Rhiannon Grant on what Simplicity means to her
Living simply is the ongoing process of trying to bring my life into the flow of a stream. In this image, I picture a stream like the one which flows through my local park – bubbling, leaping, mostly clear, with stones and the odd shoe at the bottom, a few tiny fish and doubtless many even smaller germs and microplastics, running and swirling through the trees and over a rough brick-built weir from one lake to the next. The Divine is like the water, tangible but hard to catch, and God’s will is like the water’s desire to go downhill: not really a personal wish but an inevitable trend, which can nevertheless be temporarily thwarted by accident, by wild plants and animals, and on a much larger scale by human intervention.
The stream is, in one way, complex. You could get an entire biology fieldwork project out of a few metres of it and it changes every hour of every day. In another way, it’s very simple. It just flows. When I live simply, I am the water and my life is the stream. I have everything I need: a bed to hold me, banks to direct me, fish and plants and other living things with which to interact in love. Every part of me is engaged, supporting life and flowing downhill.
Of course, human life isn’t like that. It frequently isn’t clear to me where ‘downhill’ is, and although by percentage I understand I am mostly made of water, I don’t find that I can carry out the Spirit’s purposes with the effortless ease with which the stream appears to flow. So how do I try and get into that position?
I try to be still. If you have ever pitched a tent in an apparently flat field, and woken in the middle of the night with your head or your feet sticking out, you will know that it’s possible to locate a ‘downhill’ even when none is apparent. In the same way, practising Meeting for Worship (and related things, including Meetings for Worship for Business or Clearness, walks in the park, visualisations, drawing a focus card, chanting, and so on) can help me find a ‘downhill’ when I’m stuck or at the bottom. Sometimes I have even been directed not to go anywhere, but to rest or wait. That can be extraordinarily difficult, especially if the thing I’m waiting for is something which for practical and social reasons I’m desperately trying to get as soon as possible (like a job).
I also try to collect myself. Before simplicity, Quakers talked about plainness. A plain stream is one which is all together. (It probably isn’t plain in the sense of all being one colour.) It might have side streams or floodplains, but it can integrate these into a single picture, in which the flow responds to landscape and life around it. This stream is complex but straightforward: it nurtures those in and around it, but doesn’t try and go the other way, or become something it’s not. In the same way, I try to bring all the parts of my life into a single whole which is plain. By listening, I am guided to gradually get everything in line with my values, until my life is all honest, connected, and flowing towards the Goddess.
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