17/10/2010

Simplicity. Because the revolution will not be televised.

When my wife and I first moved into our hilltop home / retreat center amongst the farmland and forests of Eastern Slovenia, we left our T.V. behind.

Hills, forest, farmland; no tsunami!
We’d decided to simplify...

Our courtship was in an ashram, and the austerity of our lives there brought us face to face and heart to heart and soul to soul in ways that I had dreamt of, yet had not dared dream of.

Our courtship was unlike any other I had experienced – and I’d experienced many; mostly fast and furious, and without real substance. But meeting Petra was like tasting a fruit that I’d never heard of before; it was a totally new, fresh experience, that burst into my senses and spread through my body, mind, and spirit.
We spent 6 months getting to know each other the old fashioned way. Surrounded as we were by Swamis who had taken vows of renunciation (my intention on coming there was to become a Swami myself!) we couldn’t express our feelings for each other in a physical way; we couldn’t even hold hands there!

So we talked when we could, but mostly just ‘tuned in’ to each other’s energy, bathing in the electric awareness of loving presence that seemed to surround us whenever we happened to be in the same room.


It was a magical time; also frustrating as hell! Having grown up in a culture of microwaves, one-night stands, and instant coffee, it was the supreme lesson in patience that I unwittingly needed.

Our first ‘date’ was to the cinema, to see ‘The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe’, chaperoned at the last moment by a Swami who shuffled down the aisle, stepping over people's legs in the semi-dark, in his orange robes with an orange knapsack, and pulling out a thermos flask to ask, grinning from ear to ear:
“Chai?”

The soundtrack to our courtship was all Kirtan and Indian flute and tabla. And our shared favorite was “I am the eternal seeker of peace, love, and simplicity”. Those three words are on our wedding rings now, even if mine is somewhere in the Atlantic off the coast of the Algarve (long story, another time).

So when we moved in to our new house, we shed our television in the name of simplicity. And so I come to the point of this little story:

Soon after moving in, we met our postman for the first time. Please bear in mind that we live several hundred kilometers from the sea…

The postman sped up the steep hill and turned sharply into our driveway, sending gravel spinning in all directions. He huffed and puffed his way out of the van towards us, immediately sensing that he was stepping into a different world: Petra and I had just spent 2 hours meditating and practicing asanas and pranayama, and were feeling deeply mellow. He was on guard; this was unknown territory… he clocked our car; in those days a mobile advertisement for our yoga business.




He became visibly suspicious.

Handing us our post, he asked us about the car. We explained that we taught yoga, and he immediately asked us, rather indignantly – as if the very idea were some kind of travesty -  if we were vegetarian. When we replied that we were, he looked worried. He questioned us about protein, and didn’t look at all convinced.

Then he glanced at our house.
“You don’t have a t.v. antenna”
“No, we don’t need one, because we don’t have a t.v.”
Incredulous: “You don’t have a TV?!”
Smiling: “No!”
Wide eyed, “But what will you do” glancing furtively over his shoulder “if there’s a Tsunami”!

Now, I have no idea how he thought that a t.v. would help us if a Tsunami magically appeared on our hilltop above the clouds.

No idea. But I realized something very profound that day: Television makes people afraid, whilst reassuring them that they’re safe as long as they watch it.

Insidious.

If love is light, and fear is the shadow in which we all too often get lost, then television can be a serious obstacle between us and the light.

I’m not saying that you should trash the television: but watching it less never hurts, and awareness is all. Petra and I actually have a box in our home now, and the temptation is always there to over-indulge. We use it mostly to watch dvd’s.


Bonus video, Gil Scott Heron's 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised':

12 comments:

Kristen said...

Hi Ben,

Very beautiful post. I've been following you lots on Elephant Journal and just recently came across your blog. I can relate to this story, I do not own a television set either. There are so many better things to do. The part about the mailman asking if you were vegetarian made me laugh, because when I was mountain trekking in Slovakia I went to a small restaurant and the waiter tried to convince me that ham was processed and considered "vegetarian", and again people questioned my protein intake and how I had the endurance to trek mountains and be as active as I am.

So thank you for this nice post! So very pleasant to connect with like minded people.

hope the day brings you many pleasures,

Kristen

Ben Ralston said...

Hi Kristen,
Ah, so you've been in the mountains of Slovakia... I haven't, but Petra's been skiing and told me that it's challenging being vegetarian there. I thought it was bad here in Slovenia, but apparently it's a walk in the park compared to there :)
Thanks for your support, I hope you keep enjoying my writing! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate.
With love, Ben

Jayney3210 said...

I'm with you, I only have a TV because when I moved in, my boyfriend got one so that he could watch it. I do love to watch a good film, I consider film to be an art form, but you can watch a film on your laptop these days. People think I'm pretty wierd because I prefer to read a book and do other things than spend my time staring at another screen obsessing about "Reality TV & Soap Operas" I don't go out of my way to be unconventional, but i'm not going to waste my time when there's never anything on that interests me.

I see TV as a distraction tool, it stops people thinking. Certian television programmes (over here in the UK it's the likes of X factor) are popularised by other forms of media like magazines and newspapers, causing an idotic national obsession and everyone buys into it.

Mirjana Cesar said...

Hi Ben,
your post is great. Few months ago we canceled cable. We had enough of constant barrage of opinionated political reporting, sensationalizing of utterly insignificant happenings, and so on. We're very happy now, and even our kids ages 15, 13 and 11 don't miss it. I'm an artist working at home and new found peace and quiet without TV is so invigorating.
We're originally from Zagreb (moved to USA 18 years ago). When we visit Croatia we get the same questioning from relatives, because our oldest daughter is vegetarian . They just can't understand how she can grow properly "not having enough protein".
My father was born and grew up on the hills on the border between Croatia and Slovenia, so the scenery on your photo brings me some pleasant memories of some visits there at some different, less hectic times that I cherish in my heart.

Peace,

Mirjana

Ben Ralston said...

@Jayney... not to mention Big Brother?! Reality t.v. blows my mind. They have shows where people actually watch other people sleeping, when they should be sleeping. Blows. my. mind.

Ben Ralston said...

@ Mirjana:
We live near the border! In the hills between Brezice and Krsko... so no wonder the landscape reminds you! We're not far at all from Zagreb :)
Always glad to hear of a happy family living on the fringe of society! Keep up the good work, and if you come back to visit Croatia and would like to come for a retreat, let us know!
Love, Ben

Jayney3210 said...

@Ben Yes its all a bit strange!

Mirjana Cesar said...

Yes, you're not that far from my father's birthplace Bregi Kostelski (between Pregrada and Rogatec).
Living in a flat Florida for so long now, I do miss those hills even more. So my next visit to Croatia will involve a lots of hiking, and who knows, we might want to escape routine of visiting every relative, and run away for a retreat.

svasti said...

The postman must have been thinking "Damn hippies!" ;P

I do have a TV but it is rarely used except like you, to watch DVDs of stuff I choose to see. I find that watching 'normal' television creates a sense of vata derrangement. Which of course, is closely tied in with fear.

These days I don't even read newspapers every day for the same reason.

As we know, freedom is found by thinking for ourselves, and sadly, our media perpetuates all kinds of distractons that have nothing to do with freedom, unfortunately!

Ben Ralston said...

Mirjana: I hear you. I lived in London for almost 15 years, and always spent as much time as possible in the wonderful London parks...
Now, I wake up each morning and look out across hills and valleys and forest and really appreciate it! Petra takes it all a little for granted, but not me - I'm constantly amazed by how beautiful and lovely the nature here is.
Love, Ben

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful story, thank you for sharing! I love hearing how people meet. You and your wife, your family, your home, your lifestyle, it all sounds so beautiful and lovely. Much gratitude for sharing! :)

Ben Ralston said...

Thank you kindly Anon. With love, Ben

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