“Contentment is one of the hallmarks of a simple life. One of the most difficult aspects of being human is to curtail our insatiable desire for more.” ~Paramahansa Yogananda
Life can get really complicated and go by way too quickly if you don’t take time to reflect on how you are using your time to be purposeful in living a life you love. There are countless distractions available to us at the touch of a button; clamoring for our attention and making us feel as if we will lead a less fulfilling life if we do not act immediately on the offer we are being sold.
With all these disturbances it’s no wonder that we often feel a lack of meaning and purpose in our lives. What are we working so hard for? Why do we get up each day and follow our well laid routines to their end points? In asking myself these questions, I find myself always drifting back to the basics. To me, to live is to experience life in its simplest forms; enjoying nature, love, health, relationships and giving back.
This conclusion led me to the book The Simple Living Guide by: Janet Luhrs. I came across the book as a suggestion Amazon presented based on my book preferences and thought I would give it a chance even though it was a bit outdated from 1997. However, as I read through the book, I realized that the challenges and tradeoffs of life have not changed a lot in the last 20 years. I was surprised to read about how complicated life had become with email and computers even back in the late 90s, before smart phones were a regular accessory for all.
I sincerely enjoyed this book because it examined life in all its component areas and broke it down with suggestions on how to simplify it and develop ways to better aid your energy in working toward your ultimate purpose. Essentially it was about living deliberately, knowing that you have limited time on this earth, how do you build a plan to experience life at its fullest, disposing all the peripheral activities that only serve to meet obligations, stress you out or portray an image to others.
Depending on your life style and individual preferences, everyone will take very different action items from the book. I will most likely not choose to live in a “cob home,” however I will roll with the notion of “buy one thing, give away one thing,” to reduce clutter. Accordingly, please reflect on my actions toward simplicity with eye for what you can do differently to live more deliberately.
There are 14 chapters to reflect on in this book, my biggest takeaways were as follows:
Inner simplicity: The key for me here was to develop a routine of meditation. This has always been a challenge for me because I don’t feel as though I understand the process, but the book offers many methods to learn from. The meditation I choose to focus on is the loving kindness meditation, where you meditate on “thoughts of love and acceptance for yourself first and once you have filled your cup, you mediate on loving thoughts for other people.” I typically take about 15 minutes a night to do this meditation or a guided meditation from Deepak Chopra. The benefits for me have been an overall increase in calmness, resulting in better sleep and an increase in being mindful of how my thoughts impact my body.
Simple Pleasures: Organized entertainment can be fantastic. I genuinely enjoyed attending a comedy show where Jo Koy kept my husband and I laughing for hours last night. Yet, this book helped me understand how much simple joy is around us every day. One of the more recent actions I have taken to establish simple joy in my life has been the purchase of a comfy chaise lounge chair. I put this chair in the wooded area of our backyard along with a little table and relish in lounging on it with a glass of ice tea, a book and the wilderness all around me. It’s quiet, peaceful and allows me to take nature in and slow down the pace of life.
Exercise: I have already simplified my exercise by cutting out the gym and purchasing an elliptical machine for my home. However, one thing I learned from this book is to incorporate exercise more into my daily life. Instead of lamenting about chores, I relish in the chance to get a different work out in vacuuming, dusting etc. Also, I plan to plant a garden next year and start composting this year for more chances to integrate exercise into my life routine. I think the biggest accomplishment in our household in “earth bound” exercise, as the author refers to it, is our purchase of a walking lawnmower for Ryan to mow 2 acres of grass, thereby giving him an opportunity to exercise.
Nutrition: I have a lot to learn in this category. First, I have simplified my breakfast with the purchase of Coach’s Oats. I want one meal a day to be thoughtless and nutritious and Coach’s oats supplies this. It’s cheap, nutritious and delicious with maple syrup and flavored coffee on the side. I follow it up with fruit at 10am and am set for the morning. Occasionally, I’ll have yogurt with granola, but fancy egg dishes, sugary cereal and expensive brunches are very much anomalies for me. For lunch, I am going to start making a big batch of brown rice and black beans on Sunday night and then tossing in veggies, quality olive oil, a little cheese and klamata olives. Occasionally I can cheat and go out for lunch, but this is my staple. For dinner, I plan all meals on Sunday, grocery shop and leave the meal choice up to the type of day we’ve had. The key to nutrition is planning and ensuring that around 75% of meals are healthy and then 25% can be more indulgent.
Relationships: For me, a large part of life is about fostering intimate and fun relationships. The book offered several low-key suggestions for building relationships that I want to integrate into my fall plans, including hosting an annual wine party where everyone brings their favorite wine or appetizer. The key with relationships is to feed them often and build in traditions. I love our annual slip and slide party for this reason, I get to see people that I may only see once a year, its simple fun and gives everyone something to look forward to, hopefully experiencing a thrill down the slide—without a broken bone.
Travel: There was one point the book made for travel that really resonated with me, it included the need to define the ultimate purpose of the trip. Moreover, you want to carry that purpose with you whenever you run into decision points on activities or issues to help you determine what to do next and/or how to handle an issue. Too often on trips we forget its purpose, we run into issues and start blaming our travel companions or focus too much on the quantity of sites seen rather than the quality of the experience. As I head out on our trip to Montana next week, I will hold its purpose close to heart and not let random obstacles steal the joy of experiencing nature to its fullest and connecting with old friends.
The Simple Living Guide was an excellent read and there was so much more I could have written. I encourage you to think of ways to simplify your life this Sunday and/or go out and rent this book from your local library. Live your life deliberately, always questioning how each day builds into the tapestry of your most fufilling life.