Friday, September 3, 2010
Simple Living Manifesto, Week 1
Someone asked me the other week what I mean when I say that I am called to simple living. And you know what? I had to stop and think. What does that really mean? So I thought I might use this notebook, my sounding board and contemplative space, to start meditating on what this means to me. I hope to continue this weekly until I sort of feel I've fleshed out the topic. We'll see where it takes me, and I am, as always, very curious to know your thoughts! What is your simple living manifesto?
1. Love God. When I live my life not as a to-do list, or as ladder that needs to be climbed, but as a relationship with Love, then everything else falls into place. I'm not saying I do this all the time or even that I do it well, but just that when I do, life starts to make so much sense.
2. Love people. That's sort of the heart of simple living. Loving those around you above loving your things. Love your children, your family, your friends, and even total strangers. If something is conflicting with your ability to do this, then change that thing.
3. Celebrate creation. Spend time outside. Cultivate a love for natural beauty. The other things; getting rid of a car, learning to live with no more than what you need, eating food that is healthy and natural; those will follow.
4. Take a deep breath and realize, "I have what I need." There will always be something else that you want, that you believe you "need." Always. Get the new bedroom set and you will someday want a different one. Or maybe it will break. So just develop joy with what you have and realize that ultimately, beauty can be found everywhere. And once you have developed that joy, then you can decide if you need something new.
5. Give generously. I have learned not to compliment my mother: if I tell her I like her shirt, she will take it off and insist that I take it. Such generosity is the heart of simple living. It's telling people that you value them over things. It means not getting upset when someone messes up your stuff (boy has this one come in handy having small children!). It means learning that anything that you own-- even that favorite painting, the treasured keepsake, the fragile dish-- can be destroyed and it will be okay. Which leads me to my next point,
6. Don't buy stuff that you love too much. Ben taught me this one, and it sort of turned my life upside down. He always says, "I don't want to get nice stuff, because then I'll start worrying about it." What wisdom.
7. Slow down. There's such a bounty right here. Right in this moment. So why rush ahead to the next thing? Laugh with your children, make something from scratch. At the end of the day, you won't regret it.
8. Recognize "stuff" for what it is. I will never stop singing praise for the dishwasher. Having lived many years without one (including when I was pregnant), I give thanks for the service it offers me. Stuff can be useful, it can enable you to live more fully, but sometimes it can also take center stage. See #6.
9. Purge your possessions very slowly and very thoughtfully. In our consumeristic society, getting rid of stuff is often just the first step in acquiring new stuff. I know because I fall for this all the time! We give away our old clothes so we can go out and buy new ones. We drop off bags full to salvation army to replace the bags full of new things we purchased. I have to remind myself that this is missing the point. So if you think you might use something in the future, store it away safely and neatly. Don't throw it out just assuming, "Oh, I'll buy another one later."
10. Prayerfully limit your media consumption. Advertising works. Even for tough cookies like myself who believe they are immune to it. Skip commercial television, choose movies and shows that enrich your life. My life was changed when I canceled our newspaper subscription-- so much negativity was removed from my home. And somehow, whenever there is a big story, I still manage to get wind of it.
Recently our family went to the National Arboretum with some dear friends. There was a beautiful bonsai garden, and under one tree there was a plaque that read, "In training since 1987" I realized after a moment that the plaque was referring to the tree. The tree had been in training.
It left me wondering, what am I training myself to do? And how will this training shape my body, my spirit, in the future? Ultimately, simple living is such a training. It is a discipline that, when undertaken with joy and not legalism, can cultivate beauty and freedom.
How are you living simply?