Published on December 18th, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans
Simple Steps to Simpler Living
Do you consciously choose to live your life in a simple way, or do you find that life is unnecessarily complicated by reasons far beyond your control? Then again, are these reasons really beyond your control or is it simply a matter of your perception?
Don’t despair! We’ll help you to discover your part in the complexity and share with you some very practical steps for simple living.
Plato tells us that “In order to seek one’s own direction, one must simplify the mechanics of ordinary, everyday life.” But as we step back and consider how to achieve a life lived simply, we are confronted with and amazed by the reality that our own life has become so convoluted, despite the fact that many of the complications we face everyday are purely of our own doing! It does not take much to complicate our way of living, but simplifying it is easier said than done because simple living means making a commitment to a life of voluntary simplicity.
Embracing a simple lifestyle is a way to infuse our existence with vibrancy by reducing external clutter, honoring ourselves and others, and nourishing a relationship with nature so that our lives reflect its natural processes by minimizing what we take from it. Simple living also allows us freedom to take a bit of that precious commodity, time, to appreciate and enjoy the experiences of life that make our journey what it is.
The goods news is that with a little bit of focused consciousness, it can be done, and you will find that your life is greener, more holistic, and finally connected with all that exists around you in a very positive way. You will begin to experience the raw innocence of a simplicity that is innate in all of us from birth, and chances are, you won’t want to return to a cluttered existence.
The most accessible thing that everyone can do to simplify life is to slow down. Society applauds us for being quick and thinking fast on our feet, and this pressure for an instant reaction has created a very hectic way of life. But this quick response trait does not lend itself to building survival skills or exercising creativity. If you ever find yourself in a precarious situation like those on the show ‘Survivor,’ you’ll note that reacting instantly is more likely to hamper your natural survival instincts. If you can slow down, breathe deeply, and logically assess a situation, you allow yourself an opportunity to think creatively about how to find and implement a solution.
Conscious Breathing and Clean Air
Part of slowing down means taking long, deep breaths, and most of us are not truly acquainted with a deep breath. We’re used to taking short, quick breaths that do not allow us to adequately fill our lungs with the oxygen that our body tissues desperately need in order to stay healthy. Poor breathing exacerbates stress and all manner of illness, while deep breathing increases longevity—ancient Vedic philosophy measures lifespan not by the number of years that you live, but rather as the number of breaths you take in your lifetime. Legends tell of sages, tucked away in the forests of ancient India, who were believed to have lived for hundreds of years. This was possible only because they had mastered the technique of slowing down, and even pausing their breath through the practice of pranayama, yogic breathing. Incorporating simple pranayama techniques into your life for even 15 minutes each day can do wonders to reduce stress, increase your mental clarity, and improve your physical functioning. Look for a pranayama class at your local yoga studio.
Along those lines, have you considered the quality of air that you breathe in? Is your environment well-ventilated? Vaastu Shastra, the ancient Indian architectural science, tells us that the center of the home or office (or wherever you spend a majority of your time) should have an empty space to allow for positive circulation of energy, and fresh air should access this space from all four cardinal points.
The energy flow in our spaces can stagnate if we constantly depend on air recycled through heating and air-conditioning units, and we begin to forget how much our bodies crave fresh air. Even if you live in a smaller space, try to keep a window open to allow some fresh air in throughout the day—it’s free and under-rated!
Here are a couple of additional simple living steps for air purification:
- Add some plants to your daytime environment to boost the oxygenation. Plants release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide and other toxins during the daylight hours.
- If you cannot manage some plants, consider burning essentials oils in the rooms and spaces where you work. Even this can do wonders to reduce pollution and give you the sense of being out in nature in a wooded forest or an herbal garden.
Trees truly are our best friends—one tree alone provides enough oxygen each year for a family of four people. Since trees offer us the gift of O2, think about how you can save trees by reducing the amount of paper in your life:
- Online Banking. With the wonders of internet technology, many banks now offer this option to their customers. Not only does it cut down on clutter, but with each bill you pay online, you also save a stamp.
- Bagging Options. Reduce the number of paper-bags you collect every time you go grocery shopping by re-using them or by keeping a cloth shopping bag that you take to the store with you. Bringing less back home also equates to less in your weekly recycling bin.
Embracing a simple lifestyle is a way to infuse our existence with vibrancy by reducing external clutter, honoring ourselves and others, and nourishing a relationship with nature so that our lives reflect its natural processes by minimizing what we take from it.
Are you an unconscious pack rat? If so, multiple areas of your life could probably benefit from a reduction of clutter! A good place to start is your wardrobe—we all maintain a sense of personal style for the various aspects of our life, and for many of us, conscious consumerism includes keeping an eye out for bargains that update our wardrobe. This is fine until you open the closet and are confronted with more clothes, more shoes, and more accessories than you will ever need! And if we purchase items seasonally, most of us forget or don’t take the time to sift through our outdated things and donate or pass them on to others. The following tips will help you simplify this part of your life:
- Write yourself a reminder note to take stock of your wardrobe one weekend every six months. Be honest about how much use you get out of a piece—if you’re not enjoying it, it’s likely that someone else will.
- For truly simple living, don’t get swept away by the latest fad or glitzy advertising—really consider the usefulness of each piece before you make a purchase. This goes hand-in-hand with the principle of reuse.
- Take these simple living tips to the next level to speed up your wardrobe evaluation process and help you evaluate an item’s usefulness—consider taking snapshots of the outfits in your closet so you know what you have, and you can see how well certain items that you’re considering will fit. Place the photos in a binder and peruse them before you head out for a shopping trip.
Living simply can also do wonders to enhance the romance in your life because it helps you to feel energetic, content, centered, and appreciative. When was the last time you decided to eat by candlelight or revel in the natural music of twittering birds and trees swaying in the breeze? Have you listened lately for the soundtrack of the seasons?
- Winter time is perfect for cozying up at home by the fire
- Summertime provides ample opportunity for finding an outdoor picnic spot and watching the sunset.
- Fall is great for observing the vibrant and varied hues of the leaves as you take a long walk with your partner.
- Spring beckons you out for a bike ride together to look for the first flowers in bloom.
No matter how you choose to do it, you will find that simple living is economical, effective, and totally in tune with the green mindset. Try it—once you get into it, it really is quite simple!
Article Contributors: Reenita Malhotra Hora