by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.
I’ve often felt if I could only find a way to simplify my life, I would be happier and my life would be less stressful.
Recently, I came across the opening statement of an online article that caught my attention: “In a world of overwhelming choice, technological complexity and diminishing free time, consumers are desperate to simplify their lives.” (Rob Tannen, director of research at Bresslergroup, a US product design consultancy)
Desperate to simplify is definitely me!
I can’t help but be reminded of the acronym that has been popular in the military, business and government for decades: K – I – S – S. Whether this translates “Keep it simple, stupid” or “Keep it short and simple” or “Keep it short and sweet,” its meaning is obviously focused on whatever simple entails — meaning whatever is easy, uncomplicated, effortless, manageable and fundamental. And I must say that simple does sound like a wonderful life!
Some say the KISS method or principle has its basis in various statements in history, such as Albert Einstein’s, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Or Leonardo Da Vinci’s, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
The Dalai Lama once said that simplicity is the key to happiness in the modern world, and yet for many of us, simplicity feels like the impossible dream. Confucius said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
It is certainly not my intent to make my life complicated. I asked my husband why he thought it was so difficult for life to be simple. He said, “People have too many commitments and responsibilities these days. The demands on our time are often too consuming.”
Of course, it can also seem impossible — or not very easy — to shorten our list of commitments and responsibilities. Perhaps we see no way to pare down our list. Then what?
My friends, I wish I could say I’ve figured out the simple solution to this not-so-simple question, but I haven’t. What I have started doing is remembering all the simple things that have made my life so sweet. And I’m discovering that what has brought me the most profound joy are the most simple of things.
When I was a child, simple joys would have been blowing dandelions, making flower necklaces, looking for a four-leaf clover — which required hours sitting in a field of clover, watching clouds and imagining what their shapes looked like, walking barefoot in the grass, or watching for falling stars. Actually, most of these are still on my “what makes me happy” list as an adult!
I would also now add things like listening to the sound of ocean waves, smelling evergreen trees as well as fresh cut hay, going for a walk at dusk, savoring my favorite dessert and relishing in the kiss and hug from a loved one.
Perhaps the simplicity the Dalai Lama was referring to has nothing to do with our human choices or the complexities of our lives. Rather, the simplicity that is central to our happiness is an understanding of the simple truths about God and our spiritual identity as his beloved children.
I can attest that basking in God’s love — even if only for a few moments — does make me feel comforted, nourished and strengthened, which is a lot when I feel my life is too complicated and overwhelmed with demands and choices. Truly, my greatest peace and deepest joy comes from prayerful pondering the infinitude and magnitude of God’s love.
The more I think about all the things that bring me joy — and peace of mind — the more I realize that happiness isn’t dependent upon or restricted by all the details and minutia of our day to day lives. The pleasure in the “simple” is found in our active appreciation of the present. Living in the now tells us there are no ordinary moments. Each moment of our life is extraordinary — a time to marvel at and be marveled by.
Downsizing, de-cluttering and prioritizing are all well and good and can certainly be helpful. Trying to maintain some sense of balance in one’s life is good, too. But I think this summer I’m going to start making sure each day includes at least one of the simple joys that has always brought me happiness. And this includes some quality time with my Father-Mother God, too.
Something tells me that these may be the first steps in simplifying the whole of my life. May you, too, remember the simple joys in your life and fill your summer days with as many as you can.