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Recently, a Northwest Earth Institute Voluntary Simplicity discussion group formed in upstate New York. One participant, Jillian, blogged about her experience on her Village Homestead Blog. Here is an excerpt of what she had to say:

Jeff and I are participating in a discussion class about Voluntary Simplicity…We meet every Sunday afternoon for an hour. I love the format of the discussion courses – they are a few weeks long; there are short, meaningful readings each week; and there are relevant questions for us to ponder and discuss.

Voluntary Simplicity is the name of the course. I think of it more as Voluntary Intentional Living. Nothing is simple. Some things are intentional.

In a lot of ways, we are living a simple/intentional life…We live a simpler life because I make much of our own food, we create much of our own entertainment, and we make a deliberate effort to infuse meaning into our every day lives. The chickens are admired and thanked every day for the eggs they give us; cleaning their coop is never a chore for me – I do it because I love being outside with them in the morning and I respect the “work” they do…

All things considered, we do live a simple life. But there is always more to be done, isn’t there? I have a few things to do in the kitchen to simplify a bit more. I need to do a better job of re-purposing containers, re-purposing left overs, and choosing ingredients that have a smaller footprint, both carbon and egotistical. I got out of practice during our move, and I haven’t gotten back into the habit since. Less plastic hitting the recycling bin, more reusable cloth bags for the bulk bins. Less tea from the store, more tea from our garden. Less wine with dinner, more water from our well. Less coffee and oil from places far away. More vegetables from close to home.

…But, by and large, we are happy and satisfied. We are living life the way we want. We make our own rules. Our own schedule. Our own To Do List. Our own priorities. We are truly living.

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Today we have a guest post for you from Bill Gerlach who blogs at The New Pursuit.  Many thanks to Bill for sharing his writings on living deeply with us. 

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world…as in being able to remake ourselves.” – Gandhi

The more you look around the more you see a movement underway. The status quo is being challenged from every angle.

People are feeling a subtle yet constant tug – like an eager toddler at your legs – that something is awry in their life and the life of the world. Many have put their hopes in material happiness. Yet now, those same people are seeking a new balance in their lives; abandoning the pursuit of ‘more’ that consumerism has pushed upon us and the resulting disconnect with the natural world it has fostered.

For me, deep living represents the convergence of three major pillars of our existence:

  • LIFE // From the literal breathing, eating, moving kind to the qualitative how-we-spend-our-time kind, Life is the basis on which we all connect, experience and hopefully thrive.
  • NATURE // This is the living world around us. The eco-sphere. The amazing manifestation of creation without which we would be unable to survive.
  • BEING // The sentient-self. The essence of who we are, expressed both internally and externally. The ability to recognize such qualities in other life forms.

This is just my definition though. What I call “deep living” you may call something else. It’s not about the label, rather how we each approach the call to get more out of this one and only life. Some aspects or elements may be more important to you than they are to me. That’s OK. It’s more about the end, not so much the differences between the means.

What IS critical though is how we approach this deep living as we go about our day-to-day. It is a way of being more than a to-do list. In my mind, when you live deeply, deliberately and with intent you:

  • Strive towards a minimalist lifestyle, shedding the unnecessary and embracing what remains
  • Are one with Nature, not apart or above it
  • Allow mindfulness to bring the present moment into focus
  • Live by example and share this insight with others, especially children

Let’s be clear: This is a journey that takes time and patience. It is not an overnight wonder pill that we pop to clear the ailments of our personal and collective situation. For me, I am still a beginner navigating the ups and downs of this path. Each day brings new opportunity and new perspectives; new awareness of short-comings and new lessons learned. I don’t know all the answers and probably never will.

The effort is well worth it though! For all of us there are immediate tangible benefits to living deeply:

  • You are not bogged down by unnecessary possessions and thoughts
  • You are outside more, appreciating the awesomeness of nature
  • You enjoy all that the present moment has to offer
  • You find common ground with others
  • You enrich the lives of children around you

But think of what could happen if such a shift in how we live happened on an even grander scale:

  • A re-balancing of humanity with the natural world around us
  • A re-awakening to the sacredness of all life
  • A passion for the pursuit of that which brings each of us true happiness
  • An embracing of harmony rather than the sewing of discord

Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic. You know what? I’m OK with that. When more and more people think big like this the exponential power of focused intention starts to take over. Momentum builds—albeit slowly at first—and before long, we start to see the fruits of our happy ‘labor’.

Bill Gerlach is freelance writer, blogger and public speaker exploring the intersections of Life, Nature, Being and Community. He lives in Rhode Island with his family, gardens and other simple joys. You can read more of Bill’s writing at: www.thenewpursuit.com.

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