Students Practice Voluntary Simplicity
By Aaron Epp
Keeping the Sabbath is difficult—at least, that’s what Jenny Johnston found.
Johnston, a CMU student from Abbotsford, B.C., chose to keep the Sabbath as part of a voluntary simplicity course she took at the university with instructor Aiden Enns. As part of the course, Enns required each student to incorporate some aspect of voluntary simplicity into their lives.
For Johnston, a social science major, that has meant not doing schoolwork or running errands on Sundays. Instead, she used the time for attending church, being with friends and for “settling down and remembering that life is about taking it slow, one day at a time.”
It has been difficult to organize her time to keep Sundays free, Johnston says, but there have been benefits. She is more relaxed, and has realized that although school is important, “it’s not everything. I need to have a day to think about other things, or not think about anything.”
Ashley Cole, an International Development Studies (IDS) major from Calgary, chose to take time to sit in silence and do nothing for 10 minutes each day. Like Johnston, Cole found the practice difficult. Still, it taught her that living simply isn’t only about what you do physically. “It means considering your motives, your perspectives, and your reasoning behind what you’re doing,” she says.
Through the course, students examined the concept, theory and practice of voluntary simplicity, and also how it could be a means of development for people seeking alternatives to consumer values and culture. They also explored the historical roots and modern expressions of voluntary simplicity, with an emphasis on its relevance to building emotional well-being, vibrant community, a sustainable environment and social justice.
Enns admits to being surprised and intimidated by the experiments the students attempted, such as one student who vowed not to use her stove. Enns says she made lasagna and rice outside over an open flame in her backyard—in Winnipeg in February, no less.
Another young woman cut her wardrobe down by 80 percent, to see what it’s like to wear the same clothes more often, while another gave up her cell phone.
“That’s courageous,” he says, adding many students decided to adopt two or three practices. “I look at my life and I want to keep up with them [but] it’s hard.”
Reprinted with permission from the May 12, 2008 Canadian Mennonite.
Posted August 12th, 2008
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