It came to me during this mornings meditation: simplify, simplify, simplify. Despite how simple my life has become from an outside perspective, here in the countryside of Karpathos, I am reminded of the title of the first book I ever read on mindfulness - Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The words settle comfortably, coming as a perpetual reminder. I consider, once again, that no matter where we go physically, no matter how much our outer world shifts in appearance, vibe, and offerings, we do not escape from our inner workings. We do not get away from what we think, what we feel, and who we are that easily.
This mornings call to simplify, simplify, simplify comes to me as a reminder to untangle the complexities of the mind —as a reminder to sink further into the stillness of my meditation practice; into my heart and into the flow of life. By reining in the tangents of the mind, I am able to see things clearly and relax more fully.
We, Jakob and I, have also become increasingly aware of our simmering addiction to technology - to our computers, phones and, more specifically, to the web that connects them (and us) to the outside world. While there are many benefits to this accessibility, most of the time spent using these devices is less productive in nature and more mindless. The call to simplify is also then a call to disconnect more frequently from the infinite pathways of the internet; to be more present with the simplicity that exists in the immediate environment. To begin honouring this recognition, we have started unplugging the router and airplane-moding our devices at night, returning them to their connected statuses only after morning meditation. This allows us to wake up and enter the world with more attention and awareness given to ourselves and to one another. The outside world can wait.
“Simplify” is an important and timely call given the approaching festivities for many. The holidays can bring an overwhelming level of hustle and bustle — so many things to do, so many places to be and people to see, and so many things to give and to acquire. Given that plans are likely already set for this holiday season, we can ask ourselves: how can I find ways to simplify in terms of the presence I bring to myself and to the people I see? How can I sneak in moments of simplicity at this time of year? Since I have been sitting on this, I want to offer a few simple tips to help simplify, in all ways, at this time of year.
Give fewer things and more love. Love can come in the form of presence, patience, acceptance, care, kindness, and silence. Love is an intangible gift that costs nothing and yet is the most valuable offering you can give to those you care about. Also keep in mind that this time of year may be very challenging to some people. Offer your care and support to those who may be struggling right now. Your presence will go much further, and much deeper, than any material item has the capacity for.
Take time to yourself. This is a big one. A few years ago, I was so overwhelmed by all of the happenings around Christmas that I snuck away quickly after dinner to my bedroom. My sister followed me, finding me in tears, simply triggered by the too-muchness of it all. If you need to sneak away at any point, do it. Or, perhaps more effectively, make time to sit with yourself - to meditate, read, write, or reflect - before the weight of the season becomes evident. Simplify by nurturing your own inner harbour.
Unplug. If you want to make a holiday post on social media, feel free to do so, but don’t drown yourself in the online sea of people posting photos to show how warm and cozy their Christmas festivities look. Rather than worrying about making it all look a certain way, or concerning ourselves with how others have made theirs look, revel in how it feels to be with your loved ones. How it feels to savour those roasted veggies and pecan pie. Unplug from the outer world a little more in order to bring that extra presence to where you are right now.
Go easy on yourself. If you’re running late because the turkey is taking longer, be late. If you left the bottle of wine in the fridge at home, forget it. If you are having a tough time these days and end up sobbing at Christmas dinner, let the tears come. The love that these holidays are meant to carry will hold you. Let yourself be; let yourself be seen. Remember that you are the hardest on yourself and allow others to love and support you. Letting go of the minds attempt to sabotage your best efforts helps to simplify matters and allows you to live with greater acceptance for the reality of the present moment.
Give thanks. It seems, perhaps, too simple; however, gratitude-giving is a powerful practice that, when embedded as second nature, raises our levels of awareness and satisfaction to a new light. Nothing is too small or too big to be thankful for. Give thanks for the soil and seeds that make food possible; for the electricity that makes Christmas lights come alive and homes be warm; for the wood-burning fire that soothes the soul; for the humans that give meaning, share thoughts, and offer love. Give thanks to the handmade mug, the cherry pie, the silence, the chatter, the music, the friends, the family. There are no limits. Gratitude helps us to see the abundance and blessings that already exist, allowing the striving mind to rest and to find peace and contentment. We suddenly see the beauty in simplicity.
Wherever you are, wherever you find yourself, is it possible to bring a little added simplicity to the inner world and the outer one? During a season when things tend to get emotionally, energetically, and materially ‘busy,’ we might find a personal invitation to make space for the things that are most important — for the things that truly nourish the heart and soul. When we get passed the fancy wrapping paper, bows, and whistles, down to the core of the matter, what remains? It likely looks something like the simplest love — something worth gifting this year.