Mindful Simplicity Swaps
Life in the modern world can be pretty full-on – with a never-ending To-Do list, constant demands for our attention, and the struggles we all experience as we navigate life’s challenges.
Living more simply – while it won’t magically solve all our problems – can be less stressful, less exhausting and more peaceful. This leaves us in much better shape to meet those challenges and deal with them in a positive way.
In this month’s tips, I’m sharing some simplicity swaps that can help us to move in that direction.
Productivity for Presence
When you have a spare moment, do you feel compelled to fill it with something productive?
I sometimes remind myself that doing nothing isn’t laziness – it’s actually a practice of being actively present. This means really inhabiting my experience of being alive, right in this moment as it happens.
It’s rarely as boring as a part of me fears: watching clouds in the sky, listening to birds or the rain, or tuning into the language of body sensation can be surprisingly absorbing, when you get used to it.
When you next have a gap in your day, try filling it only with being present.
Consumption for Contentment
We live in a consumer culture, and I recently learned (from reading Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone’s book Active Hope) about the advertisers’ ‘law of dissatisfaction’, which is used to make us desire products that we really don’t need. Knowing about this is empowering: we can choose material contentment instead of buying into over-consumption.
My own simplicity swaps for mindful consumption have included choosing waste-conscious and local options. I’ve also created a practice of asking myself ‘do I really need that?’ (as many times a day as I’m invited to consume).
There’s a welcome simplicity in only consuming what I really need, and truly enjoying what I have, without hankering after the next purchase.
Plugged In for Tuned In
I’m not anti-tech, when it’s being used in a life-enhancing way (as it very much can be). I am however in favour of being intentional about how we use it.
When social media first became a thing, I know I wasn’t alone in finding myself spending my evenings scrolling through an online feed. These days, I use it very differently, especially being aware of the impact on my connection with loved ones.
When I keep my time online to ‘just enough’ to use it positively, I can be more present and available to the people I actually spend time with.
Do you have a ‘tech trap’ that disconnects you from others? Maybe it’s using your phone at the dinner table, or when you could be in conversation with friends or family. Notice it without judgement – we all fall into these traps – and choose whether you want to be plugged-in or tuned in.
Reactivity for Receptivity
It’s so tempting, when we experience emotional discomfort, to do something to try to fix it, to make ourselves feel better. But this can become an exhausting state of constant problem-solving. At this point, we are trapped in reacting to our experience, instead of simply receiving it.
One of the most liberating things I’ve discovered through practising mindfulness is how to let things unfold, instead of constantly trying to problem-solve.
Sometimes a feeling doesn’t want to be fixed, it just wants to be listened to. When we receive our experience with kindness (instead of pushing it away), we find that we can allow the energy of uncomfortable feelings to subside naturally, without our interference.
In this way, we don’t complicate things by adding a layer of reactive ‘doing’ or over-thinking. Granted, this isn’t an easy skill to develop, so we can begin with just noticing the reactivity: see if you can catch yourself going into problem-solving when you feel uncomfortable.
My coaching programme by Skype includes tools to develop the skills of reducing reactivity.
A couple of other pieces I’ve written about simplicity are Slow, Simple, Local and How To Experiment With Mindful Living
A short meditation to practice receiving experience rather than reacting is Support Your Self – find it in the Self-Kindness section of my meditation recordings