How Quakerism “spices” my life

Do you ever feel there are just not enough hours in the day? I know I am nowhere near as busy as other people in this world, but I am very prone to getting overwhelmed by the tug-of-war between the goals I set for myself and the tasks I need to accomplish (i.e. work). listAchieving balance in my life is very important to me. I thrive when I have lots to do and flounder when there is not enough to do. However, I have started to recognize in the past few months how important it is to just relax, empty my mind, and do something for pure enjoyment. I used to feel guilty sitting down to watch a television show or sleeping in past 10 am (not that I did not do those things, I just always felt guilty). However, I am starting to recognize the need to do those things in order to keep myself sane. T can probably take a lot of credit for this change in mindset because he is constantly telling me to slow down.

And so I get to my point: I have been reflecting a lot on how Quakerism has influenced my life and my attitude toward achieving balance. I am a birthright Quaker and attended a Quaker school for ten years, so Quakerism has played a huge role in my upbringing and self-discovery.

While I am not at all a religious person, I embrace the life values that Quakerism instills in its members.

To organize my thoughts on how Quakerism has shaped me, I am turning to the six Quaker values, often referred to as SPICES, and reflecting on them.

Simplicity

Do not get bogged down by the small stuff. While I do enjoy a bit of gossip here and there (who doesn’t?), I do my absolute best to stay away from drama. Drama is fed by small details that in the larger scheme of things are just not that important and cause more stress than necessary. Of course I am generalizing. Some drama is important, but I try to put everything in context.

As a very detail-oriented person, looking at the larger picture is difficult. Yes, I am unhappy at my job. But it is not only giving me very valuable experience and a paycheck, but also putting in perspective what is important to me. I have learned to appreciate the simple things in life – my puppy rolling on her back to greet me every evening, the golden rays of a setting sun, laughing with my friends, homecooked meals made with fresh ingredients, bear hugs from my boyfriend after a long week at work.

Those simple things sustain me. If I get bogged down by details and drama, I will forget to live simply and enjoy what I would otherwise take for granted.

Peace

Quakers are known for nonviolence and opposition to war. While I could go on and on about my views on war and violence, I would rather focus on a different interpretation of peace – a moment of silence and clarity when the mind is balanced and still.

Often I load so much on my to-do list that I forget to take a breath. My mind never shuts down. It constantly whirs. I have a hard time focusing because I am always looking ahead or jumping from one task to the next. My lists get longer throughout the day as I think of all the things I should do: work-related tasks, check email, work on stats assignment, study for stats midterm, continue editing bio on Grandmother, update blog, check in with old friends on FB, watch videos on wrapping polo wraps, floss, clean my office, run, etc. You get the point. I get carried away and I almost never finish my to-do list, especially now that I am working.

I do not mind my incomplete to-do list, but because I let it get so long and I always feel that there is so much that I should be doing, I forget to breathe and quiet my mind. From age 8 to 18, I was required to go to meeting twice a week during school hours. As cliche as it sounds, I miss it. I did not appreciate it then, but now I miss the silence, the scheduled time to empty my mind.

Perhaps it will take a lifetime to find inner peace. But, no matter how crazy life gets, I must never forget to take a moment breathe, reflect, and smile.

Integrity

I try to always be honest and respectful of the other people in my life, that is rarely a problem since I embrace the Golden Rule – treat others the way you want to be treated.

However, being honest and true to myself and my beliefs is not always easy.

During a time when we are bombarded by fact, fiction, and half-truths, it is hard to know what to think. We are constantly pulled back and forth as the media features debate after debate on topics varying from food ways to war to racial relations to environmental degradation. Since I am a bit of a people-pleaser, I’ve found it challenging to develop my own views on different issues. As I continue sculpting my thoughts on different subjects, I know I must stay true to myself, my morals, and my beliefs.

By embracing integrity internally, I can then let my life speak in ways that reflect my integrity and influence others to be true to themselves.

Community

Community takes on many forms. Each person is a member of multiple communities – friends, school, work, family, neighborhood, town, city, country, world. While I could write a whole book on the importance of community, ultimately it comes down to being an active and caring citizen of your community.

Trying to balance your individual needs with the demands of your different communities is not an easy task. In fact, it is usually overwhelming. Yet it is very important to stay involved and connected with your community, no matter how much is going on. My community, as small as it is, is my support system. Without the people in my community, I would be lost.

Equality

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory and pretty much a given in my life. I treat everyone as if they are equals. I do not think we should judge one another based on labels. It is the inner self that matters. I do my best do look for the good in everyone, even though that is pretty hard to do sometimes.

Stewardship

Stewardship is a very important part of tending to our community. As stewards, we must take care of the people and land around us. This occurs on a small local level to the larger global level. If each person does their part, the world will be a better place. I am resolved to do my best to be a good steward of my community and my environment through acts of kindness, volunteering, and everyday good.

SPICES

By embracing these six values in my life, I feel balanced and whole. Spicing up life is important and I must always remember that. So now that I’ve talked about everything I need, must, should, will do, I have to actually do it – easier said than done! Luckily I have people in life that keep me grounded and focused, but also support my dreams and ambitions. It is with the support of my community that I can live a simple life full of integrity, equality, peace – and of course happiness!

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