busy Edith Stein

Disciplined Pursuit of Simplicity

6:00:00 AMCristina Ramos

Screenshot 2015-03-07 at 02.17.58.png25 different tasks are going through my mind right now.  At least.  

*Ding* 

Just got a new group text message.  So make that 26 different tasks.

We all do it.  

We all can get hyper indulged in the basic tasks of life.  As a matter of fact, we tend to not just take on these basic tasks, but add on even more just...because.

If you’re anything like me, you know how to keep yourself busy.  And that’s good.  No one wants to aimlessly wander about with nothing to do.  Keeping busy can help protect the value of purpose and direction in our lives.  I am all for being productive and intentional with our time.

Yet this is precisely where I pause -- productive and intentional.  The intentional part seems to come easy.  For me at least, it’s fairly straightforward to do something once I’ve firmly committed in my will to do it.  Intentionality in this sense is clear, unambiguous.  There’s no tension there.  It’s the “productive” aspect I remain so unsure about.

Have you ever completed everything on your To-Do list and still felt utterly unresolved at the end of the day?  Or perhaps collapsed on your bed at the end of what feels like the longest day in the world, and wondered what in the world you actually did?  Or--better yet--when someone asks how your day was and you have absolutely no idea what to say?  Your mind races with all the things you did yet there’s this bitter aftertaste of frustration in which, you feel like you did nothing. Yet you know you didn’t experience a single moment to yourself, so by deductive reasoning, you did a lot of something . . . right?

This is precisely what I’m talking about.  This ambiguous tension between doing something and being meaningful.  This gap that we often encounter between what we do and who we are.  This is why I pause over the word “productive.”

While keeping busy can help protect the value of purpose and sense of direction in our lives, there comes a point where keeping busy just becomes plain old destructive.  And this destruction is intuitively, counter-productive.

That’s right.  That extra task you just added on to your Thursday night?  It’s not helping you.  It’s potentially destroying you.  That event you agreed to bright and early Monday morning to get one step ahead?  It’s potentially bringing you three steps back.

Sounds harsh, I know.  But hear me out:

Productive is not synonymous with busy.  

Productivity certainly aims to keep us purpose driven.  But to what purpose?  What is the deep rooted aim?  If in the shuffle of the busyness this sense of meaningful purpose begins to blur, it’s time to rethink those tasks.

To this end, let us approach a woman who has been cherished and respected over time for her intense purpose filled life: St. Edith Stein.  If there is anyone to take note of in regard to living with purpose, it’s this woman.  Stein lived an exemplary contemplative life.  As a result, her entire life was sure footed with great intentionality and meaningful purpose.  She knew far greater than most people who she was and that reflected precisely what she decided to do with her time.  We all have the same amount of hours in a day.  Stein is a model of how to make those hours excel to their greatest potential so that we may be productive in its most fulfilling sense.

Upon reading her book The Hidden Life, what struck me the most was her continual commitment to simplicity.

Simplicity was key for Stein to unlock the mystery of potential and purpose within her.  This lifestyle took diligence, yet it was extremely fruitful.  Simplicity was absolutely needed to become unblurred from the distractions of life.  In the introductory remark of her book she encapsulated the capstone value of her entire life:  

“To stand before the face of the living God--that is our vocation.”

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This radical discovery of purpose became her anchor throughout all of life.  

This realization of meaning was the perpetual standard she came back to over and over again.  It was the standard she used to measure everything she did.  This immense sense of purpose shaped her whole identity.  This purpose became, in many ways, the summary of her life. Her entire life breathed this purpose.

There is something radically freeing about understanding our purpose.  Suddenly, when we understand our purpose, everything else in retrospect seems trivial.  It automatically creates a sense of ordering of priorities where we can see what’s important and what we can let go.  Understanding our purpose allows us to do less work with more fulfilling productivity.  It’s like having the clouds clear up on a foggy day and, alas, we can once again feel the warmth of sun on our skin.

Never lose sight of this warmth of purpose.  

This warmth of purpose is not childish, mundane, or wasteful.  This warmth of purpose illuminates your entire being; it causes your existence to glow.  Simply put, this simplicity of purpose causes everything you do to instantaneously be brought to life.

Stein knew exactly what her vocation was in life.  

She was so convicted of this purpose in fact, that she extended this vocation to all of us: to behold the face of God.  Can you find truth in this?  If not, what is your purpose?  What is it that seems to come from within so strongly that it evidently seems to spring up from your deepest sense of self?  What is this purpose?  To where is this calling?

My advice to you: unplug your phone for a moment.  Disconnect from wifi.  I challenge you to do this every day.  Be present in the stillness, in the silence.  Discovering your purpose takes time, and rediscovering it takes even more time.  Give yourself this time, every day.  Be disciplined in your pursuit of simplicity.  

Allow the world to hustle and bustle around you.  I guarantee: the world will keep spinning without you being busy.  The world doesn’t need you to keep it spinning, it needs you to discover what makes you spin.  And when you find it, hold onto it.  Let that be your standard for measuring all the tasks in your life.  Let this be your anchor, your compass.  Let this pursuit of simplicity illuminate not just how you can do less but how you can be more.

What do you say?

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 Cristina Ramos 

I love the beach.  The rhythmic motion of waves is always sure to put me at ease.  Its stillness is where I can clearly hear the voice of God.  It is also where I experience the best capacity to put on my beloved hat of creativity to sing, dance, write and contemplate life on all levels, whether philosophical or spiritual.  With everything I face, I remember to carry with me faith, passion, sweet dance moves and a good laugh.  

In the future, I hope to continue to travel the world and be a missionary.  And have lots of cute kids! 


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