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Practicing Simplicity

Painting by Mark Rothko (Minimalist Artist)

This is a major league tough one for me…I don’t know about you, but simplifying things is a particular challenge in my life. A friend of mine once said:

You could complicate a two-piece puzzle!

How so? For starters, my mind can be abuzz - switching back and forth from one thing to another. My thought process in itself is never simple. Except when I’m buying something. Take for example, if I need a new pocketbook. Many of my friends peruse multiple options, explore many stores, maybe even take one home only to return it again because they’re sure they can find something better. I walk into a store and see one bag I like and immediately purchase it.

Complicating my buying decisions usually isn’t in my playbook. In fact, if truth be told, I make them far too easily. My middle name should be Impulse Buyer! This could be me:

I need those cashmere gloves because

it’s winter…and I have hands.

But take deciding what toothpaste to buy, figuring out which avocado is ripest, selecting the yogurt I’ll like best? I can twist myself into a pretzel --- complicating the purchase WAY beyond what is necessary. Most of us are overwhelmed by a plethora of choices that we are constantly compelled to make in our modern-day world…and we’re not just talking groceries here!

As someone said:

Being a person is getting too complicated.

Time to be a Unicorn.

On the other hand, it must not have been much better in the 19th Century, when Henry David Thoreau wrote:

“Our life is frittered away by detail.

Simplify, simplify.”

If you’re like me, you probably know plenty of people who live each day to cross off the items on their To Do List. What am I talking about?? Hell, I do that myself on many a day. As someone said:

It’s really complicated to make

something simple, but very simple to

make something something complicated.

We so often hear of decluttering our closets or “downsizing” to move to a smaller place to simplify our lives as we get older. But trust me, as I learned making a move to Florida from Washington, DC, THAT is no easy task…you can go overboard in your enthusiasm. To this day, I can’t believe how many books and all my CDs that I left behind. I’m an inveterate book worm and a lover of music, so I have my regrets. I am reminded though that:

When life gets complicated…

I wine.

Seriously, a lack of simplicity can be found in so many arenas:


When I was in corporate life, the number of meaningless meetings I had to attend was both daunting and endless. It can make getting your actual job done nigh unto impossible. In fact,

Sometimes I spent a whole meeting

wondering how they got that big

meeting table through the door.

I love this one:

I used up all my sick time,

so I called in dead.

Talking and Writing:

Because I LOVE words, I can often be guilty of using way too many of them. Particularly when I’m living up to my nickname of “Chatty Kathy.”

Dejan Stojanovic tells us:

To say more while saying less is the

secret of being simple.

I do try to streamline my writing more than my talking (and, as you can witness right now, not altogether successfully!) To make the point, Robert Holden, in his book, Success Intelligence, cites the following statistics:

The number of words in the Lord’s Prayer: 56

The number of words in the Ten Commandments: 297

The number of words in the in the Declaration of Independence: 1,322

The number of words in the Directive of European Economic Community Imports for caramel and caramel products: 26,911


How many times in a day do you overthink a problem or overcomplicate a challenging decision? I’m a Master. Take the opinion from Steve Jobs on this one:

“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’re there, you can

move mountains.”

Fashion and Art:

Even these are known to benefit from simplicity.

From two of the experts:

Coco Chanel:

“Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”

Pablo Picasso:

“Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.”

My New Idea of Being Happy in Life:

Somehow, I used to be proud of my seat on the never-ending merry-go-round of life – constantly busy and often trying to do too much. I’m still learning on this one but trying to grow spiritually has helped me a lot in this regard. Many spiritual teachers suggest that the happiest approach to life is to notice where the simplicity lies and to walk in that direction.

I’ve come to believe that simplicity in life can bring clarity, reduce stress and lead to a more fulfilling and meaningful existence.

Tenzin Palmo wrote:

“Having more and more won’t solve the problem, and happiness does not lie in possessions or even relationships: The answer lies within ourselves.

If we can’t find peace and happiness there,

it’s not going to come from the outside.”

I think it’s why I’ve come to realize that a simple and less cluttered day can help me be more centered and present. I no longer jump out of bed in the morning and it’s “off to the races.” Quiet time used to seem so boring but now I relish it and get up an hour earlier most days to read something inspirational, to pray and mostly, to avoid the emotional agitation that comes from madly rushing about.

A very wise spiritual teacher said this:

Simplify. Slow down. Be kind. And don’t forget

to have art in your life – music, paintings,

theater, dance and sunsets.

Even if I can ignore all of the other suggestions, I can always take advantage of seeing that sunset. In fact, I’m vowing to go check out the one we’re likely to have tonight.

How about you??


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