Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Digging Out
The phrases letting go and living in the moment have become cliches, and while I like the concepts they represent, I crave a brisk new substitute. I like digging out: it conjures emerging from a windblown drift, a dense mound of accumulated expectations.
Here are some links in the spirit of digging out, from both small and enormous drifts:
  • -Dan Ho's Rescue from Domestic Perfection contains a refreshing approach that pulls back from the prevalent "more is more" philosophy that drives the home and garden industry. Ho offers common-sense suggestions like using a spare quilt as a bed skirt, or building a dinner party on ethnic takeout (eliminating the need to chop, sweat, or accumulate sushi mats and other rarely used exotic accoutrements).
  • -Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance Gratitude Journal is an online tool for a pause that can refresh your perspective. This simple blank cyber-slate that prompts you to list 5 daily gratitudes is an efficient yet meaningful way to get back to true priorities.
  • -Here's an excuse to simultaneously satisfy your inner multitasker (check off walking/outdoor time and meditation) and let go: online instructions for walking meditation, courtesy of Plum Village. Plum Village is Thich Nhat Hanh’s sangha (community of practice) in France, and a relaxing place to visit online if a trip to France is not in your budget.
  • -Need a serious pilgrimage? The Web site for Santiago de Compostela (also known as El Camino) provides practical information for the committed pilgrim (see Prose below for a link to a great Camino read).
  • -For a Pilgrimage of another sort (sans blisters, but also an opportunity to refocus on the meaningful), visit the magazine. I have been published here, under the former publisher, and always look forward to the read.
  • -(Not a tip, just a credit) To use the wintry photo above, I must credit for the free image. The photo is a nice visual contemplation, and the site simplifies the life of this budget- and graphic- challenged writer!


It's been a week of humility, of readjusting. I started out with determination: a new plan for paying down debt, inroads into my book idea, grand thoughts about how all of my hustling will lead to a time and place of greater peace and contentment. Alongside these ambitions, which have within them some good ideas, were waves of the "I want" bug. When I walk down a particular tree-lined, impossibly handsome street in Essex, I find myself ruminating about things I'll never have, obstacles that seem unfair.

Life has a way of shaking you awake. Gavin developed a fever and stomach pain on Thursday, and within hours we were at the Emergency Room, having him checked for appendicitis. I found myself cured of any "I wants", with a singular desire in their place: a comfortable, healthy boy who smiled again. No appendicitis, but Gavin's temperature is still on a roller coaster, and my carefully designed (lists and more lists) plans for the weekend have been pushed aside.

I got Walk in a Relaxed Manner: Life Lessons from the Camino, by Joyce Rupp, for Christmas. I sat next to Gavin as he dozed yesterday and related to Rupp's struggles to let go of expectations, desires: "I expected to push my body into doing what I wanted but it refused to walk too fast or too far without pain. I expected my memory to serve me well but it left me in the lurch...I expected not to get sick if I took good care of myself but I got sick anyhow." Only when Rupp let go of her agenda, when she simply lived in the moment, could she take in the lessons of her Camino journey.

It's a balancing act, this careful planning that must become flexible, this checklist that must be revised or discarded. Knowing when to regroup, when to shift direction is an art. Trusting that any direction has something to offer is an act of faith.