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Readings for Reflection: March 2015
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel

Reflections on SIMPLICITY

Elaine Prevallet belongs to the community of the Sisters of Loretto, which had its beginning in Kentucky in 1812, and was one of the first Roman Catholic orders of women to be founded in the U.S. She has studied Zen Buddhism in the U.S. and Japan, and worked at Pendle Hill for several years. The excerpts below are from her Pendle Hill Pamphlet Reflections on SIMPLICITY, which grew out of retreat talks in 1980 and represents her life-time concern for the practice of simplicity. I found reading the entire pamphlet quite moving and it spoke to me in my discernment on finding increased simplicity in my life. ~ Catherine McClary

When I imagine my own life simple and uncomplicated, I picture my room and desk tidy, everything in its place. I myself am moving gracefully and graciously from one task to the next with precision, on schedule but with no strain or pressure. The schedules and the tasks are perfectly synchronized. It could all be so simple, I say to myself, if everything were only in its place.

But it isnít. Itís complicated. . . . Itís complicated because there is too much to do, too many tasks, too many needs, too much going on. I canít keep up with it all; Iím always at least a step or two behind. . . . Itís complicated because thereís never enough time. . . . I am unable to find time, take time, get time: all control words. Mostly what I find is frustration. My life is out of control. I feel a need to be in control of my life and all the factors, situations, and people that complicate it. I set myself over-against them and need to dominate them, to subject them to my agenda, fit them into my program. . . .

The illusion, of course, is that the source of the complication is outside myself. We are quite prone to think and react that way: to blame the pace of life, technology, communications, the state of the world we live in. No doubt there is some truth in that; the networking of our world has become increasingly complex. But I also know that I can complicate a very simple and orderly environment. The real source of the complications, the anxiety, the tensions, the guilt, lies within. . . .

The process of becoming simple is the process of letting go of the desire for the power to control my own life. . . . From this vantage point, it looks as if one cannot aim at simplicity itself, but only approach it from the back door, that is the door of letting go or detaching, as that is revealed to us. From this vantage point, one can reach the master whom one wants to serve only by discovering the false masters, the idols, progressively revealed as oneís own lust for control.

From Elaine Prevallet, Reflections on SIMPLICITY, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #244, available at and in the Corner Room. Reprinted with permission.

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