Recently I have been reflecting on spiritual practices and why they are helpful in our lives. In fact, I have begun a new blog series focused on spiritual practices. The words spiritual practice might bring to mind different things for each of you reading this article. When I speak about spiritual practices, I am referring to any regular, intentional practice that leads to a deeper relationship with God and neighbor. Just like in sports, practice helps us to develop habits, build muscle memory, increase our understanding of the game, and slow things down in game situations. Here, however, the game is not football or baseball; it is our lives. Spiritual practices help us to build habits that keep us spiritually grounded in all aspects of our lives.
I believe that the most needed spiritual practice in our society is simplicity. In fact, I believe simplicity is the spiritual practice that opens space for us to incorporate other practices into our lives. So, what is simplicity? Put very simply (pun intended) simplicity is learning to let go of the clutter in our lives. If spiritual practices are supposed to lead to deeper relationship with God and neighbor, then simplicity is the practice of removing the clutter that gets in the way of those relationships. It also helps us remove the clutter that gets in the way of knowing ourselves.
The most obvious example of simplicity is letting go of the physical clutter in our lives. Our culture is addicted to material things. We are consumers, and we can sometimes allow the products we consume to take over our lives. We attach unwarranted meaning to material things, and so they take on too much importance in our lives. Have you ever tried to go through your stuff and get rid of things only to find a reason why you couldn’t let go of your stuff even though it has been in the basement collecting dust for 10 years? Me too. Simplicity is the practice of letting go of the false meaning that we attach to objects, so that we are not possessed by our possessions.
A less obvious aspect of simplicity is letting go of our thoughts, plans, worries, etc. ... So much of our time and energy is focused on decisions we have made in the past or what is coming in the future. Trying to live in the past, present and future all at the same time is anything but simple. Can we let go of the decisions we have made? Can we let go of the worry about the future? Can we live in each moment focused just on what is necessary for that moment? The practice of simplicity helps us to stop all of those thoughts and simply focus on the moment.
In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus calls us to a life of simplicity. He calls us to let go of our worry about physical things. He calls us to let go of our worry about tomorrow. A life of simplicity is a life of letting go of those things that create clutter in our lives. No matter what your religious perspective, I am sure we can all agree on these words that Jesus gives us, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matt 6:34).
The Rev. Matt Willis-Goode is pastor of Community United Methodist Church in Byfield and People’s United Methodist Church Newburyport. Read his blog at pastormattwg.weebly.com.