“Why do we make it so complicated?” This is the question asked by Jon Jandai, a man living in a small village in northeastern Thailand. I came to be watching his TED talk as part of my explorations around ‘simplifying’. It is worth a watch.
I share it with you as I shared it with a client this morning: After recognising how “crammed my life is” the client started to realise how (on some level) they were choosing to cram it. Their process, one I know myself personally, is to become curious as to the choices made between taking on more work at the expense of living. I shared the video because it speaks to that question “why do WE make it more complicated?”; how we (many of us) have fallen for the false truth that success = happiness. Most of us have an inkling this isn’t true...but we go along with the group think just in case we are the (only) ones left behind.
Leo Babuta, curator of the Zen Habits website, wrote a thought provoking blog post some time ago, one I have written about previously. I’m in the process of reconnecting to those “8 Key Lessons for Living a Simple Life”, and re-remembering, some of the principles I want to live my life by. More space as work demands lessen have me asking “why don’t I feel this experience 52 weeks of the year?” (Aka, why do I make my life so complicated?). Arising of external space makes me explore why there is not an internal space I can draw upon more consistently.
The main practices on Babuta’s list that I currently connecting to are “Create space between things” and “Find joy in a few simple things”. Re-reading the list in the past week, it was the latter that felt timely and exciting. I thought for a long time that I needed a hobby...but now I’m recognising that I already have enough of what I enjoy, and what would deeply nourish me is simply prioritising the “few things” and adding more space in between. Practicing meditation, reading and learning, reflecting and writing, and enjoying company of the people I love.
So, it was with this in mind that I found my favourite bench in the local park garden with just my book project journal and coffee for company. As I committed to the spaciousness already there in my life (I simply need to recognise it), it occurred how this book of mine needs to be written from space. Any sense of “drive or push” will get in the way of the process AND the message. As Babuta's starts his list with - “we create our own struggles” - I am very aware of the distinction to be made between behavioural changes we can make to simplify life and a more systemic ‘attitude’ of simplification. I create my own struggles, and my attitude of mind can be more simple. I know how my inner drive can complicate life, and it is often fascinating to see the knots I tie myself in: sometimes my morning meditation masquerades as a mental gymnastics workout.
As ever, I don’t want to dismiss the gratitude I have for my mental striving and drive - its brought me a LONG way.What I speak to here is the importance of re-dressing the balance. Masculine drive needs the consort of feminine space. I’m reminded of the Mandala principle in the Buddhist teachings. As Chogyam Trungpa explains, we can put dualities to use by seeing that they are not actually contradictions of each other. The mandala is the circle of our life - if we create a good container for that life, we can relax and let go and through that find creativity. In the context of making my book project happen, I need to mix form with chaos. An obvious example of that is protecting space for my writing by defining structure in my week.
Sat on the bench yesterday, I re-read the draft table of contents that I had constructed back in April (link). I contacted the excitement I felt inside. Undoubtedly, the “little professor” excited to be getting her teeth in to a project, the reading and reflection to come; and also a sense of joy and celebration: joy that I have the opportunity to do this; celebration of the journey I have been on. It is incredibly important that I stay in touch with the intention of sharing my experience rather than coming across as an expert espousing THE truth. From the bottom up rather than top down…and that process needs space so that things can naturally bubble up and come to the surface of my consciousness.