Simple Life - Quiet Mind

Maybe you're not interested in Zen, or maybe you are just starting.  Maybe you just like the sound of a quiet mind.  Peace.  Enjoyment.  Fulfillment.  It is no secret that modern life can be a stressful, tangled mess.  Fifty, sixty, or more hour work weeks, staying physically fit, email, text messages, cell goes on and on.  Television ads and pop culture tell us we need to do all and be all to have a fulfilling life, but is this true?  Is your life truly fulfilling to you?  Are you at ease at the end of the day, feeling you put your time to it's best use?

This is not a new topic.  Leo Babauta wrote a great book, "The Power of Less" and continues to write extensively on the subject on his very popular blog Zenhabits.  It is something I have "known" for years.  Practicing it however is a different matter.  It can be a lot like New Year's resolutions.  I'll reduce the Facebook time, cancel my subscription to cable TV, quit checking my email every hour, etc... Then it insidiously creeps back in.  Hey whats going on with so and so, it's cold out so let's watch some TV.

So how do we simplify our lives?  How do we have the time to even start to tame the monkey mind?  Below I will provide some very concrete steps.  I am not going to swoon you with great, new ideas.  Instead I am simplifying the process of simplifying.  I am condensing hours, nay weeks and weeks of research into a handful of simple steps and a few links for further research if you so desire.

"The solution lies in setting limits to how much we consume and do.  It lies in making the most of our time by focusing on the most important things, instead of everything..."          

                                                                                      Leo Babauta

How to start.

1.  Give yourself room to breath.  Literally and figuratively.  Take a few minutes a day where you do nothing except exist.  Just be.  Meditate, focus on your breathing, give yourself room to be with yourself.

2.   Eliminate things that are not the best use of your time, one at a time. Slow down enough to ask yourself "Why am I doing this?, Why do I do that?" Is it because it brings value or enjoyment to your life or just because you feel you should?  Is it because it is what you were taught to do?  Is it because everyone else does it?

3.  Identify what is most important in your life.  This may take a little more work than you think ( step 1 ).  I remember first coming upon this concept reading Steven Covey's " 7 Habits of Highly Effective People".  Identify what matters most and put these things at the top of your list.  You may be surprised at how much time you spend on things that are not at the top of your list.

4.  Try being a minimalist.  Consider fewer clothes, a smaller home, maybe get rid of one of those vehicles.  The less we own, the less we have to maintain and take care of.  Having it all usually means having less time to enjoy what we do have.

5.  Learn to say no. Can you tell someone no when they impose upon your time?  I know some feel selfish when they say no when asked to spend time or energy on a project with someone else, but is it taking away from what is most important to you?  Is it fair to feel obliged to play golf with the guys from work when it means missing important time with close friends or family?  Use step 3 to learn to say no when it is not important in your life.

6.  Create simple, streamlined systems for routine tasks.  Consider cooking for two  or  three days when you cook.  Anytime I fire up the grill I always cook enough for a couple of meals.  It doesn't make sense to me to waste the time or energy on a single meal when I could get several meals with just a little more time and effort. 

7.  Get organized.  Start by de-cluttering.  Clear out what you don't need and organize what you do.  I have one place where I keep everything I take to work each day.  Every day everything is put in the same location.  I never waste time looking for keys, wallet, etc...

8.  Limit your time mindlessly checking emails, facebook, or checking the headlines.  I know I feel out of control when I find myself checking email every thirty minutes.  A couple of times of day should suffice.  And as far as headlines go, do I really need to know what Lindsey Lohan or Brad Pitt were wearing last night?

9.  Spend time doing the things with the people you identified in step 3.  Doing what is meaningful with people we care about gives our lives a sense of purpose and gives us a feeling of control.

10.  Go Slow.  Relax.  Focus on what you are doing. 

11.  Consider other resources on simplicity.  There are plenty out there, but don't get so caught up in reading about minimalism that you complicate your life. 

Further reading buy either in my link in the right column

The Power of Less - Leo Babauta

The Joy of Less -Francine Jay


  1. Thank you for posting this! This is very informative. I follow the Zen Habits blog as well. The way you broke this down is such simple steps makes this a great way to start doing instead of wishing.

    Thanks, again!

  2. Thanks for these suggestions, Dan. With respect to number 3, I see the value of cooking enough for at least two meals, but I also regard cooking, including the prep work of chopping vegetables, as a form of work practice, as valuable in its way as work conventionally defined. Chop water, carry wood.