On my way up the mountain carrying some roofing materials I stopped to catch my breath, and as I unconsciously gazed at a scrub cedar tree that I had trimmed a month before to make the trail, an insight popped up. They happen at random like this, and seldom have anything to do with the thinking mind, they just come from another place.

If I happened to die at the foot of this tree, the 70 % water that this body consists of and the remaining ash that's left over would quickly sink into the soil at the base of this tree and disappear. This being the case, why would I want to make a fuss about my life? In many ways, after all is said and done, this little scrub cedar tree is as important or more so than I ever was or ever will be.

I have made my way through this experience called a lifetime for 68 years now, making lots of waves for myself and everyone else, and realize in hindsight, in the wake of those waves that can toss your ship about, that the really important things in life leave few footprints on the earth.

My footprints are still huge but I am doing what I can to lessen them. I live in a 52 Square foot cabin that I built for $1500. 7 ½ feet by 7 ½ feet, no water, no plumbing, but I do have a small electric heater for the wintertime and a lamp. Three luxuries - a land line, a DSL line, and a laptop are available to me in the little office trailer at the main center, as is the bathroom with hot showers. So I am not exactly living a life of Robinson Crusoe! But I feel privileged that I can live this way in an out of the way Texas ranch on eighty-five acres in the hill country.

Because of the remote location and rough dirt roads, (a 3 1/2 hour round trip to Lowe's and Home Depot), my Silverado four-wheel drive V-8 is a necessity for getting through muddy roads and hauling building materials (I build small meditation cabins up on the mountain), but I try to go into town only once a week in order to save on gas and truck maintenance. My social security check actually doesn't allow for much more!

There seems to be a knack for keeping footprints small, even in the midst of a busy life. If your wants are small, if you can get by with little and still be happy, then the footprints begin to shrink. Wanting and craving for things and experiences so that we don't become bored is what causes "Big Foot" footprints! Whatever you buy, gasoline or big screen TVs, they set into motion a string of footprints, from industrial pollution to financing terrorism.

As a nation, we are largely unaware, I believe, of just how large our footprints have been. Consumerism (to keep the economy strong, even if we have to borrow heavily!), international adventurism, all kinds of manic activity has been unconsciously encouraged to keep things going and exciting. But yet, surveys show that Americans are not as happy as people in many countries, including some fairly poor third world countries. Why is this? If you read some of the articles here, you can feel the increasing unhappiness. Could it be that happiness comes from a different place than from consuming, adventurism, and how much money we can accumulate?

How can you get by in life with little and still be happy? If you presently rely on outside stimulation for your happiness, feeling that you are not complete within yourself and need outside stimulation, be it consumer goods, cars, TVs, houses, relationships, even religion; then your happiness depends upon something outside of yourself, something that you can think up. As such, it is a drug so to speak, and the fix needs to be repeated often. Otherwise you might fall into loneliness and despair. This requires an endless struggle to provide yourself constantly with these outside stimulations, again, no different from any addiction.

But when our minds are unattached, non-dependent, when we can frame an entire cabin with no thinking whatsoever except for which board comes next, then there is a certain peace that comes with that, a contentment that requires nothing outside our ourselves. There is just "that" in front if us, and this is a satisfaction that requires nothing, and is unchanging regardless of the physical circumstances.

This kind of contentment is 180 degrees away from the constant stimulation that depletes our body and minds so much. It not only relieves the mind of it's many contrived burdens, but brings up a certain kind of deep courage where even the fear of death becomes as nothing. And if we look closely, it is this fear of death, as a subconscious basis, that instills all the little fears in our hearts daily.

Working up on a mountain by myself with power tools and ladders, and at least two hours from a hospital or EMS service, doesn't bother me in the least. (I am, however, naturally mindful and not distracted when I work because of my meditation practice). Plus being 68 years old I could have the massive stroke or chest pains at any time, but that doesn't bother me either, even though the body only lasts so long. But again my meditation practice over thirty years has been good for my immune system, stress relief, and my health, and the only "medications" I take are vitamins. (Sorry Pharma industry!)

Emergencies in a remote area don't bother me because meditation, in some ways, is a practice for dying. Once you practice dying, and face it head on, the fear dissolves, the concept of death changes, and dying becomes not an emergency at all, just a change of clothes. Meditation also relieves the impulsive urges so that the mind can relax and enjoy life without necessarily doing something to keep the mind busy. This is a big stress reliever when you learn how to do this.

All in all, if you can find a way to relax into smaller footprints for yourself, I believe that not only will you be happier, but you will have a good feeling that you are helping your fellow human beings by taking it easy on this fragile earth.

Author's Bio: 

Anagarika eddie is a meditation teacher at the Dhammabucha Rocksprings Meditation Retreat Sanctuary
www.dhammarocksprings.org and author of A Year to Enlightenment. His 30 years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Thervada Buddhist monk. He lived at Wat Pah Nanachat under Ajahn Chah, at Wat Pah Baan Taad under Ajahn Maha Boowa, and at Wat Pah Daan Wi Weg under Ajahn Tui. He had been a postulant at Shasta Abbey, a Zen Buddhist monastery in northern California under Roshi Kennett; and a Theravada Buddhist anagarika at both Amaravati Monastery in the UK and Bodhinyanarama Monastery in New Zealand, both under Ajahn Sumedho. The author has meditated with the Korean Master Sueng Sahn Sunim; with Bhante Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia; and with the Tibetan Master Trungpa Rinpoche in Boulder, Colorado. He has also practiced at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the Zen Center in San Francisco.