Monday, July 12, 2010

The Simple Lifestyle

My conscious spiritual journey began as a child. My path has been marked by zigzags, detours and back tracks. I realize it's because I've been on that notorious road - the one less traveled, devoid of yellow bricks, neon signs or bright arrows to point the way.

Many years ago, while on one of my many Truth expeditions, I read a book about the spiritual and practical benefits of living a simple life. It was inspirational. I listened intently to the muffled call and hoped its source was Divine.

Poverty, like wealth, is relative. I am one of those inner city escapees, who "made it" into an unstable middle class status via the benefits of education and good luck. So, considering how poor I had been in my childhood, my adult level of abundance suddenly seemed obscene. As I inspected my immediate environment, I convinced myself that I was living in decadent luxury. My house, by my youthful standards, was huge with much of the space going to waste. I decided I didn't need it.

After reading the book, my husband became my co-conspirator in a quest to seek a simpler way of living, that would ensure our ticket to you know where. "Wow!" we told ourselves, Won't our friends, not to mention God, be impressed with our high level of spirituality? We're going to stand out in church due to our modern, progressive way of living our faith."

Humbly, we bragged about our new spiritual goal of downward mobility. Undoubtedly, many of our friends were perplexed about their feelings - a mixture of admiration and jealousy as well as a lot of condemnation for our weird way of practicing our faith.

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
Leonardo daVinci

Our big house sold quickly and just as quickly we found a very small, modest home befitting the simplicity we aspired. Our new tiny house was cute, really. But we struggled to adjust. Both our neighbors on either side had gigantic eternally barking dogs, making it impossible for us to enjoy our small back yard. We couldn't/wouldn't use it much anyway because the unfriendly neighbors behind us vacillated between loud fights about all kinds of marital infringements and inappropriate signs of affection when they made up.

The inside of our cozy house proved inadequate for our furniture. We practically had to jump on our bed to get inside our bedroom. Collaborating on cooking was out of the question in the tiny galley kitchen. Dirty clothes spilled out of the little laundry room (if one could call it that), curtailing our access to the undersized linen closet.

Entertaining was difficult, and we resigned ourselves to what we rationalized as chic dinners for no more than two friends at a time. Christmas proved to be a fiasco, when stubbornly we decided to maintain tradition and invite the usual guests. Plates and glasses were spilled as people bumped into each other. Some people ate in the bedrooms and some preferred to stay outside.


The book on simplicity was eventually taken to the used book store. It was replaced with books about mindfulness, chanting, meditation and other spiritual topics in vogue. I clung to my church by a thread, perhaps more from habit than belief. Gradually, I became unable to sustain my insincerity and left.

Downward mobility, the simple lifestyle turned out to be a great unaccomplished goal. Careers moved upward for my husband and me. Salaries increased and discomfort in the cute, little house became intolerable. We both yearned for a place with solace and privacy, where we could peacefully continue our journey on a more sincere track.

We now live in a different house. It can be described as beautiful, private comfortable, inviting and warm...and big enough. To me it is primarily simple - an ashram of sorts, where I practice my inclusive mixture of spirituality.
I no longer need to move downward or upward. I just need to be whoever I am at this moment, at whatever stage in the journey I happen to be. I realize now that spiritual growth, any growth, any journey is a process. Simplicity, like humility and other worthy spiritual goals, begins in the heart and is not limited to the realm of possessions or material wealth. A real transformation blossoms from the inside out. A book can perhaps suggest it, but only Life can demonstrate it and prepare us for it. If we're not ready for something, we can't force it to happen.

I haven't totally given up the quest for a simple life, but now it seems to be happening naturally. Though I do focus on the need to lessen my consumerism and my personal ecological footprint, I find I actually do need and use less. I think also that intention has much to do with it, but we'll leave that subject for another day.

"Live simply so that others may simply live."
Mahatma Gandhi
Also posted on my blog: