Walden revisited

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

'It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful, but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts."

Henry David Thoreau wrote that while reflecting on his time at Walden Pond. One day I found another quote that made me think of Thoreau: "Do not keep anything in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful" (William Morris).

OK, I thought, how many things do I have that I don't need?

The answer was embarrassing. I was like the man in Christ's parable who had so many things, he had to store them in different buildings. And one day he found out that "life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which [one] possesseth" (see Luke 12:15-21).

It was the beginning of an awakening for me. I was too centered on material possessions. So I began to make a change. I gave away many things to other people who could use them. I stopped shopping all the time. I stopped overspending. For the first time, it felt natural to be joyful and grateful for all the abundance I already had. And a freedom came when I started sharing with others. It felt as though a weight had been lifted off.

When expressing more unconditional love becomes the motivation for what we do, I realized, that's when happiness begins. And when I'm happier, it's easier to say no to purchases that aren't needed. Not that this has always been easy. But there is a peace that has come with it. And less baggage to drag around.

Anyone can make this change. It is simply a change of thought. Look at the many wonderful, lasting things we can accumulate: grace, forgiveness, humility, generosity, love and patience. These are qualities of God, who is the divine Spirit; therefore they are spiritual in nature. Seeking to express the spiritual qualities of God brings a freedom; we are not giving up anything, but are actually gaining what it real.

I'm not living in austerity, or following Thoreau into the woods. But I am trying to follow some guidance laid out in another book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," written by Mary Baker Eddy: "If the disciple is advancing spiritually, he is striving to enter in. He constantly turns away from material sense, and looks towards the imperishable things of Spirit" (pg. 21).

Spiritual qualities are true treasures. When I looked up the word possessions in a synonym finder, I found the word baggage. That offers an interesting contrast. Who wants to carry around heavy baggage?

Focusing on spiritual treasures for the joy of it is a way of depending on God more. It does not mean going without the material things you need in your life. God provides all good for His/Her children. As Jesus said regarding food and clothes, "Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things." But he did advise, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" (Matt. 6:32, 33).

Can grace ever wear out? Can love ever be stolen? Can a person ever have too much humility? These are the possessions, the spiritual gifts, that come from God. I'm finding they don't weigh me down, and that they bring more satisfaction than I had before.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. Matthew 13:45-48

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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