Friday, 29 August 2014

Floor life.

Sleeping on the floor – in fact living on the floor – is a revelation.

I’m intrigued by the extent to which manufactured objects have slowly but surely taken over our lives, so that people talk about ‘going to bed’ not ‘going to sleep’. I mean, I know they still say ‘going to sleep’ – but bed is where you have to do it.

I’m interested in creating a portable life. I’ve got my personal belongings down to what will fit in a medium-sized suitcase now, and have turned my attention to what my requirements would be of any place I took that suitcase. What else would I need? How small could I live? How little could I ask of a place, to settle there and call it home?

I’d need an electric supply, but one socket would do the trick. Somewhere to charge my lap-top and kindle and phone – oh, by the way, I didn’t keep that iPhone. I was beginning to feel swamped by electronics, gradually absorbed and digested by a world of wires. Tangled up. And more accessible than I wanted to be. Email provides all I need, in terms of accessibility. It lets you stay a little higher up the mountain. 

Lights? In the winter you need lights. I have an LED string of tiny fairy lights that give me all the ambient light I need. They just wind up round the battery when it's time to move on - the whole thing no bigger than a pack of playing cards. I keep a rubber band round it, to hook it up to a nail in the wall, and string out the lights from there.

I’d want a source of water – a standpipe would do fine, or a sink and tap would be handy. A bathroom would be nice. Some sort of sanitary arrangements an obvious necessity.

I’d need big windows, ones that open, because I have to be able to see the sky and breathe the fresh air.

And I can’t imagine life without a living fire; so, a fireplace.

I think, now, that’s all I’d need. I have my suitcase of clothes and bits & bobs. I have a sleeping bag, blanket and cushion. I have a tiny wood-gas stove that packs away into a little saucepan and can run on twigs or wood-pellets or torn up packaging or whatever’s to hand – or accommodate a tin of chafing fuel, which has the handy advantage of not leaving a layer of soot on the pan. And I have my little kettle and a hot water bottle and a thermos flask.

That’s all I’d need. I’d pop into Marks and Spencer and buy a ready-made salad – which would furnish me with a permanent bowl until it was time to move on. I have a knife and fork and spoon tucked away in my suitcase.

Et voilà!  Instant life.

No removal van needed. I think I’d need a car, to get to that place. A suitcase, sleeping bag, blanket, cushion and small bag containing kettle and saucepan do all amount to a surprising lot to wrestle on and off a bus.

And the place? A shepherd’s hut in a field by a wood, maybe. A one-roomed apartment with a bathroom would be fine – provided I was allowed an open fire. Flats can be difficult about fires.

I would like my life to be even more portable. Think of Peace Pilgrim! Astonishing! How did she do that? I can’t manage it. I’ve wriggled my way down, shedding more and more, and this is as low as I can get. At the moment anyway. I like the idea of being able to get my life into a rucksack, with a sleeping bag that just rolls up and straps onto the bottom of it – but those sort of sleeping bags aren’t very warm, are they? I mean, why bother? Why not just put thick clothes on to go to sleep? My sleeping bag is capacious and cosy, and consequently rather large when I roll it up.

It took me a while to get used to the idea of sleeping on the floor. First I got one of those breathing camping mats – I mean the kind that suck in their own air. That’s very comfy. It’s handy if you are actually camping because the ground is so cold and the mat provides insulation. But I discovered you don’t need it in a house. Or in a shed. I thought the wooden floor in Komorebi would be uncomfortable to sleep on. But it’s the idea, really, that has to be overcome. Once you manage to struggle free of the clinging concept that you absolutely need a bed and can’t possibly be comfortable without one or get a good night’s sleep – well, it turns out just to be not true. If you lie down on the floor with no concepts and no self-pity, you sleep perfectly well. It sorts out a lot of ailments, too.

What I find really, really exciting about floor living is the

S P A C E ! ! !

Furniture is so cumbersome and claustrophobic.

My beautiful mama wants to have her carpet cleaned. When the men come in to do that, they will expect the rooms to be cleared – at least one room. And how’s she going to do that? Every room in her apartment is stuffed to the gunwhales with sofas and armchairs and bureaux and tables and coffee tables and little stools and chests of drawers and trunks and occasional chairs and hat-boxes and ornaments and pot plants and baskets and stools and aaaaaagh! Aaaaaagh!!!

Floor. Person. And a sleeping bag handily rolls up into something you can sit on or lean on in the day, if – like me – you are not so much of a sitting up straight sort of person and more kind of floppy.

Oh, the uncarved block of infinite possibility, the childish delight of sleeping anyway round or in any part of the room, in any room of the house – hahahaha! It’s such fun!

Last winter, sad, I turned back to look at the dying embers on the hearth when it was time to ‘go to bed’, and wished I could sleep by the fireside. This winter, I will.


SylvanHome said...

I am very with you on this one. I can't remember how long it has been since I had an off ground bed ~ 35 years at least. It started when I lived in kindly weathered Southern California and decided to sleep outside on the deck with the moving live air and sounds of nature. I often sleep on the deck here off the living room of the house too. It keeps me acutely appreciative that I live on a planet, not in a box. Even though there is a daybed in the studio, when I sleep out there I sleep on the floor in front of the fire, or better yet on the concrete slab out the doors with the fragrance of the forest floor literally in my face, along with everything else that a forest brings. As a lover of the Japanese aesthetic I've never thought of it as primitive. As an artist and lover of natural and crafted beauty, I have been swept away by sublime Japanese comforters on futons that are the totality of an impeccable space of nothing more than the surrounding wood, bamboo, and rice paper. The Japanese are wizards of natural simplicity! My dog has always appreciated sleeping at the same level as I do as well.

Pen Wilcock said...

Amen to all that! The Japanese are masters of aesthetic. xx

Sandra Ann said...

I love this picture of you! You look so unencumbered by the very stuff of life. This doesn't mean to say that you have it easy but the lightness in your spirit is even palpable through the medium of a computer screen!

Hugs San xx

Unknown said...

Dear Pen,
I too try to live like a monk. But I am just a (slightly mad) clumsy Spaniard whereas you are a perfect English lady (and a beautiful one, if I may say so). So I thought you would like to know that THE (that is, MY) ideal English house should look like this:

Anne said...

Another great thing about having no furniture is that you can put music on and dance around freely for a few songs and workout is done! Also the furniture they have been selling has toxic chemicals in it. Who would miss those!

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi San - A few months ago, I started asking myself why and how I had lost the sense of contentment, freedom, curiosity I had in my childhood and teenage years - lost the ability to play. I decided to try to find my way back to it. I've found this does the trick - one-bag living with all the associated disconnection from complication. I think it will get even better once I can also lay down self-imposed rules and just BE in the world. A small human set free on the surface of the earth to explore.

Hi Emilio - I think a great many people would agree with you about the perfect English house! Here's my perfect house:'s_room_at_Sabarmati_Ashram.jpg
Thanks for stopping by - come back again and tell us more about how you live.

Hi Anne - yes, yes, yes to the dancing! x

Pen Wilcock said...

I just checked out the Jaanese comforters mentioned in the first comment. Wow!
See here:

Unknown said...

Wonderful place, Pen. I would only keep the mat and I would add a table and a chair.
About myself: I live alone in a tasteless suburban flat. I don’t have a TV or a mobile phone and I don’t know how to drive or ride any kind of vehicles except for bicycles. I always try to keep away from crowded places and I love following solitary paths through the sierra. I also like (in a random order and not including the most obvious physiological aspects) starry nights, some human voices, the rain (because it is quite rare here), old books, trees, cats, sparrows, falling asleep, kites, clouds, the sea…

Unknown said...

Wonderful place, Pen. I would only keep the mat and I would add a table and a chair.
About myself: I live alone in a tasteless suburban flat. I don’t have a TV or a mobile phone and I don’t know how to drive or ride any kind of vehicles except for bicycles. I always try to keep away from crowded places and I love following solitary paths through the sierra. I also like (in a random order and not including the most obvious physiological aspects) starry nights, some human voices, the rain (because it is quite rare here), old books, trees, cats, sparrows, falling asleep, kites, clouds, the sea…

Pen Wilcock said...

Beautiful! Life as a poem! My husband (known on the blog as the Badger) walked the Camino from St Jean Pied de Port to Compostela this time last year. He found the Meseta reached into the very depths of him spiritually.

Unknown said...

Good for the Badger! Only spiritual people can appreciate spiritual places.

Pen Wilcock said...


Jen - Knowing the Light said...

Hi Pen, this is the first time I have posted here under my new site - I used to post as darkpurplemoon, but I needed a new site to start afresh as I turn to the light of God.

And you have been a major part in that, or at least your blog and books and email correspondence.

Anyway, I am looking on with a form of envy at your posts of simplicity and stripping away. As someone else has noted you seem to be getting lighter and lighter in your photos - there is a radiance which is beaming out of your pages!

I don't think my health would let me live as simply as you, but then maybe that is a preconception too.

My husband is the opposite of trying to live a simple life and it is somewhat frustrating at times, but we are where we are....

Thank you Pen for sharing your journey with us all.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Jen - I love the idea of you walking in the light - and who knows what adventures lie ahead! May God bless your pilgrimage. xx

Unknown said...

Hi Pen, I still keep up with you when I can. I'm sleeping on the floor also these days. Best ever. :D Love, Julie

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello, Julie! Waving! How are you doing in your little house in the woods? Is it all going well? xxx

Katrina Green said...

Hello Pen.

I'm excited to come across this post just when I've been reading about and experimenting with sleeping on the floor myself. My first night didn't feel too bad, except for not being warm enough but I found last night, which was my second, very uncomfortable indeed. I've read there is an adjustment period of over three nights. My spine is particularly curved from all the handstands and 'crab's I used to do in my formative years, so I think I need to go a bit easier on myself. I'm hoping tonight will be better! I'm looking forward to being able to get rid of my mattress and enjoy the extra floor-space. I think there's a feeling of security in knowing that I would be able to get by sleeping without a bed if ever the necessity was thrust upon me. Reading what you've written, I think I've done it all the wrong way round. I feel like Alice in Wonderland, except I'm swamped by very tall furniture - a landscape of wooden skyscrapers.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) All of us in our household have transitioned to floor sleeping. Most of us are very supple and experience discomfort that eases, and also when it's there is gone by morning - and I believe that as to do with lymphatic drainage and re-alignments.
One of us is very stiff and un-supple, so uses one of those self-inflating camping mats (green Vango 7.5cm depth), which does the trick admirably. x

Katrina Green said...

That's interesting. Do you think there might be an emotional element to it as well as the lymphatic drainage, i.e. trapped emotions being released?

Incidentally, I've also been reading about 'earthing', so I've been walking barefoot in the garden. I've made myself an earthing mat, but I've yet to connect it. I figure that if I connect it to the plumbing, which is earthed, it will be of benefit.
Thanks for everything.
You've done really well to whittle your belongings down to what can be carried in a suitcase. Having looked up a little about Peace Pilgrim (about time too!), I was interested in a comment she made about our calling influencing our attitudes to home and possessions. It would seem that getting a sense of my individual calling is a necessary first step to sorting out what to prioritise in any simplifying process. x

Pen Wilcock said...


Sometimes, too, simplifying allows the calling to be heard.

Unknown said...

Bless you, Pen. It goes well enough. Thank you for asking. xxx

Paula said...

Stealing this:

Simplifying allows the calling to be heard.

Pen Wilcock said...

Thee's stealing it?

That will leave a pleasing emptiness.