Simplicity Is Not Easy
By LynnFang on January 27, 2011
My version of a simpler life embraces green living, eco-conscious growth, time and experience over money and stuff, and inner peace and happiness over image and social status. Simple living sounds easy, and this may be true for many successful simplicity stars. But for others, the truth is that it isn’t easy or straightforward. All new lifestyle changes eventually become like second nature, at which point you might think it’s easy.
But transition periods can be fraught with insecurities and hidden obstacles. For most, moving from model American consumerist party-goer to simple living expert doesn’t happen overnight – a great deal of learning and adapting happens both before taking the dive and after. Only those with true tenacity will be able to climb over the learning curve. They are most likely the ones who will discover the ‘easy’ in simplicity.
Many of us were brought up in a completely different world, believing in things that we later realized are harmful to the earth and to our personal health. Paper is cheap, so use it freely. Eating should be fast and convenient, to make time for more fun or productivity. Making and spending more money means I am a more intelligent, capable person. For some, there are even more deep-seated beliefs to uproot, and it will take longer to fully exorcise them to make room for a new and healthier way of living. We are only human, after all.
It isn’t really simple or straightforward to start living eco-consciously after a lifetime of convenience. At that point, convenience is swimming somewhere in your blood. If you’re trying to buy less unnecessary stuff, you’ll run into questions about retail therapy and image. Why do you hold onto those things, and why do you love shopping so much?
If you’re trying to get away from using disposable products, you’ll likely be facing some old demons. You’ll wonder why you always flicked your cigarette butts anywhich way, without a thought or glance. Why do you always cave to advertising, buying things you don’t really need, or eating food that makes you feel sick? Whatever the reason, it will likely be uncomfortable.
Choosing an alternative path requires confidence and independence. If you don’t already have these in good shape, your path will be a bit windy. There’s a good deal of emotional sorting out to be done in this work. At the same time, you’re thinking about the big issues: waste, consumerism, climate change, ethical business, love, humanity. You’re also thinking about how you can live the simpler life you want while maintaining your old relationships. Sometimes, there’s a lot of tension. It’s not all warm and fuzzy, let’s just say.
That looks like a lot on one plate to me. Complicated.
Wasn’t this supposed to be simple? You recognize the problems your old habits caused you, so you stop and adopt new habits. Simple, right? But somehow it doesn’t always work out that way. Did you make it complicated? Is it your fault?
No. It isn’t.
You are human, after all.
You strive to be the best you can be, according to what you learned and experienced while growing up. Now that you’ve gained awareness of your personal impact on the earth, you’re striving to be even better. But fighting those demons can be an epic battle.
I’m motivated by the fact that most simplicity stars have found peace and purpose. They’ve shown me what’s possible, and I believe I can create the same. I’ve surfed through many highs and lows so far on my journey towards simplicity and sustainability. Despite the lows, I know deep down inside the promise of peace and purpose is true.
Complexity Is Not Chaos
In general usage, complexity tends to be used to characterize something with many parts in intricate arrangement. ~ Wikipedia
The good thing is, complexity does not equal chaos. Things seem complicated when there is so much going on, we don’t know how to handle it all. We get overwhelmed, and our lizard brain takes over, quashing our ability to think clearly and rationally.
But if we can calm our lizard brains, and carefully dissect the situation, we can uncover complexity’s true image: it's a network of interconnected parts. These parts may be obstacles, solutions, aspirations. Some of the obstacles we encounter are emotional in nature. Why do I love to buy things? Why can’t I remember to bring my reusable bags 100% of the time? Some are logistical: How do I compost? How do I go paper-free? What can I do with my unwanted possessions? I see each as a problem waiting to be solved. Perhaps you can see it as a project waiting for your leadership.
It really all boils down to this: Complexity can't be escaped. Humans are complex creatures. Nature is complex, life is complex. But it doesn't mean chaos, and it doesn't have to stop you.
Why do simple living pioneers love slowing down? It’s because life is rich and complex. If you’re too busy chasing elusive dreams, you won’t see the beautiful complexity. How do you feel in this moment? Yesterday? Tomorrow? How will your intuition improve tomorrow? If you go at the right pace, you’ll get to experience all of it. Slow down, and bask in complexity. It might be confusing, but you don’t have to figure it all out right now. The beauty of complexity is that you’ll never be finished exploring - there is always more inquiry, learning, and adventure to be had. There’s a whole universe out there, waiting for your arrival.
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. ~ Lao Tzu
I wrote this because I want you to know – epic projects and battles are ahead. But when they’re done, you’ll find tremendous peace, happiness, and true, easy simplicity. I promise.
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