I am on the planning committe for a women’s retreat at the beginning of October and I’m leading a 40 minute session on simplifying, practicing gratitude and cultivating joy, just as my blog’s tagline reads. In preparation for this, I’ve been thinking alot about the concept of gratitude. It is known to be a life changer if practiced regularily and can cause joy to seep into your life just by regularily acknowledging the little things in your days that are surprisingly wonderful, no matter how simple.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Less is more.” It really is important for us to focus our lives on that one simple saying. Ask anyone who has way too much-clutter has the ability to make us feel confused, overwhelmed and tends to rob us of contentment. (Believe me-I know. Early this spring I had the daunting task of cleaning out my basement that was abundant with boxes and boxes of things I no longer had a need for.) Quite the opposite, living simply enables us to breathe and stretch in the open spaces of our homes. Paring down liberates us from the drudgery of time spent having to deal with all that excess “stuff”; we have to organize, shuffle, sometimes shovel, file, or pass along all that stuff. Sometimes we can’t even manage to give it away. In this day and age, way too much importance is placed on stock piling material things. Everywhere you turn there are advertisements trying to entice us to lay down our money in exchange for the newest gadget or hot item. It really is incredible how many things in the world there are to buy! Amazingly, we’re better off without most of those things- I won’t say all, because I’m not advocating living like a minimalist. What I am asking you, however, is how much do you really need to be happy?
What is really important in this life? Are your basic needs being met? Do you have a home? Is your pantry well stocked? Are there clothes in your closet? Is there a source of money coming in? Do you have dreams? Do you have your health? Are you able to walk around and enjoy the world around you? Do you have family and friends who you love and who love you?
For a moment, stop and assess the wonderful things in your life you should be thankful for. Let your heart awaken to how being thankful can transform you. Be open to switching out your need for material things for a calmer, simple existence which will most likely reward you with more joy than you ever imagined.
Is there anyone reading this that doesn’t long for a simpler life? What are we longing for? Should we give it all up and move to a seaside cottage? Or could we be longing for something more fundamental, like the simple pleasure of having a day with nothing on the calender and having more time for the things in life that are really important like family and God and nurturing ourselves and having frequent quiet moments.
Once we take a good look at our lives and get used to the ebb and flow of gratitude, the next step on the path unfolds naturally. When we appreciate what we have, we should feel the urge to pare down, get back to basics and figure out what is essential for our happiness. At least, that is what my goal is. When refer to simplifying I’m not implying doing without. On the contrary-making a conscious choice to simplify will help illuminate our lives from within. Simplifying lifts us up, and liberates us from the weight of owning and dealing with too much excess in our lives. Simplicity can be wonderful… imagine a simple bouquet of flowers, an uncluttered clean house or a closet that holds everything you wear, nothing more, nothing less, or even imagine decluttering your book collection, by purchasing a Kindle or Nook and having all those books on that one little device right at your fingertips. No dusting, no shuffling those books around. Just plain and simple. Trust that through the healing aspect of simplicity, your frazzled and weary soul can open up and spread out and relax.
I’d like to introduce to you the concept of keeping a gratitude journal. Part of cultivating a simpler life is stopping to count our blessings and to notice things in our life that are worthy of being thankful for. When we begin to be grateful for the littlest things in our lives only then can we be happier and have more clarity. Every night, before going to sleep take out your little gratitude journal and write down five things from the day you are thankful for. They can be as small as the nice smile you got from the bagger in the grocery store to the little bluebird you spied outside your kitchen window. Let’s take notice of the little gifts from the universe and document them.
Realistically, there will be rough days where you won’t feel thankful for anything…we all have days that are particularly difficult for one reason or another. On days like that, still write in your journal….just be thankful for your health, your home, or whatever else comes to mind.
By carfully keeping of this journal, you should begin to feel more simplicity, order, harmony; beauty and joy seep into your life. These things will all bloom greater when you practice gratitude. The more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given to you.
I discovered a lovely website called Good List Daily that encourages folks to submit their gratitude lists online to their site. I’m now contributing my gratitude list along with many others. Read what others are thankful for on a daily basis. Join in and add yours.