Sunday, August 02, 2009

Notes from Simple Living Reading

One of my recent interests, as regular readers will know, is the idea of simple living. I participated last fall in a Simple Living Experiment through my university's Methodist student group, and really enjoyed the experience. Since then, I have been looking for further ideas to simplify my life and, as a by-product, improve my productivity and quality of life. I read two books this summer on simple living-- Paula Huston's The Holy Way: Practices for a Simple Life and Frank Levering and Wanda Urbanska's Simple Living: One Couple's Search for a Better Life.

Huston's book looked at the subject through the lens of her own experiences with learning to live simply, and the Catholic monks that she used as an inspiration. Levering and Urbanska, on the other hand, took a more secular and autobiographical slant, telling the story of their move from life in the "fast lane" of Hollywood to running an orchard in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Looking for ideas to restart the Simple Living Experiment at school, I took notes while reading these books; here are a few of the ideas I took away.

From Huston's The Holy Way:
  • A time of solitude and silence is essential for self-exploration and growth, helping you to uncover weaknesses and strengths-- these guide the parts of your life you change in light of simple living.
  • A period of fasting or other kinds of asceticism can be helpful in refocusing your energies on things that really matter.
  • It's important to reorganize areas of your life where you find physical or emotional clutter.
  • Work to control your desires, rather than letting them control you.
  • Don't become cynical or those around you who are not following the same simple living habits as you are.
  • Community (especially spiritual) is important for personal and spiritual growth.
  • Communal worship is a profound tool for simple focus on what matters.
  • Do not make an idol of work or achievement; our real work is to love.
  • Take Sabbath times-- eliminate all but the most essential obligations in favor of rest.
  • Abandon yourself and your fears to God's love and goodness-- freedom awaits.
  • Value integrity-- wholeness, or the state of being complete.
  • Live with veracity, in matters small and large.
  • Generosity-- the way of the servant-- teaching and living without ego getting in the way
  • Tranquility-- need for centering, peaceful and harmonious existence
  • Awareness of world's darkness need not affect our capacity to love
  • In the end, simplicity is a method to an end result of joy and love
From Levering and Urbanska's Simple Living:
  • Simple living leads to time for family, community involvement, creative outlet, and self-discovery
  • There is a direct connection between our personal lifestyle choices and protecting the environment.
  • There is no absolute standard by which simplicity can be measured.
  • License to play and relax-- enjoy time, take rests
  • *Not* keeping up with the Jones's-- how many "things" do we need, really?
  • what matters is not the number or status or value of our possessions, but the amount of pleasurable time a person is able to spend with them
  • Where is the middle ground between the total rejection of a consumer culture, and excessive consumption?
  • Frugality-- save money, limit borrowing, live within your means
  • streamline possessions-- keep and maintain what matters most
  • give back to the earth a small measure of what we have taken

No comments: