Pagan Simplicity

Mar 30th, 2013 | By | Category: Articles

joann vander HoevenRecently I made a vow to give up at least one day of media in the form of television, radio, telephone and internet.  It had to be a day when I was home alone, to force me to relearn how I spend my time.  It has, literally, changed my life in just a few short days.

It all began on a day when I wasn’t in the office, a day where I would usually spend doing housework, writing my new book, updating my blog, organising dance classes, performances and generally seeing what others were up to on Facebook. I realised that the latter could quite easily take up as much time as all the other jobs combined.  This terrified me.

So, I decided that I wasn’t going to do any television, any internet, telephone or radio that day.  Sadly, I only managed one out of the four, but extenuating circumstances put it beyond my control.  I was ill, and had to go online to let my students know that class was cancelled that evening. The phone rang, and I saw it was an international number, and though it was my family in Canada (turns out it was a telemarketer).  My husband came home after work, sat next to me and immediately turned on the television to watch the news. When I asked him why he didn’t just want to take a moment just to decompress, his response was that it was habit.  This opened up my eyes further.

I had gotten into some habits, which although were not altogether bad, they certainly weren’t the best use of my time in any sort of relationship, whether that was simply with myself, or my husband, the cats, the birds and the trees in the backyard.  I had gotten used to distractions.  I needed to relearn and rethink.

As I stated earlier, I was ill – I had come down with a head cold, so I was tired, achey, sneezy and generally run down.  I could have quite easily just sat on the sofa with tea and watched television or dvd’s all day. Instead, I decided to do something that would help me on my new mission to find out what really matters to me in my life, and avoid distractions.  I started to declutter.

I started with the kitchen.  Cleaning all the dishes, the sink and getting the recycling done.  I then looked around, and thought to myself – what do I need to live? What is useful in my life, in this room, and what isn’t?  On to the decluttering!  The bread bin went – we keep our bread in the fridge, as our kitchen is quite warm and bread tends to go mouldy in the bread bin after a couple of days.  The blender went into the cupboard, as it wasn’t used on a daily basis.  The mail pile was sorted, and the mail that needed responding to kept in a basket on the counter. Now the only things on the kitchen counters were the mail basket, the toaster, the chopping board, the microwave and the oven mitt.  Clean counters – wow!

Inspired, I went into the dining room and started decluttering there.  I have a welsh dresser that holds my collection of witches, which started from a set of four that my mother gave me nearly twenty years ago.  I love my witches, and they give me pleasure to look at, so they were staying.  The dining room table got decluttered, with all the papers finding their proper homes in files, and the decorations on the table reduced to those that I simply loved and thought looked nice (a candle, a small wooden bird and a bowl carved out of a burl of an oak tree).  Looking around, it was all much easier to clean and to keep clean.

I then proceeded to the living room, which was already pretty much decluttered before winter. One or two items were given better homes.  I then went upstairs to the bedroom and decluttered there.  I had about 20 framed photos on my dresser – an altar to the ancestors.  I kept five of them and put the rest into a photo album that now rests on the dresser, so I can still look at them whenever I want.  Two candles and two candle holders that my mother made are the only other adornment on the large dresser – again, so much easier to clean! I had not realised how much dust was gathering behind the photos. Then I was onto the home office, and the bathroom…

And then onto my altar room.  The altar is pretty clear to begin with, but it could be better to make it easier to clean.  So again, I was ruthless, keeping only the artwork and fetishes that I loved on my altar, and getting rid of everything else or finding a better home for it.  I looked at my bookshelf, and reorganised that was well. It astounded me how many books I had on paganism.  Now, I have nothing against reading books – it’s one of my favourite pastimes!  But just how many books did I need on Druidry?  They all said pretty much the same thing. 

This got me thinking.  How much stuff does the average pagan collect?   I know that when I go to the beach, I usually come back with a holed stone, or a feather.  This goes onto my altar, along with other fetishes picked up here and there on my travels both at home and around the world.  Let this continue to gather, and there won’t be any room left on the altar! I used to have my working knife, a bowl of water, a bowl of earth, candles and many other paraphernalia – but then realised that I would just have to clean around all these things.  If I didn’t absolutely love it, it was simply causing me mental, visual and spiritual clutter.  It was taking up time and space that could be better used actually living.  Out they went, or into their proper homes (knife in drawer, for instance, for easy access when I need it). 

Books – so many, many books.  Most of them saying the same thing.  Why did I buy them in the first place?  With the hope that they would make me a better Druid? That they would contain some deeper mystery?  The deeper mysteries were outside, lying beneath the beech tree among the daffodils waiting to open, in the trees where the pigeons have now started to sit two by two.  Off to the local “pagan library” they are going (Ipswich Pagan Council has a library of books that people can borrow).

I took stock of my clothing. What did I need, what did I love, and what else could I donate the friends and charity?  I clear out my wardrobe every spring and every autumn, but even so when I was ruthless, another two rubbish bags full of clothes came out to go to charity.  I was astounded.

My house was filled with “stuff”.  So much of that stuff was actually a hindrance to my spirituality.  Home is now de-cluttered, and media time seriously reduced so that I can spend time doing what is most beneficial to me and to the causes that I support.  I have more time now to write, to work on music, to volunteer for charity. 

The trappings of life, even for a pagan, can easily overwhelm us.  It’s only when we have control over our possessions, and not the other way around, do we truly begin to understand what really matters.  Life, and living it, is what really matters.  Set yourself free! Learn the art of simplicity – relearning what you need instead of what you desire, examining those desires deeply to understand the root of them.  Advertising, commercialism and consumerism is at the heart of most. Greed, envy – if only we could be like them. Instead, learn to be yourself again.  Take the time to be alone, to rediscover your true self, amidst all your possessions.  Let those go that don’t enhance your life, and just who you are once again. Then go out in the world and share that wonderful being – a free, simple pagan. How wonderful!

joann vander HoevenJoanna van der Hoeven is a Druid, the Director of a Belly Dance Company, a Marketing Officer for a music company and an author. She was born in Canada and moved to the UK in 1998.  Her philosophy on life is simple – live it. Fully and as aware as you can. Don’t go with the flow. Be the flow itself. She lives in East Anglia, UK.

4 Comments to “Pagan Simplicity”

  1. This is one the best articles I have have read in a while. I have just moved from the middle of the USA to the east coast. I to am sick and have been reflecting. I am having difficulty unpacking all of my stuff. Why do I need it? I have been spending hours on TV and the computer-at the same time that is until yesterday. I just couldn’t take anymore noise. It was like losing myself. I did read and then sat in the warm sun with my dog. I realized that I need to turn the TV OFF! Reading your article was inspirational. I realize that if I am still looking at boxes I probably don’t need what is in them. I also have several in my garage……

    • Joanna says:

      There are so many distractions that we have made for ourselves as human beings, for various reasons – to deny or distract ourselves from our own mortality, our problems and our suffering – all we have to do is realise them for what they are, and return to the reality of our selves once again – and turning off the television is the best way to start living! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. x

  2. Beth McDonald says:

    I So completely understand this first hand! I tried for a month to have a technology free day…my huz is a tree surgeon(removal trim etc) we are a really small 4 person co. EveryThing, and I do mean Every Thing that could go wrong, did. From faxing INS to a potential client(LARGE) client, to needing parts for a necessary piece of equipment. After a month of choosing days that didn’t work, I gave up. The few days a month that I go to town, I use nothing, some days a cell to check in w/daughter & gbaby at the hose. All this ramble to say? I Need To Get Out More;)

  3. Joanna says:

    My “distraction free days” have to be flexible, as I work away from home several days a week. But I am keeping up with it for at least one day a week, and it’s just brilliant – the days seem so much longer! It almost feels like a return to my youth, when I read, or was outside more, or writing – we didn’t have cable television, so we didn’t watch much TV then. It really does feel like a return to a “purer” self – and even gives me time to consider the notion of the self…

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