There is a certain majesty in simplicity which is far above all the quaintness of wit. – Alexander Pope
As the beautiful shaker tune "Tis a gift to be simple" suggests, simplicity offers us special and precious opportunities. It appears that the notion of a simple life has been considered desirable for centuries as attested to by songs, videos (check out this inspirational video to a song by Enya), writings, sayings and lived experiences. Some individuals live the extremes of simplification but those are not the examples I wish to discuss or highlight. My emphasis lies within the realm of 'Discovering the Extra in the Ordinary.' That means we need to focus on how we can create increasing simplicity in our daily lives. To me, that's what the touch of genius suggests, which I know we all possess. Remember that the 'simplest things are often the truest,' as Richard Bach states.
The more I reflect and implement simplicity in my life, the more I become aware of the inherent paradoxes that simplicity as a lived experience evokes in our seemingly ever more complex and complicated world. Our hunger and thirst for more seeming "sophistication," plurality and complexity have been taken their toll on humankind as well as our planet. It truly takes courage and creativity for each of us to make a difference in our own lives so that we can see the change in the world around us.
Given my love for the arts in general and specifically literature, music, mysticism and philosophy, I began my search for insights that might stimulate my creative juices. When I feel surrounded and immersed in the heart-centred space of others with similar ideas, that's when I feel 'touched by genius.' My own genius gets awakened and activated to create and implement those ideas and changes that I want and can make in my specific circumstances. I'm offering to you a few practical examples of simplifying my life. Many more, of course, exist–your creativity and genius are limitless!
Below you will also find a collection of the quotations that have become meaningful to me. If you have others, which you wish to share, I invite you to post them on Martina's Musings or on my Facebook page, or email them to me. I have also provided a few references to books–only a few out of a growing selection–that have become meaningful to me.
Practical examples from my personal life
- Sitting on the deck with my lovely cats and watching their simple joys and presence to wherever they are and whatever they are doing. It's a wonderful daily reminder for me to seek the joy and the extraordinary in every aspect of my existence.
- What works for me is the fact that I turn off my email, Skype and Facebook when I work at my computer. I will only check once or twice a day and have set myself time limits for each activity.
- With the move to my townhouse last year came the realization that I have almost no options for storage any more. So, the incredible benefit this situation has gifted me with is the fact that every time I am tempted to acquire anything, I will ask myself first: 'Where will I store it?' If the answer is not imminently clear, I drop the idea of acquisition immediately. And, after 15 months in my new home now, I cannot say that I feel deprived of anything. How simple is that?
- Another wonderful way to simplify is the very simple rule that every time I purchase something, and that includes books (one of my addictions), CDs (and yes, I'm dating myself), or clothes, for instance, I will let go of the equal amount of articles. So, if I have brought 5 items into the house, I will select 5 items to give away in the next collection or to gift to friends.
- I rarely answer my home or cell phone when it rings. I screen the calls and listen to my answering machine to determine what the phone call requires. I return the calls at my convenience and therefore, I will not interrupt conversations with friends, for instance, or talk on the phone while driving or enjoying a beautiful walk through nature.
- I have learnt to set good boundaries; to examine what it is I want to say 'yes' or 'no' to and then be present to the person or the situation to which I said 'yes' to. It makes life so much simpler because nothing else is hanging over my head, such as obligation, should, or thinking about what else I could be doing instead.
Cecile Andrews and Wanda Urbanska. Less is More: Embracing Simplicity for a Healthy Planet, a Caring Economy and Lasting Happiness. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2009.
The title accurately reflects the content: It's a series of well-written essays that are real, encouraging and invite us to enter into a simple life that benefits us, and in turn, our planet.
Duane Elgin. Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010.
The author's focus is on living in balance as individuals in a manner that is sustainable on our amazing planet Earth.
Richard Rohr. Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go. Revised English-language ed. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2003.
His focus is on the direct and lived experience with Spirit through which we build relationships and find inner peace, joy and balance.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. – Leonardo da Vinci
The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest. – Thomas More
The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. –Hans Hofmann
Simplicity of character is no hindrance to the subtlety of intellect. – John Morley, 19th-century British statesman
I have learned by some experience, by many examples, and by the writings of countless others before me, also occupied in the search, that certain environments, certain modes of life, certain rules of conduct are more conducive to inner and outer harmony than others. There are, in fact, certain roads that one may follow. Simplification of life is one of them. – Ann Morrow Lindbergh (Gift from the Sea)
Plurality should not be assumed without necessity. – William of Ockham (also known as Ockham's Razor)
Purity and simplicity are the two wings with which man soars above the earth and all temporary nature. – Thomas a Kempis
A vocabulary of truth and simplicity will be of service throughout your life. – Winston Churchill
In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity. -– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness. – Henry David Thoreau
Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art. – Frederic Chopin
Simplicity is the glory of expression. – Walt Whitman
Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity. – Plato
From naive simplicity we arrive at more profound simplicity. – Albert Schweitzer
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. – Confucius
Further suggestions for contemplation by Chen Chiju (1588-1639)
Sit quietly for a moment, and you realize
how you have been foolishly running about.
Learn to keep your mouth shut, and you realize
you have been talking too much/
Avoid getting involved in too many things, and you realize
that you have been wasting your time in unnecessary things.
Close the door, and you realize
that you have been mixed up with too many kinds of people.
Have few desires, and you realize
why you have had so many ills.
Be human, and you realize
that you have been too critical of others.
Be humble and and you realize
there is nothing beyond your reach.