Voluntary Simplicity: Toward A Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich

Overview

When Voluntary Simplicity was first published in 1981, it quickly became recognized as a powerful and visionary work in the emerging dialogue over sustainable ways of living. Now, more than ten years later and with many of the planet's environmental stresses having become more urgent than ever, Duane Elgin has revised and updated his revolutionary book.

Voluntary Simplicity is not a book about living in poverty; it is a book about living with balance. It illuminates the pattern ...

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Overview

When Voluntary Simplicity was first published in 1981, it quickly became recognized as a powerful and visionary work in the emerging dialogue over sustainable ways of living. Now, more than ten years later and with many of the planet's environmental stresses having become more urgent than ever, Duane Elgin has revised and updated his revolutionary book.

Voluntary Simplicity is not a book about living in poverty; it is a book about living with balance. It illuminates the pattern of changes that an increasing number of Americans are making in their everyday lives — adjustments in day-to-day living that are an active, positive response to the complex dilemmas of our time. By embracing, either partially or totally, the tenets of voluntary simplicity — frugal consumption, ecological awareness, and personal growth — people can change their lives. And in the process, they have the power to change the world. First published in 1981, Voluntary Simplicity was instantly recognized as a visionary work. The New York Times called it "seminal"; the Wall Street Journal noted that it was "considered the movement's Bible." Revised in 1993 to address the trend toward downshifting, this pertinent book helps us to adjust our thoughts, habits, and goals and embrace the key elements of simplicity: frugal consumption, ecological awareness and personal growth.

America's news movement for personal and social change, toward a way of life that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich.

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Editorial Reviews

Barbara Hubbard
Promise Ahead offers us a new framework for our conscious evolution. A gem to inaugurate the twenty-first century.
Christian Science Monitor
[Promise Ahead] alert[s] us to important problems and offers suggestion[s] that are genuinely constructive.
David C. Korten
Promise Ahead is a powerful message for our time, a seminal contribution to the new stroy, and essential reading for those dedicated to creating a world that works for all.
Elizabeth Dowdeswell
Promise Ahead is a book for the twenty-first century with a clear message: a sustainable planet is not an unreachable goal. Elgin articulates an operating manual of possibility and hope.
Larry Dossey
Promise Ahead is a corrective to the negative messages about the state of our world that are prevalent today. This book deserves the attention of our entire society.
Napra Review
The opportunity trends are what make this book so special, so full of hope, so powerful. Promise Ahead delivers on its promise and deserves to be widely read.
New Age
The very act of envisioning a better future can in itself initiate change. . . .Promise Ahead inspire[s] those necessary dreams.
Robert Johansen
Duane Elgin already lives the future he writes about. Elgin writes with personality, passion, and persistence. Duane Elgin is calling us on a hero's journey where we can all be heroes.
Sam Keen
Duane Elgin's vision of our possible future is both well researched and reasoned and offers us a rare treasure—grounds for hope.
Vicki Robin
Promise Ahead is essential reading for people flooded with information yet filled with confusion. Thankfully, Duane Elgin has the courage ...to provide us with a visionary and plausible road map into the deep future.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688003227
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/1/1981
  • Edition description: 1st Morrow Quill pbk. ed
  • Pages: 312

First Chapter

Chapter One

VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY THE NEW GLOBAL CHALLENGE AT THE HEART OF THE SIMPLE LIFE IS AN EMPHASIS ON harmonious and purposeful living. Richard Gregg was a student of Gandhi's teaching and, in 1936, he wrote the following about a life of "voluntary simplicity":

Voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer condition. It means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, as well as avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of life. It means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions. It involves a deliberate organization of life for a purpose. Of course, as different people have different purposes in life, what is relevant to the purpose of one person might not be relevant to the purpose of another. . . . The degree of simplification is a matter for each individual to settle for himself.

There is no special virtue to the phrase voluntary simplicity -- it is merely a label, and a somewhat awkward label at that. Still, it does acknowledge explicitly that simpler living integrates both inner and outer aspects of life into an organic and purposeful whole.

To live more voluntarily is to live more deliberately, intentionally, and purposefully -- in short, it is to live more consciously. We cannot be deliberate when we are distracted from life. We cannot be intentional when we are not paying attention. We cannot be purposeful when we are not being present. Therefore, to act in a voluntary manner is to be aware of ourselves as we move through life. This requires that we not only pay attention to the actions we take in the outer world, but also that we pay attention to ourselves acting -- our inner world. To the extent that we do not notice both inner and outer aspects of our passage through life, then our capacity for voluntary, deliberate, and purposeful action is commensurately diminished.

To live more simply is to live more purposefully and with a minimum of needless distraction. The particular expression of simplicity is a personal matter. We each know where our lives are unnecessarily complicated. We are all painfully aware of the clutter and pretense that weigh upon us and make our passage through the world more cumbersome and awkward. To live more simply is to unburden ourselves -- to live more lightly, cleanly, aerodynamically. It is to establish a more direct, unpretentious, and unencumbered relationship with all aspects of our lives: the things that we consume, the work that we do, our relationships with others, our connections with nature and the cosmos, and more. Simplicity of living means meeting life face-to-face. It means confronting life clearly, without unnecessary distractions. It means being direct and honest in relationships of all kinds, It means taking life as it is -- straight and unadulterated.

When we combine these two ideas for integrating the inner and outer aspects of our lives, we can describe voluntary simplicity as a manner of living that is outwardly more simple and inwardly more rich, a way of being in which our most authentic and alive self is brought into direct and conscious contact with living. This way of life is not a static condition to be achieved, but an ever-changing balance that must be continuously and consciously made real. Simplicity in this sense is not simple. To maintain a skillful balance between the inner and outer aspects of our lives is an enormously challenging and continuously changing process. The objective is not dogmatically to live with less, but is a more demanding intention of living with balance in order to find a life of greater purpose, fulfillment, and satisfaction.

Copyright (c) 1998 by Duane Elgin

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