I’m taking a class on voluntary simplicity at my Unitarian Universalist church. I have to drive for forty-five minutes in rush hour traffic to get there, cram down some dinner first or go hungry till long after my family has eaten, and find time to read and reflect on the week’s assignments before attending the class. I also have to fight my eternal shyness to speak up in the group about matters close to my heart. I realized when I signed up for this class that I would miss two of the five meetings due to other church committments. Simple it is not, but I’m finding the class well worth the time.
The first week we all reflected on what areas in our lives need simplifying. As it happened, I was out every night that week with music rehearsals or other meetings, so my chaotic schedule was foremost in my mind. I’ve been writing a good deal in this blog about returning to simplicity in solo retreats; it’s important to shed all of the chains tugging on us for a short time and find moments of silence and peace. This doesn’t have to be done in a wilderness cabin, although lack of electronic gadgets and Internet access certainly helps. Nor does it require solid blocks of time–five minutes gazing at a candle with soft music playing can do wonders. Simplicity.
Week two of the class concerned dealing with too much stuff. We all have our obsessions. I’ve been organizing a concert with my early music ensemble, and I need to enlist the services of the professional librarian in the group to help me organize my mountainous mass of music so that I can easily find the pieces I want. Right now it’s all in randomly located piles depending on what concert I recently used it for (recent meaning within the last five years) or from what workshop I obtained the music. My other area of excess is books, although the librarian confessed to having four tons at one point in his life, which he had to pare down when he moved. Maybe I should consider moving.
I was enjoying the discussions so much that I excused myself from one of those conflicting meetings. Everyone understood, because they are all overcommitted too–they encouraged me to go learn to live simply and report back. In our third class we considered the place of work, paid or unpaid, in our lives. My varied activities are mostly unpaid, but I realized that I already have many of the rewards of a good career: intellectual and creative challenges, excitement, the satisfaction of helping others, friends with similar interests, recognition for my skills, travel, and even the luxury of staying in castles in Europe. I’ve figured out everything but how to earn money, but that should be the easy part.
I’ll miss the session on time management because I’m double-booked that night. (All I can do is try.) If I can find the time, I’ll write more about simplicity in my next entry.