Voluntary Simplicity

“The impulse frequently arises in me to squeeze another this or another that into this moment. Just this phone call, just stopping off here. Never mind that it might be in the opposite direction.

I like to practice voluntary simplicity to counter such impulses and make sure nourishment comes at a deep level. It involves intentionally doing only one thing at a time and making sure I am here for it…Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more…Within the organized chaos and complexity of family life and work, with all their demands and responsibilities, frustrations and unsurpassed gifts, there is ample opportunity for choosing simplicity in small ways.

Slowing everything down is a big part of this. Telling my mind and body to stay put with my daughter rather than answering the phone, not reacting to inner impulses to call someone who “needs calling” right in that moment, choosing not to acquire new things on impulse, or even to automatically answer the siren call of magazines or television or movies on the first ring are all ways to simplify one’s life a little…

A commitment to simplicity in the midst of the world is a delicate balancing act. It is always in need of retuning, further inquiry, attention. But I find the notion of voluntary simplicity keeps me mindful of what is important, of an ecology of mind and body and world in which everything is interconnected and every choice has far-reaching consequences. You don’t get to control it all. But choosing simplicity whenever possible adds to life an element of deepest freedom which so easily eludes us, and many opportunities to discover that less may actually be more.”

From: Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn (1994, published by Hyperion, New York, pp. 68 – 70)

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