Sep 22, 2009

Cecile Andrew's "The Circle of Simplicity"

A few years ago, I happened to pick up a book that was sitting on my dad's coffee table. Something about the book drew me in immediately - maybe it was the soft yellow cover, or the word simplicity in the title. Whatever it was that drew me in, once I started reading it I became immediately hooked. I actually found my self nodding during certain passages. It was like Cecile Andrews' book had landed itself in my lap at a time when my life was otherwise in a state of complete chaos. I was wearing so many different titles I couldn't even keep them straight in my own head. I was a full-time doctoral student entering my second year of coursework; I was a full-time high school English teacher responsible everyday for 180+ students; I was a head coach; I was a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, a friend... I was in over my head and was drowning quickly.

Reading The Circle of Simplicity gave me a new perspective on life. I began to slow down immediately. I cleaned out my personal and professional possessions. Then I cleaned them out again, and again, and again until I finally felt like I had spaces that were workable and peaceful. I started a simplicity circle with one of my colleagues from school. We focused on how we could simplify our lives amidst the seemingly never-ending chaos. I began to once again place my own needs above the needs of all those around me. I started saving money so that I could take a year off of work to finish my dissertation. I began to run again, and cycle, and do yoga. I started treating my body better, slowing down when I ate, fueling myself with healthier, whole foods. I lost thirty pounds. My anxiety began to lessen, my chest pains went away, I began to sleep better at night. I started to incorporate the ideas and ideals of the voluntary simplicity work into my doctoral coursework on social and educational justice. Maybe I started to smile more.

Those are some of the personal benefits I received from reading Andrew's book, creating a simplicity circle, and putting some of her suggestions into practice. Here are some of the book's highlights, in no particular order:
1. The focus on community - Andrews is a big advocate of people getting together to talk about their journeys toward simplicity (thus, the mention of "circle" in the book's title). It's about sharing our stories, but I also think it's about accountability to ourselves and others.
2. Andrew's honesty with sharing her own story - Now THIS is something I can really relate to. It's always nice when authors are honest, yet humble, about the journeys they have traveled. Andrews is one such author.
3. The quotes - There's some really good quotes in this book. I'm sure I'll be citing them frequently throughout my posts.
4. The fire metaphor - For some reason, this is a metaphor that works. She compares the journey towards simplicity to the lighting of a fire.

Andrews has a brand new book out. It's a collection of essays and mine just arrived in the mail yesterday. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on this book in a later post. If you haven't read The Circle of Simplicity, though, go to your local library or used bookstore or whatever source you have for getting good used books, find the book, take it home, and curl up on your couch with a blanket and a nice cup of coffee or tea. Happy reading.

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