There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself. Henry David Thoreau
Twenty tired workshop warriors gathered around a roaring campfire sharing stories with their leader, “Deek” Diedricksen of Relaxshacks. We had come to share construction skills, learn all about building tiny houses and meet community members. Sitting down next to me, a tall statuesque blonde, looking like she had stepped out of a 1960’s Amazon movie, offered me a drink from an antique pint bottle. It was a creamy, grainy vodka ginger infusion with a hint of lemon.
The delicious concoction from this amateur mixologist fueled an evening long discovery of a myriad of similar interests and experiences. We became kindred spirits. We are tiny house enthusiast’s, artist’s, educator’s, fellow journaler’s and as sustainability advocates we strive to build a compassionate zero waste lifestyle every day.
Surprisingly we shared an unusual type of event at a similar age, a near death experience. I drowned and was clinically dead for 6 minutes; she survived a horrific auto accident. Her life since this brush with mortality has been what she calls her “gratitude crusade”.
I prefer to describe my friend Max as a radical self-expressionist. Kelsey is an individual who has refused to become a muted voice from her generation, her gender or as a result of her near death experience. Instead, as you will glean from the interview below, she has chosen her own authentic voice.
She has crossed the bridge between self-inquiry to self-acceptance, placing value on herself as opposed to muting her voice to meet the needs of others.
We come from two different generations; I’m a hippie baby boomer and she is a millennial. Is Kelsey Max different than most of her millennial counterparts described as entitled and narcissistic? Absolutely. I find her a refreshing example of radical self-expression (think Burning Woman instead of Burning Man).
Let’s meet this amazing woman, whose intellect, compassion and spirit expresses great wisdom and peace beyond her years. Her name is Kelsey Max. You can find her art, her thoughts, her journals and ideas here.
Here’s the interview we had with Kelsey Max Klibansky:
Q: Describe yourself for our readers:
I am accepting of others and myself. I strive to align my lifestyle with my beliefs and stay reflective so I can create my consciousness as my ultimate work of art!
I call myself a yogic artist because my most consistent creations are journals (better described as multimedia life chronicles) that I compile to enhance my meditative space, better understand myself, and build trust for the way the universe moves. I am currently working on my 37th journal since 2005.
Q: How sustainable is your lifestyle?
(She laughs.) I can say that I am transitioning into a more sustainable lifestyle as I acknowledge myself as its creator. Most recently, I have travelled to thirteen countries while journaling, observing permaculture practices, living off the grid completing yoga teacher training and an art residency while having ridiculous amounts of fun building timeless connections with so many incredible people! I have been living my Cultural Anthropology degree by truly experiencing life in other cultures. All have contributed to my understanding of humankind in relation to the universe, which is knowledge I hope to incorporate in the near future.
Q: Tell us about how you define the millennial generation?
My generation sees the world broadly and more inclusively. We see connections more readily than previous generations. The veils of illusion were never on us, so we instinctively know life is about love. Our entire political introduction as kids was 9/11, the Iraq War, and the Bush administrations, which were not about love. We’re adults now and the reality created by previous generations is killing itself in front of us – an exciting time! (She laughs.)
Q: Do you think we will reach the Tipping Point towards becoming a sustainable planet in your lifetime?
Yes, definitely! I foresee a big change in human culture toward a model that is synchronized with the Earth and everything it supports including each other.
Q: How will you engage people to help that wave along?
There is a whole aspect of emotional intelligence that has not gotten enough play in mainstream American society but it’s hugely important to our development. Through understanding yourself as an emotional and feeling being, you can actively maximize your happiness and ability to make a positive contribution to your environment. But, of course, the first step is knowledge of the self!
I do not see others as “strangers” or even separate from myself so by protecting my happiness and consciously upping my own vibration, I feel I’m contributing to others’ simultaneously. A good energy contagion, if you will! (She laughs.) Being creative on my own time and being with water makes me happy. Healing, meditating, swimming, dancing, guiding/teaching, yoga, journaling, drawing, painting with my hands, skiing, camping, jewelry making, and righteous words are things I share and aim to share more with my circle.
Q: What is your “lens” on the world?
That it is safe! I think that belief comes from faith but not in the dogmatic sense… faith like faith in everything. I feel an underlying truth that whatever is presenting itself in the now requires my full attention. My world is full of mystery, beauty and magic and I love it. Astrology, dreams, and the tarot are big parts of how I’ve always interpreted my life here.
Q: Do you have suggestions for how to see through your “lens”?
Firstly, observe and pay attention to cycles. For instance, we eat many times a day and that’s a cycle in itself. Say a clementine – observe its beauty and how perfectly it fits in your hand then how the earth supported the tree that nurtured it, the sun energized it and a person picked it. The use of light for growth and how its content is mainly water, much like ourselves, is amazing! Be thankful to the clementine for everything it is and every step of the process to get to you. Rule of thumb: If it goes inside of you, it becomes you! (She laughs.) I laugh but it’s true.
Secondly, notice your breathing and vibration. The space between your inhale or exhale; is it rapid or slow? This rate dictates the frequency of energy we exchange with the space surrounding us. Slower breathing is grounding and warrants a more pleasant response from everything.
The third is to notice the moments when you feel happy. Pay attention to what they are and make your choices accordingly.
Those are good daily tricks!
Q: Tell us where you have been since we met in November of 2012.
Following my feet! After receiving a small settlement after my car accident, i.e. an alley-oop from the universe in an age where paper means something, I mindfully transitioned to a path of self-education immediately after I graduated from University. Personally, that meant I sought global experiences independently without a planned itinerary or any rigidly timed commitments.
Without a “plan,” the universe has gifted me much! I hiked in Iceland with a group of adventurous locals, paid homage to Jim Morrison’s grave after a day in the park with theater students celebrating a spontaneous day off, camped at a wonderful place called Camping Zeeburg in Amsterdam, questioned the meaning of freedom at the Burren College of Art in Ireland, analyzed the roots of the Western world, attended Punta Mona in Costa Rica for yoga teacher training, lived on a beach in Nicaragua surfing and meditating, made art in exchange for yoga/food/stay at Finca de Yoga Mistica in Guatemala amongst a hotbed of ancient Mayan sacred sites, and wrote hundreds of inspired pages. It’s been a good year or so. (She laughs.)
Q: Have your travels in 2013 given you insights into how to design a more sustainable lifestyle?
Yes, absolutely. I learn primarily from life experience and traveling alone was yet another crash course in experience. I spent a lot of time in conversation about the connections between the individual, the community, and society as well as the overarching laws (and motivations behind them) that govern different societies.
I found that healthcare is much better and largely universal including free travel clinics in Europe. Their taxes are more directly related to environmental considerations like bigger cars are taxed higher because they pollute more. University is commonly free, which is in stark contrast to the recent imaginary concept of crippling college debt in the States. I learned that most people say that “Europe is so expensive” in the States and yet, in reality, the cost of what is termed health food (real food) there is shockingly less expensive and far more accessible to everyone in Europe. I lived well in Amsterdam for a night at the cost of 3 organic apples in the States – that’s saying something. Lots of public transportation and hostels too, which were great.
In Central America systems like the police force are less linked to the conversation about social responsibility while engagement with your community and family are more important. Natural remedies, yoga, holistic and raw food choices were mainstream. When I was in Nicaragua I met several natives that enriched my understanding of what “quality of life” really means as opposed to what the Western world views as valuable. They live a more natural, human paced, and artistically designed zen lifestyle in and around nature unlike our culture that feels so divorced from that.
Q: What is your vision for the coming year?
I’m maintaining my zen in a place that doesn’t feel very zen. (She laughs.) It’s a challenge but people do it every day and that internal strength is inspiring to me.
I am dedicating my energy to building Rebel University, which is an organization balanced on the premise of universal activism and, ultimately, furthering expanded collective consciousness. As a part of my involvement with Rebels, I chase the moving target that is happiness. My heart speaks to me about publishing and guiding. I can see a lot blossoming soon! (She smiles.)
You can follow Kelsey Max’s adventures through her website kelseyk.com.
 Derek “Deek” Diedricksen is one of the poster boys for the tiny house community. His latest tiny house workshop is coming up in April, check it out here.