I’ve been thinking over the last couple of days about the concept and the practice of simplicity. As I often like to do with actions, beliefs or habits in my life, I must regularly ask myself: What’s the point? It helps me keep things real and grounded, which is really important for me as I have a tendency to drift off into the clouds a bit from time to time.
So, what. is. the. point?
I have been reflecting on the fact that, while I think material simplicity is something important (both personally and in a larger societal way), it isn’t an end in itself. For me, it is a very important step towards the ultimate goal: spiritual/emotional/mental simplicity and freedom.
As with just about everything in life, the practice of living in a materially simple way can become dogmatic, ritualized and egotistical. Rather than using simple living as a tool for gaining true clarity, liberation and independence in your life, it is certainly possible to practice simplicity as a way to draw divisions between yourself and others; to boost your ego; to make yourself feel special; to distract you from the important business of living with compassion and non-aggression in your daily life and sorting out your own mental clutter so you can truly live freely. If you are using simplicity to define yourself and to assert your identity in opposition to others in the world, then you are still falling victim to a sort of materialism. But, instead of defining yourself by the things you have, you define yourself by the things you don’t have. It can still involve a lot of egoism.
With any belief, lifestyle, habit or action in life, I think it’s important to ask oneself: does it help me act with compassion or am I using this as an excuse to judge or exclude others? Sometimes, in honestly answering this question, it becomes apparent we need to open ourselves up a little bit more and be more generous in our understanding of other people and situations. It’s also possible to cling too tightly to our beliefs and opinions, at the expense of compassion and/or logic and reason. For me, the litmus test is always this: if it causes good for myself and others, keep it; if it causes harm to myself or others, let it go.
So, my point here isn’t to undermine the importance of living a materially simple life. For many, many reasons, I think living in a simple way is both beneficial, and to some degree necessary, for the health and prosperity of humanity and the world we live in. I certainly know that for my disposition it is very beneficial for me to regularly clear out some of the physical clutter in my life and to avoid indulging in too much buying and collecting and wanting. I can get too caught up in all that. But on the other hand, you can live in a mud hut, with just the necessities of food, water and clothes, and still have a brain full of noise and confusion.
The real work is achieving simplicity, clarity and freedom of the mind.
So, more on this topic later. In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on simplicity; material/ spiritual/ mental, etc. What do you do to stay grounded and keep a clear and free mind? How do you make simplicity a reality in your daily life? Please share!