The terms so often used like “Simple Life” or “Minimalism” seem to come with a distinct set of rules that apply to the process of reaching a point where we arrive at what I call a “Gentle Life”. In the end I believe this is what we all strive for.
All the things we do like ridding our lives of stuff, spending less money, and building a new bank of time where we can actually find peace in the moments of each day are really just steps we take in finding the path to the “Gentle Life”.
But what exactly is the gentle life and why do we all strive to reach it?
How many of us rush through meals each day trying to find the fastest prepared foods to gobble down so we can rid ourselves of the feeling of hunger? Isn’t the truth that we would all love to actually have enough time to sit down and eat foods that we actually like to eat and enough time to slowly enjoy the taste of the carefully prepared meal? The truth is that most of us feel pressured to just get the meal over with and get on with our day. We know that eating slowly is gentler on our bodies and lowers the stress we feel during our work days, yet very rarely do we feel that we have the option of doing it.
We live by a life of lists of things we must get done each day, whether these lists are created by our employers, our loved ones or by ourselves. We all have lists. Do we approach these lists as being monsters out of control that we can never seem to get through or do we select things on our lists that we can accomplish in a reasonable amount of time each day? Given past experience and amount of time in each day we all know what we are capable of getting done yet seem to always strive to do more. We create a sense of stress in our lives over these crazy lists rather than approaching them realistically. We never think that it is possible to actually remove items from our lists or figure out ways of delegating them at times. It is actually possible to take this monster of a list of things to do each day and find a way to tame it to the point where it is actually gentle. Even if we set our sites on accomplishing just half of what is on our list each day sometimes we find that there is actually enough time to get a couple of other items accomplished which actually becomes a bonus to what we have already completed.
I used to drive to work each day in a total panic about fighting traffic to get to work on time. I would usually listen to the news filled with harsh stories of daily tragedy and feel even more stirred up upon arriving to work. Today my ride has become a gentle one. I still face traffic but by electing to leave 10 minutes earlier I have discovered that it doesn’t bother me because I know that I will arrive on time. I have also elected to listen of relaxing music or my favorite podcasts during my drive rather than all of the negativity that the news brings. I have created a “Gentle” commute each day and I will never change this. I get to work feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.
I get up early and enjoy a healthy breakfast, prepare a healthy lunch and actually spend the whole lunch hour taking my time to enjoy it and sit down to dinner with my wife to slowly eat and talk about our day. I have learned to eat “gently” and find gratefulness in the food I eat and also the preparation of it.
I sleep well each night for a full 8 hours as I refuse to take any daily problems to bed with me. Sleeping is my time to regenerate the energy I will need to take on the next day and I have learned to do it well. A good nights sleep is a gently nights sleep.
One of the great stressors in life is debt. I have learned to work towards ridding my life of all debt and strive in my finances and spending habits to gently work towards this goal. We all have bills to pay but creating more also creates more stress. Although I am not completely debt free, the progress I have made gives way to the thought that I can be. This brings great joy at the thoughts of actually owning most of my paycheck one day and the new options I may have.
I have learned that working out like a maniac each day doesn’t make one healthier. It is a balance of gentle exercise practiced daily rather than striving to compete with the results of the last workout. It is all about daily movement and doesn’t have to be a sporting event although I would rather play tennis with a friend than walk on a treadmill.
I am learning to spend more time in nature by getting out to hike some of the glorious trails I live near. My back yard raised bed garden has become my playground as creating my own foods from the forces of nature fill my soul with a pleasure that is indescribable. Whether it’s the feel of the soil or the the soft wind blowing gently upon my face there are certain things that can only be found in nature that give way to the feeling of belonging to something greater than ourselves.
I am spending less time dwelling on the past or stressing over the future. The gentle experiences I am capable of embracing in this present moment is what is important. Life can be what we believe it to be when we actually take notice of all of the incredible things that surround us.
I think less about what people think of me because most of the time it is really just about what I am perceiving what their thoughts are. I think more about the energy I am sending out into the universe and simply allow other’s to simply be. I am less critical of other’s as I understand my own life but can rarely understand what motivates others in acting the way they do. I know just like me they too have their own lives to figure out and where they are may not be the same place I am in life. When they say or do things to anger me I simply smile and walk away as I know they have certain untamed emotions that at times need to get out.
I am working to figure out many more ways of creating a more “Gentle Life” with all of the tools I have read about and started practicing in books and posts about minimalism and simple living and many more from my own thoughts of my life. Sometimes there are certain aspects of living simple that are simple to others but not to me. I found myself in this situation recently when I had to go out and purchase a new suit. The old one was in great shape as I rarely wear a suit but given that I had lost weight during the summer I ended up donated some clothing that I felt I would never wear again only to discover that I have put on muscle weight through working out and needed a larger suit. Sometimes the things that we do don’t always make sense in the future. I am learning to not give into the excitement of an initial idea that I believe makes sense. Instead I take time to actually think about the idea and how it would apply to my life. For me purchasing a new suit is not a “Gentle” experience and I could avoided both the stress and the money spent on a new suit if I had simply left the old one in the closet.
There is so much more to the “Gentle Life” other than the things we own. It is the way we treat others or allow others to treat us. It’s about making a conscience choice of constantly moving towards positive things while avoiding negative things. It’s about learning to laugh each day both at the world and ourselves. It’s about analyzing the events in our lives and determining if they are worth getting upset over. It’s about giving up control when the truth is that we really have no control and learning to accept those things. It’s about knowing that every aspect of our lives is subject to change and by being prepared to accept these changes we can approach them gently. Our lives were meant to be lived in a gently way most of the time but we have seemed to create ways of making them not so gentle. It’s time to discover or rediscover this feeling of gentleness.