“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” ~ Charles Mingus
Maybe when it comes to carbohydrates we are better off having complex rather than simple sugars but when it comes to life and human nature striving for simplicity is ideal.
Quaker Richard B. Gregg wrote in 1936, “Voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer condition. It means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, as well as avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of life. It means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions. It involves a deliberate organization of life for a purpose.”
The concept of minimalism as a lifestyle has taken off. There is even a popular magazine printed on recycled paper called Simple Living. More than ever, there is a widespread longing for a simpler life and yet we stumble over the complexities we have created for ourselves in effort to reach simple.
My own spiritual teacher says, “To be complex is very easy. To be simple… now that is very difficult. So, try to be very simple.” Perhaps simpler living, simpler being is a practice, a process, a path rather than a light switch we can suddenly flick on.
But where to start? What to do? How do we observe a practice of simplifying the complex? Let’s give this a try…
Maybe it begins with a pause. And a gentle observation of what the complex feels like. Chaotic? Confusing? Jagged? Tense? Exhausting? Draining? Energizing? Adrenaline inducing?
From here, maybe a breath is in order and a momentary disengagement from all that complexity is in order. Close your eyes. Drop your shoulders down away from your ears. Relax your belly completely and bring all of your mind’s focus to the flow of breath in and out of the body without any intentional effort to breathe. Just notice. Feel your feet firmly on the ground or your seat grounding into the chair or floor beneath where you sit. Intentionally soften your temples, your eyebrows, your jaw, your throat. Let the arms and hips and legs grow heavy. Just watch how your breath flows in and out. Stay in this place of watching without analysis for about ten cycles of breath, scanning intermittently for tension that may creep back in and upon discovering tension gently soften and relax that part of your body again.
Slowly open your eyes and look upon the complicated situation with refreshed vision and relaxed body. Be cautious not to launch back into adrenaline-driven mode and just observe this complexity of situation/relationship/project/issue. Sit with it. Stand with it without doing anything at all for a few more moments.
Then comes the gentle process of choosing to find a simpler route. A simpler way. It might mean letting go of some things, some people, some attachments. It might mean saying “No, thank you,” or “No I will not be able to be there, ” or “No, I’m unable to assist with that right now.”
I came to a major decision to let go of the company I had founded and built over the past five years this past spring. Through my own process of sitting and standing (and frankly running) with the complexities of running a full service counseling center with up to 13 therapists and 6 yoga teachers at one time I finally reached clarity I needed to let it go, downsize, simplify and go solo with my own practice as a therapist and yoga teacher. I easily had a buyer for the counseling center and though the process of the sale/purchase had its own set of complexities, with mindfulness it all came together very smoothly. And now, I face the daily challenge of not repeating my former tendency to take on too much. I find myself saying “No, I’m sorry I don’t see clients on Fridays,” and “I am only going to teach one yoga class at a time,” and “I am making a conscious choice to observe a simpler schedule to have time for my self care and my family.” It’s not necessarily an easy shift to make. I’ve trained people well to expect me to jump to do whatever they ask of me. Simplifying is an ongoing process. A state of mind. A state of being. A way of life…
Here’s to a simpler path…
Lynn Louise Wonders