Those who have visited monasteries of monks or nuns, who keep the true spirit and discipline of poverty, not accumulating things, but keeping the buildings clean, with some religious art, but simple, know how soothing simplicity can be for the soul.
I have written about the necessity for simplicity and for not accumulating things for the sake of focus and restfulness. However, another idea came to my mind last night regarding the necessity of not having lots of stuff around the house.
God wants all of us to purify our memories and imaginations. The purification of memories involves a drastic weaning and distancing of the mind from attachments of and in the past. For example, and I am making this up, if one looks at a vase from a boyfriend thirty years ago, one is letting one’s imagination get stuck in that past relationship. What one learned and became through a relationship, becomes part of one’s character. However, God wants a sort of forgetfulness in order to come into one’s soul. He is jealous Lover.
One cannot grow in the spiritual life is one is constantly reliving the past, or going over the past in one’s memory. Such a soul does not respond to the daily invitations of God to live in the present moment alone.
The detritus of our past actually prevents us from moving on in the spiritual life. The purgation which occurs in the Dark Night frees the memory from past attachments.
Things remind us of past events and people, which can be good if such memories lead us to God. However, even good things which remind us of the past can be obstacles to living in the present moment. For example, if I look at a picture of my past four cats, I may be drawn into other memories which do not aid my spiritual walk with God.
One’s mind needs to be clear in order to discern God’s will for the day, the hour, the moment. When one is surrounded by clutter, one gets bogged down in the past.
God wants each one of us free from all attachments, and things can be like hooks leading us away from thinking about God to thinking about the past.
The same movement of the mind affects the imagination. God wants our imagination to be freed of all attachments. Most of the day, not all, I live in silence. This silence frees my imagination from being clogged up with other thoughts and inner pictures. If I write, I pray about writing. I meditate and let God provide me with His thoughts. Only my own limitations and lack of talent, as well as the still impurity of my imagination and memory, block God’s grace and His perfect will in my life. One can ask God to remove such blocks.
Too often, (especially those members of Gen X, who were raised in a highly psychological environment, even being taken to psychologists and psychiatrists as kids, instead of facing discipline in the home), people excuse the lack of spiritual growth and even sin because of so-called psychological reasons. One’s mind can get stuck in the past too easily and things can add to this problem.
Grace is greater than all events, people, trauma in one’s life…much greater. We as Catholics must never excuse sin or the lack of growth on the road to perfection because of the past.
Things in the home should be kept to what is necessary and to what is beautiful. And collecting things will clog the memory and imagination, taking time away from God’s Presence in the moment in which one lives, now.
Simplicity brings peace and freedom. Simplicity allows God to fill the soul with His Beauty and His Love. He is Beauty, He is Love, and He is Simplicity.
Pray about the accumulation of things in your spaces, at home, and at work.
God does not work in clutter or chaos. He works in order and in simplicity.
When I lived in Europe, because most Europeans do not need to accumulate things and live more in communities, I felt this freedom of not being bogged down with stuff. Americans seem to have a need to show the world that they have money or status with the accumulation of things. Things are shorthand in this country for status. People judge others even by the newness and trendiness of one’s cell phone.
When I lived in England, we had millionaires next to us in a humble village. They were not into conspicuous wealth. They did not need to tell the world how wealthy they were.
Their house was beautiful but simple.
To live outside this type of cluttered world means that one must make decisions about one’s life. Simplicity can be truly freeing. I think retro television shows, retro music and retro furniture can be detrimental to one’s spiritual growth. The simplicity of buildings, sounds, visual images requires a break with the past.