A path of awakening, healing, and maturing is often about simplicity.

Here are some of the ways I have found simplicity, and I’ll end with the most essential one.


When I trace my needs and wants back, I find simplicity. I find that what I need and what are some universal essentials: Love. Acceptance. Safety. Being seen and understood. The rest are strategies to get those innocent universal essentials. To find this, I take any surface need or want, even the most mundane ones. I ask myself: What do I hope to get out of it? And then repeat that question until I arrive at something very simple and essential with nothing behind it. (This inquiry is from Adyashanti.)

When I communicate, at least with my partner and some friends, and it seems appropriate, I say: I feel X, because of Y. Often, it’s in the form of: I feel scared, this is what triggered it, and it really comes from an old wound in me. I may also add a request. (This is from Non-Violent Communication and Marshall Rosenberg.) When I look, I find that most of my emotions – independent of what surface form it takes – can be traced back to fear, and a kind of survival fear. I don’t know if it’s like this for others.

I tend to map my being in a simple way: Who and what I am. As who I am, I am this human self in the world just as my passport says and the way most see me. It’s a role I play in the world. As what I am, I am what I more fundamentally am to myself. I find myself as what the whole field of experience happens within and as. I find myself as what a thought may call consciousness, and the world to me happens within and as that consciousness. What I am is oneness and the world, to me, happens within and as that oneness. Even more fundamentally, I find myself as capacity for the world. I find myself as capacity for any and all experience.

I like to use a simple idea for understanding my psyche, and that is parts or subpersonalities. I think of my psyche as consisting of subpersonalities. Each of these has its own world, they experience the world in their own way. And any perspective I can think of comes with a subpersonality. They are innumerable and create an amazing richness. I can dialog with them, and I can dialog while taking on the role and view of a certain part. When I communicate with myself and others, I also find it helpful to say: I notice that a part me of feels this, is angry, is scared, and so on. That helps me relate to it more intentionally, and see it as a part of me and something happening within my field of experience.

I like to say “I want” and “I choose to”. They are wants since I don’t really have any needs, apart from in the most informal sense. And I choose my actions, I don’t really have to do anything. That also makes for a simpler and more honest communication with myself and others. (I think this also comes from NVC?)

I like to differentiate needs and strategies. My most essential needs are universal, innocent, and simple: Love, safety, being seen and understood, and so on. My body also has some basic needs: Water, food, shelter, comfort, etc. And there are many strategies to get those essentials. I can give myself the essentials of love, safety, etc. I can seek companionship where I experience it. I can try to be a good steward for my human self in the world and provide for the essentials of what my body needs. Differentiating needs and strategies opens my mind to a range of different strategies, and it also makes it easier to negotiate with others so I have my needs met. (This can still be quite challenging for me, at least in some situations.) This is also from Non-Violent Communication and Marshall Rosenberg.

Another simple guideline is being a good steward of my life. To take care of my life as a good friend or parent would. It seems obvious, but I don’t always do it. This guideline is from Adyasanti.


And a few things that simplify for me but are a little more complex…

It’s not strictly necessary, but I like to differentiate small and big understandings of awakening. A small understanding stays close to what we notice and can say something about. To myself, the world to me happens within and as what I am. I can explore my nature as consciousness, oneness, capacity, and so on. And I cannot assume that the nature of all of existence is the same as my nature. A big understanding of awakening is in the context of all as the divine. Here, we take a jump and assume that the nature of all of existence is the same as our own. This is the traditional way of understanding awakening. It’s a simple differentiation, honest, and we can use either one depending on the situation and what seems most useful. The small understanding allows for better communication across traditions and is compatible with most worldviews. The big understanding is more traditional and more inspiring to some.

I understand oneness in different ways. Again, this is not strictly necessary but I find it useful. In the world and at the level of stories, I see the universe as a seamless system, as a whole, a holarchy made up of holons. To me, I find that the world happens within and as the oneness I am. They are two different things and it’s good to notice. (If I confuse the two, it’s possible to get into unnecessary complexities.)

I use an integral model of the world, at least for myself although I often don’t talk about it. Although integral models can be complex, they have a simplicity in that they acknowledge the validity in many or most ways of understanding the world and place them into a bigger whole. (It’s simpler than the alternatives of pretending one understanding is “true” and another is not, or accepting the validity in most or all but not seeing them in a bigger picture!)


There is also a context to all this, and it is, in a sense, fundamental simplicity.

In the initial oneness shift when I was sixteen, all was revealed as God. Everything without exception is God or Spirit or the divine. Everything is God experiencing itself as that1. That’s the words I used to try to point to it at the time.

These days, I would rather say that, to myself, I am fundamentally consciousness and that consciousness woke up to itself. To what I am, all is consciousness. The world, as it appears to me, happens within and as the consciousness I am. Just like in a night dream, the consciousness I am forms itself into any and all content of experience, whether we call it a night dream, waking life, or whatever else we choose to call it.

Even more fundamentally, I notice I am capacity for all of it. What I am is capacity for consciousness and all that consciousness forms itself into. I assume this is also the case for any “conscious beings”.

It doesn’t get much simpler than that. And living from and as it has infinite wrinkles.

I’ll add a couple of notes:

It seems that any “conscious being” is fundamentally consciousness to themselves, and that the world – as it appears to them – happens within and as the consciousness they are. That’s not at all special. I also assume that most beings live with a kind of noticing of this, but the noticing may not be so conscious or at the forefront.

This is the essential simplicity. I had it at the beginning of this article but decided to put it here since it may require a bit more to notice and live from.

(1) That includes anything related to this human self and any sense of being anything in particular within content of experience, including ideas of a doer or observer. All of it happens within and as the divine. In my case, there was first a shift into an observer-observed duality for about a year, and then there was a shift out of the observer-identification and all was revealed as the divine AKA consciousness.

I took the photo several years ago at the Exploratorium in San Francisco

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Lunana: A yak in the classroom

I saw Lunana: A yak in the classroom a couple of weeks ago, and it was the first movie I have seen in a movie theater since before the pandemic.

It’s a simple, beautiful, and heartfelt movie, and is still with me. It may be one of the most beautiful movies I have seen.

And it’s a reminder that impactful stories don’t need to be complicated or innovative or take an unusual angle. Powerful stories are often simple, heartfelt, and reflect a universal human experience.

In this case, an ambitious young teacher from the city is sent to a remote school and is deeply impacted by the simplicity, sincerity, and heartfeltness of the people there. And very movingly, one of the older villagers thinks the teacher may be the reincarnation of his favorite yak, returning to the village with his gifts and blessings. I also love that the villagers play themselves.

This is another rich topic. I loved this movie because of the heartfeltness and simplicity of the people, their way of life, and the movie. A part of me longs for that simplicity, and I find it in different ways, including by finding the simplicity of my nature and resting in and as that even as I go about my day. I feel sad that such a simple way of life is more and more rare. At the same time, I know that it’s often a hard life, and those living it often long for a more modern one.

Finca Milagros - view

A rich and simple life: going to evolution for clues

How do we live a life that we experience as rich, fulfilling, and meaningful?

I often go to evolution for clues to these kinds of questions.


How did we evolve? It obviously depends on the time and location, but in general… We evolved in small communities with close ties between the members. We evolved mostly in nature, with all our senses naturally engaged. We evolved interacting with nature in different ways, including foraging, planting, and tending to animals. We evolved working with our hands: Climbing, digging, throwing, planting, weeding, cooking, sowing, making simple pottery, and so on. We evolved being relatively active physically, doing daily tasks. We evolved helping others and our community. (And receiving help from them.)

We are made for that type of life. So it’s a good guess that something similar is what we will experience as natural, fulfilling, and even meaningful.


That’s how it is for me. During times when I am in nature and doing these kinds of tasks and activities, I feel naturally fulfilled and connected. This happens when I am at the cabin, which is in a forest and by a lake, without (much) electricity, where the heat comes from a fireplace, and where I need to chop wood and carry water. (If I am there by myself, I start missing people after one or two weeks.) It also happened when I lived in the countryside in Wisconsin (Mt Horeb), in an old farmhouse with a vegetable garden, where I got much of our food from working at a neighboring CSA farm one morning a week, and where just about all the food (vegetables, fruits, eggs, meat) came from neighbors I personally knew. (During this time, I was also involved in many meaningful community projects.)

Now, at Finca Milagros, this is even deeper in some ways. The house is mostly open to the elements. (The climate allows and encourages it.) We are planting a lot of food plants and other plants. We get more of our food from the local community and people we know. (And will get more as we make more connections.) We are engaging with the land and the local ecosystem in an even deeper way: we are supporting it to regenerate and rewild. There is a deeper sense of partnership with the land and nature there. And it’s also deeply fulfilling to know that this work will, hopefully, create the conditions for a better life for literally millions of beings.

When I have this kind of life, I find I don’t need very much. I mostly need the basics: shelter, water, food, and connections with a few people. (And for the latter, I appreciate the internet which is a kind of essential these days, even if I obviously could get by without it.)

When I don’t, during the times when I feel more disconnected from nature and people, I don’t feel very fulfilled. And that’s when things like compulsions, distractions, and consumerism come in.


Of course, this is very simplified. A sense of deficiency and lack also has a belief, identity, and emotional component. And not everyone is drawn to this type of life. But I would guess that the essence of this applies to most or all of us. We feel more fulfilled the more we are connected – to ourselves, others, and nature. And many of us feel more fulfilled when we are physically active and do and make things with our hands. (Which could take the form of yoga practice or a pottery class Thursday nights.)


The question then is: How can I bring more of this into my life now? How would my ideal (connected, engaged, meaningful) life look? And can I make a change in that direction?

These can be small steps: Take up yoga or tai chi. Grow some plants in the kitchen or on the balcony. Do a form of gentle mindfulness to connect with the body. Go for walks. Start up a book club with your neighbors. Adopt a cat. (Which is huge for the cat.) Join a pottery class. Learn about native edibles and wild foraging.

See below for more.

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Keith Jarrett on CFS & music creation

I was saying to the disease: I know you are here and I have accepted your presence, but I am still going ahead with this work. To start it I have to make it as intimate as possible.

As soon as it got complex, I stopped. I wanted to stay close to the song, to sing it. So I was turning my disease into a song.

The disease taught me a lot. The greater the experience, the deeper the simplicity. Time is the most complex part of that simplicity.

– Keith Jarrett from the documentary “The Art of Improvisation”, 2005

In this quote, Keith Jarrett talks about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and how it helped him simplify and become more intimate with the music. He didn’t stop making music, he changed his relationship with making music.

I love what he says here. It mirrors how my relationship with spiritual practice shifted when my CFS dramatically worsened some years ago. I also had to simplify and become more intimate with it.

For instance, basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here. Instead of intentionally noticing and allowing, I shifted into something more simple and intimate. I notice that what’s here in my field of experience is already noticed and allowed. It’s already allowed. (By space, mind, life, existence.) It’s already noticed by consciousness before any conscious noticing. I align with what is already here instead of trying to manufacture anything or achieve something through effort. It may not look like a very big shift, and yet it makes all the difference. And it is more closely aligned with reality.

I was aware of and explored this difference long before this happened, but the CFS motivated me to be more simple and intimate in this noticing, and more diligent in finding the most simple and effortless way to notice.

And that’s happened in other areas of life as well, including in my connections with others. I have had to drop a lot of pretense and facades and be simple and more intimate, especially in my more close relationships.

Finding an easier way: chronic illness as a guide

Some years ago, my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) shifted into a more severe phase. That meant I had to find an easier way to do many things in life.

How can I do this in a way that’s more comfortable? Require less energy? Take my situation into consideration? Is kind to me and hopefully others?

Here are some examples.


I have explored and found my value independent of my actions and activities in the world. Before this happened, I put at least some of my value on my actions and what I produced. (After all, I am a child of the western culture where this is a feature.) Where is my value if all I can do is rest? If I cannot produce or do much?

One answer is that we see a baby as having value, and they mostly eat, poop, and make sounds. If a baby has value, why is that not the case with me and anyone else independent of age and production?

Another answer is in noticing my nature, and that the world to me happens within and as what I am. Here, nothing is missing. It’s complete as it is.

And yet another answer lies in examining any stressful thoughts around lack and finding what’s genuinely more true for me. (As I did for several years through The Work of Byron Katie.)


I learned to ask for help.

Before this, I took pride in not asking much for help and created an identity around it.

After this happened, I had to ask for help. And it helped me soften that identification and see the value and beauty both in receiving and giving and in allowing others to give. (Especially as long as they feel free to say no.)

I am not doing this perfectly, whatever that means, but I am exploring and learning.


I have learned to find a more genuine yes and no, not only through inquiry but also by noticing my body’s response.

For instance, if I am wondering whether to do an activity or not, I can say to myself: I can choose to do this or not, and I chose to do it. And then notice my body’s response. Does it relax? Does it sigh in relief? Then I say to myself: I can choose to do this or not, and I choose not to. And again notice my body’s response.

The genuine yes is reflected in my body relaxing, in a sigh of relief. Sometimes it’s a yes to the activity, and sometimes it’s a no to the activity.

(How does this work? It may be because the more unfiltered and honest part of my mind is intimately connected with my physical body. Or more accurately, because any tension in my mind is reflected in tension in my physical body, and tension always happens when we are not completely honest with ourselves.)


What are some of my surface wishes and motivations? Taking one of them, what do I hope to get out of it? And what do I hope to get out of that? And that? What’s the most essential wish and motivation behind it? How can I give that to myself? In life? How is it to give it to that part of me here and now, within myself? (From Adyashanti.)

This is another way to simplify my life. On the surface, I have innumerable wishes and motivations. And when I trace them back to their essence, I find just a few and perhaps really just one.

This helps me prioritize and find and give myself what I really wish for and need.

It also helps me differentiate my genuine needs and motivations, and the strategies I use to find and give it to myself. It helps me explore a variety of ways to give it to myself. (NVC.)

For instance, I may have a surface wish for money. When I trace it back, I find it’s more essentially a wish for safety. Can I offer a sense of safety to the part(s) of me that wish for safety? Can I find ways to feel safer in life? (I can also explore ways to be a good steward of my life in terms of finances. What are some ways to have more stable finances? What are some ways to have a little more money in my life?)

I may have a surface wish for ice cream. When I trace it back, I find it’s more essentially a wish for love, comfort, and enjoyment, and even more essentially love. Can I give love to those parts of me wishing for love? Can I give comfort to the parts wishing for comfort? Can I give enjoyment to my inner community? Can I find ways to give this to myself in life? (And I can, of course, still eat ice cream if I wish.)


I have always loved simple living, and leading simple living groups was part of my actual job for a while. CFS has encouraged me to simplify even more.

What can I prune in my life? What can I say no to? (Which is a yes to me.) What drains energy? What do I really enjoy? What gives me a boost? What’s worth spending energy on, even if it has a cost?

What has life pruned for me? And can I join in with it? Can I find where it’s a genuine gift?


Like many in my culture, I have been programmed to think I should say “no” as little as possible. A part of me wants to please others to avoid discomfort. I should answer calls. I should say “yes” if I am invited somewhere.

So I have had to explore this and find more peace with saying no, and sometimes really enjoy saying no.

As Byron Katie says, a genuine “no” is a yes to me. Right there, I find more peace with it and even joy.

I see the benefits of learning to say no. It helps me take care of myself and my health. It helps me prune away activities (and sometimes people) that don’t feel right to have in my life. It leaves room for what’s more enjoyable, nourishing, and meaningful. I find that the space itself is enjoyable, nourishing, and meaningful (!).

Feeling free to say a genuine yes or no is easier through good communication and some education. I am working on being better at explaining my situation to people in my life. The more they understand, the easier it is for all of us to have our needs met. We can more easily find strategies that work.


What’s deeply nourishing for me?

In my case, I find it’s a wide range of things and activities.

Bone broth (!) is deeply nourishing for my body and thus for all of me. Whole food low on the food chain is typically the same. (I find refined foods draining.) Warm herbal tea, and sometimes spice tea, is often nourishing, along with dark miso broth.

Nature and being in nature is deeply nourishing for me. (It can be just sitting in a garden, enjoying the sun, clouds, wind, chirping birds, the sound of the wind in the trees, and so on.)

Some relationships are deeply nourishing, especially at certain times.

This type of exploration is nourishing to me, when I have the energy.

Some input – podcasts, interviews, articles, videos, movies, and music – is nourishing for me, at the right time.

Breema is deeply nourishing for me, whether it’s receiving, giving (when I have enough energy), or doing Self-Breema.

Receiving Vortex Healing for energizing is deeply nourishing for my system. It especially helps if I feel very drained or in a crash.


I used to put extra effort into my meditation practice, whether it was training a more stable attention, noticing my nature, or something else. In my teens and twenties, I would often meditate or hours at a time. I would go fully into the Tibetan Ngöndro practice. I would practice as if my hair was on fire, as they say in Buddhism. I found I couldn’t do that anymore. I had to find an easier and simpler way.

What was this easier way? I have mostly focused on basic meditation, noticing and allowing what’s here, and noticing that any content of experience is already noticed and allowed. By noticing what’s already here, I scale back the effort to the essentials.

I found that the essence of the Headless experiments is also helpful since that too is about noticing what’s already here.

Also, I kept some simple heart-centered practices like tonglen and ho’oponopono.

And I have, in periods, done simple forms of inquiry like the Big Mind process, and The Work of Byron Katie, the Kiloby/Living inquiries.


Inquiry and heart-centered practices help me find more ease.

Stressful stories are only partially true and my system is spending a lot of energy maintaining them and reacting to them. Identifying and examining these stories, and finding what’s more genuinely true for me, opens up space for more ease and presence. I find The Work of Byron Katie and the Kiloby/Living inquiries most helpful for this.

Heart-centered practices shift how I relate to anything – discomfort, myself, others, situations, life, and more. (And really, my images of all of these.) They help me shift from seeing them as enemies, struggling with them, and so on, to genuinely befriending them and perhaps even finding genuine gratitude for them. This too opens up space and opens up for more ease and peace with what is. The practices I am most familiar with are tonglen, ho’oponopono, and the Jesus/Heart prayer.


Finding what I am helps me find an essential simplicity.

In the world, I am this human self in the world. That’s not wrong.

Is that also what I am in my own first-person experience? I find I more fundamentally am capacity for the word as it appears to me, for any and all content of experience. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

And here, there is an essential simplicity. It’s the simplicity that allows and takes the form of all the richness of experience. It’s what’s free of tension and stress, and is free to take the form of what a thought may label tension and stress.


This is perhaps a bit obscure and marginal for most but important to me.

When I experience discomfort, the habitual response in my system is to react to it. To try to push it away. Distract myself from it, often by going into compulsions. Make it go away, sometimes by healing and transforming it away. And so on.

My system responds as if it’s “other”. As if it’s a kind of enemy or problem. As if is a foreign element.

In reality, I am capacity for it. It happens within and as what I am.

Noticing this, and resting in that noticing, helps to shift out of this pattern. And that too gives more of a sense of ease and peace. It initially takes a bit of effort, and it really frees up a lot of energy tied up in the struggle from the old habitual response.

How do I do that? The easiest for me is to remind myself of my headlessness, notice my nature directly, and then notice and rest in the noticing of the nature of (what my thoughts label) the discomfort.


Very little of this was new to me. These were all things I have explored since my teens or twenties. But the more severe phase of the CFS invited me to be more sincere and thorough in the exploration of all of it. Life created a kind of boundary for me and I needed to go deeper within that boundary. I could get away with less. I couldn’t so easily get away with being approximate and sloppy. I needed to be more sincere and precise.

It almost goes without saying, but a part of this sincerity is to find what’s genuinely true for me. Tricking myself doesn’t work since a part of me (all parts, really) know what’s going on. It has to be genuine to have any value.


By writing it like this, it can look as if I have it all sorted.

The reality is far more messy and human. I am not by any means perfect in any of this, whatever we imagine “perfect” means. I am winging it. I am learning a few things as I go along, often slowly. I forget and then remember again. I have a lot of issues and traumas that sometimes obscure and confuse any clarity that’s here. I don’t have any final or full answers. And as with most of these posts, I am writing this as a reminder to myself. As an invitation to myself to bring it alive here and now and explore it further.

It’s all very much a work in progress. And an adventure.

Note: What I have written here applies to some extent to many forms of chronic illness. This includes different forms of long-covid, some of which are similar to CFS. Long-covid is a post-viral disease and CFS is often a post-viral disease.

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Adyashanti: Our minds may believe that we need subtle and complex spiritual teachings to guide us to Reality

Our minds may believe that we need subtle and complex spiritual teachings to guide us to Reality, but we do not. In fact, the more complex the teaching is, the easier it is for the mind to hide from itself amidst the complexity while imagining that it is advancing toward enlightenment. But it is often only advancing in creating more and more intricate circles to walk around and around in.

– Adyashanti, The Way of Liberation: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

Frederic Chopin: Simplicity is the final achievement

is the final achievement

– Frederic Chopin

Through skills and experience comes simplicity. We see that in art as well as in other areas of life.

And it’s the same with us. As we heal, mature, and awaken, a sense of simplicity often comes with it. Our priorities are more clear. Our desperate questions fall away. We live with more contentment and are less often and severely hijacked by the complexity of emotional issues. We know more – in immediacy – what we are. We know ourselves better as who we are.

We are often more content with a simple life and we appreciate the simple things of life because we know how precious they are.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t complexity and richness. Complexity is part of life and our explorations. And as we heal, mature, and awaken, a sense of richness comes with it.

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. Read 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?

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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.

Radical, and radically simple

The pointers and tools I find works best for me are often very simple. And they may also, from a conventional view, be a bit radical.

It’s the usual ones:

Question any stressful story, any underlying belief – including those that seem most obviously “true”, and find what’s more true for me.

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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.

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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? 

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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.

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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.)