Nov 12 2009

Simplicity: A Few More Steps on the Journey

In the last edition of the newsletter, I began to ponder this month’s theme of “Simplicity.” My blog,, holds both the poem and the essay that I offered then; look for “Simplicity: The Complex Task of Living a Balanced Life.” Will you walk with me now as we continue this journey?

Here is what we have been exploring: What happens when we develop the spiritual practice of sitting still—sitting still long enough and often enough to begin to notice how we are spending our resources? Not just our money resources but also the resources of our thoughts, emotions, time, and physicality—our energy. How are we spending each of these resources each day? Each week? How we are replenishing them each day? Each week?

Are we living within our means? Are we living a sustainably? Are we replenishing our resources at a “richer” rate than we are spending them? Do our thoughts, for example, bring us more energy, more insight, more joy or depth—or do they deplete us? We have a choice about how we “spend” our thoughts. And what resources have we discovered for replenishing our thoughts? A well-written book; a piece of art; a loving conversation; active engagement for the good of others; the practice of centering meditation when we take a break from “thinking”? Our thoughts are a resource that can be spent wisely or poorly, and that need replenishing. Isn’t this a mind-boggling idea?

The same is true of our feelings: On which feelings do we dwell; which ones do we encourage? How do we “replenish” our feelings?

So, too, with our time: Which uses of our time bring us closer to our authentic self? Which ways do we spend our time that distance us from what we value most? How do we replenish a sense of spaciousness in the time we are given each day?

And which uses of our body, of our physical energies, actually give us more energy? Which uses deplete us? How are we restoring these energies?

Earlier this month, I chose to spend part of my time cleaning out my e-mail in-box. My in-box was like a room in the house where we toss all our clutter until finally we dread opening the door. There are valuable treasures in that room—we know there are—so we can’t just haul everything away. Just so, my e-mail in-box was stacked high with messages that were no longer “new” but that I couldn’t simply delete. Most of them had been skimmed and responded to, but some of them had arrived on days when I couldn’t even get into that room; they were still bright bold, “unread.” Some of those e-mails were being temporarily stored, waiting to be filed—except that “temporarily” had now stretched into months. Many messages needed to be deleted, but I had never formed the habit of getting rid of them right away. My in-box once again held thousands of e-mails.

So, for several hours a day over the course of several days, I entered into a Zen-like mode of selecting, deleting, responding, and filing. My energy rose as the numbers fell. The old messages reminded me of some beautiful ways I had spent my resources in the past year—events and experiences shared with you or with our wider movement that were treasures, but that I had almost forgotten because I had allowed less important preoccupations to pile on top. I discovered a few messages from old friends who were still waiting for a response, and I reached out to restore those lifelines. I saw how busy we are here at FUCSJ—too busy and sometimes swamped by petty concerns—but I also saw the power for good that we have when we let our mission guide us. I wondered in which ways we most want to spend our resources so that our deepest values and highest purpose can be sustained. And I began to free up my own resources so that I could be responsive to what matters most.

This spiritual practice was time well spent. Already I have new and tender habits for how I manage this aspect of my life.

How about you? What steps have you taken on this journey toward a balanced and sustainable life?


With love and encouragement,









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