Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Simple self-reflection

The High Holy Days are a couple of weeks away. This is the time of year for self-reflection, for comparing the values we profess to the way we actually live our lives. The goal here is not self-recrimination, but to take stock of where we are and to make some effort to bring our beliefs and our behaviors into some better alignment.

Here are some questions, from a simplicity perspective, that might help guide that introspection. Some of the questions have options, this is because no one's goals are exactly the same. If none of the options fit the way you would aspire to live your life, go ahead and put yours there. This is a guide, not written in the proverbial stone. There are 10 to start (nice round number, very popular in the tradition); if I think of any others I will post them:

1 - Do I have the right balance between work and home? Do I get to eat dinner with my family at least (two / four / six) nights a week? Is all my time with kids / partner in the car, or do I have face to face, conversation, do-nothing time with them as well? Are my kids' activities overwhelming the family? Remember - kids need simplicity too!

2 - Am I eating healthfully, and mindfully? Do I eat at home most nights? Am I growing my own food or purchasing it locally, as much as possible? Am I staying away from processed foods? Do I limit my intake of fast food and junk food? Do I eat enough fruit and vegetables?

3 - Further on eating: Am I eating in accordance with what I know about how food is produced and distributed? Do I still buy factory-farmed meat, dairy products and eggs even though I know quite well how the animals are treated?

4 - Am I setting aside a Shabbat, a sabbath that is a break from work, the computer, the television? Do I set aside time each week for reflection /quiet reading / prayer?

5 - Is television/the internet my main leisure activity, or do I set aside time for exercise, for continued learning and growth, for time with friends, for volunteering?

6 - Have I put my credit cards away, or am I still using them for convenience / when I want something I can't afford to pay cash for? Have I made an effort / plan to retire my debt? Do I have sufficient emergency savings? Am I fully utilizing my employers' retirement fund match?

7 - What kind of consumer products am I still buying? Do I really need that new (whatever it is) that I've just bought / have my eye on?

8 - Do I buy things to make myself feel better, or to express love to my loved ones? Can I find any better ways to do those things?

9 - Am I reusing / recycling / composting as much as possible? Do I keep in mind, when purchasing a new product, where the old one is going to go, and where the packaging of the new one is going to go?

10 - Am I giving sufficiently to tzedakah? (3 % is the lower limit on that, I would say, 5% is better.) Am I supporting my church/synagogue, federation, food bank? Am I volunteering my time, and how much? Are my kids seeing how important giving / volunteering is from my actions?

Again, the point here is the (gently) bring our actions into alignment with our intention. I don't really use the language of "sin", but I would say that if you're really living in flagrant contradiction to your deeper values (if you work in an exploitative industry, say) then that's a place where the language of "sin" may be appropriate, and where some deeper reflection, and possibly more radical changes, may need to be made.

1 comment:

Patty said...

great post, thanks for sharing your thoughts