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The Path to Simplicity
The Path to Simplicity

The Path to Simplicity: Weekly Summary 

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Jesus was entirely single-hearted. His life was all about doing the will of the One who sent him, the One he loved above all. To Jesus, it was that simple.  
—Richard Rohr  

Only through simplicity can we find deep contentment instead of perpetually striving and living unsatisfied.  
—Richard Rohr  

When adopted with a whole heart and for a lifetime, simplicity leads to an often striking tranquility.  
—Paula Huston 

When we agree to live simply, we put ourselves outside of others’ ability to buy us off, reward us falsely, or control us by money, status, salary, punishment, and loss or gain.  
—Richard Rohr 

We grow in generosity as we embrace simplicity. We are able to hold all things lightly and, if need be, let them go—our possessions, our money, our pretensions, even our anger, our prejudices, and our fears.  
—Margaret Guenther  

Going to the deepest level of communication, / Where back and forth has never stopped. / Where I am not the initiator but the transmission wire itself.  
—Richard Rohr 

Week Eighteen Practice 

Knowing What is Enough 

Prompted by the life and writings of Thomas Merton, Sophfronia Scott asks:  

What else might we see more clearly if we could hold our stuff more loosely?”  

How do we bring ourselves to do that? We can pray. Merton’s own written prayers included this one: “Stanch in me the rank wound of covetousness and the hungers that exhaust my nature with their bleeding.” [1] But we have to understand what the prayer is truly for. It’s not about beating yourself up for wanting nice things. It’s not about not buying that new car if your family needs it. This is about a remaking of our consciousness—to move from one way of thinking and being to an entirely different way…. 

Try to catch yourself wanting something. Ask if there’s some other hunger or some poverty of the spirit involved—something deeper that the want cannot fulfill. If you’re responding to a commercial and thinking the thing you own is somehow lacking, stop yourself and think about what you do have and in how many ways it is enough….  

As Merton writes, we have to exercise this feeling of “enough.” But we also have to recognize a certain tension inherent in this sensibility—this isn’t about being stingy or coming always from a place of grasping and lack. He observes, 

Knowing when you do not need any more. Acting just enough. Saying enough. Stopping when there is enough. Some may be wasted, nature is prodigal. Harmony is not bought with parsimoniousness. Yet stopping is “going on.”… [2] 

For me, “going on” looks like holding something in love but being willing to let it go—not because I have to get rid of it in a flurry of decluttering but because it has to leave my life when a turn of events warrants it. And knowing that’s OK. 

[1] Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New York: New Directions, 1972), 44–45. 

[2] Thomas Merton, Turning toward the World: The Pivotal Years; The Journals of Thomas Merton, vol. 4: 1960–1963, ed. Victor A. Kramer (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997), 119.  

Sophfronia Scott, The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton (Minneapolis, MN: Broadleaf Books, 2021), 26, 28–29. 

Image credit and inspiration: Benjamin Yazza, Untitled (detail), New Mexico, 2023, photo, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image. When we let go of anything other than what is right here, right now, we can fly. 

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