I’m not sure if “simplicity” is so important to me because I’ve never really had the ability to buy a lot of stuff, or if it’s just the way I’m wired. Either way, it’s clear to me that practicing simplicity is another mindful pathway to sustainable “Emotional Peace.”
I view simplicity as “practicing contentment with the highest available quality of the fewest amount of resources.” (Yes, I just made that up this morning while writing this blog.) I define “resources” quite widely. Simplicity is a choice that can be applied across so many aspects of living:
* Health: I feel happiest when I employ a focused eating strategy that integrates a few core proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, complemented by a rigorous exercise routine and consistent hours of sleep each night. Once I made a fuller effort to educate myself on what optimal health could look like for me, I was able to cut through all of the marketing clutter and dietary schemes and create a simple, flexible system that made sense.
* Attire: The French have something to teach us in this regard. Many Parisians, I’ve learned, purchase a few high quality outfits and wear them again and again, demonstrating “style amid simplicity.” The tendency in American culture to own dozens of pairs of shoes or other items and accessories, fearing to ever wear the same article twice around the same people, borders on mental illness…with all due respect to the characters of Sex and the City.
* Dwelling: I live in a house that’s just right for my current season of life and family responsibilities. It’s not too big or small. Many of us spend well beyond our means when it comes to housing, and this also results in devoting an extraordinary amount of time cleaning and maintaining. The bigger the place, the bigger the burden. I might just live in a one-bedroom flat some day!
* Possessions: I can’t stand clutter of any kind. This even applies to books, one of my favorite things in the world, but especially trinkets and other items that gather dust and crowd up a space. Clutter feels emotional as much as it’s tangible. I don’t own a lot of “toys,” and likely wouldn’t even if I had the discretionary income.
* Technology: The Evernote application has been a huge boon for my working processes and electronic resources. I use Evernote, Outlook, and my laptop files in an organized, streamlined fashion, where everything has a place to go and can be easily retrieved with agility. The categories I use for electronic resources mirror the different roles I’m currently striving to play with excellence in my life (father, writer, homeowner, leadership consultant, spiritual being, and so forth). The longer it takes to find something that you need, the more emotionally taxing. I’ve all but eliminated paper files of any kind, and this certainly helps minimize clutter and increase speed.
* Vocation: In the past decade my vocational streams have flowed into a nearly seamless river of writing, coaching, and consulting, with writing as the main current. This was not the case earlier in my life, when there were numerous tributaries trickling in several directions. Clarity of vocation usually comes to us after many years of efforts, successes, and setbacks. Discovering what we love to do the most, and realizing that it’s also what we can do better than anything else, is one of life’s greatest gifts.
* Hobbies: Similar to vocation, oftentimes the more hobbies we have the less satisfied we are. This can seem counter-intuitive, but if managing your hobbies is stressing you out and costing too much money, there’s likely a lesson to be learned. Having a couple of hobbies that we can do consistently and with excellence, activities that cause us to lose track of time as we “get into the zone,” seems more emotionally peaceful to me.
* Relationships: I’ve not been one to have a massive circle of friends, although at times I’ve longed for that. Give me a few quality friendships in each season of life, and I’m quite grateful. I need such friendships to be oases of relaxation, not sets of tasks requiring lots of effort or guises. I take the same approach to love partnerships. Loving someone and sharing mutual support and growth can be the simplest thing in the world, when each person is aligned in their intentions and growing in mindfulness practices. (I’ll write more about love partnerships near the end of this blog series.)
What are the areas of your life in which you feel extra amounts of stress, unable to ever fully “catch up” or “keep up?” You might be trying to do too much, or you might simply have too much around you; whether stuff, interests, or people.
“Less” really is “more,” in terms of more focus, more meaningful accomplishments, and more sustainable inner peace.