The Lighter Side of Transformation

with Lisa Wessan, LICSW

What is voluntary simplicity?

Today I was talking to my old friend Gail Marcus, who just moved back to New York after living over ten years with her family in Vermont. In the throes of unpacking her ocean of boxes and cartons, we had a fruitful chat discussing our mutual goal of living with less stuff, clutter, and particularly gadgets.

While talking to Gail, I was reminded of the passionate, brilliant and elegant work of Dr. Theodore Roszak, particularly The Voice of the Earth (1992), in which he wrote about “voluntary simplicity.” It seems that this is a term one either embraces or strongly rejects…as it happens, Gail and I agree with the concept, but our spouses are not of this persuasion.

Wikipedia defines voluntary simplicity, or simple living, as:

Simple living (also referred to as voluntary simplicity) is a lifestyle characterized by minimizing the “more is better” pursuit of wealth and consumption. Adherents may choose simple living for a variety of personal reasons, such as spirituality, health, increase in ‘quality time‘ for family and friends, reducing their personal ecological footprint, stress reduction, personal taste or frugality. E. F. Schumacher summarized it by saying, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.”  ~

After we had a good laugh about our spouses’ recent questionable shopping excursions, Gail shared this astute Yankee proverb with me:

Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do
Or do without!
~ Yankee Proverb

Does this mean that we are to be living in deprivation?  Nay, nay, I say…it is not deprivation, it is liberation!   Having less stuff gives us more space, time, freedom and room to relax.  With less stuff we spend less time cleaning, repairing and storing devices.  With less clothes we spend less time figuring out what to wear.  For some of us, the appeal of having “a uniform” lasts a lifetime.  True, some people like to spend more time putting themselves together, as in creating great art — and that’s wonderful.  But for the rest of us, can we also look and feel great and spend five minutes getting dressed?   YES, I think so.

How are you choosing to fill your life?  Do you want more stuff, or more freedom?  This is a choice, and a stand for more joy — because having less stuff does ultimately feel fabulous.

I invite you to try on this philosophy of voluntary simplicity for a few days and see how it feels…let me know how you feel and what happens in your life.

© 2010 by Lisa Wessan. All rights reserved.

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Forget your TO DO list…What’s on your TO BE list?

The New Year has begun, and how many articles, blogs, talk shows guests and interviews have we already seen about setting goals? No, don’t call them goals, call them intentions! No resolutions, yes resolutions, hold the vision, turn it over, give it to God and on and on…

There’s nothing wrong with all of this, but sometimes I question how far we go in mapping and planning our lives. I have one dear friend who solidly books herself for 52 hours each week. She knows what she is doing and where she will be for all those hours. I imagine there is some flexibility built into her system, but I wonder how much wiggle room she allows for spontaneous events? It seems to work for her, but I know I could never work that way.

The first Sunday of the month I gather with a bunch of friends for a monthly focusing meeting. We call ourselves an Abraham study group, because we do study and work on the principles and exercises found in the Abraham literature, particularly the book Ask and it is Given, by Esther and Jerry Hicks. I love this book because the second half of the book offers 22 exercises to help shift our vibration up the vibrational scale. This is another kind of turnaround process, moving from depression and despair up to hope, and several more levels until we get to the joy vibration, as it were. In theory, the easiest and most successful manifesting of success happens when we live in the joy vibration.

Our group always discusses our intentions, goals and whatever resistance we have moving towards our happy dream…one month at a time. At our January meeting, however, we spend a little more time than usual sharing our vision for 2010.

After listening to all of us rattle off our amazing goals and what we want to manifest this year, the room was definitely filled with energy and excitement, and perhaps mingled with some anxiety. Members were putting out huge wish lists as part of their vision, so to speak, such as getting married, adopt a baby, become a bestselling author and world class speaker, lose weight, redesign bathrooms and more.

One of our members, Carl Puglisi, was the last to speak in our circle, and he looked around the room and said something to the effect, “I think I want to make a TO BE list for 2010…I want to be peaceful, be relaxed, be more active with my music and play more big public music gigs [he’s a drummer]…” I won’t repeat his whole TO BE list, but as soon as Puglisi said this, it zinged me.

YES – I want to make a TO BE list too…I want to be more peaceful and relaxed, be laughing and light hearted, be forgiving, accepting and loving. Be gentle, kind, generous. Be patient, hopeful and trusting. Be lean and serene, fit and fabulous(TM)! Indeed,I look forward to writing that book some day when I’m on the other side of this mountain!

Making a TO BE list has an entirely different feel to it…I invite you to make your own TO BE list for 2010! Try it on, see how it feels, and notice the difference. Clearly, it’s no accident that we call ourselves Human Beings, NOT Human Doings.

©2010 by Lisa Wessan. All rights reserved.

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Imagine my surprise when I was decluttering some ancient papers from B.C. (before Chelmsford) this morning… and what turns up in the paper casket? A quote from a 2001 interview with Julia Childs, co-author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, “You should not be engaged in anything that doesn’t make you absolutely tremble with joy.” (Time Out New York, April 19, 2001, p. 176).

Bravo, Julia! To answer my question, “What is joy?” Julia is reminding me that if I follow my bliss, follow my most joyful attractions, and do what I love, I will never have to work another day in my life!

What about trembling? Thank you Julia for reminding me that trembling is good… First, it’s normal to want to be passionate about one’s work. Second, a little shaking and being wobbly, perhaps being out of my comfort zone, is often when the joy slips in after the challenge is completed. Living on the razor’s edge between fear and excitement can certainly lead to more joy in living.

I am reminded of my first tango lesson with my husband. We were both nervous… understandably so, being in a new environment with mostly slender, chic, graceful people around us. We were the only two chubbettes on the dance floor. But I felt proud that we were pursuing our joy regardless of our plus-sized bodies. Turns out, we love to tango, and we’re pretty good at it too. The initial trembling and excitement has blossomed into one of our sexy and fulfilling shared pastimes.

Whenever we take a new tango class, we may revisit our initial trembling – on the mild side – because we never know if the teacher will be good, non-judgmental, patient with beginners and so on. But therein lies the excitement of life, in not knowing… wouldn’t it be truly dull to know it all ahead of time?

What will happen in 2010? Where will we go? Who will we meet? How many creative new ways will we find to express our love? Will we learn to deeply forgive, accept and move on quicker in 2010? Will we finally clean out our basements, attics, closets and drawers?  Will we hit that high note in our career? Therein lies the excitement – in NOT KNOWING.

One of my favorite teachers once said, “True Mastery is learning to live in ambiguity with JOY!” When I first heard that in my early twenties, I was crushed – it seemed impossible for me at the time. Yet I have always held that up as a goal, to be able to live in the ambiguity, the paradox, the incongruity, with a more positive mindset, or at least be able to laugh at the absurdity of it all. What a concept! I continue to practice this one, perhaps for lifetimes… OY!… the fun never ends.

What do you think?

©2009 by Lisa Wessan. All rights reserved.

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