"Good morning, Master," I chirped as he entered. After Dharma looked around at all the elegant dished I had laid out on my dining table, he said quietly, "Irwin you didn't have to go through all this just to impress me. I am a simple frog and I am happiest when I live simply. While I appreciate all your hard work, my boy, I must admit that I would enjoyed it more had you stayed with an uncomplicated and basic meal." We sat down and made our way through the variety of dishes that I had prepared. After he took a few bite of food from each entree, Dharma reminded me that today is National Simplicity Day...a day set aside to honor naturalist, philosopher, and leading transcendentalist, Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau, Dharma reminded me, was an advocate of living a life of simplicity. "A frog's ability to live simply, Tadpole, means eliminating the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. There's a pervasive attitude, Irwin, that environmental sustainability and scaling back on consumption somehow requires a sacrifice and is unpleasant. These are things some frogs and some humans don't want to do. But if you talk to those of us who have started doing this, there are many positives that come out of it." I certainly understood what he meant. The old saying "Less is more" rings just as true today as it did in Thoreau's time....maybe more so.
Dharma went on to explain that to obtain some of the benefits of living simply, one needn't quit his job and move out into the woods, as Thoreau did. He went on to tell me that research has shown a direct link between materialism, the valuing of money and possessions, and poor health. The study team found, too, that there is also a stronger link between materialism and engaging in risky behaviors such as smoking, doing drugs, and drinking too much alcohol. The key to start living more simply, Dharma told me, was to ask not what you can add on to your life, but what can you subtract." By eliminating much of the unnecessary items from your life, it allow the things of real importance...friends, family, and nature...to speak to you. These are the things of real value and they have much to say. But all together too often, we can't hear them. Why? Because we're too busy listening to a TV infomercial on yet another product we don't really need.
Dharma gave me a few tips to consider when it comes to living simply.
1. Rest and relax. Everyone's stress level is too high these days. One way to reduce stress is to take a cue from the weather. Stay home when the roads are unsafe to drive on.
Getting adequate rest is another way to reduce stress and make like simpler. Allow enough time each day for pleasure; reading, crafting, listening to music, etc. Perhaps this means going to bed earlier and getting up earlier. Spending more time with friends and family, rather than at the shopping mall, is also a great way to de-stress while becoming more grounded in real joy.
2. Move more. This doesn't require a fancy gym membership. All you need to do is look around. There are plenty of fun and useful things you can do to get moving. right in your home and neighborhood...things that don't require lots of extra driving or spending money. Does a closet need cleaning? How about cooking a healthy dinner with your family? How about going for a walk in the woods or local park? Maybe you've always want to start a flower or vegetable garden. This would a great time to start that project. Spending more time in outdoor recreation can help lower your body mass index, too.
3. Eat for health. Preparing and eating a variety of colorful healthy foods at home not only makes you feel better, but they also taste great, and are fun to cook. Fast food is quick and easy but the health risks are huge; higher cholesterol and diabetes to name just two. Wouldn't you rather spend your money on food than on doctor's visits and bottles of pills?
4. Unclutter. Tossing out all the items you don't need or use can be difficult for many of us to do. But you don't have to do it all at once. Start slowly by doing one room and see how that feels to you. You can put all your "junk" items into boxes and store them in a closet, basement, or garage for a month. If you haven't missed something, or needed it, then permanently remove these things. Donate them to charity. You'll find it very freeing. Dharma always reminds me to have nothing on my lily pad that I don't know to use or that I don't find beautiful. That's how I determine what needs to be tossed out. And it's worked for me.
Living simpler, healthier lives isn't about dropping out of society. It's more about dropping out of crass commercialism. Learning to live with less can take a little time but the benefits are well worth it. After all, it's only stuff; and not things of true or lasting value.
After Dharma left this morning, I looked around my messy kitchen and decided that this would be a great time to de-clutter. While I'm at it, I'll go through my pantry and toss out all the junk food, too. Then, I'll head to the farmer's market and replace it all with fresh, vibrant fruits and vegetable. I think I'm going to like this whole living simply thing. And I can already hear Mother Nature speaking to me.
Happy 200th Birthday Henry David Thoreau!
If you'd like to celebrate National Day of Simplicity, try spending some time in nature, de-cluttering your home, or turning off all the technology. Turn off the noise and tune in to peace and quiet. And don't forget to use #NationalSimplicityDay on all your social media.