Sabbath Ramblings: Simplicity

Affiliate Disclosure

simplicity
Articles, Sabbath Ramblings

Last week, when I posed to you the question about what you would do if you knew you were going to live forever, I told you about the simplicity of attaining eternal life through a “simple prayer.”

I want to briefly revisit that topic of simplicity today, because I think thatespecially when it comes to “spiritual enlightenment” (which is difficult to describe, but often portrayed as some kind of higher consciousness and deeper mental awareness)people tend to make things pretty complex these days. 

For example…

…want to meditate? Sitting cross-legged on the floor next to your bed, perhaps seated on a bath towel, simply won't do. No, no, no. You must instead have an app (preferably one with paid upgrades to unlock the cooler meditations) and also, if possible, some kind of actual course or certification you've taken to ensure that you're meditating properly. To keep you motivated, you'd better have signed up for a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat, and in the meantime, to ensure all your self-quantification of neural metrics is in order during your meditation, use a self-quantified headband or wearable to track those metrics, and possible a few additional wearables that drive you deeper into the meditative state. Oh, and if you run out of any plant medicine or microdosing pills, your meditation is useless, and also non-existent unless accompanied by an Instagram selfie…

…do you desire to pray more? As I write about here, when I was growing up in a Christian church, prayer was usually positioned (often paired hand-in-hand with didactic and intellectual sermons, argumentative apologetics, and a focus on “prim-n-proper theology”) as a formal, oft-overintellectualized activity with a specific structure that required carving out time and forethought to wax poetic to the Creator. As a result, prayer often becomes something very much like the same type of formidable, intimidating activity that keeps many people from regular meditation: feeling as though they need to do it in some kind of perfectly systematized way, X number of times per day for Y minute sitting in Z position—which, as anyone who has taken a few simple and calming mindful breaths while stuck in traffic knows, is not necessarily the case. Because of this conundrum, it can be easy to verbally attest to the importance of prayer as foundational to a Godly life, but based on our oft-faulty assumptions about how it should be conducted, prayer often gets crowded out as the calendar fills up with other duties or we simply become too mentally drained or fatigued during the day to conduct a “formal prayer session,” as opposed to the simple prayer and prayer constancy of early Christian hermits, ascetics, and monks such as the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the early church (by the way, the wonderful book Where Prayer Becomes Real could be a great read for you if you struggle with this same complexity of prayer issue)…

…Bible reading (an important spiritual discipline I tackle here), which can also be quite complex, can't it? You've no doubt heard of stout theologians taking deep 4 a.m. forays into Scripture, following complex Bible study reading plans, accompanied by spendy pieces of Bible exploration software and study apps, oodles of highlighting and margin writing, and deep dives into word origins, Biblical dictionaries and encyclopedias, exegetical text analysis, and hermeneutics. The act of simply opening the pages of a basic, inexpensive Bible to the book of Psalms and reading for the precious few minutes that you have each morning perhaps leaves you a bit guilty that you aren't driving downtown to meet up with a Bible study group or keeping up with theologically superior Joneses down the street with their fancy leatherbound Scriptures, Bible study meetings on all days that end in Y, and thick tomes of Bible commentary adorning their bookshelves …

fasting and breathwork, which are, a bit like Bible reading and prayer, the veritable “turkey and cranberries” of the spiritual disciplines kingdom, can also be wrought with complications. These days, fasting cannot simply involve a focused abstinence from eating. Instead, you must choose from a dizzying array of options, including a bone broth fast, a juice fast, a fasting-mimicking diet (FMD), an alternate-day fasting (ADF) diet, a one meal a day (OMAD) fast, a 5:2 fast, a time-restricted fast, a one-, three-, or five-day water fast, an eat-stop-eat fast, or a pre-packaged, done-for-you fasting kit that can be sent to your house, chock full of all the teas, tinctures, potions, powders, and pills to keep you from getting hungry during your fast, although that's kind of one of the whole points of fasting as a spiritual discipline in the first place. You must then track your fast with an equally dizzying variety of fasting apps out there, and do heaps of research on the ideal meal to break your fast, what kind of things you can eat that allow you to fast but not really be fasting, and join a special fasting club or online social media group for support and accountability because, let's face it, unlike Jesus, nobody can fast alone. Neither can you simply stop eating, deny the body, and put up with the hunger and embrace the pain and discomfort of fasting, because you could have sworn you heard on a health podcast somewhere that it might inhibit your metabolism or do some kind of hormonal damage if your body feels too uncomfortable without eating…

…should you want to include breathwork as one of the additional physical elements of your spiritual discipline habits, things get just as complicated as fasting. Breathe in, preferably through your nose, hold briefly, then breathe out slowly. There you have it. That's breathwork. But get a good app too, so you can have bells, whistles, and chimes that tell you when to breathe in, how long to hold, and when to breathe out. Be sure also to consume blood flow precursor agents like beet root, citrulline, arginine, cordyceps, and oxygenated water so that you can maximize that breath-hold time. Purchase a hyberbaric oxygen chamber, or at least some kind of fancy breath restriction wearable or facial and/or waist-worn device to enhance the effects of said breathwork. Like fasting, be sure to join an online membership or club so that you don't forget to breathe, and so that others can hold you accountable to breathe. Do not, under any circumstances, do your breathwork near hard surfaces, water, hot stoves, irritated dogs, or in public places, so as not to injure yourself or disrupt the peace, and attempt to only practice in a sauna or a room lined with plush pillows that can protect you should you forget to breathe. And finally, ensure that any breathwork practice you choose—similar to any fasts you embark upon—has an appropriate name, such as “Wim Hof” or “Buteyko” or “Carbon Dioxide Tolerance Training” or “Holotropic” or “Reduced Frequency.” Otherwise, it's just “breathing,” and that's far too plain-jane and cardboard to work for anyone…

…next, gratitude. Gratitude is something else that can pour forth positive fruits into your life, but, let's face it: it can be difficult to be grateful without a bit of fancy assistance, such as a study guide, a journal, an accountability group, and some kind of online gratefulness immersion course that you take to learn how to properly time your gratefulness practice and the exact number of items that are ideal to be grateful for…

…you get the idea. Really, “spiritual enlightenment” in general seems like it increasingly requires not only many of the complexities above, but also, should one want to truly connect with God, experience a connection to Jesus Christ, or become, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 in the Bible, a “new creation,” also necessitates some kind of a trip to an Ayahuasca center in the Amazon, a stint of properly timed microdosing with plant medicines and perhaps a hefty DMT experience (though neither of those are hardly an ecologically friendly solution to equipping everyone on the planet to “find God”) , along with a chakra balancing session, sound healing tools, body protection jewelry, a decently fashionable toga…

…and, for you fellas out there, some kind of man bun.


It's So Simple To “Be Spiritual”

Obviously, I'm being quite sarcastic.

In reality, what most people are truly seeking when they seek so-called “spiritual enlightenment” is some kind of fulfillment of the God-shaped abyss in their soul that only God can fill.

As I write in my article “To Die Is Gain“:

“See, we each feel a pull of heaven and yearn for an eternal bliss that goes on far after our bodies have exhaled their last breath. This is what C.S. Lewis described as a “God-shaped” hole in our hearts–an endless abyss that we can dump more money and fancy cars and bigger homes and exercise and diet and even noble pursuits such as family and charity into – but an abyss that will never feel complete, satisfying or fulfilling unless we have discovered the deep satisfaction and joy that comes from peaceful union with God.

Augustine also highlighted a similar idea when he famously wrote, ‘Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee,' and Indian Christian missionary Sadhu Sundar Singh writes in his book With and Without Christ: ‘In comparison with this big world, the human heart is only a small thing. Though the world is so large, it is utterly unable to satisfy this tiny heart. Man’s ever-groaning soul and its capacities can only be satisfied in the infinite God. As water is restless until it reaches its level, so the soul has not peace until it rests in God.'”

Perhaps the best summation of this God-shaped hole and the original concept of it can be found in Blaise Pascal's writings Pensées, which are a series of defenses of the Christian religion. In Pensées, Pascal says:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”

When that endless pursuit for true spiritual fulfillment, meaning, and happiness is discovered through union with God and salvation through Jesus, that is when you can ultimately become a new creation.

As 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

And the beautiful fact is that it is so, so simple to become that very new creation—a new creation who will go on to live for all of eternity in pure bliss and joy.

How simple?

Romans 10:9 puts it this way: “… if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.”

This confession itself is also beautifully described in the book Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. The book was originally published in 1678, so the anecdote below may seem a bit clunky to get through, but I think you'll do just fine. A character called “Hopeful” in the book puts it like this:

“Then I asked him what I must do when I came; and he told me I must entreat upon my knees,[Ps 95:6] [Dan 6:10] with all my heart and soul, [Jer 29:12,13] the Father to reveal him to me. Then I asked him further, how I must make my supplications to him; and he said, Go, and thou shalt find him upon a mercy-seat, where he sits all the year long to give pardon and forgiveness to them that come. I told him, that I knew not what to say when I came; and he bid say to this effect: God be merciful to me a sinner, and make me to know and believe in Jesus Christ; for I see, that if his righteousness had not been, or I have not faith in that righteousness, I am utterly cast away. Lord, I have heard that thou art a merciful God, and hast ordained that thy Son Jesus Christ should be the Savior of the world; and moreover, that thou art willing to bestow him upon such a poor sinner as I am—and I am a sinner indeed. Lord, take therefore this opportunity, and magnify thy grace in the salvation of my soul, through thy Son Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Billy Graham William Franklin Graham Jr., born November 7, 1918 and died February 21, 2018, was a prominent and influential American evangelist who took that same confession, and crafted it into an even simpler “Sinner's Prayer.” That prayer, which I first told you about here, goes like this:

“Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name. Amen.”

That's it.

You can simply recognize that you do not have the mental or emotional capacity within your own being—no matter how many books, journals, apps, clubs, supplements, teas, tinctures, powders, lotions, oils, meditation cushions, and pure grit you apply to become “spiritually enlightened”—to truly change yourself for the better, and then you utter those simple words, that simple acknowledgment that you are a sinner in need of salvation, and an entirely new life begins for you as you become anointed with the Holy Spirit (the very same elixir that I describe here), and a sudden satisfaction fills your entire being as you become, in a quite magical sense, full of a lasting peace, hope, and fulfillment, unlike anything you've ever experienced before.

Upon receiving God's free gift of eternal salvation through His Son Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death on the cross, and accepting the grace, mercy, love, and goodness that saves you from yourself and your sinful state, you truly become a brand, new creation. Just imagine—by uttering those simple words written above, you will have been gifted with a brand new life and a brand new start, along with a brand new heart and a brand new spirit.

You will have now become a brand new creation (“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)).

You will have now been made fully alive (“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world …” (Ephesians 2:1)).

You will have been delivered from darkness (“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13)).

You will have been fully cleansed (“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:25)).

You will have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit (Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38)).

Your salvation will have been sealed and guaranteed (“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13) and “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30) and “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a deposit.” (2 Corinthians 1:21) and “Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 5:5)).

All old things will have now passed away and all things will have now been made brand new! How glorious a thought is that? It is so glorious that it goes far above and beyond a mere “spiritual enlightenment” and instead involves a complete transformation by the work of God’s supernatural power within you that is so profound and so intense that the feeling of pure joy, hope, and peace is absolutely indescribable. It is my deepest wish that, if you are reading this article, you can experience that for yourself by saying the simple words I will repeat once more here:

“Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name. Amen.”

And if perhaps you have already uttered those words, or some semblance of them, at some point in your life, and have already accepted the free gift of salvation, but subsequently become overwhelmed with the “complexity” of the dizzying variety of “strategies” for spiritual growth, then I challenge you to consider stepping back and simplifying. In the same way that a complex workout comprised of calisthenics, kettlebells, mobility moves, interval timing, and breathwork can be daunting, defeating, and intimidating, so can a spiritual life that is gummed up with too many to-dos and toys. So perhaps it's time for your spiritual workout to instead involve a simple peaceful walk in a beautiful forest instead of a foray to a spiritual gym littered with tools.

Take a deep breath, read a Psalms, say the Lord's Prayer, write down something you're grateful for, close your eyes and meditate for a few moments, then rinse, wash and repeat the next day. Just try that for a few days. See how it feels.


Summary

Look, I—a self-professed “biohacker” who on the daily uses a wide variety of technology, apps, wearables, and devices; who has launched on social media fasting challenges (including all those fasts with the weird acronyms), meditation challenges, and cold water challenges; and who uses Bible apps, prayer bracelets, fringe supplements, and plant medicines—won't deny that there is a time, a place and a benefit to enhancing one's life with what may seem like complex, yet often valuable variables.

But let's face it.

You don't need journals, apps, wearables, and retreats to meditate. You can simply close your eyes, relax and go into the void, so long as you give yourself permission to do so.

You don't need fancy phone apps and flowery phrases to connect with God daily in constancy of prayer. You can simply start by getting on your knees each morning and reciting the Lord's Prayer.

You don't need to join a Bible study group or get an online seminary degree to feast upon and attain deep nutrition from God's word. You can simply open the Bible and begin to read (I recommend beginning with Psalms, Proverbs, or 1 John particularly).

You don't need a thick book, accountability club, appetite satiating compounds from the Orient, and a nutrition certification to wrap your head around fasting, nor a hyperbaric chamber, nighttime mouth tape, and infrared sauna to engage in meaningful breathwork. You can simply…not eat, breathe through your nose, and exhale longer than you inhale.

You don't need a journal or a checklist or a daily habit reminder to be grateful. You can simply close your eyes, give thanks, and let that feeling of gratefulness wash over your body.

And you don't need a giant tent revival, a plant medicine immersion, an Ayahuasca retreat, or a lick on a Sonoran desert toad to “see God” or “find Jesus.” You can simply say a simple sinner's prayer, then begin to allow God to grace you with the spiritual fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that will subsequently pour forth into your life.

Make sense?

Good. Now go commit (perhaps with a cheap pencil and a common Post-It note) to daily Bible reading, prayer, meditation, fasting, breathwork, and gratitude. I guarantee your life will be better for it. Eventually, if complex tools prove to be of some benefit, then that's fine too. Just don't fool yourself into thinking they're necessary, despite their trendiness and perceived criticality.

Want more of my thoughts on simplicity?

You may want to check out a recent article I wrote about the simplicity of sleeping better, an older article I wrote about the “death of heart rate training zones“, and also (this one is more from an exercise standpoint, but interesting nonetheless) the book Unplugged.

How about you? Have you been caught up in the modern, trendy complexities of being spiritual? Have you, like me, become a bit distracted and subsequently disillusioned with feeling as though a practice of the spiritual disciplines has become too complex or commercialized? Do you want to embrace simplicity and choose to seek with wisdom only those elements that truly enhance your spiritual life, without distracting you? Do you see how simple eternal spiritual enlightenment through the acceptance of the free gift of salvation from God in the form of the sacrifice of His son Jesus can be? Leave your questions, comments, and feedback below. I read them all.


Ask Ben a Podcast Question


8 thoughts on “Sabbath Ramblings: Simplicity

  1. Gabe says:

    Ben- wow, thanks man. No doubt I was supposed to read this. Feel like you’re describing so much of what I’ve been feeling but hadn’t pinned it.

    Admittedly, I’ve fallen into the trap of making things complicated over the last few years. I’ll list a few here for fun: work (sales), relationships (marriage, extended family, friendships), health/fitness, learning/personal growth, golf, tennis…. but the one that always cuts me deep is my relationship with God and my walk with Jesus.

    It’s actually therapeutic just to write it out because I realize my list includes nothing but things things I love and am grateful for.

    I need to check out some of your other articles around this topic, but curious how you find simplicity in other areas of your life? Ie. Relationships, Work, Sports performance, etc.

  2. Halle says:

    Hey Ben!

    We glean from the work! Thank you for sharing! This is such an important and timely blog post for today’s world.

    Just wanted to drop a recommendation for a resource I have found really helpful on this topic.

    Have you read:

    The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

    ??

    1. Yes, I love that book.

  3. Mike L says:

    Ben,

    I have some comments I’d like to share with you regarding Fit Soul chapter 8. Mainly, I have some contention with trying to create a purpose statement, when I feel like that’s out of our power. It seems that the Bible is leading us toward seeking the Father and love as the only purpose we need. Anything else we create just gets in the way of what he may truly be trying to do through us. I have a more complete written statement, but can’t find your email anywhere. LOL. Keep up the good work brother!

  4. Cal says:

    Well done Ben. Thank you.

  5. elizabeth tobin says:

    Help! I somehow tried to order the spiritual disciplines journal and I thought it did not process so i went thru the process again and somehow have ordered 2 journals.

    Can you cancel one of my orders ? There is not a contact number or email on your site or at least one that i could find.

    Appreciate the help!!

    1. Yes, will have someone contact you ASAP! Stay tuned.

  6. Carolyn says:

    May God bless you and your whole family for what you have done here Ben. You have the ability to reach and save so many people!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *