Friday, 18 July 2014


Okay, I know my family is neurologically unusual, though we are past masters at finding coping strategies to disguise same.

A weirdism of my own is the struggle I have over identity. Specifically, I have trouble knowing:
a) where I end and someone else begins
b) what I look like (I don't get much help with this - people often fail to recognise me)
c) who I am

With regard to ‘c’, the particular difficulty is that I have to keep all my belongings together in one place where I can see them, and then I know who I am. If they are dispersed or muddled in with other people’s things, I lose my sense of self.

In addition to this, if I own a lot of things my identity becomes dispersed among them and diluted by them. I find my energetic juice drawn down into them to hold them together in being, maintaining a sense of self.

This means that to hold onto my sense of identity and not feel lost and confused, I need to stay where my things are; at home.

 Other people can feel threatening and alarming because of not knowing where I begin and they end; I easily feel drained and invaded.

But I have made a discovery.

If I own very few things, I can hold them in mind and don’t need to be where they are; I can retain a sense of myself and so move more easily through the world. Because I can hold on to my identity, other people don’t seem so threatening or alarming. I can establish a boundary.

If I have a sense of identity I don’t feel so lost and full of grief as I am otherwise prone to.

So I have worked on reducing my possessions to an irreducible minimum, and this has engendered a sense of lightness and ease, of travelling through the world in peace.

I’m not quite sure why.

My objective is to reach a place where I can live out of a suitcase; where everything I have packs comfortably into one portable container.  I haven’t yet achieved this, but I’m getting there.  Certainly I could easily get everything I have into two suitcases, plus my sleeping bag and sleeping mat.

Something happens to my mind when I reduce my belongings right down. It becomes alert, available, and also calm. I have better equanimity.

Let me show you what I have now. There are things in the big house that I share with others, but those are held in common and are not mine. For example, when we make a curry for us all to have together, we use the big pot in the house and the house plates. But I don’t regard those as mine – either to keep or dispose of. They belong to the house and if the household dispersed I would keep none of them.  What among them was once mine I have handed on. And if I lived alone, I would not have a refrigerator or a cooker (I think you don’t say cooker in the States. Stove? Oven?)
I’m just showing you the things that are actually mine.

So, here we go in the evening light down the path to Komorebi.

Komorebi is a fixture that belongs to this place. So I have a sense of it as a location rather than a belonging. Everything stuck to it like the shelves and the woodstove is its own, not a possession of mine. It’s just where I am for now.

Inside it is my four seasons sleeping bag (warm and cosy) on my Vango self-inflating sleeping mat (7.5cm, very comfy). I have the cushion Alice made me and a soft fluffy blanket Grace (Buzzfloyd) gave me; I use them as pillows.

When I first came into Komorebi I had trouble with my things. Some things went mouldy and one of my sets of shelves was too near the woodstove and the side of them got alarmingly hot. I realized I had too many things. A sleeping mat and sleeping bag won’t go mouldy because they are synthetic and less bulky; I can sleep on a different bit of floor from night to night, which helps. And I reduced my belongings and got rid of the set of shelves by the stove.

So now I just have one set of shelves behind the curtain here.

On one shelf I have the water for making tea and everything else you need water for, along with the big thermos that stores Komorebi’s hot water in the winter, and the bucket with an inner bucket and a bowl that together form Komorebi’s bathroom.

On the shelves above I have my clothes, the beautiful prayer shawl my friend Rebecca made me, my box of toiletries (essential oils, shampoo, toothpaste etc), my various bits of books and stationery (including Macbook and Kindle), my bags (a day bag and a flight bag),  my small thermos for out and about, and my cooking things – tins of bio-ethanol and my woodgas stove (packed down into a small red bag. The woodgas stove will take a bio-ethanol tin, which means I can cook in a tent (or in Komorebi without having to light the woodstove in this hot weather) or outdoors or absolutely anywhere. Bio-ethanol burns clean so I don’t have to scour soot off the saucepan when I’m done.

Wherever I go, I have with me a bumbag (UK term – US fannypack) containing my keys, purse (US wallet), 2 pairs of specs, a hanky, a notepad and pen, my comb, a nylon shopper that folds down to tiny, and my iPhone – which gives me my torch, camera, internet access, diary, phone, radio, music, and talking books.

On the lowest shelf are my shoes. Under that is the woodbox with fuel for the little woodstove.
In my mind, some of the things are categorized as belong to Komorebi, not to me, partly because I divide my time between living by myself in Komorebi while the Badger is away in Oxford midweek and living with him in his garret at weekends, and partly because I have a sense that I am preparing myself for a more nomadic or peripatetic lifestyle – I’m not sure why, that’s just what my soul is murmuring.

So these are the things that belong to Komorebi:
  • Firewood baskets hanging under the porch eaves keeping fuel dry/aired.
  • Folding fishing chair (it shouldn’t go mouldy as it’s nylon, metal and plastic)
  • Washbowl bucket
  • Big green pottery mug
  • Pictures on the walls
  • Woodbox
  • Candles (on the lower of the two shelves under the window) and candlestick
  • Floor brush, stove black and brilliant fire-lighter paper (you can’t see these, they’re stored on the very top of the shelves
  • Kettle
  • Toasting fork
  • Probably the cushion and the soft furry blanket as they were given for Komorebi and will be nice for those who visit in times when I'm not there - my grandson loves the blanket. Travelling, I use my clothes as a pillow at night. It would be emotionally quite hard to part from these two soft, snuggly things, though.
  • The box containing ashes from the hearth at Innermost House

The beanbag might go mouldy if left untended, so if I left Komorebi for any length of time, I would send it away.
Moulds evolved to break down dead organic matter so, though it’s hard to make wool go mouldy, leather and plant fibres will rot. Hence wood must be treated with fungicide. So I would not leave my sheepskins in Komorebi either. They are useful for warmth, so I’d keep them with me.

So these are my belongings that would travel with me from place to place.
  • Clothes (I won’t detail them here but will blog again about those at some point)
  • Shoes (ditto)
  • Prayer shawl
  • Laptop and charger
  • Kindle and charger
  • iPhone and charger
  • Thermos and cup
  • My DVD of Into Great Silence
  • A Book of Pages - because it's not on Kindle.
  • Stationery – I’m reducing that right down, aiming at one note-book
  • Box of toiletries
  • My altar things - on the window-corner (except the ashes from Innermost House - those live in Komorebi)
  • Yellow folder of Compline and morning prayer liturgies and chants
  • Man-drawer*
  • Box containing porridge oats, salt, a bag of nuts and dried fruit, and tea bags.
  • My bags – day bag and flight bag. You can’t see the bumbag because I wear it.
  • Sleeping bag, mat, sheepskins
  • Wood-gas stove - which packs down into its saucepan, so a saucepan too, then
  • My handful of cutlery, which is useful for traveling

*The man-drawer. This is a small box of Useful Things – pot hooks, stapler and staples, matches, a flint-and-steel, a screwdriver etc..

I find plates and bowls are not really necessary, because one can eat out of the packet or the saucepan - which is why it's important the saucepan doesn't get sooty!

Well, I just thought you’d like to see these things and share my musings on where my journey into simplicity has taken me as of the present time.


Anonymous said...

Hi Penelope,
What an interesting post! It is good that you know yourself so well. If you are desiring any kind of change or growth, self awareness is an essential starting place.Plus you have so much to offer the world, and that obviously comes out of your uniqueness.And that is a blessing. Thanks for being you and having the courage to share your journey with your readers.

Anne said...

That sounds well planned out! I love to be at home where my things are too. I feel like if I packed a suitcase to live out of I would only fit my clothes so I still have a way to go in letting go of things.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi DMW - self awareness as an important pre-requisite for change and growth: yes indeed!

Hi Anne - if all your clothes go into one suitcase you are already an unusual woman!

gail said...

Hello Pen, Love your posts because they always get me thinking. Tonight as I sat here reading this post, I realised that by the giving of this information about your life, you are actually shedding another layer that you don't feel is necessary. Quite difficult for me to explain, but really wonderful for you. Letting go of the unnecessary to make room for the way He would have you go. That is so good Pen. Does this give you a sense of peace or how would you explain this freedom from things? Do you think that this is what Jesus was wanting His disciples to experience when He sent them out and instructed them to take nothing with them? Would love your thought on this.
Blessings Gail

gretchen said...

beautiful, pen, and courageous. blessings on wherever life takes you, staying at home in your hermitage or trodding the pilgrim path. either way, adventures await you!

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Gail :0)
Your question: "Do you think that this is what Jesus was wanting His disciples to experience when He sent them out and instructed them to take nothing with them?"
Today, the Badger & I sat in Komorebi talking about this very thing. He told me about one of his authors (he's a publisher) who speaks disparagingly of what the author calls "buildings churches" - i.e. the mainstream churches that make plant, structure and format a prerequisite in all they do. The author tells of another way of doing church - based on a house church model - which is fluid and informal, leaves no tracks and comes together as and where it decides to; like a cloud that forms and disperses. Only the people and God. I like the idea of that way of doing/being church.

Hi Gretchen - yes, I can feel change in the air . . . thank you so much for your blessing :0)

BLD in MT said...

What a special place to have carved out for yourself. Simple. Beautiful. And you.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) xx

Deanna said...

This is so refreshing and lovely. As a home school parent it's sometimes hard for me to have so much 'stuff' to make that happen. My goal for next year is to utilize the library and kindle a lot! Thanks for the peek inside.

Pen Wilcock said...

Yes! I really prefer paper books over ebooks, so I plan to use the library too. xx

Rebecca said...

I WAS wondering....(and don't know how I missed this particular post).
Interesting to muse about all that the IPhone provides in a simple lifestyle....Wish they came at less expense & didn't demand frequent recharging, etc.

I wish I had arrived at your stage of paring down. I am taking daily steps toward it. Finding each decision slow and painful to make. Would rather it be voluntary than forced....

Pen Wilcock said...

Yes, I also have qualms about the iPhone, Rebecca. I think I might come back to that in another post. I believe the key is to find a balance appropriate in one's own particular circumstances. xx

Bri said...

Such an interesting post. I'm reading it again and again.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) xx