Sometimes my life can get too complex. It may be because too much is going on. Perhaps it is something like the beginning of a new school year or a holiday season. Sometimes it is self-inflicted. For those of us who have a hard time saying, “no,” life can become too demanding. Busyness is always a sign that life is bordering on being too complex.
But I am aware that complex lives cannot simply be equated with busy lives. For some people, it is the opposite extreme, namely, boredom. I know some people who, in their own words, “are bored to death.” Obviously they are not literally dead. But their boredom is a form of being dead---a kind of pre-mortem deadness. They are as good as dead.
When I sense complexity is becoming a pressing life issue for me, I know it is time to entertain its opposite: simplicity. Simplicity has a hallowed history in my own Quaker tradition. I know I have been “for it” all my life. When you are younger, simplicity is easier to manage. But as you age, typically life becomes more complex. Usually there is some form of busyness. It is typical that we begin to try to balance school, work, families, kids, parents and the list goes on. It is much easier to add to the list than to subtract.
When I discover (or should I say, re-discover) that it is time to think about simplifying my life again, I know the route for myself. I have traveled this path many times. It is not magical, but with some attention, it can work. I’ll share it with you.
The key to simplifying my life is to return to the foundationals. I know what some of these foundationals are for myself. They may be different for you or for other folks. Whatever they are, foundationals should be the keystones to a more simple life and, therefore, a more centered life.
I use the plural, foundationals, because although we may talk about “the foundation” of our life, I suspect in most cases there actually are a few foundational things that make life what we really want it to be. They are not necessarily universal. What is foundational for me may not work for you. But I suspect there are a few foundationals that do work for most of the people most of the time. Let’s look at just one of these foundationals.
The most important foundational for me has to do with time. When my life is getting too complex, more than likely it has to do with my becoming too busy. We could define and describe busyness in multiple ways, but I wonder if busyness is not at its core an issue of time? Busyness means I have too much to do in too little time. It typically means I am pressed for time. I don’t have time to breathe. There probably are other, well-known ways of describing this.
That is why time is the initial foundational. I know that I need to take a little time for myself---a kind of adult time out! My busyness needs to be interrupted. I need a little self-intervention. I know that if I don’t make a few changes in the way I do time, then nothing changes. Or even worse, I know that if I do not do anything different with my time, then my body or my soul will take over. I will get sick. My body or my soul will find a way to shut me down for a while.
So my real choice is whether I will intentionally find some time to be different…or will I be unintentionally put down for a time. You would think I am smart enough to know this, but too often I am really a slow learner!
One way intentionally to take some time is to build in some devotional time. It can be some time in prayer or meditation. It could be some time of study. I might do yoga or something more active. It can be as simple as a thirty-minute walk. The Buddhists talk about the wisdom of walking meditation. The key is to do it.
Thinking about doing it, planning to do it, hoping to do it---all these are inadequate because none of them is an action. Anything less than a foundational that is action is inadequate. But I also know the action has to be “doable” and that means reasonable. If I am out of shape, I cannot climb spiritual mountains!
There is some time-honored wisdom for implementing an intervention in the busyness of my time. I know I need to start slowly. Five minutes is better than nothing. Five minutes for a week is better than a half hour one day and then quit. Use small steps and build on this. Foundationals help us to become spiritual- slowly and surely.