. That was the beginning for me.
Jesse: And now we’re going to take another quick break from our chat with Andy to give a shout out to our show partner, Core Chair.
Marni: As you guys know we are big fans of our Core Chairs. We use them every day while we are working at our desk. We’re always using them when we’re recording our podcast. And I’m also super excited to now be using my core chair when I’m painting. I am takin’ up painting and to be able to have a really comfortable, mobile chair to sit on while I’m at my canvas is gonna to be amazing. It’s going to be amazing for my body, for my brain and it’s just gonna keep the blood flowing and my energy up. So, depending on the task that you have around the house that you need to sit, get yourselves a core chair so at least you are doing some active sitting. You’re going to feel the benefit and you’re going to feel the difference.
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Marni: It’s amazing that you learned this or observed this so early on and you were able to really strip things away as you grew older, to kind of narrow it down to where you are now. And I really want to emphasize the point that, living this simpler life is allowing you the space, and I know we’ve kind of touched on this, to really enjoy the things that really matter. We’re living in a society now with endless to do lists and so much to do as we talked about. And we’re forgetting the important stuff. Like our food and putting our hands in the soil and growing it. Or our partners. Our dogs. You know the things that really bring a smile to our face. We’re so consumed and caught up with making that extra buck. And I really love this message of the simpler life and really embracing what matters.
Andy: Can I ask you, Marni, who your favorite person in the book was?
Marni: I think the woman, can’t pronounce her name, was, it was the third story.
Andy: Yeah, Atsuko.
Marni: Yeah. I loved how she just talked about, you know, a lot of those philosophies, and you know she did a lot of cooking but I love one of the messages of the more people there are, the more complicated things get. You know it’s about narrowing down and simplifying. And, you know, the less people involved, makes things more clear. That was something definitely highlighted in there but there was a lot of beautiful, so many beautiful stories from all the people. I have two or three takeaways from each person that really stood out for me. But that was one you asked.
Andy: Well thank you, yeah. She’s a super dynamic person and big hearted and full of laughter and her two daughters grew up in this way and they are just rich and well-rounded late 20’s young women and, she still has this beautiful garden that she maintains in her 60’s and she’s, you know, she’s now on the town council and she’s involved politically and I, I guess I want to emphasize that, we haven’t talked about that as much. Our health ends depend not just on ourselves, individual atomized knee[xx] thing. It depends upon our community; it depends on being connected to other people. I’ll share a personal story that’s not in the book. I actually just went through a health crisis, I had a congenital defect in my heart. I had a heart surgery last fall, and I’m doing great now. Much better that I’ve been doing in decades. Really. But what I want to emphasize that because I had lived in this community, and I had formed bonds, and relationships, not only for my own recovery and making that easier. People visited me, people brought us food but it was a lot easier on Cynthia my partner who otherwise would have been so highly tasked by being connected. But how do you get connected, you have to put time to that. And to do things for other people. And to create that, we toss that word off community but it’s a network of many many different connections where you’ve done something for someone or they’ve done something for you or you care about them or you love them. That really brought me through. It was so much easier than it would have been had I just been sort of like, single guy flying around to 20 different cities every month and you know, staying in hotel rooms. I would have been isolated. And I think it’s very real that having the time is not just about you, but how you can give to others. Not just what you can get from others but how you can be something of service, and that’s where a lot of satisfaction comes as well. But if you don’t have time for it, it doesn’t happen.
Jesse: Well I’m happy to hear you’re feeling better and on the mend that’s great to hear. Yeah again it just comes back to this creation of time in our lives. And for the listeners out there who this might be a new novel concept to them and they’re ready to start embracing the abundance of less and just living a more simple life…how does somebody go about starting the process? Like, how we assess what we really need?
Andy: Well I think there’s a lot of ways in doing it. I mean I think it first comes back by just first being aware of it. I think that’s a lot of it. Is to really notice what’s the effect of say, taking another job on or your boss asks, you to do something and you just feel guilty that you can’t say no even though you’re already tasked. Just being aware of what that does to you, that’s the very first light of awareness. And maybe even a little bit of mediation of mindfulness could help, a mindfulness class. I’m a wring teacher, I teach writing classes through my writing school called, The Opening. And in those classes, there’s a lot of time. We actually, all my classes, the in-person class, not the online classes. But the in-person classes go three or four hours. So you have to give yourself some time, you have to set up your schedule. It can’t be done maybe tomorrow, but if you look, you know, out three months from now, four months from now, just put in some time for contemplation every week. And writing and journaling and reflecting, and you know there’s a lot of great books on journaling. My very first book is actually a book called Writing Open the Mind and it’s about tapping the subconscious. So there’s a lot of exercise in there that you can use for this process of self-examination. But to become aware, I guess is the first step and second is to take some time to plan, to use your planning mind not just your subconscious mind and be like okay…say someone listening already has kids. That’s a decision that’s already been made. You’re gonna take care of those kids and you’re gonna wanna have time for those kids. So that’s not something that’s negotiable, you’re not gonna not spend time with your kids. But maybe there’s a way to…live in a smaller apartment that’s cheaper, so you have more time. Maybe there’s a way to…practice saying no to the demands of people who send you an email. Maybe there’s a way to have a media fast, so that you can just reflect. And then to make those choices and try and fail and try again, and to return again, and again to what kind of life do I want to live. Maybe a buddy, there’s a thing called Simplicity Circles and you can look that up. There’s a women Cecile Andrews, that I had the pleasure of meeting, she has this whole process where you get together with say, three people or five people and that’s your simplicity circle and you wanna actually bring simplicity into your life and you talk about it. How can I have more of this richness and maybe somebody gives you an idea, or there’s some accountability…I don’t even like that word, accountability. Just some support of, oh yeah, I told Janet that I’m gonna try to spend more time walking my dog in nature and I did that because I told it to her. Community, self-reflection, writing’s a great way to do it, conversation, and then blocking that time out on your calendar and then treating that as inviolable. This is your life, you know, you want to live a great life.
Jesse: And Andy let’s talk about where life is for you today. You guys have your cabin out in the rural area but you also have a connection to the city as well. So what does that look like? How much time are you spending at the cabin? How much time are you spending in the city? And why are you choosing to live that way?
Andy: I wanna keep moving more in the direction in being out in the country side and this year actually looks like I might get two or three months out there. And, usually it’s about a couple months a year, back and forth. And it’s not really the city, there I live in Santa Cruz which is a small town and I live right on the edge of it so I live at edge of a large open space preserve that goes for miles up to the edge of San Francisco. It’s almost wilderness, some of it. So I do get a lot of that in my life and I do have a garden here in Santa Cruz. I teach writing and that’s a big love of mine, is to be in face to face connection with my writing students. I’ve helped dozens of dozens of people, more than a hundred actually finish their books, many go on to publication. And I also teach this writing for the subconscious classes. It’s a little harder to do out in the countryside so…and that’s my source of income, teaching writing. But I’m moving towards…trying to get back to your technology question. How can I interact with say, video conferencing, in a way that doesn’t pull me into a lot of the negative sides of interacting with a computer. And I’ve been able to do that. And I’m moving more and more towards being able to offer phone coaching for example or sometimes, online classes, so I’m doing more of that. I’m also very busy right now, the book has just come out last year, and I’m doing a lot of interviews and book talks. I’ve actually just been invited to a month-long lecture tour in China, in Shanghai and Beijing by environmental organization there that wants me to bring this message to urbanized China so…I guess in some ways I’m getting kinda pulled along with the momentum of the success of the book. And the message is getting out so, in some ways I guess I’m living it less in order to help spread the message to others. But, I do feel the pull of trying to figure out how to use less money, than I’m using, and to spend more time up on our property, because it’s so fulfilling to do that.
Marni: And to give us a little perspective on our day to day life or as much as you can practice this you shared a little bit about your morning ritual in your book, so if you could just share with our audience how your mornings get started.
Andy: I was just saying this to Cynthia this morning. Like, just thanking her, like gratitude, saying gratitude is a great new practice that I’ve been…like saying it out loud. I’m so grateful to you Cynthia that you want to do this with me every morning. So what we do is, after we wake up we do a little bit of stretching, and then we make some really nice tea, we love our nice tea, and we sit on the couch and we do, three things. We listen to a recording of a poet, and we have, you know, starting to learn a lot of different poets. Sometimes, you know, on the internet or some recording I’ve downloaded of some poet and we listen or, sometimes even watch them read and we start our day with poetry. And, I’ve really learned a lot about poetry, and which poets I like and, it kind of makes a nice bridge between the world of dreams. It’s really different than waking up and listening about like, catastrophe news on the radio. It’s an ease and we enjoy the tea and then, I might take a book off the shelf and we read a few more poems, and then she lets me read something from an old journal, or a little free write I wrote, or an essay I wrote or you know, an unfinished thing never gotten published, so I’ll read that aloud to her and sometimes that goes on for about 45 minutes. And again, after eight or nine hours, we almost never set the alarm clock and we wake up when we want to and you know, get to work…I might send some emails about my class. Oh we have breakfast; we have a nice handmade breakfast that one of us makes. And then I’ll get to teaching, I might have online class, I might have a coaching session, I might go down to down town Santa Cruz to lead a book completion group. Might go for a run and come back and you know I’m a night owl, so I might, you know, send some emails late at night but I always try to have some Qigong practice. Just a little bit of movement, and breathing practice at night and that’s the rhythm of my days when I’m here in Santa Cruz. It’s a little different when I’m up on our property. I might, you know, be working on the storage area or sawing boards or fixing the hydroelectric system once again or, putting in some new thing like want to build a bridge this…across a creek so I can have a new area where I’ll plant a tree I’ll, so, you know really touching soil there. So, there’s a lot more physical activity, just going for a long walk on our property to the ridge, to the big mossy rock or to the waterfall or just to sit on the ridge side and drink some tea.
Marni: That makes me actually think of another story in the book about seeming like there’s nothing to do, like when you don’t have that schedule jam packed. But yet when you have that space, like on your property or someone’s out on a cottage, it’s amazing how you can fill your day with things that are really special. So you can always find yourself doing things so I love how you just shared that because we always are busy or we can be doing things, I don’t like to use the word busy but you know what I mean. Keeping up with things that we actually enjoy and it’s nice to have that space and time free to be able to do those things and not have that pressing place to be or thing to do. That someone else is expecting that of you.
Andy: I guess the main emphasis that I want to say is, I’m sharing these stories of the people in this book because it is an abundance, in less, because they’re living such rich lives. They have time for contemplation, they have time for community activism, they have time for their kids. I mean interestingly a lot of the dads, you know, in Japan, I don’t know if you know how bad it can be. They may only see their kids on a Sunday afternoon, if they even live in the same city. Sometimes their company sends them to another city and they might not see their kids for months. And this has a negative effect on the kids, but it’s also so sad for the dads. So all of the dads in this book, they’ve had tons of time to spend with their kids. So they’ve gotten the richness of, and their kids grew up, you know I’ve known them since they were little. I’ve seen what kind of amazing adults they’ve grown into, so it’s a real richness. Whether it’s a richness of great food or richness of time in nature or just like, happened to be outside looking at the mountains when the Whippoorwill calls and you didn’t ever hear a Whippoorwill before, but because you weren’t just rushing by with the NPR blaring in your ears, you actually heard it. That is a different kind of luxury and it’s a deep luxury and I think it’s our birthright. Not everyone has the same privilege, but I think a lot of us have a lot more leeway than we think if we can just conquer the demon of rushing after the next thing. And I want to say it can absolutely be done. I get letters and emails all over the world who read say the first edition of the book, many years ago. They’d stepped off the corporate treadmill and, they’re certainly not living like people in the book…few people are but most people are living some version of a lot less work time, a lot less consumption, a lot less rush and stress which of course, causes health problems, as we all know, and time for what really matters. And it can happen, and we just have to say no to the big trance that our corporate consumer advertising driven culture keeps conning us with very subskinny [xx] technics that that’s the way we’re going to find happiness.
Jesse: Well you talk about getting out of the corporate bubble and, for me, that gets me thinking about somebody being in this situation and having a whole lifestyle that revolves around that. So they have a certain mortgage on their house, and they have a certain lease for their car. You know, certain expectations of where they’re going to go on vacation every year. We could keep going on and on down the list, but an important part about getting out of that bubble is to really work that whole spider web, that connection of everything that’s surrounding that. So do you have any advice for somebody’s whose like, caught up in that whole web and where do they start to prune?
Andy: Well, I think the real answer is don’t lose the opportunity to think for yourself. So this is not something I can figure out, it’s a puzzle. The modern predicament, as I say at the end of the book, is a puzzle that we all have to work out in some way. Your situation, your age, your background what you’re good at, what you’re not good at, all of that’s going to feed into it. So, you have to figure it out. But if you don’t have time to figure it out, it’s pretty much dead from the beginning. So you really have to first make the time and then try to figure it out. So let’s say, for example, somebody’s listening to this and is in that corporate situation. Doesn’t mean you have to quit your job right away. Maybe, you can…I think you said, you had the minimalists on your show once. Maybe you can…be stocking a lot of money away for three years, it’s a three-year plan. And then you can maybe live in a tiny house, and you have this money in the bank and you can actually have 100 percent of all days but not for three years but because you’re not spending all the money. That’s hard to do, I know. By not going on that place in vacation, and you come back with thousands of more dollars for example, if you’re in that corporate situation. But I guess the other side is you got to start with that determination that God dammit I wanna make this change. I really don’t wanna live this way. When we talk about sustainability, we toss that word around, but what does it mean to be sustainable. And I’m not saying that all corporate jobs are unsustainable, but I would say that a fair percentage are…and if this is destroying the earth, and the polar bears are dying out, you know we are losing these species, I’m not trying to guilt trip anybody, I don’t think a guilt trip would work but if you look at it and you say, listen, I don’t want to participate in this. I don’t even think it’s gonna last. If I have a kid and my kid’s like maybe in my old age, I just don’t want to be a part of it. That could be a motivation, I don’t want to involve myself and you could be an inspiration for your office mate. Woah, she left the job and she’s having a great life and I went and visited her on vacation in the islands off of Seattle and my God, she has this amazing vegetable garden. She did it. Maybe I can do it. And the less people involve themselves and that maybe the system’s going to change. And I think that we need to be a part of that, each one of us.
Jesse: You touched on thinking for yourself there. What I love about your work and the way you’re living is that you definitely assessed how things are working in the world and around you and you’ve made decisions where you’ve thought it out and you’ve lived true to your values and the way you want to go, and I just think it’s so important for people whatever way they choose to live is that they’re at least assessing how the world is working, and how things are working around them and realizing that they have a choice to live differently if they choose. I just wanna throw that out there that people do have a choice, and I just really want people to assess, and be critical, and choose what is true for them
Andy: And have a little faith, that things are better, and could be better. Here’s a little example. Cynthia, my partner, has just started working with a racial justice organization called, Black Lives Matter advocates. So she’s a white person but she is working, and she’s always felt very passionately about the situation of racism in the United States, so she’s involved in political work and she has time to do it. And it’s great. When she’s meeting new people, and connecting with other activists, and she helps you know…small part, helped organize Martin Luther King Day rally. Here in Santa Cruz it was the first time we ever had one and it was cosponsored by the NAACP and the police department, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and that never happened before. And she did a lot of logistic…it was one of the best days of her life. If she hadn’t made the time, and she gotten motivated by the 2016 election but she’d been an activist before, and there’s ways to get out of your own bubble and to have time for those kind of connections. And, you can make that choice and that it can be a lot of fun and fulfilling and she’s got these new friends, and they share the same values, and she’s growing as a person, and getting new skills…so it’s just a lot that you can do once you give yourself the time.
Jesse: One thing when you’re touching on your morning routine Andy, one thing that jumped out at me, and I had a little bit of reminder from something in the book…you talked about how you guys are listening to recordings of poets. You talk about in the book how, it’s important to…not necessarily just brush over everything and try to consume a lot of different things but going deep into specific things. So probably most people wouldn’t think about, you know, listening to a poem over, and over again, but that is something that you’re advocating. So explain why this is important.
Andy: Well, it is something I’m advocating. But I think for me it just happened that wow, this is really good. This is a great poem. I didn’t catch all of it.
Jesse: But I’m assuming this is something you would take into other aspects of life is well, so not just a poem, but, going deep onto different things, not just going so thin with a lot of different things but taking time to go really deep.
Andy: So one thing I read your bio, Jesse, learning about you before the podcast and saw that you used to run marathons. I like to run but I haven’t run a marathon but I bet for you going deep into running versus sort of just, you know, doing it occasionally, but really doing long distance was probably very transformational from before you did it to after and how you understood things about your body, just being outside, or how your body worked or just how your mind worked cause if you’re having a lot of stress…I’ve read this about long distance runners that like it’s really about not control of the mind but, sort of mastery of what’s happening in your mind. It just couldn’t happen if you were, sort of like, well I’m gonna do a little Pilates today, and I’m gonna do yoga tomorrow, and I’m going to do Qigung the next day. You’d never get there, so I need to go back to the book again. It’s a guy, and he’s a bamboo flute player. And some of his songs are 800 years old. And he only plays seven songs. When I first met him, I think he’d been doing it for 12 or 13 years and he said oh yeah, you know, to get the true sound, he called it, the true sound out of the flute takes thirty years. Minimum. He’s a very exuberant man and prone to big statements, and I was like, oh that’s another statement 30 years. You know, okay, you know it’s not useful unless you do it for 30 years. But I smiled and said okay, that’s his perspective. But as I kept visiting him over the years, and kept playing those same songs…he’s not interested in jamming he’s not interested in playing new songs, he’s only playing the ancient, have centuries of refinement…and I heard him play the last time I was in Japan a year ago. Oh my God, the richness of that particular tone…it really was something other worldly. It wasn’t even something to record, even if you had the nicest recording. It was something that he poured his life into it. And the power of the single note that he has been able to…knowing bamboo, knowing his own body. And this can be for anything, but it was inspiration that to say like I can do less…and I still read new poems and buy new books of poem because I’m avaricious and full of desire for a new poem but, going back again, and again over the same thing. There’s’ a reason why they call that deep. The words deep, and shallow, anyone can understand. Oh, that was a shallow person, or that was a shallow lecture, or that was a shallow book. It’s cause the person didn’t spend enough time on it. So, you can feel the time in that. So if you’re making work of art, or you’re making a podcast…you know you guys have been developing this for years, we’ve had an hour to talk. That’s something that matters and the quality of it. It builds up over time, by giving a kind of energy to it. You know, I got an email from a young woman from South Carolina, and she told me that she had read my book a dozen times, which kind of blew me away. And she said, that it kind of changed my life, and it’s opened up new conversations, new communities, I’ve made new friends by reading this book…by rereading I get new things out of this book, each time. And it was something she needed so, I just recommend whatever it is you love, you know, spend more time doing it.
Marni: and I think that’s the theme of this conversation is to really…narrow things down, find what really matters and go deep on it. So, Andy we wanna thank you so much and we want our listeners to get a copy of The Abundance of Less. And, I know you’re not big on technology but is there another way for our listeners to get in touch if they want to connect with you.
Andy: Sure, and I’m open to anyone reaching out to me. I will answer every email that I receive. So, first of all, theabundanceofless.com is my website and you can read a little bit about it, you can order the book there. There’s also an audio book out, which will be up on the website soon, it just came out. And then there’s my writing school, so, if anyone would like to do more writing it’s The Opening, theopening.org. I have a newsletter, with writing tips and I offer online classes there. As well as if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, I offer in person writing classes here. And if you just want to reach out and send me an email, I’m open to that too. email@example.com. And the very last word in the book is my email address and my postal address in case you want to write me a letter. So, I’m open, that’s my credo
Jesse: Alright Andy, we’re gonna link things up over at ultimatehealthpodcast.com. Yeah, just thank you for writing such a beautiful book. I’m sure it’s touching so many people, and is going to continue to do so. So thank you for coming on the show as well, this has been a blast. Keep doing what you’re doing.
Andy: I wanna say the same thing to you. I think what you’re doing is important. I’ve looked at the podcasts you’ve had, and I wanna start listening to them. I think that the quality that you bring to it, and your philosophy, and your presence, is really important. And you may not know that, maybe you’ll find out years later, how much difference your podcast made people but, I wanna thank you for your time and energy because I’m sure that a lot goes in on the back end.
Marni: Thank you for acknowledging that. That’s, that’s really special. And thank you for your time again Andy.
Andy: Okay, buh-bye now.
Marni: We hope you guys enjoyed today’s conversation with Andy. He is truly inspiring in a very different way, and we hope that you guys…embrace the concept of less. Because less is more. Once you have less things, and less things to do, you realize the importance of the things that actually matter in your life. So, if you wanna connect with us, cause connection is a really important topic in today’s show, come on over to our Facebook group over at ultimatehealthpodcast.com/community. Connect with us, ask us questions. We are real people and we wanna engage with you guys week to week. So we’ll see you guys there.
Jesse: Yeah we can’t wait to chat with you guys over in the community, we’ll see you over there. And I wanna give a shout out to our engineer and editor, Jason Sanderson at podcasttech.com. Jason, thanks for doing such a great job with the show. And this week’s fun fact about Jas, is that his favorite lunchtime meal is a green smoothie with spinach blueberries, avocado, and hemp protein. Sounds amazing, way to go Jase. You guys have a great week, we’ll talk in the Facebook community, take care.
Disclaimer: This is a raw transcript and it may contain some errors. To listen to the complete audio interview, go to ultimatehealthpodcast.com/227.
268: Sarah Wilson – Zero Waste Cooking • Minimal Consumption • Start Thinking Differently
257: Jesse Itzler – Living With The Monks • Only Fruit Until Noon • Flip Your Relationship With Time
252: Srinivas Rao – Creating For An Audience Of One • Creativity Leads To Happiness • Cognitive Bandwidth
265: Neil Pasricha – How To Be Happy • Untouchable Days • Find Your Authentic Self
130: Sandor Katz – Wild Fermentation • Probiotic Supplements vs. Fermented Foods • Ferment At Home
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