How Much is Enough?

This is My Symphony

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common –this is my symphony.

–William Henry Channing (1810-1884)

As we wade our way through the many and varied demands of daily living, it is often not something we think of to let the spiritual part of our being “grow up through the common,” as Channing describes. Life feels too busy and complex to pause long enough to experience the contentment that comes from tuning into all the simple blessings that present themselves, moment to moment. The mindset of scarcity can easily take over: there is not enough time, money, energy, respect, assistance, freedom, fill in the blank.

Not enough.

For those of us who seek a religious community, we may participate in worship and other deepening activities as opportunities for appreciating what sustains and satisfies us:

  • Reflect on the relationships that fill our hearts with love and friendship.
  • Experience reverence for life, with its rainbow of emotions and challenges.
  • Encounter enough when we reorder our priorities and simplify our daily existence.
  • Connect deeply with our passions and sense of purpose.

Author Adam Hamilton suggests five steps for simplifying our lives as a means of cultivating contentment, reducing stress and clutter that may begin to dominate our existence, and open up new opportunities for generosity:

1. Reduce our consumption and choose to live below our means.

2. Check our intentions before purchasing–Do I really need this? Why do I want this?

3. Use up what we have before acquiring something else.

4. Plan enriching activities that are low-cost or no-cost.

5. Identify the major changes that could be made to simplify your life and still bring satisfaction–houses, vehicles, possessions, jobs, time commitments.

As the late Rev. Forrest Church, expressed so succinctly and powerfully…

Do what you can. Want what you have. Be who you are. Love fearlessly.

Inspiration for this blog post:

Church, Forrest. A variety of books and audio resources are found at the UUA Bookstore, and an archive of sermons online at the All Souls New York City:

Hamilton, Adam. Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity. Abingdon press. 2009.

1 thought on “How Much is Enough?

  1. Thanks for this reflection. It reminds me a lot of Voluntary Simplicity put out by the Northwest Earth Institute.


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