The sticking point in realising a peaceful existence is often our reluctance to allow ourselves the time, the space and in fact the courage to delve inwards. And yet, it is only by exploring our inner terrain that we can learn to master how we show up in the world, how we respond to what is presented to us, whether we like it or not, whether we can permit ourselves some peace and tranquility regardless.
I often hear people complaining about having to live a life they would not have chosen for themselves, one that seems pointless and unhappy. I used to do that too, until I realised that there were steps I could take to muster some personal empowerment, to set some boundaries on how I used my personal energy and to take responsibility for my behaviour, whatever happened outside of me.
In 1998, there I was, a small business owner, employing 6 others, shackled to a large mortgage and living in the home counties. My children were stressed and I was stressed, but at least we were earning enough money to support our affluent lifestyle, even if we didn’t have any spare time to enjoy it! Within a few years I’d woken up – shifted to working part time from home, living a relatively low cost, sustainable, debt-free lifestyle and self-employed. Both my children and I were less stressed, more happy and felt free to enjoy our lives in the moment, rather than striving forever for an affluent future.
Coaching others through similar processes over the last 12 years has been for me an exhilarating, enlightening and humbling experience. Simplification of our lives happens on so many different levels. It can impact positively not only on lifestyle, but also on relationships, vocation, financial security and empowerment and personal and spiritual development.
One client, typical of those I work with, had worked herself to the point of burnout. She was then diagnosed with ME and obliged to take extended sick leave. She was the main breadwinner in her family and felt hugely responsible for letting her family down and for being rejected by her former employers as she was no longer a “useful human resource.”
Letting go of the old way of life.
The first level of simple living is often accepting a loss of some kind. For those who are forcibly downshifted, for example through ill health or redundancy, the shock experienced by having to embark on a new, less complex, way of life is maybe to be expected. Some will still find the strength to view their situation as an opportunity, nevertheless.
For many, a positive take on the predicament, understandably, does not come easily in the beginning. Some people need gentle support and guidance to come to terms with their loss and welcome the inevitable changes in their lives. Can you imagine yourself in this position? Even those who actively choose to simplify their lives and take the courageous move of quitting a well-paid job, grieve for the old way of life. Perhaps there were aspects of their former way of being that they cherished and now miss, even though their overall existence was viewed as something undesirable. It is normal and healthy to allow this grief, even if it seems illogical. In fact, it often leads to increased self-acceptance and understanding.
Encouraging an acceptance of any perceived losses and a willingness to view your situation from different perspectives is usually fruitful and often inspiring, in my experience. From this point on, you’ll probably find that you’re more easily able to welcome the changes happening in your life, whether expected or unforeseen, as your self-confidence and self-awareness develops.
A process of transformation.
There is a transformative turning point where, if you’re aspiring to simplify and de-stress your life you may start to view your ‘dilemma’ in a positive light. Even if you begin this process in ill health, you might find yourself talking about your situation in terms of learning or healing experiences.
Like many, you could well envisage a new path and an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth. How will you explore what that means to you and how you can benefit from your insights? You might feel that you have stepped up to a new level or are beginning a new phase in your life. How might you embrace new objectives? Where do you notice wisdom, honesty, authenticity and openness in this new way of being?
Ultimately, it is through such access to deeper levels of honesty and openness that we gain competence in responding more consciously and wisely to opportunities and obstacles that come our way. Decisions become easier, simpler, more intuitive. Simplicity breeds wisdom, breads further simplicity… and states of peace begin to arise with more frequency as our previously dominant reactivity loosens it’s hold.
Peace is not simply an absence of war, either outer or inner, but the organic, even gracious, result of letting go of the ego’s tendency towards complexity, confusion and conflict. Moving towards living more simply, with more space for inner reflection, is a natural first step.