The Pearl, vol. 82: Simplicity.

Dear Oysters, 

The word that's been coming to me a lot these days is simplicity. Honestly, it's easier to embrace simplicity now that it's spring in D.C. The best things in life are free—and blooming on every corner, in every color, under balmy blue skies. 

Everything in our culture turns us against simplicity. We are encouraged to do more, buy more, possess more. After all, as Jerry Colonna said in a recent interview, "our economy depends on it." Colonna goes on to articulate not only the economic pressure to acquire, but also the existential one. Often, in our quest for material security, we are trying "to build an impenetrable wall of security, so that nothing can ever hurt us." 

If that's what we're trying to do, it's no wonder we always feel like we're failing. No matter how much we accumulate, we'll never shake life's uncertainty or impermanence. We'll never make ourselves, or our loved ones, invincible or immortal. 

Material simplicity has always come pretty naturally to me. But allowing simplicity to characterize my daily activities often leads my ego to freak out. As I shop for groceries, cook, sweep the floor, answer email, or pet the cat, a pesky inner refrain will arise: "Does this mean I'm not special? Not important? Shouldn't I be saving the world or praying in a monastery or having a deep conversation or writing a Pulitzer-prize-winning ... something!?

Easy there, tiger. 

Don't take yourself too seriously ... or forget who you work for. 

Don't take yourself too seriously ... or forget who you work for. 

So there it is again: the desire to prove that I'm worthy. But for me, true simplicity can only come when I've embraced my own worthiness. Then, I can be still. I can belong. I can be slow, steady, uncluttered, undistracted. And funny enough, in the midst of the unglamorous rhythms of a simple life, that's when I'm likely to do the creative work I'm most proud of. 

I once heard a great Jack Kornfield quote about spiritual practice. He said: "Practice is not a shopping mall. It's the dump." 

In other words, it's not about treasures that you gain on the path. It's about what you're willing to leave by the roadside.

May we drop of all unnecessary items—inner and outer—at the dump, and enjoy more lightness and freedom. 

Stay salty and much love,
Ellen 

 

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