“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
Hans Christian Andersen
I love the above quote. It is the opposite to “own nothing, be happier.” However, sometimes we flutter more around the pursuit of too many flowers and forget about the freedom we have to enjoy the sunshine.
In the pursuit of a simple life, I’ve realized that the accumulation of flowers is not the most important aspect for me anymore. There was a time it took center placement. Losing a lifetime’s lush garden all at once taught me that my focus was off centered and gave me the freedom to pursue a life full of sunshine. The sunshine after the storm is usually the most beautiful. With countless sunny days ahead, the heart can only rejoice about the simple abundance that surrounds me. I have learned to count my blessings, and there are oh so many. Prosperity takes the form of more than the material, those blessings that were missed when the “little flower” was ignored, in pursuit of an entire field. Like the caterpillar, I was transformed, and like the butterfly, I find delight in the offerings of every new day. Sometimes, sprouting wings is painful, but without them one cannot appreciate the beauty of that single flower up close.
Prosperity comes in many forms, an integral part of simple abundance. We tend to think of prosperity from the material/financial point of view only, but there is so much more to it than money or things. These two are important, but not most important. Simple living involves the realization that there is much more abundance around us that what we perceive in the material/monetary realms. These riches are unlimited, countless, and continuous. The true meaning of prosperity can be found in a single flower.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
In learning to live a simpler life, I had to become a bit more mindful about my health, physical, mental, and even spiritual. A switch in lifestyle required me to do more physical work than what I was accustomed to, and to realize what things I could not perform as well anymore due to age and a lifetime of 9-5 and beyond workdays, little time for physical development, along with my dislike of exercise routines and doctor appointments (dislike the term wellness visits). I realized that peaking 60 meant a need for creating a simpler health routine that I could keep. It is as simple as eating as healthy as I can, take vitamins and supplements, and keep on moving, along with my yearly checkup.
A far as what I do, I cook 95 percent of my meals but also, I don’t deprive myself of something I would like that does not fall under my regular nutrition. I don’t pay attention to brands, organic or not; I just cook balanced meals and don’t overeat. Exercise takes the form of chores, some heavier than others, walking, stretching every morning, and staring at a stationary bike when I don’t feel like using it. I am up early, at 5 am and that works well for me. Part of simplifying my way of thinking about exercise was to accept my dislike of it and stop blaming myself and feeling guilty for not liking it. How freeing. My most hated class as a kid in school was physical education; truly hated it. That mental switch made a difference because the battle was over. As a Christian, understanding that our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit, also made a difference, hence respect it and treat it as well as you can, so I take care of myself as best as I can.
You can eat well and exercise till’ the cows come home but if you do not take care of your mental health the rest is wasted time and calories. Mentally, I try to keep myself healthy by being aware of what’s going on, reading, making art, taking on projects and learning new things. I don’t welcome negativity in my life, whether in the form of news, people, or propaganda … I don’t like gossip and will stop it at once. That doesn’t make for making many friends. I don’t watch trash on TV anymore; I rather do something else, but still enjoy some TV time (sad that most of it is trash these days). I don’t play the politically correct game and do not compromise my values. I also accept and admit when I am wrong. It keeps my peace of mind. I try to be true to myself and others, but mostly to operate from a place of love and understanding, even when that may seem very hard to do. Understanding to give it all to God when I can’t has made a big difference in my life. I live by Christian values, and in my case (I need to make the distinction) I had to learn to separate Christianity from religious indoctrination/history in order to understand the way – Jesus. In my opinion, if you want to know him better, go straight to the pages of the Bible and read in between the lines as well. It answers the question What would Jesus do? and the answer is always the right one.
It has not happened instantly, but slowly I have made better changes and adjustments in my life in order to live a simpler healthy life. Today, I try to balance those three aspects, but it wasn’t always that way, and it definitely took some time. Living in a healthier way is part of living a simple life, as long as there is a balance of what one likes, believes, cares for, as it honors one’s value system while being respectful of other people who might not think like you.
Part of living a simple life is making room for the things that are truly important. By simplifying one’s surroundings, stuff, schedule … and focusing on the basics of living, one learns to appreciate what truly matters in everyday life. In general, life becomes simpler but more enjoyable. Energy as well as resources are freed to serve us and others better. By adapting my lifestyle to embrace only the basic needs and free myself of all the unnecessary, a sense of freedom and control emerged slowly. That change started reflecting on everything else – finances, material possessions, social commitments, health, fitness, nutrition, household management … (each a topic on its own).
In learning to live a simpler life, I have made changes in all these areas. I will give a few examples. I keep my finances as simple as I can. In two words, spending and saving. It works for me and my husband, and it eliminates the need to worry or keeping track of the “extras.” I operate from the belief that all we have has been given as a blessing by God, and he owns it all, so we just take care of it, enjoy it, and use it well. He is the provider of it all and we are the caretakers. If I was to give you an example of how I have simplified every aspect of my life this post would be too long, instead, I will give a few examples of how I simplified some areas. My point is that once you start simplifying in the more material and less important areas, it continues to areas of more significance.
Another example is how I have reduced my possessions considerably, to only what I love and use, and in the case of clothing, what fits well now, according to my lifestyle. I dress and live for the person I am now, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have any dreams, plans, or aspirations (not to be confused). Another area is nutrition. I keep it as simple as I can. I take vitamins, cook 95 percent of my meals, which are basic, and not premade or prepackaged. On the health and fitness area, I don’t like exercise (never have) so my exercise is limited to chores, walks, and a stationary bike that I should use more often. I go to the doctor once a year, even if they want to see me more often. I don’t have any major health issues that might require constant monitoring.
As far as keeping a home, my routines have been simplified to everyday 1/2-hour cleaning, early in the morning (around 6:30), which maintains the house always clean. I keep a household management system that I tailored to my needs (and husband), which covers all areas of home, personal, work, and includes sections for all the important areas – calendar, notes, to do lists, shopping lists and other lists, planning area, goal area, finances …. you get the idea. It is all in one place, I operate from it, and we can refer to it as needed. It is very easy to refer to each simplified area as I need to. As an example, a simple change I made in the area of cleaning was to realize that I don’t need all the products that are advertised to clean a home. I dumped that idea and only use white vinegar, baking soda, ivory soap (or Castille, pure soap) and laundry detergent. For wood polishing I use butcher block conditioner, made of food grade mineral oil and waxes, which I also use to preserve the wood countertops in the kitchen. I realized that a bar of Ivory soap washes dishes better than dish liquid detergent, so I only buy pure soap for many uses. I keep a mason jar with water next to the kitchen sink and every time a bar of soap is almost finished, I dump it in the jar; when it melts, it makes liquid soap. I don’t own a dishwasher and do not need one; I like doing dishes. My husband likes to use Simple Green for outdoor cleaning. My point to all this rambling is that you don’t need most of the things they sell you, unless you love them in your life. Most areas of our lives can be simplified to just the basics. I don’t miss any of the things or systems, services that I discarded. In the process, I found more time and money, and a sense of relief and peace, less things to manage buy or worry about. “Just the basics” work for me and my husband.
As a writer, I have simplified routines as well. Mostly, in the areas of freelancing, and the way I approach a new story. I still write the first draft on paper, and I don’t belong to social media platforms anymore. I have a simple green metal box for ideas, and an old rolodex. I don’t lose sleep over the latest best-sellers, or the latest software for organizing my work, tech gadgets …. I hate to use this overused phrase, but in my case, I keep it simple stupid.
It is a process that I am still working on. It doesn’t happen in a week or months. In a way, it is a journey of knowing and finding oneself better, and of knowing to compromise when more than one person lives under the same roof. Generations are conditioned to do things a certain way, to use certain products for certain things, and all this is passed along from generation to generation. There is nothing wrong with that, it keeps continuity and a sense of belonging, ancestry, culture … Breaking with some of those patterns and routines that we learned takes time, but most important, it is voluntary and meaningful to the person who wants the change. By keeping only those things and systems that are meaningful, important, make sense, and fit into one’s lifestyle, our existence becomes more productive, enjoyable, happier, simpler … and it feels good.
When we moved, we took a leap of faith. We knew that we would have tons of work ahead of us, limited resources, and no permanent income, as we had left our jobs behind. Looking back, it was a stressful period; however, there was a degree of excitement, unpredictability and change, but mostly, we operated on faith. I think that part was the one that counted and kept us going until we finished the job. I will not pretend it was easy, totally the opposite, but our faith in the Lord Jesus kept us going day by day, from sun up till’ sun down, and the job was done. We would wake up before sunrise and head back at sundown, every single day. We had to make a dilapidated house a home in a short time with a very tiny budget (You can see our progress in Restoring an Old Farmhouse series of posts).
It is easy to forget challenging times when things flow to our contentment and life seems balanced. Living a simple life draws a great deal from living by faith. Learning to trust that all things work for the best to those who trust in the Lord is part of it.
Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Knowing that when the future seems far away, and things are not as perfect as one would want, faith bridges the gap and brings what is needed to accomplish the task at hand, whether one has energy or not, resources or not. Somehow, it all falls in divine order, one step at a time, one miracle at a time. The simple life is full of small miracles day in and day out. Joyful faith keeps all the essential pieces of the puzzle together until one is able to see the whole picture. Living in joy and by faith, even when things are in disarray for a season and not as perfect as we wish, is done by keeping our eyes on a higher power and not solely on the circumstances that surround us.
In my journey, I had to learn many new things, leave many behind, and have the disposition to embrace new ones. When days seemed too long, energy and resources at their end, I took my eyes off these things and learned to trust that it would all work out for the best. It is not easy, but faith and prayer fill in the gap in those moments. Simple days are shaped by faith. As someone whose faith rests in Jesus Christ, I can tell you that I have seen the hand of God working alongside me, even when I thought I was holding on to the last string. Whatever was needed at the time materialized in a perfectly timed and orderly fashion. Today, I view faith as an intricate main part of my simple life. When in doubt, I remember, I pray, and I give thanks. Joyful Faith is another important part in living a simple life. Hope you enjoy this post.
Simplicity is at the core of living a simple life, along with frugality (not to be confused with poverty or lack), best use, gratefulness, and beauty, among many other things that I will write about on this blog, according to my experience. When pondering about this topic, it occurred to me that many people do not want to live a simple life; simplicity does not entice them, and that is fine too. Other people may have a misunderstanding of simplicity and may think that by embracing simplicity, or overall, a simpler existence, they will be lowering their expectations, standard of living and even quality of life. That is a misconception that may scare them away from simple living.
Simple living is about appreciating every aspect of one’s life, environment, and possessions. It is about only allowing what serves us now in our spaces and enrich our lives. It is about enjoying those aspects/things that will best fit our lives and also, making room for those things, dreams, aspirations … that will enrich more our life and the lives of others by default.
When we live a simpler, balanced life (not perfect) in turn, we can give more to others, whether that is materially, in time, or by giving of ourselves. For me, that is the opposite to lowering one’s expectations; on the contrary, it is about raising the bar because I am operating from a place and disposition, of generosity and gratefulness, and not of lack or disillusion. To put it in terms of the material as an example, when we live simply, we will bring into our environment that which we value (not necessarily monetary value). If I value durability in a product (clothes for example), I might forgo cheaply/fast made items which will cost less and will be easily affordable in quantity, and instead, bring one piece that will last for many years but will cost a bit more. This can be applied to every aspect because I am operating from a value system, what is important to me. This is far from lowering one’s expectations in life. Living simply opens space, time, and energy (mental, physical, even emotional) to welcome new opportunities and enrich our existence. This is far from lowering expectations.
For many, the start of a new year signifies a blank canvas, a new opportunity, a fresh start, a chance to do better than in previous years, a hopeful outcome. It is a chance to start anew, new beginnings, a chance to erase, to forget, to try once more, to take inventory of one’s life, and to view the new year with fresh eyes. It is why so many people receive a new year with joy, new hope, and a refreshed outlook. Somehow, it signifies leaving the past behind and moving forward. Rarely one views the start of a new year with a gloom and doom outlook; most likely, it is viewed in a positive way, hopeful.
For me, this year represents much of that but also, the opportunity to look at different areas of my life and be humble, honest, at answering crucial questions: What works? What doesn’t? What would I like to change? What doesn’t fit my lifestyle anymore? What should I simplify more? What are new areas of interest? What would I like to learn? What needs improvement? What needs to be left behind?
These questions can be applied to any areas of one’s life, even projects, or household management. The answers will vary and change throughout a lifetime because we are always evolving. These simple questions help me focus on the year ahead, but also free me from remaining stuck in something that doesn’t “fit” anymore, and also, in not viewing issues as failures thus bringing discouragement into the new year. I do what I can, my part, but also rely on my faith to seek direction/guidance from God when things might not be as clear. For me, starting anew is asking the question, answering honestly, and following through in faith.
I try to find beauty in the ordinary, the day’s in and outs. A walk to the mailbox across the road while an everyday task is ever changing. I think it amazing and beautiful that a simple daily short walk is never the same when I care to look. God’s presence is in the little details that surrounds us, and the more I care to look, the more grateful and in awe I am. Here are some October’s treasures I found the other day.
I am sure that there were more treasures to be found, but I was just in and out, picking up some mail. God is good.
Life is a cycle. We are born, grow up, mature, age, and die, but during that time, we are being reborn over and over, not only physically as our organism regenerates, but also, mentally and spiritually. We go trough many experiences that shape and mold our thinking, our souls, leading to spiritual growth while developing our humanity. This growth is as personal as it can get, individual and unique. What may seem unfair for someone is what the person/spirit needs to advance to the next level.
Imagine a perfect life where everything is in balance at all times, where there is no conflict and things always work the way it is expected. How can there be growth? Many times, we observe the person who seems to have the perfect life according to our definition of “the perfect life” and that person seems to be going through a rough patch. Immediately, we put on our judgement glasses and we cannot understand how is possible for Mr. or Mrs. Perfect Life to even feel challenged in her/his environment. Our human minds cannot accept or comprehend it. However, if we take off our judgement glasses and put on spiritual glasses we see that the person is going through his/her own growth cycle and the experience is unique, and at a different level than our own. What that person feels and experiences is what is necessary for the spirit to move along the journey. Sometimes there is growth and sometimes there isn’t, and that is a decision that every soul in the planet has to make according to the choices presented and the opportunity to choose. The adage, “To each, its own” says it well.
When we are experiencing the challenges of life, the opportunities to grow spiritually and humanely, we get the chance to reevaluate our lives, the challenge, past and present experiences, and look into the future with new eyes. We are given the opportunity to leave behind what does not fit anymore, and change armor. We all do it throughout our lives, at our own level and pace. In order to grow, it is necessary to leave behind that which does not fit our Now.
The fact that we are social and gregarious might seem to answer the question, and to a point it does; however, whether you consider yourself a follower or a leader is only important because of the Why. I think we are a bit of both throughout our lifespan. Sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow. If we discard the image of the big leader followed by a multitude we do ourselves a favor. Many people aspire to be leaders; other people get offended if they are labeled as followers, almost as if one would cancel the other, when instead, we must be open to be both if we want to grow our humanity, and our spirituality. There will be times in our lives when we will have to step as leaders, and other times we will yearn to follow, and even the leaders will find themselves after the path of teaching by learning the yearning of the followers. We have been taught that one is better than the other, or greater than the other, when it is just a different side of the same coin, a different tonality of the same color. The only thing that will decide which side it is at a particular moment in our lives is the Why.
Why we step to lead or yearn to follow? In the Why we found the meaning, and it must be powerful enough to move us, otherwise, we end up pursuing illusions whether we lead or follow. Whatever we look for, the nourishment we need, or need to give, becomes the reason, the fuel, the dream … Somewhere in the process, what developed inside us, and has been there, we manage to transport it outside ourselves, and the search for it starts, and we lead, and we follow, and we keep searching, and leading, and following – and living.
Tame – Changed from natural wilderness to a manageable state. (American Heritage Dictionary)
The above definition will serve the tone of this post. As creatives we have an abundance of inspiration flowing, and many times, this same flow overwhelms our creative spirit. A person who seems to have many talents, or ways in which this flow of inspiration is expressed may find it difficult to focus on one talent, thus making it challenging to grow or develop a talent further. A multi-creative spirit may find itself in creative chaos at a particular moment becoming a bit confused as where to focus the intention to create. A writer may feel the need to pursue painting or photography, or any other artistic interest, pulling himself/herself away from the writing career that he/she is following. Many times, this burst of creative passion leads to doubt as to what path to follow. A person may be talented in many areas, however as human beings we live within the constrictions of a material world ruled by time and space, making it difficult to create as much as we wish to, and leaving us in creative exhaustion, spreading ourselves too thin, and eventually opening a door to frustration. So, what is a multi-creative spirit to do?
Focus seems to be the answer. Whether you are great at writing or painting or many more creative venues is not the issue here, but how to manage your creative state in a way that leaves you feeling outside of creative chaos, more fulfilled, and with a clear vision. It is fine to love all your talents and feel equally passionate about them, however one of them will need to be placed first in your fulfillment scale. Prioritizing next the rest of your passions. You may want to dedicate more time developing and growing as a writer, while enjoying your painting as a hobby or as a secondary source of income or fulfillment and not necessarily tied to your income, to present an example. This will take the pressure of the need to be “great” at every talent or perform 100 percent in all, at all times. It brings to mind the adage, “Jack of all trades, master of none.”
As we live, we evolve, and so do our interests and passions. Wanting to excel in all our creative passions/interests might feel natural; however, when we learn to tame our multi-creative spirit it might lead to a better use of our talents, less frustration, and peace of mind, thus a more relaxed state of being that becomes fertile ground for inspiration to flow without the natural constraints that we put on it. In the end, it may work to our advantage and facilitate a state of creativity that leads to mindful fulfillment and nourishing of the creator in us. In this way we respect our gifts, as well as our creative self, and ultimately, the Creator and Giver of it all.