April 30, 2011

How elephant journal turned a leather jacket-wearing, Mustang-driving, corn-fed beef consuming Iowa hick into a…

Photo: Eugene Wineblat

…a Boulder flower child. Or something like that.

~ by Joe Yeoman ~

I grew up in Iowa. I’ve been muddin’; driven a Hummer through creeks; ripped open a ditch, filled it with trash, lit it on fire, watched the flames whip around in the air, and buried it; road tripped from Boston to L.A.; wasted money, time, and more money in bars ranging from Chicago to Dublin. In college, I sustained on PB&J’s, public transportation, PBRs, and pita pockets.

In a word, I was awesome.

Then I moved to Boulder. Then I went to Naropa Univeristy. Then I interned at elephant journal. Then I changed.

From the Department of WTF:

I first noticed this change at the Pepsi Center, when the Nuggets were slaughtering the Raptors. All the beer vendors sold Bud or Miller—two beer companies that are fully or partially owned by foreign companies, make “beer” from GMO rice, and make a product that tastes awful—and I walked around the entire stadium looking for the one vendor that sold Fat Tire. And then I even shelled out more money for the Fat Tire.

A year ago, I would have chugged down the frothy grossness of an ice cold Bud. Now, I want to support a local, eco-responsible, American-owned company.

What is wrong with me?

Why do I care now?

Why do I feel bad shopping at Costco?

I blame you elephant journal, Waylon Lewis, my fellow staff members, the readers and contributors, and Boulder. It’s your fault I’m more mindful, and you should feel awful about yourselves and your actions.

Some other ways I’ve changed:

1. I’m still pretty awesome. And pretty effin’ mindful.

Yeah, I ride a bike. Yeah, I hike. So what?

Over the last couple months, I’ve become pretty aware of the “mindful” life. What does the mindful life actually mean? Does it mean slapping your roof with solar panels, buying a Prius, wearing only free-range, organic, non-GMO, recycled hemp? Does it mean avoiding Starbucks and going to Tee & Cakes instead?

Okay. Sometimes keeping track of my mindful life gives me headaches. I’ve come to realize that it isn’t an all-or-nothing mentality. Instead, it is a state of being—how freakin’ Boulder of me—that I achieve every day.

Do I drive as much as I used to? No, I can take the bus or bus. Mindful. Boom.

Do I unplug my television at night, cutting down on electricity? Yes. Mindful. Boom.

Do I buy fair-trade coffee and use it in my fuel-efficient French Press? Heck yeah. Mindful. Boom.

Do I actually consider the sentient beings—how mindful is this statement—around me? Oh yeahhhh. Mindful. And boom goes the dynamite.

2. Buying Local, and Buying Organic.

At the grocery store, I actually read labels to consider where my food was shipped from. Yes, that pasta made in Mexico may only be a dollar. But I am now happy to pay twelve more cents for wheat and grain that is produced closer to me.

With fruits and vegetables, I try my hardest to buy organic. It is too bad that Whole Paycheck is so expensive, and organic eats away at your wallet. However, if you are consuming a lot of produce, all those chemicals are terrible for you, and it is worth it to take care of your temple…I mean body. (Again, if you weigh the cost of future health care vs. organic coffee, it is worth it to splurge now compared to pumping cancer killing chemicals into yourself later. Plus, it saves our environment. Last time I looked, we can’t pump cancer killing chemicals into the soil.)

With alcohol, I try to stick to local breweries (they taste so much better than Natty Light).

With coffee, I only brew fair-trade.

At restaurants, I try to remember ask where the meat is from.

Two years ago, I really didn’t care about food, where it comes from, or how it is harvested.

3. Eating Less, Much Less Meat.

Alison and I are on the “Weekend Warrior” diet. We are trying not to eat meat—fish, chicken, pork, little-soul-filled-bright-eyed-lambs—during weekdays. So, I am trying to be part vegetarian.

To be honest, I’ve done this to lose weight (30 pounds so far); however, it has turned into a mindful act. The more local and organic veggies I pile on my plate, and the less meat I huff down, the more I help out Mother Earth.

Before you congratulate me on this accomplishment, just know that I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up eating steaks and bacon (but I can promise I will eat much less of them).

4. Yoga. Say what?

I do yoga now.

I like yoga. Wait, cross that out. I love yoga? Yeah, I love yoga. I’m actually searching for a good yoga study in Chicago to join. I can’t believe I’m typing these sentences out. I’m half worried that a younger form of Joe Yeoman will jump through a wormhole in the time-space continuum and punch me in the face.

5. Donating.

In March, Alison and I donated our van to Cars For Veterans. They sell the car to help keep vets off the street. While most readers on elephant hate war and all the conflicts we are in, I still think that we need to support those that serve in America’s armed forces. I hate that we are sending young Americans to their deaths, and I hope that it ends soon. In this country, we can at least look at ending homelessness and help keep vets off the streets.

Now that I am moving back to Chicago, I have donated a majority of the products that I don’t need to the Salvation Army. Clothes, a computer, furniture, a grill, glasses, beer mugs, more clothes, etc.

When I moved here, we kept a variety of the household items that we didn’t “need” (at that point in time, we thought that our panini press was instrumental in our survival).

Bonus: Publishing.

So. I think I want to be this guy:

I guess this is who I'll turn into.

Maybe, it is a mistake to think that we can change the world through the written word and a mindful website. But, this world may be damned if we don’t have more elephant journals, more readers, and more mindful people. Mindfulness is an infectious disease that we should all feel good about spreading.

I intend to keep evolving, and I hope you will too.

~ Namaste


Joe Yeoman thinks you’re pretty awesome. Please don’t give up on America, ’cause he hasn’t. You can contact him at Joeyeoman [at] gmail [dot] com. Follow him on twitter @themindfullife, @walkthetalkshow, and @joeyeoman. Friend him of Facebook.

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