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The Holy Way: Practices for a Simple Life
By Paula Huston
Loyola Press.
PB, 358 pg. US$15.95
ISBN: 0-8294-1441-X

Seeking simplicity through God

By Steven Martinovich
web posted December 22, 2003

The Holy WayThat the world can be a loud and complex place is in little doubt. As we scurry from one obligation to another, juggling ever more responsibilities at work and home, it's hard sometimes not to feel overwhelmed by the very fact of living. Even in quiet times we consciously work our brains to get our to-do lists ready for tomorrow and we feel guilty if we fail to cross everything off the list at the end of the day. We quite literally seem to run in order to standstill.

It is possible, however, to make the conscious choice to reject the reality we've created for ourselves and choose a different path. That's the message that Paula Huston has for us in The Holy Way: Practices for a Simple Life. Once trapped in the same rat race, Huston decided to use simplicity to achieve inner peace. It is a long spiritual journey but one that promises at the end a peaceful life that allows one to concentrate on those things that really matter.

For Huston that path was Catholicism, a faith that has a long history of seekers of inner peace. Taking advantage of a nearby community of Catholic monks and researching the lives of saints who embarked on the same path she did, The Holy Way is a guidebook that charts her progress over years of work. It is not Inner Peace for Dummies and she doesn't claim that the journey is one you can complete in days or weeks. Making the conscious decision to seek simplicity in your life and then take the actual steps to bring it to fruition is a long and arduous one. It took years to create the person you are and it takes years to modify learned behaviors, thoughts and patterns.

"It is extremely difficult to let go of these longtime of thinking, emotional response, and reaction. When Jesus reminds Peter that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, this is in part what he means. Too often we are tripped up not by serious temptation or dramatic sin but by ingrained patterns, some of which are so much a part of us that we can no longer even recognize a different approach. It is far easier, far more comfortable, to do what we've always done than to change our ways."

Huston is proof positive of that as The Holy Way shows it was a constant struggle -- a long learning process -- for her to discover the changes she needed to make in her own life. She gradually learns that you can't make a change to one aspect of yourself without others being influenced. Changing who are you to find simplicity demands that you take stock of who you are in totality and addressing the entire soul, not just the obvious bits that you'd like to be different.

Each chapter in The Holy Way sees Huston examine the different aspects of her life she addressed, the challenges she faced and what the saints have to teach us with their own examples. As she illustrates, although the saints were remarkable people, their struggles were little different -- at least in a spiritual sense -- from what we would face if we undertook the same spiritual journey. Taking those steps changes who we are and how we relate to others, it smashes illusions that we have used to buttress our worldviews and forces us to see who we really are. Solitude and meditation brings us inner peace but not before we take a good look in the mirror and begin to see our faults.

Is The Holy Way a realistic path for others to experience the joy of true simplicity? It wouldn't be too difficult to argue that Huston's experiment isn't easy to replicate, that her struggles and answers were her own. Those arguments might even be correct but they would ignore her central point, that simplicity is a path that travels through the middle of each of us, that it is up to us to make the decision to seek it and take the steps necessary to try to get there. Whether we reach the end of the road or not, however, is only half the battle. Just as important for us to recognize, argues Huston, is that the spiritual journey for simplicity always brings us closer to having a deeper and more personal relationship with God and ourselves.

Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

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