Thursday, October 16, 2008

Let Him Do It with Simplicity

Elder Perry speaks of patterns or cycles in life’s tests.--good and bad, ups and downs, joy and sadness, and times of plenty and scarcity. "When our lives turn in an unanticipated and undesirable direction, sometimes we experience stress and anxiety. One of the challenges of this mortal experience is to not allow the stresses and strains of life to get the better of us—to endure the varied seasons of life while remaining positive, even optimistic."

I learned on my second to last pregnancy that having endured childbirth (those of you who love the process will probably be offended by my choice of words) a number of times before that "this too shall pass" and that so much of what one goes through while delivering a baby is a mind game. I'm now learning that so much of life is a mind game. We can choose to be optimistic and make our experiences a bit sweeter or we can choose to be all doom and gloom and experience additional bitterness.

He speaks of a time of great stress in his life and the life of his family and how they learned to cope with the stressors. It seemed ironic to me that they would get away to Walden Pond.

"Walden Pond was our special place to pause, reflect, and heal. Perhaps it was partly due to its history—its connection to the efforts of Henry David Thoreau to separate himself from worldliness for a period of years—that Walden Pond offered us so much hope for simplicity and provided such a renewing escape from our overly complex lives."

As I ponder on the points of Elder Perry's talk, I feel woeful and wonderful at the same time. Woeful that life is so complicated and for some reason I feel that it has to be. Yes, wonderful that there is hope in a more simplified life. By looking at Elder Perry's words, let me break it down here:

  • Thoreau moved out ot Walden Pond with the goal of living a simple life for two years - This might be a worthwhile goal. How much can I simplify my life in two years time? Without moving into entirely new surroundings, how could I take what I've got and make it less? It's so against human nature.
  • He moved out onto Ralph Waldo Emereson's property and bought a shanty from a man. He tore down the shanty and built himself a house from it - I could see doing this if it was me on my own, but how would this be possible with a family of eight? I guess if we were required to do this, we would, but doing it without being compelled to seems a little crazy.
  • "He kept meticulous financial records, and he concluded that for a home and freedom he spent a mere $28.12." Good for him to keep these kinds of records. It would be great to be able to see the value in such an experiment. If I were to take upon myself the goal of simplifying, I'd keep a daily journal of what I did that day to thin out, so I could look back and see and value what I'd accomplished. Good rule to life anyway.
  • He planted a garden to help sustain his simple life - I didn't do this this year (true confessions). We had a strange spring. There was no clear time as to when I should plant the garden. It's not that I didn't think it was important; I even bought the seeds, but I think we had frost all the way into early June. Not being a seasoned gardener, this threw me for a loop. I wish I knew a really great gardener that would take me by the hand and tell me what to do where and when. In my own defense, I did get a number of apples from the tree in our yard and did things with those. I have canned and frozen a few things this fall.
  • "He planted two and a half acres of beans with the intent of using the small profit to cover his needs. Small profit indeed: $8.71." This is a good question. What am I doing to bring in a profit for my family as an at-home mom. I believe I am serving where I am needed and am grateful to be able to stay at home; I believe this to be a blessing in my life; a gift. What are my skills? I could teach piano or flute. I could do childcare. I could provide other services--laundry, ironing, proof-reading, typing. I havnen't felt the need to pursue these things, and honestly, I don't know if I would do any of these if push came to shove.
    He had neither a clock nor a calendar in his little cabin.
  • "He spent his time writing and studying the beauties and wonder of nature that surrounded him, including local plants, birds, and animals." Can I slow my life down enough that I could actually sit around looking at birds and animals? I love that my youngest begs to smell all the roses (even the dead) ones that sit by homes on our way back from dropping the older kids at school. He causes me to slow down sometiems and just notice things. Children are definintely blessings in obvious as well as in many hidden ways.
  • "He did not live the life of a hermit—he visited the town of Concord most days, and he invited others to come into his cabin for enlightening conversations." Okay, here's the clincher! I always pictured Thoreau as a hermit--that he retreated from society in this experiment. This was not the case. Do I simplify my life so that I can enjoy time with others, or am I so busy that I can't carve out the least bit of time for someone else? Much of the time I do spend with others is for those who need me. Do I create time for those I want to spend time with?
  • "When the two years ended, he left his cabin behind without regret." Ahh! I would love this. Many of my regrets at this point in my life have to do with missed appointments or lost pieces of paper--just basic disorganization. If I can simplify to the point of having little to organize, the regrets will fade away. I figure any little bit of simplifying will aid in this goal. Each day I should just do something, no matter how small, to make life easier for myself.
  • "He considered the time he had spent there a proper amount of time to accomplish his purpose—to experience the spiritual benefits of a simplified lifestyle." First, Thoreau had clearly delineated his goals. He knew what he wanted to accomplish, so he knew when it was accomplished. He even knew how long it would take him to achieve what he desired. Good example for me in this goal. What do I want to accomplish? Can I come up with babysteps--daily mouthfuls that can help me get there?
  • "He also felt he had other life experiences ahead of him. It was time to move on and explore other opportunities Once this goal was accomplished, he wasn't done. He set further goals to improve his life. This reminds me of Ammon. He went out and saved the king's sheep and instead of standing around basking in it, he moved to the next thing he was assigned to do. another good example of what to do.

"From his experiences at Walden Pond, Thoreau determined that there were only four things that a man really needed: food, clothing, shelter, and fuel."
the spiritual benefits of a simplified lifestyle.


Food

In the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, it states:
“The Lord has commanded you to take good care of your body. To do this, observe the Word of Wisdom, found in Doctrine and Covenants 89. Eat nutritious food, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. When you do all these things, you remain free from harmful addictions and have control over your life. You gain the blessings of a healthy body, an alert mind, and the guidance of the Holy Ghost. . . ."

One of the main reasons for simplifying is being able to truly listen to the Spirit when it speaks. Addictions come in many forms. My biggest addiction right now is this computer. I feel that blogging is helping me do what is most difficult for me right now--the need to reach out to others. I need this in my life, but how much of this time is being used wisely and as well as it can be? Computer time for me must either be cut down to a simplified point or cut out altogether. What other addictions need to be cut out? Maybe this is the best place to start.

Clothing
What we wear should be simple and modest. "Our dress and grooming send a message to others about who we are, and they also affect the way we act around others. When we are modestly dressed, we also invite the Spirit of the Lord to be a shield and a protection to us." Does that mean I have to get rid of my leather jacket that my hubby so kindly bought me? It does make me feel tough, and I really look good in it. Of course, it doesn't mean that we should dress like the Amish or that we should only have two changes of clothing. I guess the real question for me here is, what am I willing to do to have a more simplified life so that I can focus on what's really important in this life?

I believe I need to dress nicely but not go to extremes. Isn't this most of what we're asked to do--moderation in all things.

"In the Book of Mormon story of the tree of life, it was the people whose 'manner of dress was exceedingly fine' who mocked those who partook of the fruit of the tree. It is sobering to realize that the fashion-conscious mockers in the great and spacious building were responsible for embarrassing many, and those who were ashamed 'fell away into forbidden paths and were lost' (1 Nephi 8:27–28)." Am I overly fashion conscious? If anything, I would say I'm "fashion unconscious." At one point, I remember, shortly after my husband moved from teacher to school administrator, that many of the people we would come in contact with in these new social circles would be very aware of how much "bling" I was wearing. I once, a very long time ago, told Z that if he ever decided to buy me jewelry for a special occasion he had better stop buying me gifts. I'm just not into all that. I'm a simple woman in that way. I enjoy being low-maintenance. I also feel that our money could be better used elsewhere than on my fingers, ears or around my neck.

Funny how people today, when they dress immodestly or sloppily, think they are attracting others to them when really they are repelling others by causing them to feel uncomfortable around them. Hmm. In the last days doesn't it say that good will be called evil and evil good? Large and spacious building mean anything to you?

Shelter
We have been told over and over again to live within our means. "Our income should determine the kind of housing we can afford."
We have been told that the only things we should go into debt for are a home and education. We shouldn't buy a house you can't afford to pay the mortgage for. We have also been told to "stay out of debt, and save for a rainy day. We should practice and increase our habits of thrift, industry, economy, and frugality. Members of a well-managed family do not pay interest; they earn it."

These are good principles to live by. Are we doing these things? Coupons are helping me be thrifty. I am being aware of how much I'm spending on things. I am, therefore, able to save more. More should be going into savings than to debt pay-off. I don't think we're there yet, but we do have a plan. Marvin J. Ashton's "One for the Money" is a great resource for learning to manage finances better.

Fuel
"We have been hearing a lot about fuel and energy—about their high cost and limited supply, our unsafe and unpredictable dependence on their suppliers, and the need for new and sustainable sources of energy. I leave the discussion of these complicated issues to leaders of government and industry. The fuel I want to discuss is spiritual fuel.

"The Lord has given us a beautiful plan about how we can return to Him, but the completion of our mortal journey requires spiritual fuel. We want to emulate the five wise virgins, who had stored sufficient fuel to accompany the bridegroom when he came (see Matthew 25:6–10). What is required to maintain a sufficient store of spiritual fuel? We must acquire knowledge of God’s eternal plan and our role in it, and then by living righteously, surrendering our will to the will of the Lord, we receive the promised blessings.

"As Elder William R. Bradford taught at this pulpit: 'In righteousness there is great simplicity. In every case that confronts us in life there is either a right way or a wrong way to proceed. If we choose the right way, we are sustained in our actions by the principles of righteousness, in the which there is power from the heavens. If we choose the wrong way and act on that choice, there is no such heavenly promise or power, and we are alone and are destined to fail' (“Righteousness,” Liahona, Jan. 2000, 103; Ensign, Nov. 1999, 85).

"Just before Thoreau died, he was asked if he had made peace with God. He replied, 'I was not aware we had ever quarreled' (in Mardy Grothe, comp., Viva la Repartee [2005], 181)."

Love this quote. Yes, I have a long way to go to simplifying my life, but I really feel that it is something I should do. So, where to begin? Breaking addictions first, I believe. Simplifying my schedule--starting with sleeping and waking times. Next will be my house--a day by day calendar will be established with bite-sized goals for each day, so that I can check the calendar each day knowing there will be a goal to accomplish.

2 comments:

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Wow, you put a lot of thought into this. Thanks! I think that some of the sacrifices that a single man without connections can make are far more than what could possibly be expected of a mother with small children, but the same principles apply and I guess that's the point. We can simplify in so many aspects of our life.

Aimee Kieffer, aka "Momzoo" said...

awesome post, thanks for the insites.

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