Plain Living

It’s been a busy old week.  As I sit and think about this, I can’t even remember what I was doing last Thursday evening, although I’m sure that if I look back over my posts then I’ll be reminded.  Since then, I’ve been caught up in a whirlwind of preparation: Christmas preparation, viva preparation, job preparation.  Shopping, crafting, writing Christmas cards.  Reading, revising.  Looking at cars, drawing up lists, filling out forms.  Today I threw my nephew’s nativity play & my niece’s ‘play and stay’ group into the already heady mix.  Tomorrow I’m off to Surrey for a training day linked to my new job, ladden with extra bags as I’m guessing that I’ll have to head straight to my dance class – the last of the year – on the way back. 

The week has been a whirlwind.  My head is a whirlwind – a jumble of ‘must dos’, ‘mustn’t forgets’, fears, worries, emotions – full of noise.  Sometimes, the whole world seems full of noise.  I managed to snatch an hour of peace, quiet and tranquility late this afternoon, making up a doll’s blanket that I’m giving as a Christmas present.  As I sat at my desk stitching away, I turned the radio off as the noisy debate about student tutition fees just seemed to crowd my head further.  I needed the silence. 

The restorative effect of this hour of silence, and my desire to search out silence in a hectic week, turned my thoughts to a book that I’m reading at the minute.  Called Plain Living: A Quaker Path to Simplicity by Catherine Whitmire, it encourages the reader to think about plain living and simplicity in relation to their own lives.  There is no set formula or ‘how-to’; just inspiring words and probing questions.  One of the passages that stood out for me when reading it & that came to the forefront of my mind this afternoon was as follows:

Of course, what one ultimately confronts in simplicity and quietude is not only the world but one’s self, especially the complexity and noise that many of us carry within.  Plain living is unpopular in our society because frenzied living allows us to ignore, at least for a while, all our contradictions, duplicities, and self-deceptions.  But when we quiet down, and guard our spiritis against the distractions of conventional culture, we often discover that we have a lot to deal with – from finding right livelihood, to truing our relationships, to reading out across great cultural divides.

 I dropped out of ‘frenzied living’ a number of years ago, but it can be insidious and creep back in unawares.  My period of quiet this afternoon served as a reminder to be on guard against it.  Being busy is one thing; being caught up in a hectic cycle of often self-created pressures and overblown self-importance is another.  At the same time, I realise that my attempts to read Plain Living in snatched grabs is ineffective, running contrary to the ethos of the book & meaning that I’m liable to miss gems such as the one above.  So what to do?  Put the brakes on ‘frenzied living’; restore my own peace of mind; read Plain Living when everything has quietened down a bit.

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