Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Reflections on Simplicity

Last night's Quakerism class used the Pendle Hill pamphlet Reflections on Simplicity by Elaine Prevallet. I've read enough books and articles on simplicity (or simplifying one's life) that I was in no rush to read the pamphlet, putting it off until yesterday. When I (finally) picked it up, I was very moved by it's depth of understanding of simplicity. The author suggests that simplicity means having an undivided heart-not attempting to live in duality of purpose. When I try to be the center of my life, attempting to control my life, I am living out of harmony with God's will. I am not the center of my life-God is. My life is not about me but about how I can glorify and serve God. The more aware I am of God as my center, the more authentically I will be living.

The author even wrote to the condition I described in my last post: "So the experience of our own duplicity, that quick moment of awareness of doubleness in ourselves is the moment of grace, the moment when ex-posure makes possible a turning, a movement to a new and deeper level in the direction of simplicity."
How beautiful. The discomfort I feel when I recognize the falseness in which I live is grace-a gift; God's roadsign for me on this path.

Even last night in the small Quakerism class, having prayed for God to guide my words and being more aware of letting God lead me, even then I felt the tension of too much speech as I left. I think God is telling me to shut up but I'm too busy talking to hear. I've never been a quiet person and I think God wants me to learn to listen and wait before speaking. I can not imagine anything harder for me to do. As my mom always said, "Mary Linda, you love the sound of your own voice." It's true. I love the facts and knowledge I have and love to give advice and share my wisdom and resources with others. It's all about me-not really about helping others. I love to speak of my experiences, telling stories about crazy, funny things that have happened to me. I love to make people laugh. But it's not about them, it's about me. It's all ego. It's all me, me, me. I don't really know how to listen. I'm too busy riffing puns to hear what others are saying to me.

I think God is trying to get me to understand that I can't really know compassion for others, I can't really love them, if I see them as vehicle to puff myself up in some way. I can't learn to serve God via service to my fellow humans if I'm always looking to interject a punchline into each interaction.

I'm not sure how to stop talking and listen more. For me, it's sort of like trying to break the habit of swallowing. How do I stop doing something that is so intrinsically a part of every moment of my waking life? Maybe this is part of my fantasies of living alone in my own "walden". I daydream a quiet life for myself, imagining the centered, calm, serene person I could be if only...
But this life, with three rowdy, rambunctious boys and me loudly in the center of it, this is real. I have to open myself to my center, find the stillness and accept the silence as Truth, within myself in this life.
Today, I will try to talk only when it is necessary. Today, I will listen with full attention as often as I am able. Today, I will try to be fully in each moment, aware of how my actions and speech reflect God's place in my life.

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