What is voluntary simplicity, or simple living?
It can mean external simplification, such as cleaning out the closets, getting rid of the second car, reducing obligations and work hours. Or it can mean inner simplification, through simple activities, meditation, or alignment with what is more meaningful in life. And one often leads to and feeds into the other.
For me, the most attractive starting point is clarifying what is meaningful for me. What is most important to me? At the end of my life, how would I have liked it to be? What is my ideal obituary? What does that mean for how I live my life now? How would my ideal day be, down to the small details? How would I like to reprioritize my life? How do I stop myself from doing it? What do I fear may happen? How likely is it? What is more likely? What is the lowest hanging fruit, the easiest place to start? What resource do I have for making these changes? What support, if any, do I need? How can I get that support?
This inevitably leads to changes in my external life. I may decide to do something else for pay, either something that makes more money, or something that is inherently meaningful for me. I may decide to work fewer hours for pay so I can have more time for family, friends, volunteering, or other activities. I may decide to make more money, save, and retire early. I may decide to sell off things I don’t need, and require money and time for upkeep. I may move somewhere else, where I may find more support to do what is more meaningful for me.
A simple life is typically very rich in experiences, activities, and meaning. And since it is more aligned with what is meaningful for me, the “yes” is clear and this is the simplicity in it.
There is simplicity from an ongoing clarification of what is most important to me. And simplicity from a life more aligned with this.
When my conscious orientation is aligned with what is (already) more meaningful for me, and my life is more aligned with this meaning, life is aligned with one facet of reality. But we can take this further.
Simplicity can mean alignment with reality in a wider sense.
And this can happen through curiosity, receptivity, and perhaps by following some pointers.
I can inquire into beliefs, finding what is more honest for me than these initial beliefs. I can inquire into the sense fields, noticing how experience is created. I can allow experience as is, noticing the softening or release of identification with familiar and habitual viewpoints. I may even recognize the “me” and “I” as images and content of experience, as any other content of experience.
Caught up in beliefs, there is ambivalence, stress, and a sense of complexity. Resisting experience, there is a sense of struggle and difficulties. Identified as a me and I, there is separation and drama. Of course, these are facets of the same and have the same consequences: ambivalence, stress, tension, struggle, separation and so on.
And when identification releases out of a certain story and its viewpoint, there is a sense of relief, coming home, and of simplicity.
A simplicity underlying, weaving through, and allowing the always new, always rich, expression of life.
- alignment with what is most important to me, most meaningful
- alignment with reality
- can still be a great deal of complexity and activity, but not experienced as unpleasant/unease – is joy there instead
— alignment w. what is important/meaningful
— often means: less consumption, time for what is more meaningful than making/spending money
— can be a rich, complex life, but experience of simplicity since is aligned w. what is important, meaningful, the “yes” is clear
— align life w. what is more meaningful = alignment w. one facet of reality
— can take that further: alignment w. reality = inquiry into belief, sense fields etc., eventually recognizing me/I as images, content of experience, identification w. it softened, perhaps released
A simple life can be, and often is, very rich – in experiences, activities, and meaning. And since it is experienced as meaningful, the “yes” is clear, which creates an experience of simplicity. When a life is aligned with meaning, it is experienced as simple.
Aligned with meaning, life is aligned with one facet of reality. But we can take this further.