“Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day, rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more.”
~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
Doesn’t modern life sometimes feel pretty complex and full? I have been contemplating simplicity recently after feeling an inner nudge to simplify my life where I can, and to slow down. During the lock downs due to covid-19 most of us would have experienced a more simple and slower pace of life. However that pace seems to have picked right back up and seems to encourage us to acquire more, and do more. In my experience this rarely brings the contentment and happiness we desire.
There are endless ways we can acquire more, and all at the touch of a fingertip on a smartphone. This ease of acquisition is perfect for those of us who innocently get caught up in believing that acquiring and doing ‘more’ is the path to a happy life. I think we know deep down this is nonsense but we can still get caught up in the illusion.
More apps….more books…the next self-help course to help me feel better….more clothes…makeup…cookbooks (or is that last one just me!). Usually underneath this desire for more, some unconscious fear is lurking. Maybe this fear would have us believe that we aren’t safe, or that we are threatened in some way. After all, scarcity is a threat to our survival and if we have that fear running around our brain, it will prompt us in fairly powerful ways. Or maybe our fear is that we aren’t good enough as we are right now, and we need to keep working on ourselves in order to be OK.
Choice is a wonderful thing but I find that too much choice actually has a negative effect. I am very aware that this statement makes me look privileged (and I am, very blessed to live where I live, and have the life I have). I imagine when you live a life that feels like your choices are limited, that more choice might feel like the way to freedom and happiness.
However I have found that with more choice, more input from the outside world, there can be a sense of paralysis that means we don’t make any choices! For example, having three yoga apps on your phone, plus two other fitness apps, might mean you procrastinate about which exercise to do in the morning, and end up doing none. Or if your wardrobe is bursting with clothes deciding what to wear in the morning can become a daunting task, as there are too many choices. This is why some top CEOs have a certain business ‘uniform’ – a small group of clothes to choose from so that mental energy isn’t spent on deciding what to wear.
Did you noticed anything about freedom and choice when some of our choices were limited by lock down? Did less choice mean life seems simpler?? Or was it still busy and complex in your head?
REAL SIMPLICITY COMES FROM WITHIN
“Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” ~ Steve Jobs.
One of the most amazing ways I have found simplicity in my life has been understanding a paradigm of how life works that is so simple, and yet profound. This understanding has helped me enormously to simplify, especially when the going gets tough. The Three Principles understanding (as uncovered by Sydney Banks) means there is only ever one place I need to look when my feelings, or my experience in life, is troubling me. This understanding can sound like a lot of other things, and there are roots to it in all spiritual teachings. However the beauty of the way Sydney Banks expressed it was in its simplicity. Truth is always simple, and sometimes our minds can make a big deal about it, and try to tell us “It can’t be that simple!”
One of the simplest ways this understanding helps me to navigate life is in the simple fact, or principle, that 100% of the time I am feeling my thinking. All experiences come to us via thought – without thought there is no experience. I am not feeling events, circumstances, people, or things. I am feeling my thinking about those things. It is the power of Thought that creates my experience of life, every single moment.
When I misunderstand that this is how life works, I suffer. When I do see it, life flows with more grace. Knowing this has taken a huge amount off of my ‘to-do-list’. There can still be lots to do in the outside world, and lots going on, but the determinant of how I feel comes from my thinking in the moment. When we are in a misunderstanding about where our experience is coming from (i.e. believing it is coming from outside events, other people or all the things we have to do) life feels complex and hard. In my experience, when we fall out of this misunderstanding and back into reality (i.e. our experience is only ever coming from within us, via thought) life feels simpler and easier. It feels a bit like magic to me - the effortless internal transformation that happens, the simplicity I feel, when I remember I am feeling my thinking, and not my life!
“All you have to know is everything is created from thought, you don’t have to know anything else”. – Sydney Banks
WHERE HAPPINESS AND CONTENTMENT REALLY COME FROM.
So what is the antidote to acquiring more, doing more, making our life more complex in order to feel happy and complete? Deep inside us, I believe most of us know that it doesn’t come from the stuff we have, or the things we own, or our status or job in life. Our experience of these things can fluctuate – one day we love our partner, the next they irritate us; we may like our job one day, and hate it the next. We can’t rely on these outside things for our happiness.
Like all feeling states, happiness and contentment come from within us. If we happen to be thinking ‘happy’ thoughts, we get to feel ‘happy’ feelings. Even when we aren’t feeling good feelings there isn’t anything we need to do. All feelings are safe because they move and change all the time. They are temporary. They tell us about one thing only: the state of our mind, not the state of our life. We don’t need to worry about changing our thinking or trying to control our lives because thought is constantly open to change. When our perception of life changes, our life literally takes on a whole new vista.
The news gets even better! Underneath the constant ebbing and flowing of our thoughts, there lies our essential ‘self’ which is not subject to the ever-changing experience of thought. When we are present to this self we can see that who we really are is a state of contentment, peace, love, wisdom and resilience. For me, one of the most helpful and life-changing aspects of the Three Principles understanding has been knowing that it is ONLY ever my thought-in-the-moment that takes me away from this place of simplicity – these are not qualities I need to work on or build. They are innate within each and every one of us. It is only believing our own thought-created reality that clouds over our ability to be in this space. We have access to infinite wisdom, love and grace because this is the energy of the universe and we are made of that.
THE SIMPLEST INSIGHT I EVER HAD.
The simplest and most powerful insight I have had (to date!) is this:
When my mind is quiet, there really are no problems. And life feels simple.
Yes, there are still things that need to be attended to in the world but from a quieter mind, these things no longer feel like ‘problems’ which takes the suffering and pressure away.
If you take one thing away from this blog I’d love it to be this: Underneath the busy mind that grabs your attention is a wellspring of love, contentment, happiness, resilience and compassion that just naturally exists by the very fact of you being a human being. BUT for believing your thinking, there is peace, life is good and we can keep it simple.
Lindsey Elliott is a Wellbeing & Resilience Coach, and Three Principles practitioner working in Brighton and online. She offers one to one coaching in a life-changing paradigm of understanding about how the human experience is created. With this understanding you can move from feeling insecure, stressed, anxious or unfulfilled to happy, secure, inspired, peaceful and filled with love.
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