Peace Pilgrim (Mildred Norman) was a spiritually realized person. She found that as she made progress in simplifying her life, this freed more energy up that allowed her to deepen her spiritual progress. At one point of her journey she was living at just $10 per week. (no more than $200 in today’s dollars.) Eventually her spiritual progress was so advanced that she could give up all her possessions and become a wandering ascetic proclaiming the message of peace. Here are some stories she relates when she talks about simplifying life:
I remember a dear lady, who was up in years. She was working so hard and always complaining. I finally said to her, “Why in the world do you need to work so hard when you have only yourself to support?” And she said, “Oh, I have to pay rent on a five room house.” “A five room house!” I replied. “But you’re alone in the world. Couldn’t you live happily in one room?” “Oh yes,” she said sadly, “but I have furniture for a five room house.” She was actually working her fingers to the bone to provide a proper home for that furniture! And that happens all the time. All I can say is don’t let it happen to you.
Because of our preoccupation with materialism we often miss the best things in life, which are free.
Unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens. If you have them, you have to take care of them.
I’ll tell you about one more woman. She was liberated, although not in the best possible way. I saw her only occasionally, but I happened to see her about a month after her huge house, in which she and her husband had been living alone since the children were grown, had burned down while they’d been out. They lost everything except the clothes they were wearing. Remembering how attached she had been to that huge house, in spite of the fact that it was such a burden for her to take care of, I started to say a few words of sympathy. But she said, “Don’t sympathize with me! Now you could have the morning after, but not now. Just think, I will never have clean out that attic. I will never have clean out those clothes closet. I will never have to clean that basement! Why, I’ve never felt so free. I just feel I’m starting life all over again!”
She and her husband were living in a sensible size apartment and, indeed, I’m sure they did experience a wonderful sense of freedom. But wouldn’t it have been better if they had learned to give and leaned to give and extended their surplus towards those who needed it? Then they would have been blessed by the giving, and others would have been blessed by the getting. In any case it was a situation that liberated them.
It may be appropriate to end this post with the story of sharing from Africa that shows how simplifying our lives can make it easier to share and make our lives so much richer:
An anthropologist proposed a game to the kids in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the kids that who ever got there first won the sweet fruits. When he told them to run they all took each others hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When he asked them why they had run like that as one could have had all the fruits for himself they said: ”UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?” ‘UBUNTU’ in the Xhosa culture means: “I AM because we are”.
Credits: The main story is from Peace Pilgrim, Her Life and Work in Her Own Words. The African story came to us via e-mail, source unknown.
Related: Wants Versus Needs: Five Insights