The term “Voluntary Simplicity” refers to a conscious choice of lifestyle in which one focuses not on gaining more, but strives to find the threshold of “enough” in order to feel content. Sociological studies have demonstrated that for most people there is a threshold of security attained through material goods and income level at which point most individuals feel content. Raise their level of wealth even slightly above this threshold, and surprisingly, contentment gives way to anxiety, pressure, depression, doubt, and misery. A greater number of people worldwide are awakening to this concept that abundance exists in a delicate balance, and that while having too little to survive contributes to emotional stress, so does having too much!
The movement toward consciously choosing less material gain beyond a point of basic comfort is not new and can be traced back as far as ancient times when Greek philosopher Diogenes, credited as the “First Cynic,” openly rejected a life of hard work in pursuit of more “stuff” and instead, chose to live as he saw a truly free man to exist- without strings attached to the burden of material goods and the toil required to make, keep and maintain them. While not everyone would want to follow Diogenes or even more modern examples like Thoreau, seeking simplicity has become a popular way to de-clutter not just the home, but life itself.
Historical surges of simple lifestyle movements have often held some form of moral or religious connection as well: one may think of the Amish for example, shunning both the excesses of modern luxuries and also being detached from the stress brought about by email, cell phones, cars etc. For Wiccan practitioners however, the value of “voluntary simplicity” resonates just as much as for followers of monotheistic religions. In fact it is a fundamental part of Wiccan belief to strive for balance, avoid excess and live in harmony with nature rather than seeking to dominate one’s environment.
This is not to say that acquiring income, assets and material goods makes one “un-Wiccan.” There are as many different facets of the Wiccan religion as there are practitioners. However if you are looking for a way to tone down the pressures in your life, simplify your needs, and reconnect to the voice of the Goddess in nature who may have recently been drowned out by the roar of emails, faxes, summer homes, car repairs and other noises of the “rat race;” exploring Voluntary Simplicity can be a great way to reconnect with your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs- and for once, tune out the rest!
Keep It Simple
Starting small is important to any lifestyle change, especially one that runs counter to most of what our culture has promoted in the form of upward mobility. Turning off the “more” switch and finding the “enough” factor requires one to tune in to a form of intuition. As a Wiccan, you are no stranger to intuition. You look for it in perceptions, synchronicity, and sensations in the body. You seek inner guidance in dreams and mediation and you know that there is a more subtle and deeper voice than that of the never-resting ego that rules the “more” button. Breaking away from the “more” race and sitting in the contemplative silence of the present moment is an art that Wiccans no doubt engage in to support many of their ritual and spiritual practices. Why not use the same process to silence the voices of advertising, the compulsive draw to obtain and improve, upgrade and climb the ladder, settling instead into the comfort of experiencing what already surrounds you?
Start slow: use the following steps to explore ways to incorporate Voluntary Simplicity concepts as part of your Wiccan lifestyle. There are various degrees to which people engage in the simple lifestyle and not all forms will work for you. The goal is not to undercut things you value or engage in martyrdom or self deprivation. The goal is to simplify, and to be more conscious around material and financial decisions: to “fairly take and fairly give,” a little more mindfully. Try the following experiments to scale down your lifestyle, the Wiccan way!
Fairly Give - We all know the joy of donating no longer used goods and clothing to a worthwhile charity. Don’t save this habit for seasonal or special occasions, make it more of a habit! Set aside a box to fill with items you have not used in 6 months, or things you only think about when you see them (and still don’t use even when you think about them). Don’t panic, you don’t have to donate them for another 3 months. In that three month time if you run to the box to retrieve and use something, take it back out and put it away. If you haven’t used it in the three months, it is time to bless someone else who needs it by making a donation.
Let’s Make A Deal - Help humanity, the Earth, and yourself! Make a deal with yourself and your family that each day that you drive the car you will find something in the home to donate to a charity. Yes it sounds extreme and that is why it is a challenge. Remind yourself that the act of driving takes a toll on yourself and the Earth, and so by donating to those in need you are balancing the scale, taking and giving, and perhaps being more conscious of your choices to drive or find alternative transportation. Still too overwhelmed by the thought of daily donations? How about aligning special days with donations such as the new and full moons, Sabbats, and other cyclical markers aligned with the Wiccan faith?
Separation Anxiety - Learn to separate the objects you hold on to from the emotions attached. Wiccans know full well that all objects carry energy, but also that energy can be summoned from a distance. It might take many tries to let go of some clutter because of fond memories attached to the objects even though they weren’t and likely wouldn’t be in use for a long time. The acknowledgment that memories and conscious thought do not disappear with the release of an object made it easier to finally let go of a significant amount of clutter.
There is a good feeling in knowing that someone in need will benefit from items held hostage by nostalgia. As Wiccans we transcend time and space barriers to practice meditation, astral travel, and Magick, therefore we can remind ourselves that we don’t need tokens of fond times to re-experience them. Some people even prefer to take a picture of the items to trigger memory and then donate the item itself. Go at your own pace. The important thing is to keep what you value but allow yourself to release what no longer serves you. This can even be done as a ritual and akin to a cleansing process. Remind yourself that by releasing what you don’t need you are opening up room for new abundance to come your way.
Induce a Black Out - Plan a day during the week and stage a black out. Turn off and unplug any items that are not essential for support of life in the home. You may choose to keep the fridge plugged in but the computers, clocks, TV’s, radios etc. must go- just for one day. You may be amazed at the level of connection you find with nature and loved ones, and the sense of recharging after a fast from the electronic world. For an added challenge, try fasting from the cell phone and iPod as well.
Air Your Clean Laundry - At 91 years old, my grandmother has never had a clothes dryer. The act of hanging laundry rather than using a dryer not only helps the Earth and preserves the clothing itself, but is also a great way to commune with the elements and interact with nature.
Take Time Out - Invest in quiet time every day. Meditating, sitting or walking in nature, all of the latter actions make it essential to unplug and to tune out the mundane world. Whether you can only spare 5 minutes or an hour, treat yourself to this luxury and you will quickly feel the difference.
Eat Your Leftovers - Open up your creative streak and make Magick in the kitchen. Americans waste a horrendous amount of food every day. This is not only bad Karma, it hurts Mother Earth. Recycling is not just for bottles and cans, but applies to reusing parts of meals that are still good for one, or even 3 days, or ideally until they are gone. Being more conscious about portions also helps avoid wasting food. There is no reason a meal has to stay the same day after day. Have fun creating new dishes and combinations using last night’s leftovers. You can even make a game out of having family and loved ones guess what’s in the stew, casserole, salad, or stir fry!
These are just some basic ideas to help scale down your life to reconnect and find serenity. By sharing these experiments with friends you may be amazed at how your introduction to a simpler life both alleviates stress and opens up doors to explore a life of freedom, abundance and excitement!
Article by: Angela Kaufman. Angela is a Priestess for the Dragon Warriors of Isis Coven in Upstate, New York, and the co-author of Wicca: What's the Real Deal? She is a professional tarot reader. For more information about Wicca: What's the Real Deal? visit http://www.wwtrd.webs.com.