By: Marlene Bell
I have a 440-page guide on how to simplify my life, but I haven’t found the time to read it.
Like you perhaps, my once-quiet world now clatters with the joy of a large family. Amid the din, I’ve had to simplify my quest for the simple.
The advent of a simpler life can be launched with a concept so simple it takes only a few words, yet its implications and manifestations have given birth to entire institutions and provided intellectual fodder for philosophers for centuries.
Still, it is better, more accessible, easier to implement – at least for me – if I can keep the message simple.
Too much interpretation waters down the message. Too much debate strips it of its power. Too much explanation distracts us from its essence, and gives us an excuse to avoid getting down to the business of doing it, of living it. And to live it is to change our lives in sweeping, everyday ways.
It is this: Live in love. Whatever contributes to the love in the world, do it.
I suppose I’ve taken the risk of sounding airy-fairy and hippie-dippie. But just for a moment, allow yourself to recognize that love is the only gift you will always have in abundance.
Recognize how different you feel when you extend it to others. Recognize how its unrestricted sharing infuses you with new energy in your own everyday life. And allow yourself to see how such recognition could change your life. If, just for today, you made it your simple goal to wholeheartedly extend yourself in love and kindness. To love lavishly. Haphazardly. To smear it all over the place.
Once as a junior in college, I found myself in a bar with a group of graduate students. I was the only underclassman in the bunch and they were debating ethics, lobbing names of dead philosophers like bocce balls with not a small dose of intellectual pride.
I was quiet, soaking in all of the ideas and insights, when someone who had too much to drink asked the underclassman what she thought. “Whatever contributes to the love in the world, do that,” I said.
Silence followed as they waited for me to expand, to elaborate, to offer proof. “That’s pretty much it.” I said.
It’s not new advice, but it’s certainly simple. For me, simplifying your life is not to add another “should.” It’s simply to recognize that your degree of happiness equals your degree of compassion.
If someone curses you, hold her in your mind and bless her. If you feel like cursing someone, bless her, too. Recognize that the feeling of overwhelming compassion is available to you any time you wish to call upon it.
Leading the simple life is to witness how extending love brings you joy in a fundamental down-to-the-marrow sense. A joy you can feel in your belly. And then to surrender the rest. To surrender anything that takes way from that – whether it’s an activity, a possession, a relationship, a feeling, or a simple thought.
Ghandi said, “Renounce and rejoice.” It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
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