Keeping it simple

 

In my own life, and when I work with clients, I am reminded of how helpful it can be to keep it simple.

Here is the simple recipe that seems to work best for me:

Simplicity. Keep it simple.

Ongoing. Make it part of daily life.

Comfortable. Find a way to do it so you’d want to do it forever.

And another principle that keeps it simple:

Reality.  Use practices and guidelines that are aligned with reality, and helps you align more consciously with reality, with what already is.

When it’s simple, it’s…..

Easier to remember and do.

More attractive to actually do.

Easier to do when things feel more overwhelming and challenging.

Something I’d want to make part of my daily life.

Here are some practices that fits these guidelines for me:

Heart practices. Loving kindness. Ho’oponopono. Doing this towards me, others, parts of me and my experience, the world, life. (Other practices: Tonglen, holding satsang with parts of my experience.)

Head practices. Inquiry. Asking simple questions in everyday life. (Is it true this is too much? Is that image of the future the actual future? Does that sensation mean something terrible is going to happen?) Sometimes doing it in a more structured way, for instance using The Work or the Living Inquiries.

Belly practices. Feeling sensations, especially the apparently uncomfortable ones and contractions. Resting with them. Doing simple body-inclusive practices. Walk in nature.

General practices. Resting with what’s here, with my experience as it is. Notice. Allow. Notice they are already allowed. Notice all as awareness.

Most of these are quite simple. And how are they aligned with reality, or how do they help me more consciously align with reality? Other posts have addressed that question so I’ll only mention a few things briefly here.

Love and kindness feels good. It’s a relief. And it’s what we are, when we find ourselves as that which any experience happens within and as.

Inquiry helps us see what’s already here. It helps us see what’s more true than our initial beliefs. It helps us see images as images, words as words, and feel sensations as sensation. (Not jumbled together as they initially often are, creating the appearance that these images and words are solid and true.)

Feeling sensations, along with inquiry, helps us feel sensations as sensations. Initially, they may seem to mean something, perhaps even something scary. (Because images and words seem “stuck” on them.) Through feeling them, and perhaps asking some simple questions about them and the associated images and words, we can feel sensations as sensations. We recognize that they don’t inherently mean anything. We can rest with them, more as they are.

Resting with what’s here helps me shift from thinking to noticing. It helps me find myself as that which I already am. As that which any experience already happens within and as.

Stepping stones to what’s more natural

 

Many practices I have explored seem to function as stepping stones to what’s more natural. They take me from a disconnected and fragmented state to what’s simpler and more natural. And that includes meditation, yoga (tai chi, chi gong, Breema), inquiry, prayer, loving kindness, gratitude, precepts and shaking (TRE, spontaneous movement, dance), and a variety of other practices.

The mental body is the newest in our human evolution, so it is perhaps natural that it’s been emphasized during the last few thousand years at least. This has led to a temporary over-emphasizing of role of the mental faculties (they are important, but function best in service to the heart), the appearance of our thoughts as more real and solid than they are, and identification with and as thought. So many or most of the practices developed over this time period are aimed at remedy and balance this. They are medicines for a temporary over-emphasis of the mental body. They are a bridge from this to seeing what’s already here, and a simpler and more natural way of being and living.

Some examples:

Precepts highlight what in us – usually fears, shoulds and beliefs – that prevent us from living with a natural and simple kindness towards ourselves and others. As with the other practices, it can feel a bit artificial at first, and then it shifts into a more natural and free living from kindness.

Natural meditation (Shikantaza) is what’s already here, although attention may be drawn to the complexities and drama of the mental and emotional bodies. It’s also how the mind naturally is when it’s less identified.

Yoga helps us connect more consciously with the body and movement, and allows us to experience ourselves as the body-mind whole. The whole is already here, although it’s not always noticed. And an experience of it can be cultivated through various movement practices.

Prayer is a giving of ourselves to God, an offering of our human self to Spirit. Again, it’s already that way, and this helps us notice it. It’s also how we naturally live when mind is less identified.

Loving kindness is again what’s here when mind is less identified. There is a natural and simple love and kindness for whatever is here in myself, others and the world. It’s what I am and life is.

Gratitude is similar. It’s what’s naturally here when mind is less identified. This may be a gratitude for what it’s easy to find gratitude for (friends, family, health, shelter, good food), and also for life itself as it shows up, with warts and calamities and all.

Inquiry is an examination of our thoughts and how it relates to emotions, sensations and our lives. Again, when mind is less identified it is naturally curious and attentive of these dynamics.

Shaking is what any mammal does to relieve stress and tension. It allows the body and mind to restore itself to a more healthy state.

With all of these, it can feel a bit artificial at first. We learn a form and a method, apply it, and it can feel clumsy. It also brings up what’s in us that prevents us from living it in a natural and simple form, it brings us face to face with identifications, wounds, fears, shoulds and more. And over time, as these soften, are held in love, and are seen through, the natural way of living this is gradually revealed. Form gives way to a very natural and simple way of living. These practices is a bridge from a temporary over-emphasizing of the mental body, with accompanying identifications, to a more simple and less identified way of being and living. (more…)

A more complex simplicity

 

In You’re Trying Too Hard, Joey Lott talks about a more complex simplicity.

I like that way of talking about it.

Joey Lott’s simplicity is a simple simplicity. And I find it beautiful and very helpful. It’s a direct pointing to the utter simplicity of reality.

For others, the simplicity is equally simple, and also more complex. It’s a richer simplicity.

It’s a simplicity that allows for practices, soul centers, development, voices, shadow, projections and more.

And all of that is happening within and as the simplicity. It’s the play of the simplicity.

When the simplicity is very clear and in the foreground for me, I too tend to favor a simple simplicity.

Right now, there is a draw to a slightly more complex simplicity, exploring all the things I am exploring here, and also noticing the simplicity it happens within and as. And seeing if I can find any of it. Can I find a shadow? Soul centers? Development? Projections? Or even a thought? A sensation? An image? Sound? Awareness? Emptiness? Can I find any of those as a real thing?

(more…)

Why complicate life?

 

It can be very simple.

How and when do I stop myself from living an uncomplicated life?

Asking for what I want means….

She will see me as vulnerable. She will reject me. She won’t like me. She will see me as greedy. She will see me as selfish. She will talk about me behind my back. I will feel too exposed.

 What I am most afraid would happen if I told her how much she means to me, is….

 She won’t say anything. She will see me as naive. She will dismiss me. We will feel uncomfortable. She will leave. She will talk about me behind my back. They will make fun of me. They will mock me.

Simplicity = alignment with (a) what is most important to me and (b) reality

 

What is voluntary simplicity, or simple living?

It can mean external simplification, such as cleaning out the closets, getting rid of the second car, reducing obligations and work hours. Or it can mean inner simplification, through simple activities, meditation, or alignment with what is more meaningful in life. And one often leads to and feeds into the other.

For me, the most attractive starting point is clarifying what is meaningful for me. What is most important to me? At the end of my life, how would I have liked it to be? What is my ideal obituary? What does that mean for how I live my life now? How would my ideal day be, down to the small details? How would I like to reprioritize my life? How do I stop myself from doing it? What do I fear may happen? How likely is it? What is more likely? What is the lowest hanging fruit, the easiest place to start? What resource do I have for making these changes? What support, if any, do I need? How can I get that support?

This inevitably leads to changes in my external life. I may decide to do something else for pay, either something that makes more money, or something that is inherently meaningful for me. I may decide to work fewer hours for pay so I can have more time for family, friends, volunteering, or other activities. I may decide to make more money, save, and retire early. I may decide to sell off things I don’t need, and require money and time for upkeep. I may move somewhere else, where I may find more support to do what is more meaningful for me.

(more…)

Reading level: Elementary school!

 

The most helpful and profound insights – in any area of life – are often quite simple can be expressed in a simple and clear language. So although this blog is not of the most profound or insightful ones, I was still happy to see that the readability of this blog is at the elementary school level.

blog readability test

There are several reasons to aim for a simple language. 

It is more naked and reveals what it refers to more clearly. It is easier to see what it is about. The topics and insights are less hidden behind complex language or a particular lingo. (As Arne Næss said, if you can’t see to the bottom of a pond, it is not neccesarily because it is deep. It could just be muddy.)

It makes it available to more people. It doesn’t require an advanced reading level or vocabulary, and it does require as much familiarity with a specialized vocabularly. It is more democratic.

A complex language may require educated readers, or at least readers familiar with a particular lingo. And a simple language can express any level of insight and intelligence, and make it available to more readers. 

It helps me clarify it for myself. If I use an overly complex language, it is often because I am not clear. So aiming for simplicity is an invitation to clarify it for myself. 

And when I use a personal language, it is not only more easy to read, but more honest. I say what I mean, and don’t hide behind abstractions such as “we” and “one” or pretend I present abstract facts when it is always from a personal view. 

In aiming for simplicity, I ask myself a few questions: 

Am I clear? Am I as clear about it as I would like to be? If not, I take some time to clarify it for myself. Partly, through inquiry. And partly through outlines and drafts. 

I am writing from my own immediate experience? From what is alive for me here now? If I don’t, it tends to get dry and convoluted. And when I do, it is usually more clear, juicy and direct. 

Can it be expressed more simply? How can it be expressed more simply? How can it be expressed in most simple way? Can I find one simple sentence that captures its essence? And if there are more layers to it, can that too be expressed in a simple way?

If I express something in an unnecesarily complex way, what happens? What do I get out of it? Do I get to (think that I) appear more intelligent? More educated? Am I doing it to impress myself or others? To get appreciation or approval? To feel that I belong to a certain group? Do I get to exclude certain people from understanding what I write about? 

(more…)

Bias against simplicity

 

Dr Olivier Ameisen, 55, one of France’s top heart specialists, says he overcame his own addiction to alcohol by self-administering doses of a muscle-relaxant called baclofen.

He has now written a book about his experience – Le Dernier Verre (The Last Glass) – in which he calls for clinical trials to test his theory that baclofen suppresses the craving for drink. […]

Further investigation uncovered research showing that the drug worked on rats to cut addiction to alcohol or cocaine

But, strangely, Dr Ameisen found that baclofen was unknown to specialists on dependence.

In March 2002 he began treating himself with daily doses of five milligrams.

“The first effects were a magical muscular relaxation and baby-like sleep,” he says. Almost immediately he also detected a lessening in his desire for drink.

Gradually, he increased the daily dosage to a maximum of 270mg, and found that he was “cured”. Today he continues to take 30 to 50mg a day.

“Mine is the first case in which a course of medicine has completely suppressed alcohol addiction,” he says.

“Now I can have a glass and it has no effect. Above all, I no longer have that irrepressible need to drink.” […]

However, many specialists fear that media excitement over Dr Ameisen’s theory is obscuring the complex nature of alcoholism.

“Encouraging people to think that there is a miracle molecule is to completely misunderstand the nature of alcoholism, and is extremely irresponsible, ” says Dr Michel Reynaud of Paul-Brousse hospital in Paris.

Source: BBC.

This story illustrates a bias against simplicity that sometimes occurs, in this case among academics and medical doctors.

All phenomena are of course infinitely complex. We can always explore it further within familiar frameworks, within new or different frameworks, and in terms of how they all may fit together in a larger and more comprehensive picture. And all of that is often quite helpful.

But that doesn’t mean that there can’t be simple solutions. Sometimes, there are simple solutions to complex problems.

In this case, there is a chance that they found a simple solution for alcoholism, at least in some cases. So when there is some receptivity there, we can investigate and see if, when and to what extent it works, and go from there. It may not take care of all of it for everyone, but even if it works for some, it is a great blessing.

And as always, it can be a supplement. Something that works along with other approaches – including helping people meet and come to terms with whatever they try to escape, and find what they seek in alcohol in other ways and areas of life.

This is also the case in psychology and spirituality. It can be of practical use to explore and be familiar with maps and tools. In the best case, they function as temporary pointers for us.

But sometimes, it is tempting to create an identity for ourselves that is based on an intricate knowledge of maps and theories. We use it to form in groups and out groups, and a sense of being right and on the right track. In short, we use it as a buffer against not really knowing.

And we overlook the simple tools. The ones that may not be very flashy, but still quite helpful.

(more…)

Unless you become like children

 

Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of God.
[Mark 10:15]

Much of what I write about here is almost childishly simple. For instance, in the last post, I could have taken the hypothesis angle instead, which is equally true and sounds more scientific. Evolution is a hypothesis, a model, and it has good explanation power so we choose to use it (or not).

But going to our immediate experience makes it more real for us. We see what is true, here and now.

And that truth is childishly simple.

It is the truth of the sense fields, of what arises in each of them, and how thoughts combine with the other to create an appearance of something solid and real.

It is the truth of what arises as inherently free from an I with an Other.

It is the truth of stories as practical tools only, with no more inherent value – or truth – than a hammer or a toothbrush.

It is the truth of finding ourselves as ultimate simplicity, as awakeness, and as the content of awakeness as awakeness itself. This ultimate simplicity which allows and shows up as infinite complexity as well.

The most important is often the most simple

 

I am happy to see scientists voting sanitation as the most important medical advance since the mid-1800s (although probably ever.)

Especially today, it is easy to be blinded by the flashy new discoveries and technological advances, which are important in their own way, and overlook the simple – such as clean water, food and air.

It seems that life is set up so that the most important is also often the most simple… although this doesn’t mean we always find it easy to actually do it on an individual or collective level (1.5 million people died as a consequence of poor sanitation in 2001, and in most of these cases, I assume these deaths could have been prevented by actions at the collective level, either nationally or internationally, but wasn’t.)

For our individual health, and if we have the means available, then what has most impact is the most simple: stay fit, get some exercise, eat simple clean food, get enough clean water to drink, maintain good relationships with people around you, and learn some ways to reduce stress.

To reduce stress, be with your experiences instead of trying to push them away. The pushing away is in itself a large part of the stress and discomfort (actually all of it.)

And it is the same with awakening, which has been made into something often very obscure and complex in the different traditions, but again is very simple, and available, in its essence.

Examine the content of what is alive right now. It is all coming coming and going… Sensations, thoughts, choosing, actions… all coming and going. Finite in time & space. Are you coming and going with either of these? What is not coming and going? Are you the awakeness that the content comes and goes within? And where is the boundary between this content and the awakeness? Is the content anything else than awakeness itself?

Or just be with what is, as it is (including any resistance), and the sense of I and Other will fade, revealing this awakeness to itself… as that which arises, and inherently absent of a separate I.

Or even simpler, and if it works for you, just notice yourself as already headless.

Or shift into being Big Mind, and explore your formless and form aspects (with guidance from someone already familiar with it.)