Living in modern society in most parts of the world calls for high energy activity in the near-constant pursuit of more money, more power and more stuff. Success is measured by achievement, accumulation, ascension, adoration and any other description of expansion under any letter of the alphabet. These can lead to stress, disappointment, anxiety and an assortment of conditions which stem from a life of complexity. We don’t necessarily see the connection until we are separated from such an existence, either by calamity of some sort or preferably by reflection on how we arrived at this state of gnarled futility.
The average American full-time employee works 47 hours per week. Let’s say a mother needs to get up by 6:00 AM in order to get the children ready for school and out the door. If she works, she may drop them off at school and head to her workplace where she commences her workday by 8:00. By 6:00 PM, she arrives home and starts dinner. After-dinner cleanup, hopefully with help from family members, wraps at about 7:30. Now it’s time for following up on homework or other needs for the children. Mom and Dad may be able to squeeze in some family business that needs tending or other problems which have cropped up in the daily activities. The remainder of the evening may involve social media upkeep, household administration, reading or other pursuits such as some work-related self-enhancement study. TV, anyone? Any combination of the above could easily take a parent to bedtime, which should be around 10:00 if there’s hope of getting a full night’s sleep. Six or seven hours may have to do. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do those creative things we love.
Not everyone has such a busy life. Some have worse. There’s the business owner who works over 70 hours to keep the venture alive or the poor person who works three jobs to just pay the bills or the middle management executive who is overwhelmed by orders at all hours from above. How can these people ever get ahead of this madness to simplify their lives? The obvious answer is to merely jettison all of it and start over. It’s not practical, but it would bring a whole new clarity to life. Imagine if you were to take a stand and pledge to eliminate everything from your life that makes it unnecessarily complicated. Examples: Living 50 miles from work in a big city. Spending excessive time on Facebook. Feeding any addiction. Becoming a cause point on these things is an important step to simplifying your life.
Many would say there’s just nothing they can do. To work less or quit a viable job would amount to financial suicide. The children may be the most important aspect of their lives and they want them to have all possible advantages. Being dedicated to reaching goals is an admirable quality. All these points have merit. Perhaps literally downsizing one’s life isn’t the only answer. Why can’t the simple life be stuffed with activity and abundance? What would that take?
I present a blog excerpt from a helpful website, zenhabits.net, by Leo Babauta. The article is “The Mindfulness Guide for the Super Busy: How to Live Life to the Fullest.” In reference to enjoying life and achieving goals, Mr. Babauta states:
“It seems contradictory to those who are used to sacrificing living for pursuing their goals … but cultivating mindfulness will help you achieve your goals and enjoy life more.
Focusing on one task at a time, putting yourself fully into that task, is much more effective than multi-tasking. Focusing on one real goal at a time is also more effective. I’ve proven it to myself time and again over the last few years (see My Story for more). Focusing on what you’re doing right now is highly effective. You’re more productive when you’re mindful.
But more importantly, being present is undoubtedly the only way to enjoy life to the fullest. By being mindful, you enjoy your food more, you enjoy friends and family more, you enjoy anything you’re doing more. Anything. Even things you might think are drudgery or boring, such as housework, can be amazing if you are truly present. Try it — wash dishes or sweep or cook, and remain fully present. It takes practice, but it’s incredible.”
The article goes into greater detail to assist anyone who would like to give this Zen staple of life a try. The point I’m making is that an uncluttered life is within reach, no matter how overwhelmed your current situation might be. But whether you’re cultivating the art of parenting, racing to meet a book deadline, or teaching overcrowded classes, it’s being in the present from moment to moment that brings light and pure joy to the vast spaces between each and every atom.