Simplifying our lives can reduce our stress.
Here are three suggestions:
This is a non-affiliate link to Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s book, Gift from the Sea.
And here’s a longer passage (pages 17-18) from the 50th anniversary edition:
“I want first of all . . . to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact—to borrow from the language of the saints—to live "in grace" as much of the time as possible. I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I am seeking perhaps what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the Phaedrus when he said, "May the outward and inward man be at one." I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God.”
—Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
[ music] Hi, this is Rob Sepich, and welcome to Relaxing with Rob. How much stuff do you have? Are your relationships energizing or draining? And is life's complexity stressing you out? Well, today I'd like to share the wisdom of one woman's perspective on relationships, solitude, and simplification. She lived long before the days of self-improvement podcasts. And each semester, I'd ask my students to read a chapter of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's classic, "Gift from the Sea," and we would talk about how to apply her ideas to life in the 21st. Just for a taste, here's a two sentence excerpt about relationships. She writes, "The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was, nor forward to what it might be, but living in the present and accepting it as it is now." Although it was first published in 1955, I think it remains contemporary. I'm placing a link to it in the show notes. And this, like all of my links, is a non-affiliate one, so if you purchase it, I don't receive anything. Her 50th anniversary edition includes both a postscript by the author 20 years after initial publication and a beautiful forward by her daughter some 50 years later. I'd like to share a few applications from her work, and if you'd like to learn more, I highly recommend the book. Even if you can't take a mindful vacation by the sea, you can travel vicariously through her words. Organizational expert Marie Kondo suggests that we only hang on to things that we know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. In short, they need to "spark joy." And I like her suggestion about thanking objects for the purpose they served before parting with them. I find it makes letting go of them much easier. But long before Kondo and Lindbergh, Marcus Aurelius said, "Very little is needed to make a happy life." You might start by asking yourself, how much do I really need? Could it be that you already have more than enough? Sort of an abundance philosophy. When students prepare to study abroad for a semester, limiting their suitcase to 50 pounds is one of their hardest jobs. I know that some insist on taking two of them. But in all the years of my informal surveys where I asked about regrets of not packing enough, they've all said they regretted taking too much. They needed much less than they thought. Many students have shared that their return adjustment back home was actually harder than the initial adjustment abroad. And this is for lots of reasons, but one of them is coping with having too much stuff. Looking at their closets and their dressers and their desks back home with fresh eyes and then wondering why they had so much--especially if they traveled to places where people had, relatively speaking, so little. About a year ago, we migrated to a new email platform at work, and due to a glitch with a forwarding address, several colleagues and I realized we'd been missing a large number of incoming messages. People who had written and didn't get responses, must have figured we were just too busy to respond. I can't speak for my colleagues, but I was mortified. But after getting access to these messages and writing apologies to these people--and there were actually about a dozen of them--these were embedded in hundreds of listserve messages, and news releases, spam. I was able to delete massive amounts of email in one sitting. It felt liberating. And it made me consider how much of my day, maybe your day, is consumed with dealing with stuff you don't want? So it's often not physical, it's electronic, or it's emotional. It could be relationships that take energy instead of give them, as my friend Dick Goldberg wisely distinguishes. You know the difference without me even having to explain it. How much do you invest in relationships that really only take your energy? Can you simplify a bit and let go of one or two of these? If you can tough it out through your initial anxiety or guilt about doing this, you're going to thank yourself for the freedom you're going to feel and for the time you'll have for more balanced friendships. And not that you necessarily say these words, but you might try thinking them. Something like, "It's not so much 'no' to you, as it is 'yes' to me." I've never really valued organization just for the sake of it, but I have valued it for the stress relief. You know, it's simply less anxiety producing if you know where you keep your keys and you don't have to waste time searching for them. In fact, I read an organizational book once and the cover art helped me more than the content. It featured a photo of a simple bowl with a set of keys inside . Huh! Not an original idea. But from that day on, I started placing my keys in a bowl, and I stopped losing them. I like solutions that are elegantly simple. Before digital photography, I lost a snapshot of my dad and me just after my high school graduation, which turned out to be the last photo I had of him before he died. And I also didn't have a negative to that. I felt really bad for losing it at first, and then I reframed it as 'just a picture.' It didn't impact my relationship with him or my memories of him. And in fact, the moment from that photo is now etched in my mind more strongly than if I still had a picture to look at. So if you've lost a keepsake, a pen, a piece of jewelry, or a picture, remember they're merely objects. They are not the people they're associated with. And if you've lost a person you've loved, I hope you also know that you haven't lost the relationship or the memories, or the impact they had. All of those remain with you. I think that simplification is hard for lots of us because we tend to associate objects themselves with more power than they deserve. And on a related note, giving away something that actually means little to you but meant a lot to a grandparent might feel disloyal. I know people who hang on to things they really don't like and don't match their style, but they feel obliged to because it meant something to an older relative. And when they tell me that it feels like a burden, I encourage them to donate these items to possibly spark joy for a stranger, rather than saddle their future children with the same burden. So when you simplify, you don't just help yourself. I think you're helping others as well. Remember that objects that remind us of people we love aren't the people themselves. They're just things! And the value they hold is created by us in our minds, not the objects. So if you'd like to experiment a bit with simplification, here are three suggestions. First, donate stuff or delete needless files or playlists associated with a former relationship. Essentially, lighten up. Second, let go of one-sided relationships that consistently drain your energy. And third, adopt an abundance philosophy in which you act as if you already have more than enough. Thank you for listening, and we'll talk again soon.