Western culture is buried under a blanket of fear. We’re afraid of guns and school shootings, and many children have to pass through metal detectors each morning before entering their schools. We’re afraid of other crime, too – home invasions, gang violence, serial killings, terrorism…. We’re afraid of immigrants and drug abusers, of environmental collapse and deadly disease. We’re afraid of strangers and ISIS and the seasonal flu. The fear is almost addictive.
But, in a very real way, we have nothing to fear but the fear, itself.
In a small village, there lived an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. He owned very little, but he did have a majestic stallion. His neighbors often told him how lucky he was to have such a fine horse.
Years ago, I could be a pretty wound up girl. Now that I’ve learned to live simply, I’ve gotten to a place in my life where I’m centered and calm, for the most part, and if you were to ask anyone who’s met me in the past several years, they’d tell you I live a slow, tranquil, happy life. For a very long time, though, I was unable to deal with the everyday. This was a shameful thing for me, and I hid it well. Okay, pretty well. I kept it all inside, flooding my body with anxiety and guilt (oh, the guilt…). It spilled out from time to time, but mostly, I kept it all for myself.
I’ve been thinking about home, recently. My family’s little home is our peaceful pocket in an often chaotic world. This is where we come to recharge ourselves, and this is where most of the important moments in our lives take place. We connect with each other here. We’re not afraid to be our true selves. We can relax and enjoy life within these walls.
Which got me to thinking about all the ways people are making home a greater part of their lives….
The holiday season should be the season of togetherness, of warmth and closeness and simple joys. Instead, we find ourselves rushing around to buy things to eat, things to decorate with, things to give away. We believe we must live up to expectations – society’s, our family’s, our own. We feel stressed and anxious, irritated and worn out, from our trips to stores jammed full with other shoppers. We buy our holidays, plain and simple.
It doesn’t have to be that way (even if the television is screaming that it does).
Our communities are desperately fragmented. So often, even when we’re surrounded by others, by friends and co-workers, by family and loved ones, we perceive ourselves as very alone. Because of this, we’ve begun to feel more and more alienated in the world. Even when we’re surrounded by so many other humans with the same fears and doubts, the same joys and hopes that we have, we keep to ourselves. We never discover that others are much like we are.
Giving of ourselves allows us to feel genuinely needed and inspires us to see ourselves as a part of something bigger, integrally connected to those around us.
Our days are filled with busyness – shopping lists, doctor appointments, mandatory meetings at work, bill paying, scrubbing the floors, cooking dinner…. Sometimes, we feel so put upon, so frazzled, we hardly remember to look at the blue sky, the glistening snow beneath our feet, or the smiles of our loved ones right beside us. It certainly doesn’t occur to us to be grateful for being able to buy and prepare nutritious food or for having floors to scrub.
And, sometimes, it feels as if we have nothing to be thankful for. Sometimes our burdens really are too heavy – chronic illnesses, shaky relations with friends or family, job insecurity, loved ones who are suffering…. It can feel as if there’s no end – and certainly no reason in the world to be thankful. Believe me, I know. I’ve been there.
But, there is something to be thankful for, somewhere. There always is.
A path is shaped by the people who use it. Someone discovered the best way to get somewhere – maybe the quickest, maybe the most scenic and enjoyable – and over the months or years, as that person walked those same steps again and again, the grass was worn down and a path was formed.
More than anything, our habits frame our everyday lives, and for those who choose to live simply, it’s no exception. We wake in the morning and fall into our routines – showering, brushing our teeth, getting dressed, making breakfast…. When adding healthy habits, like drinking enough water throughout the day, or exercising for 20 minutes each morning, or writing in a gratitude journal, for the first few weeks, you’ll have to remind yourself to practice them. Eventually, though, they’ll become routine, just like showering and brushing your teeth.