SOUL FOOD Talk 6: “Simplify your heart with all care.” St. Albert the Great
[1.] One night a couple of years ago, I was on the computer. Having spent some time reading varied texts, my spirit became vexed, troubled by some of what I read; for example, the extreme opposition to the health care package, possible federal funds being used to support abortion, perceptions about Obama being seriously questioned by the Catholic bishops– etc. I felt unclean, confused, dark.
[2.] I returned to a quotation which I love by St. Albert the Great: “Simplify your heart with all care.” This is the one thing necessary. Put away all this speculation, and return to your hidden self, hidden in Christ. I returned to the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a poor sinner.” Like medicine to the spirit, this prayer, repeated, cleanses the heart and soul. Empty yourself in humility before your God; let his cleansing Mercy fill you again. All you need concern yourself with is accepting His will moment by moment, His love, moment by moment. Everything else is vain. This prayer is a sacrament for each moment. You don’t need to figure out anything else or worry about anything else but accepting yourself in union with Him. This is your peace.
[3.] Whenever you are troubled; when life become too complicated for you; when you don’t understand issues, etc., return to this simplicity. Focus on one thing only–His Mercy and Will in that single moment. Don’t try to see past that. Jesus himself said, “Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.”One thing at a time, and all will be well. Nothing can occur outside of the will of God. How simple can it get? The safest place to be at all times, particularly at times of insanity, violence, moral confusion, is in the will of God. Remain humble and receptive, and He will make himself known. Pray: “Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.”
[4.] Have you ever realized that Jesus Himself wanted to simplify our lives? Did you realize that the Jewish teachers wrote thousands of little laws and rules to clarify the 10 Commandments? Jesus came along and said we needed to concentrate on 2 commandments: (1)“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and and mind and strength.” (2) “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
[5.] WHAT IS SIMPLICITY? One. Complexity rules where an item is divided or made up of many parts. The closer to one that we can get, the simpler we are. One God. One desire. A heart focused and centered on God. One Will. Simplicity of heart is virtually the same as purity of heart.
[6.] In order to focus, however, our inner simplicity can be assisted if we clean up and simplify our exterior life. When you go on line, you can find so many websites, Christian and other websites, which explore this great need today. Our world, I think the USA, especially, is confused, complex, divided, pitting father against son, husband against wife, etc. Unity is simplicity. What produces peace is simplicity of heart.
SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR SIMPLIFYING YOUR HEARTS AND LIVES:
[7.] http://bemorewithless.com/7-ways-to-simplify-your-life/ [ This is a guest post from Tess Marshall of The Bold Life.]
“My first experience with simplifying my life, came when I was 28 years old when Hubs and I went to see our first therapist. Our oldest daughters were 10 and 8 years old and our twins were six at the time. Our household was chaotic, our lives were out of control and I felt crazy.
We knew something had to change! During our first session, I talked a mile a minute because that’s what crazy people do! At the end of the hour, Dr. Hartwick gave us homework. Desperate for relief, we did exactly as we were told.
The first exercise was to slow down the speed of our lives. Our family talked, walked, ate and worked quickly. We allowed ourselves very little down time.
What happens when parents slow down? Children slow down!
The second exercise was in communication. We could only speak to each other if we were looking at each other face-to-face. There was no more calling, yelling or screaming for each other from different rooms in our home. Again, we followed through with our homework.
What happens when parents calm down? Children calm down!
By following through on our homework we transformed the energy within our home in six months. There are benefits for everything we do, both good and bad. The benefit for our crazy lifestyle was that it gave us an excuse to ignore our problems and the changes we needed to make. We simplified our life by taking responsibility for our issues and were rewarded with a happier family.
[8.] Read on for more ways you can simplify your life and the benefits you’ll gain for doing so.
1. Eliminate stress in your day. Create a morning routine that will influence the rest of your day in a positive manner. I write in my gratitude journal and read from a spiritual text. I’ve recently added meditation into my morning routine. Benefit: More peace and calm throughout your day.
2. Complain less. Currently, the biggest complaint I hear is about the price of gas. You can’t control the price of gas but you can control how much gas you use. For the next three weeks stop complaining about gas. Learn to use only what you need. When you catch yourself complaining begin your three weeks over again. Benefit: Increased personal power, appreciation and happiness.
3. Say ‘yes’ less. Over extending yourself complicates your life. Learn to tell others no when you don’t want to do something. Memorize and repeat this line as needed, “No, that’s not going to work for me.” Pause for five seconds afterwards. You don’t owe anyone a reason or an excuse. If the person persists, repeat it again and pause again. After the second time, the person will get your message. Benefit: Increased self-esteem, self-respect and more time to do what you love.
4. Give less time to the media. Life is difficult enough without unnecessary negativity. Go on a media fast. If you’re afraid of being uninformed about current events, ask somebody, “What’s new?” If you can’t cut the media out completely, watch, read or listen to the news one day a week. Benefit: You’ll fear less about your future and spend more time living in the present, feeling calm and peaceful.
5. Spend less time online. Too much of anything isn’t a good thing. Learn to be present with the people in your life. When I’m having a face-to-face conversation in a check-out lane my phone is in my purse. If I answer my cell phone when a daughter calls, I walk away from my computer. When we eat dinner our phones and computers aren’t invited. We don’t work after a certain time each night. Everyone’s needs are different. Eliminate digital distractions and be more present with those you love. Benefit: Increased communication and intimacy in your primary relationships.
6. Want less. Learn how to love and want what you have. Instead of wanting more material things, express gratitude for your eyesight, hearing, and the ability to breathe. Instead of wanting a perfect body, appreciate the beating of your heart. Awareness increases abundance. Benefit: The ability to recognize you have everything you need and live a more meaningful life.
7. Fill your life with people you love. Eliminate toxic relationships. If someone isn’t bringing you up they’re bringing you down. Detach and surrender the relationships that aen’t working for you. To make this transition easier silently repeat to yourself, “I bless you. I release you. I set you free. I allow you to be you and me to be me.” Benefit: Time and space for healthier, more meaningful and loving relationships.
[9.] DR. TAYLOR MARSHALL
Devotions can be like jewelry. They bring about beauty and accent the appearance of the one wearing them. However, too much jewelry can be a distraction. At one point, they become counterproductive.
I have discovered this to be the case with devotions in my own life. The more complicated things become, the more suffocated I feel.
You start with basics. You have a daily Rosary and then the daily Divine Mercy chaplet, and then a Novena to the Holy Spirit, and then a Novena to Saint Joseph, and then a Holy Hour once per day, and then you have to care for your spouse, and your children. Oh, and then there is the Knights of Columbus meeting. The Bible study. The Altar Guild meeting. And daily Mass. Liturgy of the Hours. Little Office of the Blessed Virgin. One-Year Catholic Bible. Reading a Saint story daily. Reading the Summa…
…and then you snap. Then you go crazy. The spiritual life becomes complicated, conflicted, and stifling.
You’re wearing so much spiritual jewelry that you cannot even stand up and walk around. The yoke is no longer easy. The burden is no longer light. It’s heavy. Really heavy.
[10.] THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE OF SIMPLICITY
So what can we do to stop our lives from being consumed by “hurry-sickness”? One of the most important things that we must do is develop a skill that Ortberg calls “slowing.” We must deliberately choose to place ourselves in positions where we simply have to wait. For example: get in the longest line at the grocery store, get behind the longest line of cars at a red light (or behind that eighteen wheeler), eat your food slowly, take off your watch for a day, etc. Many people, especially Type-A people, believe that they will not be able to accomplish as much if they do not rush; however, “researchers have found that there is simply no correlation between hurry or Type-A behavior and productivity” (Ortberg, 84).
What we are talking about is otherwise know as the Spiritual Discipline of Simplicity. Simplicity is an inward reality that express itself outwardly through the way we live our lives. Basically, it is finding our center in life (God) and basing all of our life’s decisions around that center. Simplicity is based upon the principle of making the “main thing the main thing.” In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells us to, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” To develop simplicity in our lives, we must put our priorities in the right order. We must be determined to put God first in our lives. Truth be known, the person who does not seek God’s Kingdom first, does not seek it at all.
Yet, to develop the discipline of simplicity does not necessarily mean that our lives will become any less busy. Simplicity doesn’t necessarily control the quantity of things we do as much as it controls the type of things that we do. We begin to simplify our lives through inward focus. See “hurry sickness” is not primarily about having a disordered schedule, it is about having a disordered heart. So we must begin by adjusting our attitude, our heart. Always remember that simplicity, like prayer, meditation, or any other Spiritual Discipline is only a means to an end, not the end in itself. The purpose for simplifying our lives is to attain singleness and purity of heart. If we do not reach that, we have failed. Everything we do must come forth out of love. Following rules without love = legalism.
[11.] RICHARD FOSTER, famous for his book on Christian simplicity, lists “ten controlling principles” for the outward expression of simplicity. I shall briefly summarize them here.
1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than for their status. For example, consider your clothes. Most of us have no need for more clothes. Stop buying to keep up with the latest fashions. Buy only when new clothes are needed and buy practically.
2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you. Learn to distinguish between a real psychological need and an addiction. Eliminate or cut back on the use of addictive, non-nutritional drinks: alcohol, coffee, tea, Coke, etc. If there is any form of media (TV, radio, magazines) that you realize you cannot live without; you need to get rid of it. Refuse to be a slave to anything but God.
3. Develop a habit of giving things away. If you are becoming attached to some possessions, consider giving it to someone who needs it. De-accumulate. Get rid of that mass of stuff that clutters your home and life. Give it away.
4. Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry. Modern propagandists try to convince us that we must obtain the newest model of this or that because it features some new ability that will make our lives easier. The truth is that time saving devices almost never save time. Remember point number 1.
5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them. Our culture puts so much emphasis on owning things. “If we own it, we feel we can control it; and if we control it, we feel it will gives us more pleasure” (Foster, 93). This idea is an illusion. Borrow and share with others. Remember that we don’t really own anything, we only manage it for God.
6. Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation. “Simplicity means to discover once again that ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.’ (Ps 24:1) (Foster, 93).”
7. Look with a healthy skepticism at all “by now, pay later” schemes. The Bible views charging interest as an unbrotherly exploitation of another’s misfortune and a denial of community. These schemes are a trap that only deepen our bondage. Avoid them like the plague.
8. Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech. Avoid speaking flattery and half-truths. If you promise to do something, do it. Refuse to be apart of jargon and abstract speculations. They tend to confuse rather than inform and illuminate. Simply put, let your yes’s be yes’s and your no’s be no’s.
9. Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others. This is one of the most difficult and sensitive issues for us to face, but face it we must. Do we sip our coffee and eat our bananas at the expense of exploiting Latin American peasants? Does our lust for wealth mean poverty for other? Should we buy products that are made by forcing people into dull assembly line jobs? Take a deeper look at the stuff you purchase. Who or what are you really supporting. Refuse to further the evils of this world by supporting them with your money.
10. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first God’s Kingdom. It is easy to lose focus even if we pursue good things. We must be diligent and deliberate about seek God. As Brother Jim Bliffen has said, “It is wrong to do good when something better should be done.” We must always keep our priorities in the right place and our focus on the right thing: God.