A Simplified Life

A Simplified Life is the title of a book by Verena Schiller, a Christian nun who spent over 25 years as a hermit in a cabin on the Llyn Penninsula in North Wales. I am in no doubt that times of silence and solitude are of great spiritual benefit to all, regardless of a person’s faith, or lack of it. Many of us, including me, who read or hear about such lives feel drawn to examine our own for opportunities to simplify. We do not need to make a grand gesture, it can be as simple as

  • pausing now and paying attention to three breaths
  • switching the car radio off
  • taking a walk on one’s own or in companionable silence
  • tidying your room
  • cooking and eating a simple meal of rice and fresh vegetables
  • switching your phone and computer off for an hour – or a day!
  • making the time and space for a daily meditation practice
  • taking a few unnecessary items to a charity shop
  • putting your shoes straight

And there are times when we feel called to make a bigger change. Reducing the number of hours we work, or changing to a less-demanding job might mean lower income and less status but a huge improvement in the quality of life that really matters to us. Sometimes we are so caught up in what has become the norm for us and those around us that we don’t realise how drained and scattered we have become until we allow ourselves to experience a different way.

And ultimately, a simplified life is a state of mind, an approach to life that lets go of the pull to fill every moment with activity, of the need to do everything on schedule and perfectly, to be all things to all people other than ourselves. It is a life that pays heed to the inner call and has the courage to follow it.

As Great Master Dogen says in the Kyojukaimon

To do something by ourselves, without copying others, is to become an example to the world and the merit of doing such a thing becomes the source of all wisdom……..


2 thoughts on “A Simplified Life

  1. I am on silent retreat now (Retreat in the Redwoods gal) and can certainly understand the draw of it. It gives one time to reflect on what can be brushed aside in the rush of life. Not always pleasant but needed to go onward. But setting ones shoes straight…it the first thing I do when I come to my retreat cabin. They can not be lazy,scattered here and there…for whatever reason.

  2. I have, over the years, read quite a few accounts of the solitary life. “The Tide that Sings”, a similar story by a nun on an island in Orkney where she spent a year in solitary retreat is one I particularly liked. This ideal is not without its attractions, I found this especially during my pre-retirement days as a nurse.

    I like all the suggestions posted here and done them from time to time. But the one that really stands out is the “Putting one’s shoes straight.” That action alone is enough to have me stop and be still, even for a few seconds.

    Thank you for that.

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