Your life is an overflowing closet. You know it is. There are sweatshirts folded up in a corner of your mind where your children’s birthdays should be stored. That worry about the rust on the car is taking up the space that you had reserved for a slow cup of tea in the morning. I know how you feel. And guess what? There’s a way to get stuff back where it belongs: let go of some of it.
Living lightly is not just about the stuff we accumulate, and it’s not just for people in the second half of life. It’s about an attitude of living with fewer burdens and encumbrances, whether you’re twenty-one or sixty-five. When done with honest self-awareness, the journey toward living more lightly has moved me to realize that I am blessed by less. Less stuff and worries have opened space to live with more contentment and meaning. Living lightly reminds me that my existence is more than accumulating possessions and status. Ultimately, I am on a spiritual pilgrimage.
As I continue to strip away the unnecessary stuff in my closets and mind, I’ve been able to see more clearly how much is enough and how much is more than enough. It’s a delicate dance to balance my own genuine needs with those of others. The spiritual paradox is that the less tightly I cling to my stuff, my way, and my concerns, the happier and more blessed I feel. Once I have enough, less is more.
If we believe that a Divine Presence brought all of creation into being and it was good, then it follows that this God loves us unconditionally and sees our goodness despite our human failings. God’s love for us is not dependent on our possessions, appearance, or accomplishments.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, who gave us the Spiritual Exercises that have been used to help people’s spiritual formation for nearly five centuries, describes these attributes of a spiritually healthy and balanced life as follows:
- Detachment from the things and worries of this world.
- Spiritual freedom from all that might distract us from the ultimate purpose of our life in order to focus on what is essential—a deeper relationship with God.
- The practiced ability to find God’s presence “in all things”—in our ordinary situations.
As we seek to recognize the Divine in all of life, we humans grow in the awareness that it’s not all about me. We start to see more clearly what is important and what our personal false gods may be. Our human and planetary lives need many things to survive, but the more we can free ourselves from undue attachment to things that will pass away, the deeper our happiness will be.
—Excerpted from Blessed by Less by Susan V. Vogt