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A Case for Simplicity

Purposeful Wanderings - Bradford L. Glass - October 2023

Newsletter - 10.23
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Gratitude turns what we have into enough.

In August, I wrote about our cultural obsession with striving, and how, in our hectic yet often-unconscious pursuit of being enough or having enough, we rarely stop to consider what “enough” even is, so we’re left always wanting more, and therefore perpetually dissatisfied … a completely predictable result of living from perceived lack.

Here I suggest an alternative to having more: simplicityneeding less. Don’t worry, you won’t need to “move to the woods,” as Thoreau did (yet it might help). And you won’t need to take a vow of poverty, as monks do. But if striving has left you stressed and still without “enough,” perhaps there’s another path to happiness and peace.

Here are a few thoughts about living simply … and needing less. (Note: None of them deprive you of having more.) While you may find reading them interesting, their impact will be far greater if you ponder each a while, absorb its message, consider how it might play in your life … even notice how you may unconsciously censor the idea! The felt experience gained from this inquiry creates energy … energy that draws you into your own well-being.

What if … you released all judgment, and lived with unconditional gratitude – for this moment, for all of life?

What if … you chose to nurture yourself each day? (You can’t give what you don’t have.)

What if … you embraced silence, not the noise all around you, as the pathway to your true self?

What if … you learned to see just “what is,” not “what should be?” (“Should” is our biggest source of problems.)

What if … this very moment were the greatest gift you will ever have? How would you use it?

What if … you always related to others (and yourself) with both reverence and respect?

What if … you designed your life around your deepest longing, not someone else’s demands or opinions?

What if … you chose simply to learn from all of life’s challenges, instead of reacting to them?

What if … your emotions weren’t a reason to react, but rather teachers, inviting you to learn … about yourself?

What if … you viewed your habits as “old stories?” Might you be able to stop listening to (or telling) them?

What if … you “traveled light,” and could trust your inner truth and life experience to illuminate your path?

What if … time didn’t matter, but only what you chose to do with the time you have? (We all have 24 hours.)

What if … you felt deeply connected – to yourself, to others, to all life?

What if … you could fall in love with life’s mystery instead of fighting off its uncertainty?

What if … you could see the extraordinary in each [ordinary] moment?

Simplicity: the less you need, the easier it is to be happy.

Exercise: Toward living more simply. We hold a common, simple, yet invalid, assumption these days – that reading a book (or going to a workshop) will create change. It won’t. Change is the result of felt experience, not knowing. Felt experience requires practice – “being with” ideas, trying them on, making them part of your way of being. Without this practice, they’re just ideas … which is why so many who want change fail to experience it – they read about things, react positively, but go back to what they were doing 10 minutes beforehand.

This is why I suggest pondering each thought a while, absorbing its message, considering how it might play out in your life … and even noticing how you may unconsciously censor it! The felt experience gained from this deeper inquiry alone creates positive energy … energy that draws you into conscious experience of your true potential.

Most of this month’s message is really a suggested practice anyway, you might revisit these questions several times over a period of days, viewing them both in the light of possibility and in the light of perceived obstacle. See if you can notice how the “elaborate structures” you may have built around your commitment to striving make it harder to even consider how peaceful your life might be if you did live more simply. Just notice. No judgment.

Life Lessons from Nature: Despite the staggering complexity of life on earth, nature isn’t complicated. The same principles have guided life on Earth for over four billion years. They teach us … to create with intention – the deep inner truth to which we’re continually drawn, … to live with awareness – possibility shows up in “the spaces between,” in emptiness, … to act with courage – outcomes are rarely known ahead of time, … to relate to yourself and others with reverence – there’s far more that unites us than separates us. Elegant simplicity.

If we were to think of our beings as an ecosystem, we could envision that our fuel is consciousness. We might then apply nature’s principles to the way we choose to live our lives – intention, awareness, courage, reverence. If we allow life-constraining thinking to inhibit the sustainability of our ecosystem … we’ll be left stressed, dissatisfied, lost, or perhaps all of these. This, too, is “simplicity,” in the form of consequences … yet not so elegant.

Book of the month: Perhaps more significant than taking in more information is the potential to learn from what is already inside you. I suggest a journal; make three sections: 1) A gratitude journal – each day, write three things you’re grateful for. 2) My dream life – each day, name a way you’d like to live, but do not, today. Pay no attention to how it could come true. 3) Why I can’t have it – each day, name something that you believe stands in the way of your dreams. No judgment, just learning about the stories in your head. AND … as you feel like reading, here are four great choices on simple living … all very powerful, all different. The Paradox of Choice, by Barry Schwartz. How our growing number of choices really works against us. Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. Classic on simple living and self-trust. The Art of Stillness, by Pico Iyer. An inquiry into why stillness is more needed than ever. Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius. 2000-year-old wisdom on the essence of living with meaning. And if you’re on Cape Cod, you’ll find these books at the Market Street Bookshop in Mashpee Commons; 508-539-6985.


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