Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich
During the past year I've witnessed a number of families, couples, and individuals struggling to survive and or recover from the continuing economic storm. In all too many instances I've found myself comforting and supporting people who have lost their jobs, have had their standard of living substantially reduced, and who have lost their homes in some cases. A national survey conducted in 2009 found that "Individuals who are unemployed are four times as likely as those with jobs to report symptoms consistent with severe mental illness. Americans who experienced involuntary changes in their employment status, such as pay cuts or reduced hours, also are twice as likely to have these symptoms, even though they are employed full time..."
The lives of millions of Americans have been disrupted and "the unknown 'next chapter' seems the scariest of all" laments a middle aged professional who has been unemployed now for well over a year.
While it's all too true that the begining of these 'next' life chapters have all been highly distressing and anxiety provoking, I've been touched and encouraged as I've observed the unfolding of some very special'next chapters' - chapters that have led to loss in terms of reduced material wealth and yet have yielded significant personal growth and greater overall mental health.
Until recently our global economy produced more wealth than at any time in history and yet overall levels of happiness failed to rise, while the use of antidepressants increased substantially. Tragically, it appears that our material prosperity came at all too high a cost to the planet, her inhabitants, and to future generations.
Author of "Prosperity Without Growth," Tim Jackson, connects the economic crash to a world view that led to far too many of us “Spending money we don’t have, on things that we don’t need, to make impressions that don’t last, on people we don’t care about,” and encourages us to use this current economic crisis to dramatically shift our value systems and engage in life styles that promote far greater well-being and true prosperity. In a review of his book, EarthScan: Publishing for a Sustainable Future
affirmed, "The book opens up dialogue on the most urgent task of our times—the challenge of a new prosperity encompassing our ability to flourish as human beings—within the ecological limits of a finite planet."
As a therapist and grandmother, I am grateful to those who are offering us healthy alternatives to a currently toxic economic system.
I've been tremendously impressed by a social movement that has been identified as "voluntary simplicity" and have altered my own life as I've continued to learn from it. Author of "Voluntary Simplicity" and one of the most respected leaders of the movement, Duane Elgin, describes voluntary simplicity as "living in a way what is outwardly simple and inwardly rich. This way of life embraces frugality of consumption, a strong sense of environmental urgency, a desire to return to living and working environments which are of a more human scale, and an intention to realize our higher human potential — both psychological and spiritual — in community with others..."
Following are some links to a few voluntary simplicity resources.
Simple Living Net
Choosing Voluntary Simplicity
Mother Earth News
Take Back Your Time