“Join us for a Lenten workshop on Simplifying Life”—my heart leapt as I heard those words one Sunday morning. Oh my gosh, I would love nothing more than to simplify. With two kids, a demanding job with lots of international travel, and a house, life often feels suffocating, overwhelming, and insanely busy, as though life is just racing forward at warp speed. I feel like I’m barely hanging on for the ride. Then there’s the guilt that comes with it and the voice inside my head telling me that I’m not enough – not a good enough mother, not doing enough in my marriage or my church, not contributing enough in my job.
For the past year or so, I routinely get this crazy idea that our family needs to move. If we just moved somewhere else in the US or in the world, life would be slower, less hectic, more centered. It is easy to buy into the narrative that our busyness is a result of living in the DC metro area and that we are helpless to resist it. That we’re surrounded by people who are constantly on the go, pushing their kids to do more and be more. I’ve struggled with how to slow things down and not be swept away by the current.
Walking into Melanie’s Simplifying Life workshop, I was shocked that it wasn’t filled with more people. How does everyone at CRCC not feel like they need to simplify life? The first contemplative practice had us confronting the ugly voices in our heads, that say, “that was so stupid,” “your sister’s house is never this dirty,” “you’re going on another trip?” Melanie asked us to hear the voices, to feel the guilt, shame, regret that their words evoke. And then, imagine Jesus is sitting in front of you speaking words of love.
Suddenly, tears were streaming down my face. Jesus was saying “YOU ARE ENOUGH.” I realized that all I had been craving was to hear those words spoken to my innermost being. Not to have a friend, my boss, or even my husband tell me that I’m great (which I usually just brush off as nice words), but to have the lover of my soul look at me lovingly and tell me that I am enough. It was like a dam broke inside of me that freed me to stop focusing on all that I wasn’t doing and be more intentional and present in what I was.
I started making small choices in my daily life. I try to remember to stop “should-ing” myself and those around me. Before saying yes to some activity or time commitment, I take a moment to examine what’s motivating me to say yes. I started reading Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations (cac.org). I set my phone to automatically turn to silent mode every day from 6-8:30pm, pretty much the largest chunk of time I spend with my girls during the week, a time I’m often unnecessarily distracted by my phone. I have discontinued most of my social media accounts.
I also try to take more breaths. To stop in the moments of craziness and just breathe. Practicing centering prayer has been another way I’ve been able to add stillness in my day. For 20 minutes in the morning, there’s nothing for me to do or accomplish. All I have to do is just be, and there’s something freeing and restorative about that.
Through the contemplative practices, discussions, and personal reflection of the Lenten workshop, I came away with a clear vision: simplifying my life doesn’t involve any dramatic moves or life changes. It is about the choices I make in each moment. Do I choose to give grace to myself and others? Do I choose to show love and receive love from those around me? Do I take the time to connect with God’s life source flowing through me, just waiting for me to quiet my mind? When I can answer yes, the noise and chaos around me reduces to a soft hum, and life is simplified.
It was like a dam broke inside of me that freed me to stop focusing on all that I wasn’t doing and be more intentional and present in what I was.