Top Navigation  
U.S. Flag waving
Office Hours Momday - Friday  8 am - 5 pm Pacific 1-800-835-2418
Facebook   YouTube   Twitter
Backwoods Home Magazine, self-reliance, homesteading, off-grid

 Home Page
 Current Issue
 Article Index
 Author Index
 Previous Issues
 Print Display Ads
 Print Classifieds
 Free Stuff
 Home Energy

General Store
 Ordering Info
 Kindle Subscriptions
 Kindle Publications
 Back Issues
 Help Yourself
 All Specials
 Classified Ad

 Web Site Ads
 Magazine Ads

BHM Blogs
 Ask Jackie Clay
 Massad Ayoob
 Claire Wolfe
 James Kash
 Where We Live
 Behind The Scenes
 Dave on Twitter
Retired Blogs
 Oliver Del Signore
 David Lee
 Energy Questions

Quick Links
 Home Energy Info
 Jackie Clay
 Ask Jackie Online
 Dave Duffy
 Massad Ayoob
 John Silveira
 Claire Wolfe

Forum / Chat
 Forum/Chat Info
 Enter Forum
 Lost Password

More Features
 Contact Us/
 Change of Address
 Write For BHM
 Meet The Staff
 Meet The Authors
 Disclaimer and
 Privacy Policy

Retired Features
 Country Moments
 Radio Show

Link to BHM

Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Archive for the ‘Mind and Spirit’ Category

Claire Wolfe

Dispatches from the Hermitage

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

It’s been howling and pouring for the last two days — and now the weather folks are telling us the news: a big blow is coming! (That news story is California-centric, but its map is not.)

We’ve been having this-and-that warnings all week. High surf warnings. Travel advisories. High-wind warnings. At one point the Seattle area was under 14 different warnings at the same time. Portland, about the same. The pineapple express, usually semi-rare, has been running on a regular schedule this season. Even with the big storm less than 24 hours out, meteorological models are still arguing with each other about whether we’re expecting hurricane-force or fizzle. But what we’ve already gotten is impressive enough.

Of course, no matter what I can say about this part of the world, somebody else always has more drama. And welcome to it.

Whatever the weather where you are, may you be safe and cozy from it.


The howling woke me at 2:30 this morning. The wind was lifting decorative plaques on the outside wall just over my head, then slamming them back down against the siding with various thumps, chitters, clangs, and chatters.

Nevertheless, I woke feeling an uncanny peace. Normally I can’t meditate in the middle of the night, but my breath, and a nice, relaxed focus, came easily. I just went with it.

Eventually, both dogs and the cat realized I was awake and wedged themselves against me — kitty to the right, Ava to the left, and 50 pounds of Robbie lying on my feet.

So serene. So warm. So pleasant — until my legs demanded a little more circulation.


I’ve finally found a book that’s seriously helping my hermitting. A book from an unlikely source. Its author, Dan Harris, is, of all things, an ABC news guy (Nightline and Good Morning America).

He lives in New York City. Loves to travel the world. Had a loving, upper-middle class upbringing. Was raised hippie-artsy-liberal. Has been fiercely ambitious in a cutthroat career. Is happily married. Has a junkie’s craving for thrills and danger.

In short, he ought to be my opposite. I should have nothing in common with him. But OMG, the guy shares some major part of my brain!

His book is called 10% Happier.

More precisely, it’s called 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story.

That his opening paragraph reads: “I initially wanted to call this book The Voice in My Head is an Asshole. However, that title was deemed inappropriate for a man whose day job requires him to abide by FCC decency standards” … just makes it better.

He started out as an insecure, thrill-seeking young reporter (in over his head and knowing it). Then, with religion having become political, anchorman Peter Jennings chose Harris to be his religion reporter. Harris had zero interest in religion. He spent his early years on the beat mostly doing snarky stories about evangelical Christians. But then, in a winding course having to do with people he interviewed, he gradually became intrigued by, then interested in, then serious about, meditation.

Where the totally unexpected brain-sharing comes in is that Harris, like me, is not only a skeptic, but he’s somebody whose hackles rise at the merest hint, the slightest whiff, the faintest breeze of woo. Or of pseudoscience. Or unlikely claims. Or phoniness. He takes nothing on faith and believes nothing that can’t be either scientifically proven or empirically replicated. His BS detector goes off … well, about as often as mine does. And mine goes off so often and so loudly that I can’t even read most “spiritual” books or listen to most “spiritual” gurus without wanting to gag.

I have long been stuck with a combination of feeling intense “spiritual” longing and total fed-upness with overblown claims, fantasies, wishful thinking, lies, threats, myths, cheesy money-wheedling (whether ala Sedona or ala TV preacher), false fronts, spiritual fads, sentimental glurge, and airy wafting. This has made it really hard for me to progress spiritually — because spirituality is always wrapped in layers of such stuff.

When people try to pitch their belief systems at me (or even when I pick up someone’s “spiritual” book on my own, hopefully seeking), my response is: give me the facts. Not quotes. Not statements of your (or anybody else’s) personal belief. Not dire warnings about what your god will do to me if I don’t comply. Not gooey stories about guardian angels giving kittens to little girls dying of cancer. Not speculations about “astral bodies” or reincarnation or eternal souls. Not high-flown, but content-free, language. Just point me toward the facts that back your position and if I discover that those facts hold up under dispassionate examination, then and only then, will be interested in hearing more.

I had begun to conclude that I was never going to learn anything useful about matters of the spirit. I had become so soured and stubborn that, no doubt, I was rejecting some decent “core” stuff because it was wrapped in such thick glops of you-know-what.

Well, so did Dan Harris. But he got past the glop and got somewhere (and not by lowering his standards, either). Now I’m getting somewhere, too.


At this point, WordPress ate the rest of my post. So I’ll be back later after I recreate what got lost. Will — I hope — post that and some Amazon links people have requested this evening or tomorrow a.m.

Claire Wolfe

Some stuff I’ve been saving up

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Before I shut down for the day to return to hermitting, here are some links I’ve been collecting for you.

And to get you in the Christmas spirit:

Via Borepatch: “The Carol of the Bells” writ rather large.

This 2014 commercial for the British store Sainsbury’s apparently infuriated a lot of people. I think it’s lovely. The only infuriating thing is that the guys in this famous WWI story went back to killing each other the very next day.

Claire Wolfe

Sunday musings

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

Yeah, as jed mentioned in a comment, it’s definitely been too quiet around here. I hope that means everybody’s having a relaxed, peaceful Thanksgiving weekend.


Tomorrow is the hump day in my two-month retreat. Mixed results so far. I’m glad I’m doing it, but instead of peacefulness, I’m actually feeling quite a lot of stress and anxiety. Partly that’s over decisions I need to make. Mostly it’s just a lot of “old stuff” coming back on me. Really, really old stuff. Like things I thought I’d moved past years ago.

Boring to go into, but I find myself longing for busy-ness.


It doesn’t help that the only real heater in the house has gone out twice in the last two weeks. Both times in the middle of the night. When the temps outside have been in the low 20s. And on weekends. I swear, it’s a conspiracy.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Claire Wolfe

Be thankful

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

… that our forebears were such an unruly, ungovernable bunch.

Kevin D. Williamson is good. His last line is great.

Claire Wolfe

Patterns and trajectories (observation from the hermitage)

Monday, November 24th, 2014

I’ve finally reached the point of not tearing everything out.


This is going to be a cowl (aka a neckwarmer), like a warm, woolly scarf but without the annoying dangly bits that fall off your shoulder and catch on things.

I’m not knitting to make things, though. I’m doing it for meditation.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Claire Wolfe

Stranded in a strange world

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Do you ever — have you ever — felt like an alien in this world?

I have and I’m guessing you have, too. I first became consciously aware of my alienness when I was around 11, though it was unconsciously there the first times my kindergarten teacher tried to force me into “social” games that left me like a deer in the headlights. It was there in the way my parents treated my brother and me as if we’d been left on their doorstep by a particularly bizarre band of gypsies. (Brother and I were very different critters, but we were both unconventional loners and deep thinkers, unlike my uber-social, join-everything, voted-most-popular, shallow-as-a-mud-puddle older sister.)

By the time I was in high school, I’d invented an elaborate mythology to explain how I could look so human while being so apart from my supposed peers. I was sent here as an alien spy; the physical transfer succeeded but something went badly wrong when it came to transmitting my mind across space.


In the adult world — where there are so many more options, where it’s forgivable not to be just like everybody else, and where now there’s a whole Internet! — I’ve seldom been bothered by that terrible sense of being something irreconcilably foreign to the “normal” world. Adults can find their own “normal.” Or live outside of “normal.”

Once in a while alien horror strikes out of the blue, though.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Claire Wolfe

The happiness curve

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Great (long) article on the universality of middle-age doldrums and how we’re likely to be more happy at 70 or 80 than we are at 20.

Claire Wolfe

Knitting for the soul

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Don’t be put off by the word “knitting.” Even if you’re not crafty (and I’m not!), even if you’re a guy who’d rather build a brick wall or try for a perfect grouping with your best rifle than (heaven forbid) knit. This is about that process common to so many things.


You know how you sometimes open a book at random looking for guidance? For some it’s the bible. For somebody else, one of those Chicken Soup things. Could be Ayn Rand or Herman Hesse. But you hope if you just open and read there’ll be a message there, just waiting for you?

I have to laugh. I just picked up Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, not because I had real interest but because it’s one of those must-read books and this is a good time. I opened near the end to a chapter about self care and the art of just being still and listening.

Then I took my old copy of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience off the shelf and arbitrarily opened to a page that heralded the value of 16-hour workdays, but with the work so integrated with free time that you can barely distinguish one from the other.

Yup. And of the contradictory two, I must admit the latter appeals to me more than the former. Not, mind you, because I’m some virtuous workaholic. Far from it. I favor the latter because the former is harder.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Claire Wolfe

Maunderings from the deep freeze

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

So … how are y’all enjoying the deep freeze? Seems as if it’s settling in to stay, doesn’t it?

We’re just on the edge of it here in the North(currently not so)Wet — cozy compared with some of you. But it’s clear and cold and fiercely windy and I’m ready to stay indoors surrounded by space heaters.

Wonder if I could teach the dogs to use the toilet? Or just encourage them to go walk in the woods by themselves?


Though I’m still having not much darned luck with “listening to silence” (e.g. sitting meditation), this week has felt both blessedly serene and productive.

I’m working on something. Too early to talk about it; probably even mentioning it right now is hazardous to the creative process. Very likely it’ll come to nothing.

But if my brain must always be busy-busy-busy it’s a pleasure to have it busy on something potentially useful.


I don’t have tons of new or deep stuff to say right now. So here’s a nice time waster. Can you find the snipers (or hunters, if you prefer) in these pix?


And here’s a first. It’s so cold this morning that when all three critters in the household had a chance to get up on a cot in front of a nice, warm heat source, they jumped at the chance.


Claire Wolfe

Dog games, government games

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

I was looking for a quote that I remembered as being either from Satchel Paige or Charles Fort. No dice.

When I finally narrowed the search down far enough it turned out that the quote was actually from me. But only because my brain badly mangled and probably misinterpreted something actually said by Mark Twain.

Ah, the human mind. Such a wondrous instrument.

Nevertheless, the non-quote led me to something I blogged here back in 2011. It’s the fourth of a series on “the responsibilities of a resident of a police state” and it’s worth a re-visit.

That in turn led me to a Fred Reed column of the same vintage, which is even more worth a revisit.

I’ll wait while you do that.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Claire Wolfe

The fall of the wall

Friday, November 7th, 2014

How one man’s decision and the right moment brought down the Berlin Wall.

Something to think about next time things look hopeless.

Claire Wolfe

A hermit peeks at the nooz

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Old habits die hard. Despite hermitting, I feel it is my bounden duty to say something witty, insightful, and deeply profound this morning about the election results. So here goes:


« Read the rest of this entry »



Copyright © 1998 - Present by Backwoods Home Magazine. All Rights Reserved.