"I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; Probe the earth to see where your main roots run." ~ Henry David Thoreau
Life is busy. Sometimes it seems like the responsibilities are endless and time is not. I make my lists and do my best to live a simple life.
By the grace of God, I have not burned out or gone crazy. God is leading me on this journey to simplicity and without Him, I would be crazy. It’s quite an adventure and I am continuously learning.
I have decided this Lent to practice the following and simplify. Maybe they can help you too.
1. What’s important to me?
The first step to simplicity begins with simply asking the question: “What is important to me?” Hopefully, you can answer this question. If not, it’s time to think about this. What’s important, even sacred, to you. Set your boundaries around these sacred things. Say No to anything that pulls you from these things. Don’t feel guilty, no is a tremendously powerful word.
For me, some of these sacred commitments in my life are faith and family. With all my traveling, I need both. Caring for my soul comes first. Without God, my life would be a mess and I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. I would not be able to give of myself generously. For you cannot give what you do not have.
My family comes next and my family time is very important. My big Irish-Italian family is always gathering and I love it. But even though my family is important to me I have learned to say no if I just can’t do it. Don’t try to join everything, take care of yourself.
2. Reduce Consumption
"The more you have, the more you are occupied. The less you have, the more free you are. ~ Saint Teresa of Calcutta
Give up buying for Lent, give up Amazon, give up Instagram, give up social media. We are surrounded by ads and everything is telling us to buy and consume.
Do something creative rather than consumptive.
Fill your mind with all that is good and true and beautiful. Do what you love. Take a walk, spend time outside in nature, visit your loved ones, spend time with friends and give generously.
3. Live in the Moment
We face two powerful temptations on a daily basis:
to live in the past,
or to live in the future.
Both should be avoided. There is only one moment in which we can live, and that is right now.
"As to the past, let us entrust it to God's mercy, the future to Divine Providence. Our task is to live Holy the present moment" ~ Saint Gianna Molla
“All our anxieties relate to time. A human being is the only time-conscious creature. Humans alone can bring the past to mind, so that it weighs on the present moment with its accumulated heritage; and they can also bring the future into the present, so as to imagine its occurrences as happening now. No animal ever says: “I have suffered this pain for six years, and it will last until I die.” But because a human being can unite the past to the present by memory, and the future to the present by imagination, it is often necessary to distract him in his sufferings — to break up the continuity of misery. All unhappiness (when there is no immediate cause for sorrow) comes from excessive concentration on the past or from extreme preoccupation with the future.” ~ Venerable Fulton J. Sheen
The only moment God gives us is the present moment. It is the moment where God and his grace are found. Living in the moment means living in peace.
4. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is essential to a joyful life.
“It’s not joy that makes us grateful, it’s gratitude that makes us joyful.” ~ Br. David Steindl-Rast
Robert Emmons, arguably the world’s leading expert on the science of gratitude, and an author of some of the seminal studies of gratitude journals, shared these research-based tips for reaping the greatest psychological rewards from keeping a gratitude journal:
- Don’t just go through the motions. Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and others suggests that journaling is more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and more grateful. “Motivation to become happier plays a role in the efficacy of journaling,” says Emmons.
- Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
- Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
- Try subtraction, not just addition. One effective way of stimulating gratitude is to reflect on what your life would be like without certain blessings, rather than just tallying up all those good things.
- Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
- Don’t overdo it. Writing occasionally (once or twice per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling. In fact, one study by Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found that people who wrote in their gratitude journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness afterward; people who wrote three times per week didn’t. “We adapt to positive events quickly, especially if we constantly focus on them,” says Emmons. “It seems counterintuitive, but it is how the mind works.”
Prayer is the breathing of our spiritual life. There is no better way to find peace in the midst of the storms and chaos of life than to pray.
"Prayer gives depth to our spiritual life and draws grace into our souls. It gives us awareness of a heavenly realm where saints and angels are always at our sides, ready to help us in the trials of life. And it helps us remember eternal values when temporal responsibilities press in upon us. The sufferings of this life are short, but eternity is long. Prayer gives us eyes to see this." ~ Sam Guzman, CatholicGentleman
Refocus your prayer life.
Seek to deepen it and develop it.
Find your place, your prayer room, your alter, your corner in your home and make this a daily practice. It may not always be an experience of ecstasy or sweetness. Even saints experienced dryness during their life.
“In the darkness… On July 3, 1959, Father Picachy, one of Mother Teresa’s overseers and confidants, received a letter from her. It contained one of the most detailed, intimate descriptions of her experience of darkness, written as a prayer:
Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The child of your love – and now become as the most hated one – the one You have thrown away as unwanted – unloved. I call, I cling, I want – and there is no One to answer – no One on Whom I can cling – no, No One. –Alone. The darkness is so dark – I am alone. –Unwanted, forsaken. –The loneliness of the heart that wants love is unbearable. –Where is my faith? –even deep down, right in, there is nothing but emptiness & darkness. –My God – how painful is this unknown pain. It pains without ceasing. –I have no faith. –I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd my heart –& make me suffer untold agony. So many unanswered questions live within me – I am afraid to uncover them – because of the blasphemy – If there be God, –please forgive me. –Trust that all will end in Heaven with Jesus. –When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven – there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. –Love – the word – it brings nothing. –I am told God loves me – and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Before the work started – there was so much union – love – faith – trust – prayer – sacrifice. –Did I make the mistake in surrendering blindly to the call of the Sacred Heart? The work is not a doubt – because I am convinced that it is His not mine. –I don’t feel – not even a single simple thought or temptation enters my heart to claim anything in the work.
Let us learn from her, she kept going. She kept praying. She trusted!
God is with you even if you can’t feel Him. Rest in this fact.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” ~ Colossians 3:12-15