Keep it simple

The simple truth is life is not complicated, but we choose to make it so.

Newton’s third law of motion applies to our life as much as it does physics: to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

If we’re nice to people, they’re nice back. We know that yelling doesn’t produce a loving response. It didn’t work when we were yelled as kids, it didn’t work when we yelled at our kids, and it doesn’t work when we yell at the kid inside us.

“To be simple means to make a choice about what is important, and to let go of all the rest,” Zen master John Daido Loori writes in The Zen of Creativity.

“When we are able to do this, our vision expands, our heads clears, and we can better see the details of our lives in all their incredible wonder and beauty.”

Henry David Thoreau put it even simpler: “Simplify, simplify, simplify.”

We don’t have to build a cabin in the woods. We don’t even have to do anything drastic or dramatic. We simply become aware of what we do and what we think.

Remember KISS? No, not the rock band, but the rule: Keep it simple, stupid.

We like complex. If a simple version of what we have to do is staring at us, we look for the complicated.

Occam’s Razor, named for a 14th century Franciscan monk because he shaved away all unnecessary assumptions, says all thing being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one.

If we’re driving across the bridge and the gas light goes on, don’t assume the fuel pump is shot and the head gaskets will have to be replaced, and then we work up all sorts of dire assumptions about what our life is going to like.

Pull into a gas station and fill up.

Here’s a simple truth: Seventy per cent of everything in the universe is made of hydrogen atoms: one proton and one electron.

But just as simple is another basic truth: the reality we see is a reflection of our thoughts. The problem usually isn’t the problem; it’s our feelings about it.

“Life reflects back to us exactly what we expect based on our belief system,” Patrick. J. Harbula writes in The Magic of the Soul.

“It is our thought process that holds our experience of reality in place. It takes energy to hold the perceptual world in place. When we release that hold, we free up more energy for magical creativity.”

If we don’t blame others for what happens to us, we’ll feel better and have more energy. We know trying to change our family, our neighbours, our city, our province, our country and the world, doesn’t work. It’s more effective to change ourselves.

We don’t need to have an opinion about everything; we don’t need to comment on Martha’s hair or Joe’s shirt, or the fact that the coffee lineup is getting longer and the servers slower.

We could even get really radical and accept that life is easy, to accept that we can have it all, that we can be healthy, wealthy and wise.

It all starts with why. When we don’t like something, or get angry, or decide, before we even try something, that we couldn’t do it, we ask why.

We don’t need to judge why we’re afraid, just be aware. What we bring into consciousness we can — if we choose — change. As long as we are unconscious of our motivation, we are victims of circumstance.

There are  many things we can do to make our life simpler, here are a few:

  • Be positive. Science has documented that happy thoughts produce a different body chemistry than thinking depressing, anguished ones.
  • Be open minded and receptive. We don’t need to embrace every lunatic idea that comes along, but we don’t need to have an opinion about it either. We might not accept it, but we don’t have to reject it. Just be open to it.
  • Have a be attitude. “An attitude is a cluster of thoughts strung together, which turn on particular nerve cells in the brain, which then stimulate specific neurotransmitters to make you think, act and feel certain ways,” Dr. Joe Dispenza writes in Evolve Your Brain.
  • Be forgiving. Hanging onto issues that hurt us long ago means we still carry the pain. Let it go.
  • Be mindful. Be present. It’s the regret and guilt for what we did or didn’t do that produces most of our angst now.
  • Be grateful — for everything. As we age, we tend to complain more about our body and how it doesn’t do what we think it should. Maybe it creaks a little more than it did when we were 20, but it’s still amazing. Even the most sophisticated piece of machinery at its best can’t match our body at its worst.
  • Ignore what others think of us. Yeah, our parents were concerned about what the neighbours, the teachers and the priests thought. We don’t need to.
  • Slow down. Defy the screams in our head that yell Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! When the driver in front of us takes an extra 10 seconds to turn, big deal; when another driver is in such a hurry that he pull dangerously in front us, let him go. It’s better than having him on our bumper urging us on with sign language. In the context of a lifetime, how big a deal is a few seconds? For that matter, how big a deal is our angst du jour? What was it Feb. 3, 2017?

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” Leonardo da Vinci said.

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About the Author

Ross Freake, a former managing editor of The Daily Courier, has worked at 11 newspapers from St. John's to Kamloops. He is the author of three books and the editor and ghost writer of many others.

He can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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