Although the term voluntary simplicity was first coined by Richard Gregg, a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, it can be traced back to the lives of Jesus, St. Francis of Assisi, and monks around the world. Duane Elgin who wrote a very popular book on the subject defined it as "a way of life which is outwardly simple and inwardly rich."

Mark Burch is author of Simplicity: Stories and Exercises for Developing Unimaginable Wealth. A freelance writer, speaker, workshop leader, and teacher of college courses on voluntary simplicity, he has practiced simple living since the 1960s. At the outset, Burch notes: "The attraction of simplicity is mysterious because it draws us in a completely opposite direction from where most of the world seems to be going: away from conspicuous display, accumulation, egoism, and public visibility — toward a life more silent, humble, and transparent than anything known to the extroverted culture of consumerism."

The author sees voluntary simplicity as "a social movement, a spiritual sensibility, an esthetic, and a practice of livelihood." In this substantive and soul-stirring book, Burch discusses some of the characteristics of this way of life as related to self, family and community, the environment, and spirituality. The most poignant section is the one in which Burch spells out how to practice simplicity. Here he covers the challenges of cultivating mindfulness, knowing when enough is enough, right livelihood, time and money, the economy, and equity.

A special bonus is a page listing websites on voluntary simplicity and an annotated bibliography on the subject. Here's a final thought on voluntary simplicity by Burch: "Discerning how much is enough also involves placing our personal consumption of things in the context of environmental sustainability, social justice, and inter-generational equity. In this realm, we move beyond considerations of what may be expedient or comfortable in terms of our individual lives and consider ourselves to be part of a much larger whole."