“To live content with small means;
To seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion;
To be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich;
To listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart;
To bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry, never.
To let the spiritual, unbidden, and unconscious, grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony.”
– From Singing in the Living Tradition, by William Henry Channing
I recently organized and participated in a discussion group at work called “Voluntary Simplicity.” It was facilitated by the Northwest Earth Institute and focused on living a purposeful life, instead of one where we simply go through the motions and are controlled by personal and cultural expectations.
|Tonight’s to do list. Is it too much?|
When I chose this particular course, I thought the main focus would be about living with fewer material possessions and the benefits of living lightly on the earth as a result — something I do already, but wanted to learn more about. But it was much more in-depth and insightful than that. We did talk about living more sustainably and with fewer possessions, but mostly we talked about what it means to live simply and happily, how to balance our work and personal lives, and how to get our bearings in a fast-paced, gadget-focused culture.
The definition for voluntary simplicity is this: “Simple living is about living deliberately…you choose your existence rather than sailing through life on automatic pilot…you are fully aware of why you are living your particular life, and that life is one you have chosen thoughtfully*.”
This is valuable for me because I am what you would call “busy.” When I am home, I always have a “to do” list with responsibilities like chores, home improvement projects, organizing our finances, and of course, blogging. But the problem is, I am rarely home because I tend to make plans for every waking moment that I’m not asleep or at work. Whether I am spending time with friends or family, working, playing or volunteering, I like to have plans. But sometimes my desire to be active and my desire to be productive get in the way of each other, causing me unneeded stress that prevents me from having fun or being productive. That, my friends, is the opposite of voluntary simplicity.
Participating in this group has allowed me the opportunity to step back, look at my life and evaluate how I spend my time. As a result, I realize that for me, simple living is a harmonized combination of the two — spending enough time volunteering and with family and friends so I feel connected, but also giving myself the opportunity to stay home once in a while to get items crossed off of my “to do” list.
Simple living is different for everyone. We all have our own challenges in life; things that distract us from living in the moment and cause us to lose hours, days, months or even years of our lives. I challenge you to think about those things, and to consider if they are part of the life you want to live. Maybe it’s something as simple as losing yourself in Instagram on a vacation instead of enjoying the experience (I’m guilty of that one) or something as significant as being angry at a family member or a friend for so long that you’ve missed out precious time with them. Whatever it is, I say it’s time to forget about it and start living a life of voluntary simplicity.
What does simple living mean to you?
*”Living Deeply,” by Janet Luhrs