Living with simplicity – making life easier for yourself

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How do you manage your fish?  Photo by Jeremy Cai on Unsplash

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
Antidotes to each of the above three are to be single-minded, tidy, and relaxed at all times.

SINGLE-MINDEDNESS

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
With all the conflicts in everyday existence, it is hard to have a focused mind.  But in order to let things become simple, there is work to be done finding a common intention in everything.  In one article it is difficult to cover all the ways this can be done.  But I suggest there are usually, at simplest, two things to consider: compassion and wisdom.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
An old story illustrates why both compassion and wisdom are necessary.  A man rescued a big fish, and put it into a village pond.  He thought he was being kind, but had not thought it through with wisdom.  The big fish ate all the smaller fish in the pond, and the villagers, upset at what had happened, killed the big fish too.  He had intended to save one animal, but his action led to the death of a lot of animals.

In summary, to keep your life simple, have one intention (kindness), but also spend time thinking about the practical consequences of your actions.

TIDINESS

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

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.

AN EXERCISE

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):

  1. Relax
  2. Tidy your immediate surroundings
  3. Refocusing your compassionate intention, contemplate the practicalities of the situation
These are the simple principles of meditation.  They are also the simple principles of much counselling and psychotherapy.

Be relaxed, tidy, compassionate, and contemplative, and you will be fine.

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SUMMARY

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.

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