Friday, December 30, 2011

New Meaning ~ The Quaker Dharma

"My understanding of simplicity continues to evolve.For a long time, I thought it was about having very little in the way of material objects. And, what was owned was not to be very ornate. I call this aesthetic simplicity and it is really only a part of the picture, if even a part. Now, simplicity is starting to mean something else to me. Simplicity is a form of freedom and an opportunity to heal. It really no longer has to do with whether something I own or use is ornate or not. In fact, complex physical objects, objects as art, are taking on new meaning and importance for me. No, simplicity is a means, an opportunity to discover who I am and what’s meaningful in my life."

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  1. I agree with you. It is easy to end up feeling guilty about enjoying material possessions, which is actually contrary to the true spirit of Quakerism and indeed Buddhism. In fact, to place undue emphasis upon possessions, whether seeking to acquire these or doing the opposite, is surely to miss the really spiritual side of the concept of simplicity. If you already have possessions, unless you are able to give them away to a good home, surely it is also wasteful to dispose of them in the name of "simplicity"? I struggle with some of these issues, but they definitely need to be thought through.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  2. For me, the essence of the concept, and living out of an ethos of simplicity has to do with the issue of "disordered attachments" meaning that the problem is not with the created things themselves, but with how we use them--the nature of our attachment to them. If my material goods (or relationships, work, sources of leisure time activity etc) draw me closer to Center, away from "self" and towards others in loving relationship, than I can assume that my relationship with those "created things" are in appropriate, balanced and "simple" relationship with me. If I am unduly focused on them--too busy worrying, fussing and taking care of them such that they draw me away from Center and other people, then I have added an emotional and spiritual complexity to my life that is antithetical to simplicity. The concept of minding one's "disordered attachments" comes, in fact, from Ignatian Spirituality but has, as we see in so many places, in interweaving relationship with Quaker and Buddhist spiritualities as well; we are, indeed, all One : )

  3. Thank you Paula and Michelle for your comments ~ I value them.

    I started to try and live a more simple life less for spiritual reasons than for political/environmental imperatives; "to each according to his needs", "take what you need and leave the rest" etc. Also to try to marry together other Quaker/liberal/green ideals of environmental care, peace, love, justice and equality. Simplicity is an attempt at unselfishness, however unsuccessful that may be, so by taking and using less we can leave more for others.

    In recent years more philosophical reasons for simplicity, such as those you both mention, have become more important to me. More and more I find that the consequences of simplicity are, paradoxically, very complex. It might be that I have no real idea of where increased simplicity will lead me ~ but it's a journey that I need, and want, to take.It's so good to know that others find so much is added to their lives by voluntary simplicity and I am gaining much by the sharing of experience and thoughts with others. I will make exploring simplicity in non-Quaker traditions an important task for the year ahead.

    Of all the recent posts on simplicity the one that keeps playing on my mind is this one (for me spanning the Quaker and Buddhist tradition);

    "Voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer condition. It means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, as well as avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of life. It means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions."

    Richard B. Gregg

    Ray x


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