Monday, January 17, 2011

Nurturing Simplicity

Life feels violent sometimes.

My husband is tired of me using that word, but that’s how it’s been lately.

In the sense of “marked by intensity of any kind.”

Synonyms: immoderate, sharp, riotous, tearing, turbulent, tumultuous, wild

Antonyms: calm, gentle, mild, moderate

The abruptness of change sometimes takes my breath away. Extremes of temperature, activity level, lifestyle. Jetting across three time zones. Hurdling down the LA freeway as a prisoner passenger in my daughter’s car. It all seems turbulent, tumultuous, tearing. Violent.

The Christmas decorations were still not all put up when I had to return to my West Coast home-away-from-home. My mother’s situation is precarious. We are the midst of major decisions.

I left massive mounds of unfinished business. Unreturned phone calls and emails. Unexhanged Christmas gifts. Unmade decisions. Unordered contact lenses. Unresolved issues.

No time for reflection, no time to process.

It feels like going full speed ahead one minute, and then slamming it into reverse. I actually did that in a boat one time, and almost sank it. We had to jump out and bail. Frantically.

It feels like ripping bandaids off booboos that aren’t ready yet.

Waking up and drinking harsh coffee after just a few hours sleep.

Bam! Hit the ground running.

Reflecting on it, I realize that a violent lifestyle comes from complexity and speed.

The antidote, then, must be simplicity and slowing.

Obviously, there are many situations in our lives which cannot be made less complex. There are times when it’s impossible to slow the onslaught of events.

So I am conducting an experiment: I am working on developing more interior simplicity and slowness.

Taking it down a notch or two.

I’ve had to do this before, and it’s amazing how well it works. It’s equally amazing how rapidly I seem to abandon my methods, and allow myself to be thrown back into the maelstrom of violent living.

But agitation is not good for your health. Terrible, in fact.

I started by asking myself this question:

What do we really need in life?

Well, for one thing, we need food.

We need nurture and nourishment.

There are a thousand and one things I could do each day. Hundreds I think I should do. Gazillions of things I want to do. You can make yourself crazy thinking about the coulda-shouda-wannas.

Beginning with the basic need of nourishment, I’ve come up with a simple formula for developing more simplicity in a chaotic and complex mind:

I force myself to reduce my daily goals to a bare skeleton of To-Do’s.

Today, I will try to nurture*:

My spirit,
My body,
My mind,
And my family…

in some way, shape, or form.

Anything else that I do or accomplish during the day will be gravy. (Or ice cream, depending on preference.) Including the “Have-To’s!”

(*Sometimes I mentally substitute “bless” or “honor” for “nurture.”)

Here’s an example of how this might work on an optimally-functioning day:

Today, I nurture (bless/honor) my

Spirit: I read a chapter in the Bible and spend some time praying and meditating.

Body: I drag joyfully drive myself to the gym for a good workout.

Mind: I write a blog post, forcing myself to think things out a little. Maybe do some research on something I want to learn more about.

Family: I cook dinner.

On a minimally-functioning day, it might look like this:

Spirit: I pray in the car.

Body: I take a long soak in the tub.

Mind: Watch the evening news for 15 minutes.

Family: I text someone a “Live u.”

And that is enough.

Even if, for whatever reason, it is all I manage to “accomplish” that day.

(Of course, you realize this is just for me. As for God, He would love and value me just the same, even if I weren't able to do a single thing but sit in a chair and stare at the wall all day.)

 The point is, in doing this little exercise, I am reminded that it is important to take care of myself and others before I take care of situations. I have not let the exigencies and emergencies of the day completely reign over me. I have slowed down enough to simplify my goals.

It is a more intentional way of living. Much less violent than when I allow myself to be tossed around by circumstances like a fragile leaf in a gale storm. Getting battered down to dust.

I think that far too many of us put our own well-being as the last priority on the list. (Especially care-givers.) And then we have nothing left to give. No energy with which to accomplish the multitudinous demands on our To-Do lists, much less to engage in meaningful relationships with others. We’re just treading water, trying not to go down for the last time.

I find myself slipping back into that pattern over and over and over again.

With this tumultuous new year pouncing on me like a violent, hungry panther, I am paring my list back down to basics.  Trying to simply nurture myself and my family is a start.


The Sunday after we all got back to LA, it was freezing. The space heaters hadn’t yet warmed up the house sufficiently.  We were exhausted from the holidays, time change, and travel.

But that morning, we got ourselves to church. (Spirit.)

We came home and took a nap to get warm. (Body.)

When we woke up, the rain was coming down in torrents.  The wind was fierce for LA. It looked like night at 4:00.

I donned my fleece bathrobe on top of my clothes, my Uggs on top of bed socks, in an effort to stay warm.

My husband could tell that my spirits were plummeting as fast as the temperature.

So he did something very nurturing.

He lit every candle he could find.

It made the cold room seem warm and lovely.

I put on some good music. (Mind?)  We ordered a pizza, and told all the kids to come over. (Family!)

Outside it was cold, dark, and miserable.

Inside, it was light and laughter.

I want to duplicate that concept in my inner life. Externally, things may be harsh and stormy. But inside, there can be peace and simplicity.

And all shall be well...


Ironically, I wrote most of this early last week before I got sick.

It was like a test run. Things had to really get simple in  hurry. Spirit was a few minutes of Bible reading before the aches got too bad. Body was sleeping as much as humanly possible and drinking gallons of water. Mind was watching Little Dorrit. I did manage to cook one night for the Fam, but I was washing my hands every 3 seconds to avoid infecting them.

In re-reading what I've written, I realize that I want to explain more about the context of this ‘spiritual discipline,’ but I’ve already been way too wordy. Maybe next time. Sometime, anyway.


Does anyone else struggle with Keeping It Simple? Have suggestions for slowing down and nurturing spirit, mind, body, or family? If so, please share some tips with the rest of us.

You can really be creative with it. For instance, I count a cheap pedicure as nurturing my body. Way more fun than working out! 

And just for fun...

(Linking Trying to link up to:)

...any suggestions about how to make the button work?


Laurel said...

HA! These days, "nurturing simplicity" = serving the kids one of those nefarious "kid's cuisine" microwave dinners. They are universally panned as having zero nutritional value. But, yeah, the kids will eat them. Without struggle.

What can I say? It's a nice fallback after an exhausting week. Or if there is a sitter. Which falls under the "spirit" portion of your comments and happens all too infrequently.

Marilyn B said...

Kim, I have always followed your writings. I have reached the stage you are talking about. We are leaving for a Medical Mission to the Philippines this Thursday after which I have made a Decision to go back to Basic Simple Way of Life. I got to nurture my Spirit, Mind and Body and Family
. I am getting there, find simple ways to nurture one's self. 'Been busy in this world's fast pace. I cannot keep up. As always said Simplicity is Beauty. I really look forward checking your site almost everyday.
Katherine is an inspiration indeed to many of us. I spent christmas Eve at my sister' with Aileen(missed their reunion) as her husband is very sick..She was happy to have us and as you said that is Family.
Take care and wishing you and your Family the best of 2011. Our love to katherine !!! Marilyn B

Susan said...

Read your post late last night. I find myself in that same kind of "busyness" and a life full of interruptions. So, I thought I would try your method. Seemed so easy - spirit, body, mind, family - every day. I am a great list maker, so this morning, I started writing down what I would do in each of those four areas. I fear that I am hopeless. The first thing I did was figure out how cooking (because I LOVE to cook) could do triple duty for mind, body, and family. That is NOT what I intended, but I often end up where I did not intend. HA! Will keep at it, though.

Karen said...

Do you know Ann?

Her book One Thousand Gifts, will rock your world. It's what you are reaching for- perhaps. : )

Kim said...


Can't wait 'til it arrives in the mail!

Too long in coming.

Kim said...

Hmmm, for starters - reading your posts- as they are sweet words for my soul! I too have been thinking about this subject every since my meltdown with God about living in the "city" (similar to your post about James). But I digress...simple to me? Avoiding malls. reading even 1 chapter of the Bible a day, walking outside just to smell the roses and see the trees (I love nature), having a date night with my husband to watch a movie, and meeting monthly with the women of my small group for our "girls' night out"! (eating comfort food and laughing),
love, Kim

Alida Sharp said...

check the code that you are using to make sure it has a link back to Ann's blog and is not just a photo.

I hope that helps!

Our life in Russia taught us the value of simplicity and living here in Belize is teaching us to live it out.

Craig said...

Wow, that is a well thought out plan – and so on target. I’m sure God smiles.

To slow down – if only for a moment.

Hope you don’t mind, but I’ve prayed for that violent, hungry panther, to be dealt with by God.

Thank you for this today Kim, and God Bless and Keep you and yours.

Corinne Cunningham said...

Thinking of you....
Everything keeps spinning, doesn't it? Pick a focal point... it helps :)