Complexity follows us everywhere. We go online, intending to keep life simple, and end up with dozens of passwords we can’t remember. We get a day off, intending to rest, and end up with several chores we didn’t bargain for. Wherever we look, we intend to create simplicity and harmony, but we end up with complexity and disorder.
What goes wrong? I think that there are a few critical paths which need amending, if we are to simplify our lives in a meaningful way. Perhaps the main problem pathways are as follows:
Mixed intentions – wanting more than one thing at once is a crucial creator of complexity
Failure to maintain – not tidying up, and not maintaining what we have, is another
Lack of rest – too much frantic activity, without rest, takes us away from our natural rhythms, and creates unnatural patterns
Mixed intentions are very common. Typical conflicts in everyday life include:
you want to be considerate, but you want to protect yourself
you want to be helpful, but you don’t want to give resources away
you want to be closer to others, but you need space from others
Make sure everything you do comes from a compassionate heart, and you will be OK. This reduces all your conflicting motivations to just one: a universally compassionate attitude.
Make sure that, in practice, you apply your mind evenly and fairly to all the facts. This reduces the complexity of the messes you could make, because you are looking ahead to consequences.
In summary, to keep your life simple, have one intention (kindness), but also spend time thinking about the practical consequences of your actions.
Whatever territory you maintain, make sure you maintain it faithfully and fully. If something breaks, mend it. If something is out of place, give it a place and put it there.
This reduces the complexity of your life. You will not have to think about where your possessions are, because you will always know. You will not have to spend time planning many repairs, because you have repaired things as you go.
Also, if you spot things in your life that do not need to be there, let them go. This will also simplify things. A lot of time is wasted maintaining what doesn’t, in the end, need to be maintained.
Relaxation is probably the most effective of complexity-reducing techniques. This is because when you relax, you stop unnecessary movement, and can focus more clearly. Not only is there less happening, but you have greater capacity to follow whatever is happening. The ultimate in relaxation is simple watching, for instance of your breath.
When you are asleep, which is a form of relaxation, you generally don’t think ‘Oh this dream is so complicated!’ Instead, you flow with it, and that relaxed flow means that sleep time does not feel complicated. Try to carry this into your daytime life. Sleep contains arts which, if carried into daytime, create powerfully wise activity.
Just for today, when you feel that life is stressing you out, take five minutes to do three things (they are the above three things in reverse order):
Tidy your immediate surroundings
Refocusing your compassionate intention, contemplate the practicalities of the situation
Be relaxed, tidy, compassionate, and contemplative, and you will be fine.
Life feels complicated.
This feeling comes from us: our mixed intentions, our failure to maintain, and our unwillingness to rest.
We can try relaxing, tidying up our surroundings, and being single-mindedly compassionate. Then, we can contemplate our situations with wisdom.
If we train ourselves like this, life will feel simpler.