Tag Archives: Simplicity

Sabbath – Wayne Muller

I finally got around to reading this amazing book – a must read for leaders, those who seek the spiritual, the busy people…let’s go with everyone!

A “successful” life has become a violent enterprise. We make war on our own bodies, pushing them beyond their  limits; war on our children, because we cannot find enough time to be with them when they are hurt and afraid, and need our company; war on our spirit, because we are too preoccupied to listen to the quiet voices that seek to nourish and refresh us; war on our communities, because we are fearfully
protecting what we have, and do not feel safe enough to be kind and generous, we cannot take the time to place our feet on the ground and allow it to feed us, to taste its blessings and give thanks.

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When the Mass begins in a cathedral, the space is transformed the instant the first prayer is offered. The space is not different, but the time has been transformed. When monks enter an ashram or monastery and sit in silence, only when the bell is rung does the meditation begin. The space may be the same, but the time is consecrated by the mindfulness that arises in the striking of the bell. When Muslims are called to prayer five times each day, all work ceases, and all the ancient words, spoken aloud for centuries, rise like fragrance to the skies. Just so, during Sabbath the Jews, by keeping sacred rest, could maintain their spiritual ground wherever they were, even in protracted exile from their own country. It was not Israel that kept the Sabbath, it is said, but the Sabbath kept Israel.
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If we forget to rest we will work too hard and forget our more tender mercies, forget those we love, forget our children and our natural wonder. God says: Please, don’t. It is a waste of a tremendous gift I have given you. If you knew the value of your life, you would not waste a single breath. So I give you this commandment: Remember to rest. This is not a lifestyle suggestion, but a commandment—as important as not stealing, not murdering, or not lying. Remember to play and bless and make love and eat with those you love, and take comfort, easy and long, in this gift of sacred rest.

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All Jesus’ teaching seems to hinge on this singular truth concerning the nature of life: It is all right. Do not worry about tomorrow. I have come that you might have life abundantly. Be not afraid. Over and over, in parable, story and example, he insists that regardless how it goes for us, we are cared for, we are safe, we are all right. There is a light of the world, a kingdom of heaven inside us that will bear us up, regardless of our sorrow, fear, or loss. Do not wait to enjoy the harvest of your life; you are already blessed. The kingdom of God is already here. It is within you and among you.

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Our reluctance to rest—our belief that our joy and delight may somehow steal from the poor, or add to the sorrows of those who suffer—is a dangerous and corrosive myth, because it creates the illusion that service to others is a painful and dreary thing. Jesus says there will always be opportunities to be kind and generous. Just as there is a time for everything under heaven, so is there a time for nourishment and joy, especially among those who would serve.

But we must ask this question: What if we are not going anywhere? What if we are simply living and growing within an ever-deepening cycle of rhythms, perhaps getting wiser, perhaps learning to be kind, and hopefully passing whatever we have learned to our children? What if our life, roughhewn from the stuff of creation, orbits around a God who never ceases to create new beginnings? What if our life is simply a time when we are blessed with both sadness and joy, health and disease, courage and fear—and all the while we work, pray, and love, knowing that the promised land we seek is already present in the very gift of life itself, the inestimable privilege of a human birth? What if this single human life is itself the jewel in the lotus, the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great price? What if all the way to heaven is
heaven? Sabbath challenges the theology of progress by reminding us that we are already and always on sacred ground.
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When we move too fast we shield ourselves from the actual experience of suffering; we see only its outward manifestations and appearances. In our frantic craving for relief, we try to make the appearance of suffering go away. But we risk eradicating the symptoms without ever understanding the disease.

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According to Henri Nouwen, Jesus’ three temptations were these:
To be useful. To be important. And to be powerful. Useful, important, and powerful—are not these the attributes that still tempt every one of us who seek to do good in the world?

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The word humility, like the word human, comes from ‘humus’, or ‘earth’. We are most human when we do no great things. We are not so important; we are simply dust and spirit—at best, loving midwives, participants in a process much larger than we. If we are quiet and listen and feel how things move., perhaps we will be wise enough to put our hands on what waits to be born and bless it with kindness and care. But in the end, we are granted the tremendous blessing of knowing that we do very little at all by ourselves.

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The possibility in blank spaces

How I love blank spaces. I’ve written about the beauty of blank pages before and this lovely piece by Joshua Becker reminds us of the freedom, space, time and quiet that comes from blank spaces.

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The Art of Manliness

AOM

I read quite a few blogs regularly. Often links to articles on my favourites turn up in my musings. One blog that hasn’t had much attention from me on this blog is Art of Manliness (AOM).

As one can guess, the goal of AOM is to help men to be better at life. A noble aim indeed! If you have a few moments, have a look around their site. There is a bounty of useful material – from suggested manly reading lists through to how to properly sharpen an axe.

The article that I link to below is classic AOM – some simple suggestions to improve your Sunday.

http://www.artofmanliness.com/2015/02/28/17-things-to-do-on-sunday-besides-surfing-the-internet/

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Thoreau’s ‘Walden’

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours – Henry Thoreau

I have the author of this post to thank for encouraging me to read Thoreau’s Walden. In short, it is an author’s reflections on an extended period of time when he escaped the life of the town to live sustainably in a self-built shack in the American woods. Amongst the extended ruminations on the perfection that is nature one finds pointed criticism of times not too far removed from our own.

Thoreau’s basic premise runs that humanity spends a great deal of time in the business of gaining material possessions and undertaking societal niceties that simply create more work. This is a thought that I have reflected on frequently – particularly in the context of the trapped nature of the materially well off.

One innocently enough seeks to have a place to rest their head and thuspurchases a home. With the nature of housing prices the home buyer needs to maintain a significant job for a significant period of years in order to pay off his humble abode in which he lays his head. It seemingly does not take long for a simple longing for an innocent pleasure to lock us into lives we never sought nor want.

I find it sad indeed that while I completed this book some weeks ago I have only found the time to review my notes today. Rereading sections was a perfect centreing act to remind myself of the dangers of living life at too fast a speed. Walden is a beautiful invitation to stop the madness that we have committed ourselves to. Do not expect answers from Walden but significant encouragement to question.

You can access the full text at Project Gutenberg. I have not individually referenced quotes due to the difference between the many editions and the easy task of performing a text search on Gutenberg for interested parties.

Nations are possessed with an insane ambition to perpetuate the memory of themselves by the amount of hammered stone they leave….Most of the stone a nation hammers goes toward its tomb only. It buries itself alive. As for the Pyramids, there is nothing to wonder at in them so much as the fact that so many men could be found degraded enough to spend their lives constructing a tomb for some ambitious booby, whom it would have been wiser and manlier to have drowned in the Nile, and then given his body to the dogs.

Be sure that you give the poor the aid they most need, though it be your example which leaves them far behind. If you give money, spend yourself with it, and do not merely abandon it to them. We make curious mistakes sometimes…There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root, and it may be that he who bestows the largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he strives in vain to relieve. It is the pious slave-breeder devoting the proceeds of every tenth slave to buy a Sunday’s liberty for the rest. Some show their kindness to the poor by employing them in their kitchens. Would they not be kinder if they employed themselves there? You boast of spending a tenth part of your income in charity; maybe you should spend the nine tenths so, and done with it.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.

Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. Men say that a stitch in time saves nine, and so they take a thousand stitches today to save nine tomorrow. As for work, we haven’t any of any consequence.

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will. Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows.

…wherever a man goes, men will pursue and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate odd-fellow society. It is true, I might have resisted forcibly with more or less effect, might have run “amok” against society; but I preferred that society should run “amok” against me, it being the desperate party.

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favour in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

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What do you love? (Here are a few things that restore my soul)

Mt Tongariro, New Zealand

Mt Tongariro, New Zealand

Donald Miller wrote a piece recently about things that he loves and their role in what I would call ‘soul restoration’. You can read the piece here.

I have had a chance over the Christmas break to reflect on the things that I love – the things that I find myself getting lost in. As one who has a very heavy workload on a day to day basis I have found it very hard over the last year to find rest and to ‘turn off’. Perhaps by identifying and making time for these things I may find more rest.

So here goes. A few things I love in no particular order.

Getting lost exploring an important idea. I am currently reading Thoreau’s Walden and find myself drinking deep the ruminations on the consumerist nature of our society. Other topics I easily get lost in include Jesus’ social teachings, Martin Luther and radical grace, simplicity and minimalism, the transformation power of education and the importance of holistic education which values creativity and soul. Reflection accompanied by a cup of tea or coffee while overlooking a majestic landscape, sunset or a rainy day gets bonus points. I can get lost in conversation, documentaries, books etc. – it is all wonderful ‘lost’ time.

Drinking wine and eating good food with friends. An extension of the above, the act of meeting with people and discussing topics of passion restores my soul. Wine and food are not necessary but there is something about them that facilitates deeper conversation. I appreciate the celebration of Creation that wine is – the process of selecting, growing and processing the humble grape produces such a wide range of flavours that mirrors the complexity of the individuals that make up humanity. And food, well, as my handwriting skill attest, I struggle to craft things with my hands but I can cook. Taking raw ingredients graciously provided to us by the earth and turning them into meals that nourish others is very satisfying. Cooking can be quite a mindful exercise – fresh food has such a simple but intense scent that reminds me of new beginnings.

Providing the opportunity for others to engage with big ideas and develop as people. I love teaching and know the transformative nature of good education. The ‘light bulb’ moment is wonderful and seeing others create a conclusion that I hadn’t thought of brings deep joy. One of the many joys of working in primary education is having the chance to teach children the importance of serving and looking after each other. Seeing them put it into practice is lovely.

Physical activity  – especially long sessions of cardio.  In times gone by I was quite overweight and shunned all forms of exercise. Things are certainly different now. The mental space provided by a long run or ride is very restorative. While finding quiet and inspiring landscapes is difficult in Melbourne (Melbourne might have the night life but Adelaide has the scenery!), I like to take the opportunity to get out as often as I can. Exercise is the first thing to go when work weeks grow long. I am not alone in believing in the importance of walking and exercise – especially for leaders of larger organisations.

Silence and stillness. Our world is too loud and too busy. We are bombarded with insanely high levels of information and decisions each day. Sitting still and feeling still are important more than ever.

My relationship with my wife. All of the above activities are often present in our relationship and the support provided therein empowers me to serve others. Marriage is indeed work and one must provide the space for it to flourish. The above are enhanced by the presence of my wife.

So what about you? What are the ‘loves’ that restore your soul?

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9 intentional ways to challenge consumerism in your life

Mindless consumption always turns into excessive consumption

This piece written by Joshua Becker comes from one of my favourite blogs, becomingminimalist.com. Point number 5, to ensure your purchases assist you to carry out your life’s mission to contribute to others, resonated with me a great deal. It reminded me of something that one of my spiritual teachers, Richard Rohr often shares, “Are the things you are saying ‘yes’ to saying ‘yes’ to the big ‘yes’?”

You can read Becker’s piece here.

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