I've been wanting to write a thoughtful post on simplicity in living, but, ironically, haven't had the time (or taken the time) to do so. I could have last night, but instead I took some not-staring-at-a-computer time and watched a movie with my husband and practiced knitting. That's right, I said knitting.

So, anyway, what you get here is going to be a less-thoughtful conglomeration of links I've collected while thinking about the subject, which was first spurred by last week's sermon at church.

From And MSNBC article: Stressed Out
When someone goes on about how he works 14 hours a day and doesn’t see his family and hasn’t had a vacation and doesn’t get any sleep and, by the way, has 2,000 unopened e-mails, what he’s really saying is: I’m a very important and valuable person.

I'm guilty of this far too often.

So, there was a handout in our bulletins in Sojourn about simple living, and I looked for it online:
SimplyLiving.net wants you to buy stuff.
LivingSimply.net wants you to pay them so they can organize your space and life for you, giving you step-by-step plans.
SimpleLiving.com is a magazine telling you all about all the different things you should do and buy to simplify your life
And what I was looking for, SimpleLiving.net, has articles and devotionals about how NOT to buy things, and the motivation for simplifying in all areas of life.

From the Garden of Simplicity:
1. Choiceful Simplicity: Simplicity means choosing our path through life consciously, deliberately, and of our own accord. As a path that emphasizes freedom, a choiceful simplicity also means staying focused, diving deep, and not being distracted by consumer culture. It means consciously organizing our lives so that we give our "true gifts" to the world -- which is to give the essence of ourselves. As Emerson said, "The only true gift is a portion of yourself."

2. Commercial Simplicity: Simplicity means there is a rapidly growing market for healthy and sustainable products and services of all kinds -- from home-building materials and energy systems to foods. When the need for a sustainable infrastructure in developing nations is combined with the need to retrofit and redesign the homes, cities, workplaces, and transportation systems of "developed" nations, then it is clear that an enormous expansion of highly purposeful economic activity will unfold with a shift toward sustainability.

3. Compassionate Simplicity: Simplicity means to feel such a sense of kinship with others that we "choose to live simply so that others may simply live." A compassionate simplicity means feeling a bond with the community of life and drawn toward a path of reconciliation -- with other species and future generations as well as, for example, between those with great differences of wealth and opportunity. A compassionate simplicity is a path of cooperation and fairness that seeks a future of mutually assured development for all.

4. Ecological Simplicity: Simplicity means to choose ways of living that touch the Earth more lightly and that reduce our ecological footprint. An ecological simplicity appreciates our deep interconnection with the web of life and is mobilized by threats to its well-being (such as climate change, species-extinction, and resource depletion). It also fosters "natural capitalism" or economic practices that value the importance of natural eco-systems and healthy people for a productive economy, from local to global.

5. Elegant Simplicity: Simplicity means that the way we live our lives represents a work of unfolding artistry. As Gandhi said, "My life is my message." In this spirit, an elegant simplicity is an understated, organic aesthetic that contrasts with the excess of consumerist lifestyles. Drawing from influences ranging from Zen to the Quakers, it celebrates natural materials and clean, functional expressions, such as are found in many of the hand-made arts and crafts from this community.

6. Frugal Simplicity: Simplicity means that, by cutting back on spending that is not truly serving our lives, and by practicing skillful management of our personal finances, we can achieve greater financial independence. Frugality and careful financial management bring increased financial freedom and the opportunity to more consciously choose our path through life. Living with less also decreases the impact of our consumption upon the Earth and frees resources for others.

7. Natural Simplicity: Simplicity means to remember our deep roots in the natural world. It means to experience our connection with the ecology of life in which we are immersed and to balance our experience of the human-created environments with time in nature. It also means to celebrate the experience of living through the miracle of the Earth's seasons. A natural simplicity feels a deep reverence for the community of life on Earth and accepts that the non-human realms of plants and animals have their dignity and rights as well the human.

8. Political Simplicity: Simplicity means organizing our collective lives in ways that enable us to live more lightly and sustainably on the Earth which, in turn, involves changes in nearly every area of public life -- from transportation and education to the design of our homes, cities, and workplaces. The politics of simplicity is also a media politics as the mass media are the primary vehicle for reinforcing -- or transforming -- the mass consciousness of consumerism. Political simplicity is a politics of conversations and community that builds from local, face-to-face connections to networks of relationships emerging around the world through the enabling power of television and the Internet.

9. Soulful Simplicity: Simplicity means to approach life as a meditation and to cultivate our experience of intimate connection with all that exists. A spiritual presence infuses the world and, by living simply, we can more directly awaken to the living universe that surrounds and sustains us, moment by moment. Soulful simplicity is more concerned with consciously tasting life in its unadorned richness than with a particular standard or manner of material living. In cultivating a soulful connection with life, we tend to look beyond surface appearances and bring our interior aliveness into relationships of all kinds.

10. Uncluttered Simplicity: Simplicity means taking charge of a life that is too busy, too stressed, and too fragmented. An uncluttered simplicity means cutting back on trivial distractions, both material and non-material, and focusing on the essentials -- whatever those may be for each of our unique lives. As Thoreau said, "Our life is frittered away by detail... Simplify, simplify." Or, as Plato wrote, "In order to seek one's own direction, one must simplify the mechanics of ordinary, everyday life."

I hadn't thought of a simple life being so all-inclusive. I liked the idea of striving for these.

Other simplicity links to think about:

Buy-Nothing Christmas
Buy Nothing Christmas is a national initiative started by Canadian Mennonites who offer a prophetic "no" to the patterns of over-consumption of middle-class North Americans. They are inviting Christians (and others) all over Canada to join a movement to de-commercialize Christmas and re-design a Christian lifestyle that is richer in meaning, smaller in impact upon the earth, and greater in giving to people less-privileged.

Geez Magazine: De-motorize
For the past 100 years the average speed at which human beings and their souls travel has steadily increased. But what if we're not meant to go that fast? What if it's spiritually unnatural, and slowly messing us up inside? Can we live at an ever-escalating pace without it affecting our spiritual health?

In addition to a stressful and abnormal pace of life, this age of hyper-mobility also has us tangled up in climate chaos, global power games and the biggest business on earth.

But how do we opt out? (And how do we keep from whithering with guilt?) We know what's wrong, we know what needs to be done, but we're somehow stuck on fast forward.

In the spirit of holy mischief, De-Motorize Your Soul frames the move away from oil as a practical experiment and an irresistible spiritual adventure. It proposes a set of spiritual exercises that offer alternatives to the internal combustion engine while also nurturing the soul.

I'm not participating in the buy-nothing Christmas (we're done shopping for our nephews!) but I did walk to work 2 days this week and spent a few hours knitting, which slowed me down a bit.


ashley said...

What an excellent post, and an important thing to thing about! I am guilty of trying to live the lavish lifestyle I have always dreamed - you know, big house with lots of things. My non-materialistic husband keeps trying to pull me back to earth and remind me of how much better it is to strive for treasures that last, and not earthly possesions. I admire you for taking the time to sit still (although I really can't imagine you knitting!). I need to follow your example!

Anonymous said...

Knitting! Hooray!

Are you making a scarf?

We've been forced to limit the number of things we do lately. It is a "different" kind of simplification.

Joanna said...

I'm learning right now. A scarf will probably be the first thing I tackle. While looking at Oliver pictures, I saw your knitting-project pictures and that inspired me.

For Ashley: the story is, my mom wanted to learn to knit, and had tried previously through books & couldn't get it, and saw that a local yarn shop ('textile arts studio') had classes. She signed up and asked if I wanted to go too. Because the 2 beginner classes were during the times when Josh has choir practice, I said Sure, and the first one was last Wednesday. After the next class, maybe I'll buy pretty yarn and try to make a scarf. It would be fun.

ashley said...

Oooh hooray!! I like pretty yarn and I like pretty scarves!! I'm excited now! :-)


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