less-is-moreTim Kasser, PhD, a professor of psychology, and Kirk Warren Brown, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology recently completed a research study that validates my theory that fufillment comes from living the life of the heart. Their results are reported in one of the essays in a wonderful new book published by New Society Publishers called Less is More, edited by Cecile Andrews and Wanda Urbanska. In their article, “A Scientific Approach to Voluntary Simplicity,” they say, “A primary, take-home message of the findings of this study is that living more happily. . .is (depndendent on) whether (people) are living in a conscious, mindful way and with a set of values organized around intrinsic fulfillment,” which they define as “. . .personal development, relationships and community,” rather than the materialistic values of consumer culture.

This is only one of the nuggets of gold found in this collection of essays about Simplicity, a way of living that is gaining increasing popularity as we experience the consequences of living an ever busier, more acquisitive and more self-focussed life. We find that despite our material well-being we are less happy, more stressed, less connected to others and our most important relationships harder to maintain. On a broader level we find ourselves in economic disarray, our health worsening and the health of our planet in crisis. Simplicity, which is part of a broader movement that includes the slow food and slow living movement, promotes a life that brings us closer to the heart. As Cecile Andrews says in the introduction, what all of the definitions of Simplicity have in common is “a sense of clearing away the extraneous, stripping away the inessential. It’s about what’s real, what’s important or, again, as Thoreau put it, ‘life near the bone where it is sweetest.’ ” This corresponds to my definition of heart, which is living in harmony with our essential nature.

I’m embarrassed to say that one of the joys of this book is to get introduced to the big thinkers and transformational leaders in this movement, of whom I have been previously unfamiliar. These include such luminaries as Bill McKibben, Sarah Susanka, Jerome Segal, Dave Wann and several others too numerous to name but equally as impressive, including the editors.  Their writing matchest their philosophy: it is simple without being simplistic. It is essential, meaningful, enlightening and heartfelt.

Another delight in reading Less is More is to discover the works of New Society Publishers, a small press that comes out of Gabriola Island in British Columbia, Canada. Their mission is to publish books that promote sustainable living, a just society and a healthy planet. They, too, walk their talk. Their books are simply attractive while their company operates with a carbon-neutral footprint.

I am both educated and inspired by the writings in Less is More. Living simply, like finding the heart, is the work of a lifetime. It is not easy to get there, but it provides a life of ease once the goal is reached. This book is a wonderful contribution to reorienting our lives away from the alienating influences of our shame-inducing consumer culture back toward what is really important: the choice to care for ourselves, others and the planet in a simple, loving way.

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