Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Many years ago, a friend made me a begging bowl like the ones used by the Buddhist monks.  I keep it on my desk, where it can be seen daily, because it reminds me of several principles that I want to guide my life.  First, it reminds me of Lao Tzu's paradoxical advice that we must be empty if we wish to be full.  Second, it reminds me that my needs, versus my desires, are no greater than what can be placed in a small bowl each day — a little food and a little water.  Finally, and most importantly, it reminds me of the need to anchor my life in simplicity — simplicity of purpose, simplicity of thought, simplicity of action.

In a world where one must "make a living", pay bills, discharge household chores, and take care of loved ones, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the simple life that is the lodestar for many of us.  Still, I find there are things that can be done to move my life closer to the ideal.  To use the words of the late artist, Hans Hoffman, I can "eliminate the unnecessary so the necessary may speak."  And that is what I truly want.  I want to hear the music of nature; I want to hear the music of other lives and other cultures; I want to listen to the beat and music of my own heart — music that is often smothered by the din and demand of modern life.

How, then, can we eliminate the unnecessary things in our lives, so that the life-affirming, necessary things can not only speak, but be heard?  I'm no expert on these matters, of course — simply a student.  There are a few simplicity practices, however, which I have incorporated into my daily life, and which have been paying considerable dividends in terms of the quality of life. Among the practices that I try to follow are these:
Do not make anything larger, more complex, or more serious than it needs to be.
Let nature and solitude be enough for my daily pleasure.
Always remain conscious and present with the task at hand.
Remember that some things are best left undone.
Minimize exposure to "news" and commercial advertising.
Follow Goethe's advice to "hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day . . ." 
Keep nothing that is not either useful or beautiful.
Remember that every act of consumption has environmental and social consequences.
Don't waste time attempting to rebut the arguments of foolish people.
To quote Alice Longworth Roosevelt, "fill what's empty, empty what's full,   and scratch where it itches." 

While I have yet to master these practices, I have found that each provides an effective way of simplifying my life, if only in some small measure.  How about you? What practices do you follow to keep yourself anchored in this world of mind-boggling complexity?

Set forth below are some interesting quotes on the need for more simplicity in our lives.  Many of these writers have inspired my own practices.  May you, too, find inspiration that will bring more simplicity and peace to your own lives.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent.  It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.

E.F.  Schumacher

To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter . . . to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a birds nest or wildflower in spring — these are some of the rewards of the simple life.

John Burroughs

The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you.  Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.  The wisdom of life consists in elimination of non-essentials.

Lin Yutang

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

William Morris

Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are.  When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.

Lao Tzu

Live simply, so that others may simply live.


As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.


Who is rich?  He who rejoices in his portion.

The Talmud

If you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted with pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.

Annie Dillard

Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more.

John Kabat-Zinn

You can't force simplicity; but you can invite it in by finding as much richness as possible in the few things at hand.  Simplicity doesn't mean meagerness but rather a certain kind of richness, the fullness that appears when we stop stuffing the world with things.

Thomas Moore

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly; to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart; to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never; in a word to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.

William Henry Channing

Yesterday, my friend Robert, whose blog is The Solitary Walker, posted a moving article on his view of The Simple Life.  I close by quoting from Robert because what he says is as fine as anything said above:

The simple life is the good life, is the best life.  Joy, happiness and fulfillment come from the innocent, simple, often freely bestowed pleasures of existence: a bracing cliff top walk on a blustery autumn day; the sound of bagpipes in a remote Scottish glen; crossing the Spanish meseta under a hot sun, then spending the night in a cheap albergue with other pilgrims; growing, preparing and cooking one's own food; the scent of fir tree sap; the cold grittiness of rock beneath the fingers; the tang of citrus; the cry of owls; the running of deer; eating when hungry, drinking when thirsty, sleeping when tired; lovemaking.

Go forth and keep it simple, 
my friends, 
especially during the holidays!


  1. Dear George: I carefully unwrapped and savoured this package delivered so thoughtfully by you today. I cannot imagine receiving a more life-enhancing gift for this Christmas season - replete with wisdom on how to walk lightly and fully embrace the essential elements ever available to us. If you permit, I would like to print it out and post it in my home where all who enter can read and be inspired.

  2. To Bonnie,

    Thanks, as always, for your very lovely and very generous comments, Bonnie. I am delighted that you found something in this post that resonates with you personally. Of course, you are always welcome to print anything appearing on my site. No proprietary interest here; I just want to spread the wisdom of others.

    It's rather interesting that both Robert and I have been writing about simplicity in the last few days. I think it has something to do with the onslaught of advertising and expectations that comes with the holiday season. It's a time when some of us feel a greater need than usual to take refuge in the simple pleasures.

  3. Dear George,

    Goethe and W.H. Channing's words are the ones that speak to me most clearly. Thank you for reminding me.

    I left a comment under Robert's post too, saying much of what I would say here. There are those of us who wish the simple life were as easily achieved as the life that races along with all the other lives by our side.

    You started out by allowing that those with duties to others may not be able to abdicate them as easily as those whose lives have reached the stage where contemplation and meditation, the pursuit of simple pleasures as those mentioned by Robert, are freely available.

    Yes, we can all simplify our lives and we will be the richer for doing so, but to achieve the blissful state the wise people you quote advocate comes only at the end of a long road.

    I find your own list of practices a far more realistic goal just at the moment.

  4. This is an excellent post George, your list is one I try to follow myself although I didn't realise this until I saw it all written down:) The first one is the one I find hardest, I often mutter to myself 'cross your bridges when you come to them' or 'worrying never altered anything' and I'm getting better at waiting until something actually happens and then of course you just deal with it rather than worrying. It's taken me well over 50 years to realise that one spends a great deal of time worrying about things that never actually come to pass! Numbers two and five are the ones I find easiest, solitude and the natural world are both very necessary to me and avoiding the news is no problem at all:) WHy is it, I wonder, that 'news' is pretty much all bad?

  5. I agree completely.

    And I am conscious lately of how , as a parent, I communicate this to my children.

  6. Such an uplifting post George, as always. I agree with every word.
    After looking death in the face three weeks ago - and surviving - I can honestly say that my priorities have changed for good. I knew what they should be before but other 'worldly' things often got in the way. No I know that the only important things are one's loved ones and, as you say, simple things in life. Really loved this post - it resonated.

  7. To Friko,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Friko. I know all too well that life can be simpler for some people than it is for others, depending upon one's circumstances and stage in life. I would be the first to admit that my life is simpler now because my children are grown and my wife and I are retired.

    The question for everyone, of course, is whether we are making our lives — all things considered — more complicated than they need to be. Are we doing more than is absolutely necessary to take care of our quotidian responsibilities? Most people, I find, have certain areas in which they can make their lives simpler, even if they still fall short of some mythic notion of "the simple life" in which all is perfect. My goal has been to simply reexamine my life from time to time and see if there are things, habits, or attitudes which can be pruned in order to encourage new growth in other areas. To each his own, of course. I simply wanted to point out that there are ways to make one's life simpler, even if we can;t make them as simple as we would like for them to be.

  8. To Rowan,

    Thanks for your kind and thoughtful comments, Rowan. I have difficulty with the first point as well, which is to say that my mind often makes things more complex and more serious than they are in reality. You're right — most of what we worry about doesn't materialize.

    As a practical matter, the practice that yields some of the best results for me is to simply stay away from the twenty-four/seven news cycles with their attendant rapid-fire commercials. Keeping one's abode quiet and peaceful is a good way to declutter the mind.

  9. To Deb,

    Thanks for your comments, Deb, and I applaud you for teaching your children the virtues of keeping things simple.

  10. To Pat,

    Thanks for your lovely comments, Pat. I'm so glad this posting resonated with you. I think you had your priorities straight before encountering your recent medical problems; if you now are more focused on those priorities, that's all the better. Simple pleasures and the love of one's family, friends, and pets — it doesn't get any better than that!

  11. A really nice post, George, and one I can see struck a chord with many friends and readers. I loved your own 'practices', and will also copy them out like Bonnie. It's come to me that the word, the concept that goes hand in hand with 'simplicity' is 'clarity'. For clear thinking is often simple thinking. Not simple as in simple-minded or simplistic, but simple in the sense of uncluttered, pure, cutting through the crap. And that's simple in a profound sense, I think. Simple in the sense of the few, basic, underlying laws governing the universe. Simple in the sense of a spontaneous, easy gesture or action, which happens naturally, not as a result of painful, intellectual thought or conflicted reasoning. Simple as a flower simply opening in the sun. But, of course, for us humans 'simplicity' may only come after much living, reflection and rough, complicated experience. Not such a simple thing after all, is it?

    Forgive this rambling. I think I lost the thread somewhere. Anyhow, great post. (And thanks for the kind mention and the link!)

  12. I think you're right, that the timing of your post and Robert's is sort of a hand up to the onslaught of commercial Christmas. I feel it too, the need to focus more attentively during the holidays on this simple life I've chosen.

    Sometimes I think I might need a different mantra, one that tells me to get more complicated. :) I mean, my life is pretty simple, and that has come from choices, but also from time of life. I've gone through the care of dying parents. My kids don't live at home now. My spiritual practice the last few years has helped me learn to try to live in the moment and not sweat the small stuff. If anything, I often feel I should do more than I do.

    I confess one area I need to simplify: I need to get rid of a lot of stuff that clutters certain rooms of our home, and that is the one thing that really does not resonate. Living on the farm, getting outdoors for a walk, writing, all that is good, and I echo every word of your beautiful post. I just have a lot of work to clear out some crapola.

    I avoid the news now too. A friend sent me an email today with bad news about something we have come to rely on in this country, and how it's in danger. I could feel fear arise. And then I let it go.

    I'm rambling. But let me tell you, George, I think your list is great, and these days, no kidding, sometimes when I face a decision or task, I ask myself, "What would George do?" And when I feel guilty about sitting and doing nothing much, I picture Zorba and Boss on the beach!

  13. To Robert,

    Thanks for such thoughtful and reflective comments, Robert. Far from thinking your comments are rambling, I think you have touched upon something that is very important to emphasize, specifically, that simplification of one's life must always begin with clarity of thought. If one clears out the useless clutter of the mind — the trash deposited there by years of conditioning — it is much easier to clear out other things, from unwanted possessions to mindless and useless activity.

    I think you are right on target in saying that the simple is profound; that the simple is natural and spontaneous; and that simplicity is more readily achievable when we work from a simple proposition that there are only a "few, basic, underlying laws governing the universe." The more we resist these laws, the more complex and unmanageable our lives become.

    No, simplicity is not such a simple thing after all, but I firmly believe it is achievable to a meaningful degree. One small step here, one small step there — one soon begins to feel a new lightness of being.

    Thanks, as always, for your thought-provoking comments.

  14. To Ruth,

    Thanks, Ruth, for those wonderful comments. With respect to all that "stuff" that clutters certain rooms in your house, I have two recommendations. First, go to Youtube and play the video of George Carlin's monologue on "Stuff," even if you think you've heard it before. Second, after listening to the video, go through those rooms and identify those things that are neither beautiful nor useful to you and your family, but which could be useful or beautiful to someone else. Then, my friend, you must muster the courage to give some of that "stuff' away. Once you do that, believe me, you will feel such joy that it will totally erase any reluctance you may initially feel about my suggestions.

    I'm glad you have only known me for a very short period, Ruth. If you had resolved any significant problems in life by asking, "what would George do," your life would undoubtedly be a total wreck at this point. I'm just a work in progress, learning from you, learning from others, and passing it on.

    Thanks again for your thoughts.

  15. By our choices, we can make life simple or complicated. For me it is kind of like praying, asking for virtue, trying to discard vice on a daily basis. Simplicity is truly something I strive for, even when the pace is accelerated. With six kids, a busy husband (3 dogs, 2 cats ...) and my own interests (is a mom allowed such? (LOL). I mean one really can't do it all and do it well. I am going to have to write a few of your quotes out and stick them on my bulletin board as reminders. One thing I have found to be true after all these years is to say "No" and not feel guilty. If one is stretched to tightly, chaos ensues.

  16. I enjoyed this post immensely. For me simplicity is a way of life—not one of austerity, but of stripping away the non-essentials, discarding the superfluous, revising and reducing until I've reached the essence, the core, the purest, least-technical heart of things. What really matters? Personally, to me? Do I need a house larger than 1200 square feet? Could I do with a house smaller than 1200 square feet? Does my coffee taste better brewed in a $500 machine? Do I need a Wii or iPad or Droid? Is a new car essential, or is my old pickup better? Do I care about seeing the latest blockbuster…or would I rather watch another sunrise? Or take a walk with my dog? Is there anything in any of the fancy stores in that new high-end mall I want, let alone need? The easier my needs are to meet, to more time I have to live. Simplicity equals freedom. Almost everything is unnecessary, except for those things which are vital. To me. Not necessarily to you. We are, after all, individuals.

    Yet I also believe most of us have pretty much the same physical, mental, and spiritual needs—which become that propelling force moving us through our days. The mistake most of us make is that we clutter ourselves with too much stuff—physical, mental, spiritual. This is not a paradox.

    The most amazing revelation about living a wonderful and fulfilling life is that it turns out to be far simpler than we ever imagined.…the codicil is that the smarter we are, the longer it takes to figure this truth out and admit it to ourselves.

  17. To Margaret,

    Thanks for the comments, Margaret. While some of the circumstances of our lives are often beyond our control, we clearly have daily choices that can make things either simpler or more complicated. With six kids, a husband, and five pets, you certainly have your work cut out for yourself. Significantly, however, even you recognize that your have options, one of which is to say "no" to activities or requests that would unduly complicate your life. I commend you for that because, as you note, being stretched too thinly often leads to chaos.

  18. George, thank you for your good suggestions. Let me say in response, I have zero reluctance to let the stuff go. I already know exactly what needs to go. I would gladly live in one room, with a table, a chair, a few books, a notebook and a pen. It's just that I lack the discipline to get up off my arse and gather up the stuff, load it in the car, and take it to the VOA. That is what I mean by needing to get more "complicated" and active. I am far too sedentary, i.e. lazy. I think that one of the basic rules I have not gotten yet is that living in the moment sometimes takes hard work.


  19. To Grizz,

    Thanks for the thoughtful and insightful comments, Grizz. It lifts my heart to hear your sing the praises of simplicity with such commitment. As you point out, a life of simplicity should not be confused with austerity. A simple life can be the richest of lives because it allows one to experience what is real with appreciation and gratitude.

    I totally agree with your statement that "simplicity equals freedom." It reminds me of something that Thoreau once said to the effect that the real price of anything purchased is the amount of your life that you have to give up for it. If people truly understood this principle, many would change their consumption habits.

    The wonderful and fulfilling life to which you refer can never be found in money, material things, or society's external measures of success. It is found in love, kindnesses, and the simple pleasures of walking our individual paths daily. If contentment is to be achieved, it must come through subtraction — i.e., making things simpler — rather than by addition.

  20. To Ruth,

    I know that you would have no reluctance to let things go. As usual, I was just projecting my own reluctance when I go through this process. Please forgive me if I sounded a bit exuberant. These issues are on my mind because I made a commitment a couple of weeks ago to finally do the things I had been putting off, things like getting rid of "stuff" I do not need, things like stopping payment for things and services that do not measurably improve the quality of my life.

    I must say that I have seen no evidence of this sedentary nature of which you speak. You appear to be one of the busiest people I have ever known, which is amazing because you produce so much on your multiple blogs and all of it is wonderful. Incidentally, I found my way over to Flickr this morning and saw the photo of the stunned bird — a junko, as I recall — that you brought in your house. It was a terrific photo, worthy of its own posting, accompanied, of course, by an appropriate poem.

  21. Dear George, I enjoyed this post and the comments your readers have made on it. For me, the edge right now is tapering off "news and information" to the smallest trickle. It's a wonderful relief for me, and I feel without the weight of world affairs on my heart I can actually accomplish more good in this world.

    If I could add one practice that has helped me simplify it would be this Buddhist contemplation: I remind myself each morning that, like everyone else:

    I am of a nature to grow old;
    I am of a nature to become ill;
    I am of a nature to die;
    I am of a nature to be separated from all I hold dear.

    These daily reminders, far from being depressing, inspire me to experience all the love and meaning from each encounter and experience I have.

  22. Dear George! I wish these blesséd (and cursed) little boxes could convey tone and facial expressions, from both sides! I did not convey in my last comment the pat on the back and laughter in my voice. When I read it now, I sound as if I was shamed, and ashamed! :) Oh dear. I am so over myself, George, and I so seriously, and joyfully, and happily find the most soulful and helpful life affirming words at this place of yours, both in the posts and in your comment responses (and from commenters too), you need never worry. You just couldn't hurt me if you tried. And I was a little exuberant myself to make sure you knew I want to get rid of stuff. I want you to think well of me, George. :)

    But I confess I am a little relieved to know you just went through getting-rid-of-stuff yourself! That does me no end of good.

    Thank you for mentioning the junco, and liking that photo. I did post about it, and with a poem, here, from about a year ago, on Solstice Day. :D

  23. To Dan,

    Thanks, Dan, for your comments and for quoting that Buddhist meditation which I know and love so much. LIke you, I find the meditation to be life-affirming, not morbid.

    Limiting one's exposure to the rapid-fire news media is a great way to get quick relief when one feels a bit overwhelmed by life. This is not apathy, for, as you point out, it actually allows one to accomplish more good in the world.

    Have a great day!

  24. To Ruth,

    Thanks for the follow-up comments. I read the posting and poem on the junko and loved every word of it. Thanks for sharing this with me.

  25. Excellent post, George. It truly is a gift to be simple.

  26. To Tess,

    Thanks for the nice comment, and I agree with you entirely.

  27. Dear George,

    Lately I've been thinking along similar lines.... though simplicity has long been a kind of beacon.

    for now it doesn't seem to get any simpler than the current chaos and confusion of life with schoolkids. Friko noted that too, that it may have to come later. I think I'm premature for any sort of contemplative life different from what I have currently - a household and family.

    I do practice "getting rid of stuff" but it's been a while I've restarted a pile in the garage that will make its way to the thrift store. The stuff that drives me nuts seems to be the paperwork that inundates me from all sides - much of it having to be kept until some unspecified future date when it's certain we won't need it anymore.

    HOnestly, the best way I could simplify my life is to spend less time online. I already limit media influence (don't have a tv, only now after 10 years in this town do I actually get the local paper but that's because I was tired of not knowing about local activities, don't read the news, etc.)... but I am guilty of being Schumacher's intelligent fool who has become intellectually complicated (always reading about new subjects, studies, writings) in an effort to actually just write what I need to write.

    Sometimes it seems blogging is complicated by the fact that in order to find a few sympathetic readers I have to suss out so many blogs and sites... That's probably partially a desire for approval.... maybe I need to let that one go.

    ok, this is getting long and complicated in its own right...

  28. To Neighbor,

    Thanks for the generous comments, Neighbor. Simplicity is a good goal for anyone, I think, but how one achieves that goal is up to every individual. One does what one can and forgets the rest. Good luck.

  29. Hi, George. As always, your post lifts me up high and makes me think of so many things. I love the quotes (especially Burroughs'), and your practices for living the simple life are great advice. Wow...this one really jumped out at me:

    "Don't waste time attempting to rebut the arguments of foolish people."

    That is very wise. I have wasted too much time and energy arguing and trying to "change" close minded people. It is like reasoning with a barn door. It only makes ME an arrogant fool.

    I don't currently have problems trying to achieve material simplicity. If my life becomes anymore simple, I will be living on the street. Even my internet is borrowed.

    It is all good, though. The "broke" people in the U.S. still have it much better than many people in the world, so I'm not complaining. My heart goes out to the people in Haiti. If I get an extra ten bucks this week, it's going to them.

    My big challenge is not getting caught up in future desire for material things. I see nothing wrong with wanting a house or some nice things. A good car that runs, etc. I will do that someday. Honestly, poverty sucks. I've been there...done that. I'm too close to it now. I can smell it, if that makes sense. I fear it. I fear going back.

    Even so, I don't want to get caught up in the "wanting." It's very easy, especially for a low income person, to be dazzled by the sparkle. That's why Payday Loan stores are still around. So many people I know have gotten tangled in that snare. And I don't want to waste the beautiful moments wishing for things. That is not good.

    Right now, achieving mental simplicity is my main concern. Getting rid of all the "extra" crud--worry, stress, fear, etc. that clouds my peace. I love your advice: "Do not make anything larger, more complex, or more serious than it needs to be." So true!

    Thanks so much for another wonderful post, George. Again, you give me so much to ponder and take with me. Have a beautiful weekend!

  30. To Julie,

    Thanks for the wonderful and thoughtful comments, Julie. I've read enough of your postings to know that, regardless of your material wealth or lack thereof, you will never be truly poor. Your heart, creativity, empathy, compassion, and sheer love of life are just too big for that. Keep doing what you've been doing, Julie, and your life will be full of the only riches worth having. Thanks again for the comments and have a wonderful Christmas!

  31. Hello George,
    I've been traveling - off the Internet and exploring in a strange city. I've decided that finding my way in cities is almost as pleasing to me as finding my way in the wilderness. (Or, perhaps they are one and the same!) At any rate, I become more aware when I'm outside my normal comfort zone of the many people who have unmet basic needs. I am so lucky in that regard - there is always food, water, shelter - I never worry about these essentials. Sometimes, I think it's easier to resist the temptation of "things" when we already have plenty and perhaps can make a conscious choice of 'no more." The older I get, the simpler my life becomes. I am more secure in my own mind about what's necessary and what's superfluous. Right now, for instance, I know I'm no more!

  32. To Barb,

    Nice to hear from your, Barb, and I'm happy to know that your urban adventures have been exciting. You're right, of course; it is easier to resist the temptation of things when one has enough. In the final analysis, it it up to each individual to decide what is "enough" and whether having fewer things and fewer complications would improve the overall quality of one's life. Thanks, as always, for your perspective.

  33. You got me searching Lao Tzu quotes. I should know what he wrote better than I do. Searching, I came across:

    In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don't try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.
    Lao Tzu

    My dad was an artist. In his studio he had a sign on the wall. It just said: "Keep it simple". I think even complex works of art, if they are to be successful, achieve their ends with simplicity.

    When I was a music student, we'd often be given the violin part of a Haydn string quartet and asked to invent our own parts for the other three instruments to fit it. We'd struggle with the exercise - there were always difficult bars. Haydn invariably came up with simpler solutions than we did. Usually, the difficult bars we'd struggled with were full of rests in his version! He invariably used fewer notes than we did: the music simply said what needed to be said and had space to breathe.

  34. To Dominic,

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Dominic. It's good to hear from you. The Lao Tzu quote you came up with is one of my favorites.

    I couldn't agree with you more about successful works of art; they always contain no more than is essential. What is not expressed is often as important as what is expressed. In music, I suppose you would find the spaces between the notes as no less important than the notes themselves.

  35. I looked forward to reading this after reading your note on Robert's entry last week. From all that is here there are four things which have really struck me:
    1) The bowl you have on your desk: do you keep it empty? It seems a wonderful exercise to demonstrate the importance of having space in one's life.
    2)The questioning of what we mean by "simple" in so many of the comments, particularly Robert's. I try to be a simple person but I am often more simplistic and exclude the important. In trying to correct this I take on board too much clutter and end up with a mess.
    3)The short meditation mentioned by Dan: acceptance of this would lift me from depression, it is liberating.
    4) Finally on an ironic note, it is so easy to complicate our lives with computers and blogging. Just one more link to follow ... sorry I'm off out with Lady now in search of simplicity, definitely.

  36. To Tramp,

    Good to hear from you, Tramp, and thanks for your thoughtful comments. Yes, I keep the bowl empty. On the few occasions that I have dropped things in the bowl, I have come back and taken them out; it just seems to be designed for emptiness, and that is the quality that inspires me.

    The meditation mentioned by Dan is very meaningful to me. First, it is one of the few statements you will every read that is absolutely, undeniably true. Second, I have always felt the Buddhists are right is telling us that we should meditate a little on death each day because it will bring us back to the importance of being present and living fully in every moment of life we have.

    With respect to your comment that computers and blogging can add complications to our lives, I think that EVERYTHING has the potential to add complexity. The key is to look at the total inventory of one's life — all of the possessions and all of the obligations — and then eliminate those things or obligations that do not make a significant contribution to one's well being. One person eliminate computers and blogging; another might retain the computers and blogging, yet eliminate televisions, cell phones, etc. It's all an individual choice and the goal should simply be to eliminate what is unnecessary so that what is necessary to one's life can speak and be heard. That, at least, is my view.

  37. "Allowing the necessary to speak" are great words to live by. This very topic came up during my book club's meeting last week. We recognized the need to clear out the unnecessary clutter in our homes.

    I think my problem is that I view this as a low priority task and I allow other things, and people, to take priority. You have convinced me more than ever that I need to boost the importance of simplifying my life. Thank you.

  38. To Dutchbaby,

    Thanks for the nice comments. Glad to know that you found something useful and of value in this posting. Have a great week!

  39. George.... You are a Zen master..

    ...such a pleasure.

  40. To Gwen,

    Thank you, Gwen, for such a nice compliment. I must confess, however, that I am a master of nothing — just a work in progress. A merry Christmas to you, your family, and all of your friends up on the Bay of Fundy.

  41. Hi George, you have such a nice well written blog here, beautiful photography and paintings.

    This is such a nice and inspirational simple post. I love simplicity. Everything around us is complex, but we have a choice to make it simple. Anna :)

  42. To Anna,

    Thanks for stopping by, Anna. I deeply appreciate your generous comments and hope you will return to join the conversation. You are right, of course; we can always choose simplicity, something I have to remind myself of daily.