"I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” – Lk. 10:21

“The most complicated skill is to be simple.” How true this is for a person like me. I’m complicated. I tend to overthink things. I ruminate. I worry. I say one thing and then do another. I make small things big and big things small. I hate busyness but am a busy person. I’m bold but I’m guarded. I care deeply for others but can be self-centered. On second thought, I’m really complicated.

It’s lucky for me though that God opens plenty of doors for growth should we choose to walk through them. For me, the doorway toward simplicity was in the form of a 2-week stay at New Camaldoli Hermitage. I am shocked to find how this virtue permeated everything there. As a complicated guy used to his complicated life, it didn’t take long before I experienced withdrawals. There were no texts or emails to reply to (in fact there’s no cell signal there), no social calendar to fill-up and follow, no demanding career or the self-importance I derived from it, no image to project or social media accounts to curate. In fact, there wasn’t much to do other than work and pray. The restlessness was intense. I was like a hamster without a wheel. By the 4th day, I felt a vague emptiness. The reality though was that this was just simplicity in its pure form, and I didn’t know what to do with it. Simplicity didn’t feel exciting, and I realized excitement had become my default metric for happiness.

The monks on the other hand lived seemingly boring lives yet were joyful and full of laughter. I was intrigued and chatted with them about it. They weren’t at all interested in the things I was missing. They didn’t have packed social calendars, Instagram-worthy travel pics, 6-figure salaries, and nice clothes but were perfectly content. They exuded kindness, gratitude, and a sense of wonder, but most radical of all was that they seemed to live for others and God first and for themselves second – a stark contrast to the individualistic culture I was accustomed to. In the warm hospitality of these simple people living simple lives, I heard the voice of Jesus and he said, “[I’ve] hidden joy and wisdom from the learned and have revealed it to the childlike.” My monk friends seemed to understand this -- I hope that someday I can too.

Inviting ourselves to hit pause on our busy day and return to our breath and the loving presence of God, let us reflect on the following questions: How am I complicated? How would it look if I simplified myself in this area? Can I bring this intention(s) to God?

Albert Wolff