Simplicity means centering in on that which is important and letting go of the rest. It can mean living with few possessions and entanglements, but more broadly it is an attitude, an approach to life.

Simplicity allows us to consume less. It differentiates needs from wants and places a priority on the needs of others over our own wants. It also allows us to accomplish more of what really matters.

When we approach a task or conversation with an attitude of simplicity we strive to keep ourselves focused on the essential core rather than getting lost in a clutter of distractions and embellishments. We listen for the same in the words of other people. Simplicity helps us to maintain clarity of mind and purpose.
-Wisdom Commons

The great artist is the simplifier.
-Henri-Fredric Amiel

Keeping It Simple
Talk given at Unitarian Universalist Church
Great Barrington MA

By Rich Hayes

My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between I occupy myself as best I can.
-Cary Grant

Every year on my birthday I extend my usual morning meditation. I include a period to reflect on where I’ve been, what I’ve done and what I’m doing now. I look at my life-I step back from the busyness.

I look at beliefs, habits and things I’m hanging on to that might need to be let go of.
I think of this as an internal “house cleaning” and I highly recommend it.

Sometimes I discover an old hurt or resentment, an old story that no longer applies. It’s amazing how much we can let
old stories rerun in our heads as if they were still true and real.

It’s even more amazing… and liberating to discover that you can let it go!

While much of my earlier life had been about getting places I thought I needed to go, accomplishing things I thought I should accomplish, there has been an unplugging from this need I once had-an internal shift has happened.

I have become more interested in “paring” down-rather than accumulating “stuff”. I find myself going for experiences, not things. Relationships, small moments when I see the preciousness in THAT moment, these are what touches my heart-
these are what matter.

This “
paring down” does not make my life smaller, but just the opposite: it feels expanded, as if I am seeing more, not less.

So maybe this paring down is more like
“pruning”-like what you do to a tree in order to promote growth-cut away all the suckers & clean up the deadwood.

Let me tell you about an extraordinary woman who taught me this. Her name was Dee and she was one of my greatest teachers. She’s the person whose advice I sought when I was considering returning to school and going to seminary but was afraid I was too old.

She asked me how old I’d be when I was finished. I told her I’d be 53. She sat quietly, contemplating, and then she asked me, "What if you didn’t go? How old will you be then?".
Point taken.

I met her shortly after her husband had died and she had suffered a stroke.

She had been a fine watercolor artist, a talented poet and musician, a dedicated teacher (right up until and through her exit).
The month I completed my studies (but just before I’d been ordained) she died and I was asked to do her service.

There was poem, “INSTRUCTIONS” by Sheri Hostleter that she liked very much. She said it contained great wisdom.

Give up the world; give up self; finally, give up God.
Find god in rhododendrons and rocks,
passers-by, your cat.
Pare your beliefs, your absolutes.
Make it simple; make it clean.
No carry-on luggage allowed.
Examine all you have
with a loving and critical eye, then
throw away some more.
Repeat. Repeat.

Keep this and only this:
what your heart beats loudly for
what feels heavy and full in your gut.
There will only be one or two
things you will keep,
and they will fit lightly
in your pocket.

Dee had exemplified for me the idea of traveling lightly, simplifying more and more-letting go, over and over again as her own physical abilities faded.

As she no longer could write more poetry, as she could no longer hold the brush to the easel, rather than resenting and “clinging” to what she had once done and wishing she could be that person she once was, she accepted that where she was-incapacitated- was also a part of the journey-her journey, and even this had merit and things to teach her.

As her physicality diminished I witnessed her heart open more and more, to both pain and loss, but to love and more love. And most importantly, even in her physically diminished state, gratitude was what she expressed time and again. Don’t get me wrong! She did her share of grieving those losses she just didn’t get “stuck” there.

She moved past it-transcended it.

She enjoyed listening to conversations, seeing friends and people she loved-many of whom were the staff at the skilled nursing facility where she spent her last days. You see, they’d become her friends and loved ones as well.

Finally, willing to let go of everything, she clung to nothing and left here “full” of something that is impossible to quantify or measure: love.

Thoreau tells us that: “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness, weakness.”-

I take comfort in this. And I know it is true-weakness is not weakness.

When I was learning music the concept that the space between the note was as important as the note itself was stressed many times to me. This is the law of "less is more". Without the space there would be no music-no symphony, just cacophony. This concept applies to our lives as well.

We live at a time when it feels as if everything is accelerating and it is easy to become overwhelmed. But if we can remember that we do have a choice not to let this happen–that we can “step back” and let go- and we can simplify.

How? First, don’t get filled up with distractions.
Identify what matters to you.
Learn to identify the things you can change, and change them-let go of what you have no control over and move on.
Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.

Thoreau reminds us: “Simplify, simplify, simplify”, telling us not to fritter away life strangled in insignificant details.

When you are willing to pare down and simplify, life grows and expands in ways that seem almost counterintuitive, yet are true.

Keep this and only this:
what your heart beats loudly for
what feels heavy and full in your gut.
There will only be one or two
things you will keep,
and they will fit lightly
in your pocket

Simplify. Don't be afraid to let go. To travel lightly is to travel well.
Remember that less is more and you will see that you always have more than enough.