I worked at a Quaker camp this past summer. Quakers have six primary values for living, called the SPICES: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship. As a camp counselor, I recited those values on an almost daily basis. Why can’t Susan kick David under the table? Because it goes against Community. Why doesn’t Liza get a second brownie? Because that’s not Equality. (And if you think you’ve seen cute, wait until a five year old explains integrity to you.)
I love the SPICES, and I use them to inform my day to day life. But there’s one spice that I tend to struggle with: simplicity. It’s fair enough at a summer camp that focuses on imagination and outdoor play. But what does simplicity mean in the life of a traveling twenty one-year-old, who needs to use computers to do work, talk to her parents, or wish her boyfriend good night? What does it mean for someone who lives in three countries, on two continents?
The fact is, I like my life complicated. I like having a million things to do, a hundred books to read, a dozen items on my to do list. More often than not, when my head hits the pillow at night, I’m still buzzing about tomorrow’s plans, or typing one last email on my phone.
But when I reflect on the happiest seasons of my life, they’re not necessarily the ones that I spend flitting from one thing to the next. They are also the times when I take a breath and take a look around me to fully see and appreciate where I am.
Like when I take a day off working to go on a walk with a good friend.
Or I go out with Ken and we don’t bring our phones.
Or I spend an afternoon reading in the sun.
These moments are sweet, and they are full of the richness of life in a way that my busier, distracted moments aren’t. They allow me to take a deep breath and reflect on the beauty of the world around me. They help me appreciate the people I love.
That’s what simplicity means to me: gratitude. Reflection. Stillness.
I think what’s important to keep in mind is that I don’t always need to go out of my way to experience those things. I don’t need to take a day off work, or drive to the beach with the person I love to have a moment of peace.
Simplicity is about small changes, and for me, the first one is a change in mindset.
Appreciating my life and the things I’m doing right now, in this moment.
Noticing the goodness of the world, and the life I’ve been given.