Simplicity is such a straightforward concept. When I hear the work, it evokes an immediate feeling of lightness. In my native hindi, the word that perhaps best describes it for me is saadagi (सादगी) – a certain straightforwardness, a “what you see and hear from them is what they truly are” quality in a person. I am often in awe of those who can live their lives in a simple (yet not simplistic) manner.
My maternal grandmother was a great example who modeled simplicity. There was a certain softness, a gentleness, a kindness about her, which belied the very tough life that she had lived up to the point where I truly got to know her as a young person. She may have been a product of her generation, one that was a refugee of partition (of India), and who went very quickly from living a life of luxury to a life of great hardship. But, even during her life of luxury, I am told that she preferred simplicity in her actions and her attitude.
Her simplicity manifested in her language, in her cooking, in her daily practices in the shrine at home and the local temple. A cup of water, a fresh flower, a tulsi (holy basil) leaf, a soft prayer was all she used and needed to express her belief, her devotion and her faith. Her great wisdom was held close to her heart, and she only spoke in metaphors and parables in her native tongue when it was absolutely necessary to impart some deep truth. I can scarcely ever remember raising her voice to anyone, even though us grandkids were often more than a handful on many an occasion in her small home.
I often wondered how one could possibly live their entire lives in the embrace of such simplicity by choice, and yet accomplish so much and be so loved by so many who came in contact with her. Twenty or so years after having met her over a few days on our visit to India, my good friend here in the USA still talks fondly about her grace. Her love was expressed through her simple greeting as soon as you walked through the door. Age may hae bent her frame and caused her hands to shake. But it rarely ever stopped her from asking us, her grandchildren, as soon as we walked into her home – what do you want to eat and drink, as she made her way out the door, clutching her cloth satchel, to the local market. We learnt quickly that ‘nothing to eat’ was not a good answer. For then she would return with a whole smorgasboard of cookies!
Deep down within, we all have probably known people in our lives who have graced us with their simplicity. It is the path that they walk, and one that they walk of a joyful choosing. There was (and is) an effortless grace in their walking, by which their simplicity forms a deep impression on our heart. The lessons that they taught (and teach) us are living examples of what is possible if we were to (occasionally) choose simplicity too.
These lessons of simplicity are particularly relevant in our increasingly attention-scattered lives. Our dust laden paths of complex interactions and multiplicity of engagements tend to crowd out our innate propensity to simplicity. Oh no. What a complex sentence, yes?! The path to complexity is motivated by societal ‘progress’ and ‘evolution’, and yet it often weighs on our own ‘spiritual’ progress. How much more complexity do we need in our tools, methods and practices, to create simple, inner joy within us? To create better awareness? To connect with our soul consciousness? Is our simple commitment to a focus on the heart not enough?
Maybe we can return to, rediscover, revisit the gift of simplicity. It will take some effort to take the first few steps, to wean us away from the inertia of the walking the ego’s self-created path of complexity. What will determine whether we take that step to simplicity? Therein lies a decision. As @JanetNestor said in her beautiful GLOW webinar for #heartfulness this morning – will we decide to “Just Be” and rediscover the simple beauty of our “Spark of Life”?
Before I close, I say namaste to Grandma. Thank you for all those fresh treats that you bought for us from the stores at every visit. And yet, the ones I remember best are the simple ones that were cooked by your shaking hands, moved by your loving heart, straight from your kitchen. I have truly lived your simplicity because I ate so many of those brown-sugar-and-clarified-butter-encrusted flat-breads that came straight off of your cast-iron griddle.
P.S. Please join us for our weekly gathering of the #SpiritChat community on twitter – Sunday, August 12 at 9amET USA / 630pm IST India. We will chat about simplicity and its role, its relevance in our lives. Namaste.
Simplicity on the Path (Rocky River Reservation, Cleveland OH)