Simplicity Made Easy
Simplicity is more than a lifestyle option: it is a way of life.
In folk history and religion, from the Shakers to Zen, simplicity has generally been considered a good thing. Our own motivation may be to leave a smaller carbon footprint, to express a compassionate solidarity with those who have least; or simply to downsize. Whatever our concern, it is likely that the motivation to live a simpler life will spring from within.
With this inspiring book, discover how simplicity can become a way of life.
Trying to live a simple life is not always easy - we are so ready to sweat the small stuff. Jennifer writes beautifully and clearly. Highly recommended. ~ Maggy Whitehouse, Amazon
Simplicity. What does it mean? This has been a challenge to me for many years. Some people seem to feel that it is a movement backwards towards an older, supposedly simpler, way of living – growing our own food, avoiding electrical equipment such as computers and so on. For me, this wasn’t a direction I could take. Yes, I can and do enjoy some gardening but my livelihood is based on computers. I couldn’t go back to a treadle-powered machine or lose the internet.
Quakers have a testimony to simplicity, but what does it involve? In Advices and queries number 40 we are challenged: ‘Try to live simply. A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength. Do not be persuaded into buying what you do not need or cannot afford. Do you keep yourself informed about the effects your style of living is having on the global economy and the environment?’
Jennifer Kavanagh’s new book Simplicity made easy tackles some of these questions. As she states in the introduction: ‘Simplicity is neither simple to achieve nor easy to define. Is it the opposite of complexity? Is it a lack of elaboration or a lack of excess? It may be all of these things but there is a positive quality to simplicity that is more than a set of negatives, and surpasses form.’ These questions are expanded upon throughout the remainder of the book in a way that I found extremely helpful.
Jennifer talks about the inner need to simplify your life. She states that simplicity is not a lifestyle choice but rather an attitude of mind. It is an inner compulsion to simplify our lives rather than an outer one. The possession of things can take over in a way that disconnects us from what is real in life and can separate us from our inner connection with that which is greater than us – from what I call God but for which others have different names. After all the root of all evil is not money but rather the love of money.
In the past five years I have been feeling this inner nudge to dig my way out from the papers and other possessions that have taken over my time and concentration: they have been controlling me rather than I them. As I slowly emerge from the piles of papers that have grown in my office and taken a toll on my mental space, I find that there is now a driving force towards simplifying my life. I am aware that I need to find time to think, time to contemplate and time to have a leisured opportunity to reconnect with my understandings ‘of life, the universe and everything’ – to paraphrase the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Simplicity made easy has helped me to understand that this need is a ‘normal’ and essentially healthy one. I have already been trying to operate on the maxim given by William Morris: ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.’
Working to this standard allows me to keep the computer and also the things that I find beautiful, whether it is a nicely shaped jug, a warm hand-woven blanket made by a friend – or even the drawing by my young grandchild that I find beautiful but that others might consider clutter. However, the essence is that the things I have around me need to feed my soul and not possess me.
As Jennifer says at the end of chapter eight: ‘If we take a long look at what is really necessary in our lives, we will more easily find a balance in the reality of our material world. We will ensure that what we gain from scientific advances is not encountered by a loss of connection with each other and with the rest of creation.’
The paradox of this world and its gadgets is that our time-saving technology makes our lives busier. Look around and you will see how little personal time we have left. Our cell phones and their internet capacity have made it easy to stay in touch with the outside world, but left us little time to go inward for personal reflection or to really appreciate and support the physical community in which we are living. Gone is the simple walk to clear our minds or evenings of just sitting on the porch with neighbors. Instead, we leave our homes, cell phones in hand, texting to friends, business associates, and others to run to the mall to shop. Gone are the days when we are free from marketing experts teaching us to be consumers instead of human beings enjoying our natural world without interference from technology and all the “stuff” they’ve convinced us we needed when we really didn’t. Unless, that is, we make a conscious choice to live more simply.
Living simply isn’t about giving up our urban lives. It isn’t giving up our friendships or even all of our things. For author, Jennifer Kavanagh, simplifying one’s life is a journey toward self-discovery and a step toward becoming a more responsibleglobal citizen. Her new book Simplicity Made Easy examines how “reducing the clutter in our lives, whether in the material objects or in the use of time or money, leads to an increased clarity of vision.” This small book (only 58 pages) doesn’t ask readers to give up all of their technology, but it does ask them to examine their lives to see how that technology and materialism have affected their quality of lifeand to consider better ways of living with what they already have.
Kavanagh, who is a Quaker, begins her examination of leading a less complicated life by reminding her readers of the spiritual roots of simplicity. She explains that “figures as diverse as Jesus, Ghandhi, Confucious, Marcus Aurelius and theBuddha considered a preoccupation with the material world to be a barrier to the spiritual life.” While she informs her readers that one of the great rewards of leading a simpler life is joy, and in so doing one is able “to experience life more fully, to live with enhanced intensity and freedom,” this isn’t by any means a religious text. Instead, the author explores how making a decision to simplify our lives affects not only the individual, but the community as a whole. “Everything is connected,” she explains, “every choice we make, what we wear, what we eat—impacts on others. The use of disposable goods, and the quantity and disposal of our waste, together with recent publicity about climate change, have brought an increased awareness of the impact of the Western way of life.”
As a socially conscious individual, Kavanagh has been involved in creating microeconomic projects for women in Bangladesh and she has worked with refugees in London where she makes her home. This new book, her fourth, is a continuation of the self-examination spawned by her experiences working with those less fortunate than herself, which is reflected in her earlier books. InSimplicity Made Easy , she asks her readers to examine how they use theirmaterial wealth in relationship to the poor around them. To make her point, Kavanagh quotes Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh as saying “Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry….Live simply and share time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.” She continues by adding “As we make changes in our life, we become aware of the connections with our fellow human beings.”
Kavanagh began her own steps towards simplicity when only a few years from retirement she gave up her publishing career, and her comfortable London life to travel the world helping with social projects where she could. She examines that journey in her book, Call of the Bell Bird: A Quaker Travels the World. Her encounters in the Pacific, Thailand, India, Mongolia and Russia led her to examine what the word “home” really meant in her next book, The O of Home . Kavanagh’s earlier books are full of her personal experiences and insights, and one sees her giving and caring heart. In Simplicity Made Easy, she offers her readers less of herself and more of an intellectual journey into the various aspects that trimming one’s life can bring. Nevertheless, she gives a compelling argument in favor of the benefits of simplifying.
Among other ideas that she ponders are how the busyness in our lives complicates things. “In squeezing in more and more activities,” she explains, “we have too little time to give to our relationships, to what really matters in our lives.” Simplifying isn’t only about having less material things, it is also about using our time more wisely and productively to allow ourselves to really discover who we are and what our true talents may be. Kavanagh reminds us that “there has to be a time to be still, to allow our consciousness to expand beyond the distractions of the everyday, the pressing of clock-related activities, time for timelessness to take over, for intuition to let its voice be heard….to give attention to the stillness of the heart.”
This book is for anyone who finds themselves overwhelmed by the clutter of material things or overly busy. It is also a book for those who wish to live more consciously as a caring global citizen. It is a thought provoking primer for those seeking to find a simpler more fulfilling life in our chaotic world. Each of the chapters individually can be a meditation on the lessons and gifts that simplifying one’s life can bring.~ Eshwari, http://hubpages.com/hub/Living-A-Simple-Life
Jennifer starts her book by saying "Simplicity is neither simple to achieve nor easy to define."
"Simplicity" she says, "is not just a lifestyle option, but an attitude of mind, a path for the inner as well as the outer life." She also says, "It is not so much to do with possessions, as with our attitude to them. After all, 'the root of all evil', it is said, is not money but 'the love of money'." And I really like, "A simple life will encompass not only our own needs, but those of others, and those of the environment in which we live."
This encompasses her whole attitude to "living simply". To give examples, our spiritual needs may include the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of our surroundings, art and music - unlike the early Quakers whose meeting houses had very high windows so that one wouldn't be distracted from meeting for worship. They didn't approve of music either, as this was another distraction. One may need a big house to house others, a car so that one can travel to necessary places. And in our concrn for the environment here is a selection from her list of suggestions: buying fair trade goods, using alternative sources of energy, lowering levels of personal consumption, wearing more clothes indoors and turning the heating down, buying from charity shops, ethical investments.
She tells us that we must each make our own list. It isn't productive to reduce ourselves to the level of the destitute, but common sense and more practical to only get rid of things that we don't really need for our chosen way of life.
If we have difficulty in finding the right leadings to reduce our clutter, Jennifer recommends, "Regardless of label, there can be no simpler practice than sitting down and opening up the self to the Divine or Higher Being."
~ Candia Barman, The New Seeker magazine, spring 2011
When things gets a bit on top of you there’s nothing like a good clear out to physically and emotionally de-clutter your life. In this slim volume Fitzrovia author Jennifer Kavanagh looks beyond de-cluttering and encourages us to find a deeper often spiritual meaning to and enjoyment from a simpler life.
As an atheist I’m not attracted to the religious passages (Kavanagh is a Quaker) but I’ve many times enjoyed the simplicity of staying in a French monastery; its quiet space for relaxing, contemplation, far away from computers and mobile (de)vices. Despite my distaste for Catholicism the simplicity of life in the monastery gives me time to rejuvenate.
But Kavanagh is not concerned with a temporary spiritual detox holiday. Instead she examines how and why we might want to achieve a more meaningful permanent settlement in our own lives; how we can de-consumerise and understand what it means to lead a more economically and emotionally contented and sustainable life.
True to its name, this book is clearly and simply written. If you have a busy life and want to focus on simplicity you will be able to find time for it. It includes a chapter on ‘Time and busyness’ as well as ‘Stuff and spareness’; ‘Letting go’ and ‘Joy’. To quote from the preface; ‘Simplicity is not just a life style option, but an attitude of mind, a path for the inner as well as the outer life. It is not a narrowing of life but a distillation. It is not so much to do with possessions but our attitude to them… It is also not just about ourselves. A simple life will encompass not only our own needs but those of others, and those of the environment in which we live.’ One of the themes running through the book is how simplicity in our inner life can inform our choices about our outer life. Conversely taking a conscious decision to simplify our outer life can help us to achieve a simpler inner life. Jennifer writes: ‘At the heart of simplicity is an interaction between our inner self and our outward actions: a constantly changing balance. Outer distraction or distortion reflects an inner fragmentation. But it is not a one way process. We have probably all had the experience of clearing our desk and finding that the external order clears our mind. Spiritually speaking as we move to simplify our life, in whatever way, the increase in clarity and freedom will allow space for growth in our spiritual journey’. She also says: ‘Simplicity in outer things allows us to order our inner life, and as we become more attuned to our inner life, a simplification of externals, less “clutter”, may become not a duty nor an expression of social or political views, but a mystic necessity.’ One of the most helpful ideas I found in the book was to consider whether the opposite of our concept of simplicity is not complexity but chaos. It is possible for a person to have a complex, structured life which allows simplicity. It is also possible to have resources and to use them to create an abundant life for those around us. This book does have some gentle suggestions and guidance on simplifying one’s life, but it is not a book of tips or solutions. What it does is to lay out the principles clearly and simply and allow us to apply them to our lives in our own peculiar ways. As she says: ‘The important thing is to be true to our own life’s journey, open to the promptings of our own inner voice.’ Jennifer quotes Ruskin, and the quote is a fitting description of this book: ‘The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and to tell what it saw in a plain way.’ ~ Jane Wilson, Quaker Voices, July 2011