In her philosophical memoir, Nothing Left Over: A Plain and Simple Life, Toinette Lippe, the founder of the book imprint Bell Tower, mused on such spiritual matters as paying attention, the value of traveling light, being present, saying no, not letting supply exceed demand, and being industrious and generous. Many reflections bear the traces of Lippe's Buddhist practices.
In this elegantly written paperback, she keeps her focus on the intimate details of her life and the meaning of being, knowing, and doing. She writes about her career as an editor and notes: "We put labels on objects and people and then see them only as labels. We never actually see who or what is in front of us. Labels are a form of limitation." Lippe is an editor and a writer but she bristles at the notion of being confined to these categories. As she demonstrates on these pages, she is also an Englishwoman; a mother; a daughter; a traveler to Japan, South America and Turkey; a beginning gardener; a painter of flowers; a lover of trees; a tai chi practitioner, and much more.
Being a hard worker all her life, the author is cautious about letting go and learning to go with the flow and to play. It's easier said than done for an achiever. Lippe confesses that she is always "leaning into the next moment." It's a Western excess, this moving on to the next best thing and forgetting that what is in front of us will suffice. Control is what so many of us aim for and yet surrender to experience is what all the sages in every mystical tradition tell us to do. Lippe counsels herself to be welcoming to everything and to relinquish the attachments that stop her from being present. She observes: "I have been moving in the opposite direction from my natural tendencies. It hasn't been easy, but I have tried to relax my grip on the world and allow things to happen more organically. Of course, everything happens organically anyway, whether we want it to or not, but nowadays I try to go with the grain rather than against it."
All those on a spiritual path will identify with Lippe's struggles to simply be.