What is a Good Life? #19
Simplicity / Simple Things
Good day to you all,
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The key theme this week is Simplicity / Simple Things. The interviewee speaks about the importance of presence and acceptance, while I reflect on awareness of our experiences.
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1. This week’s interview – Simplicity and acceptance
Each week I share direct excerpts from an individual interview
This week’s interview is with Clara*. Clara is an Astrologer who is currently prioritising raising her two young children. She speaks about the importance of simplicity, and of accepting life’s ever changing nature.
*Not the participant’s real name
What is a good life for you?
A good life is a simple one. Which for me, is very little stress, I don’t mean workload stress, I mean stress that eats up our reactive energy. A good day, instead of reacting to unnecessary things, is when those reactions are simplified and I'm responding to the basics of what needs to happen. Presence.
In the larger scheme of life, it’s also to have your simple needs covered. I'm a mother of two little boys and I've observed that the best days are when those needs are covered - we just want love, attention, someone to listen to us, to be fed and to feel safe.
I don't always make life simple. Inevitably, we think we need to make things more challenging and feel guilty if it is easy, listening to external projections or ideals, adding more jobs and activities which you then have to react to. However, the best days are the slow simple days, playing with my kids, time for presence, being out in nature, etc.
Can you think of a time when life was at its most simple for you?
When my husband and I backpacked for three years on a shoestring budget. Even though we had very little and our accommodation was incredibly basic, those are our best days.
Obviously, it was a privilege to be able to travel like that back then, and with no technology. This is before WhatsApp and having a laptop.
The day wasn’t complicated, yet we did what fulfilled us. The best part of the day could be hanging out in a local café chatting about the adventure, or doing yoga, super simple.
What contributes to greater simplicity in your life?
An acceptance of the life path that's playing out. Inevitably, life has challenges but if we don't accept them we end up living in this space of resistance, projection and denial - which adds complexity.
Life has hardships, it's going to have its downtimes. Everything is always changing; you're constantly adapting through different cycles. When I’ve had experiences where I've gone into dark times, it’s important that I be present with it, not masking it or pretending it's not there. Because if I don’t face it, I won't learn the lesson and it becomes this repetitive and complicated cycle.
You also go through bright stages, where you're buzzing with ideas and you've got the energy to put them into action. Times where things are consistently good and momentum gains. That may not always be there. For me, it’s about managing the emotion of going with - and enjoying the highs, but also going with the lows and managing that.
How do you navigate the complexity that life invariably brings in relationship to others?
From my perspective there are opposing needs of me on my own, as a mother, a wife, a friend, an astrologer - they are different arms of my life. The knitting together of that is finding a fluidity in the dualism of life. I can find that hard at times, but it's my goal to achieve a sense of fluidity and synastry.
In the constant offsets from simplicity in life, I evaluate with an astrological perspective and look at my kids, or my partner or family members, acting as mirrors, reflecting back to me something that I'm here to learn. Teaching me how to respond rather than react, not thinking of them as testing my patience, etc.
I also take moments, whenever I get a chance in the day to meditate. I come back to the realisation that there are alternative forces all the time, and I tune in saying, “this is me, this is where I'm at, this is what I have today.”
Outside of meditation, it's about stopping to pause and appreciate those simple moments within the complexity of life. Gratitude enables this fluid state.
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated” - Confucius
2. This week’s insight
Each week I share an overall insight from reviewing 100+ interviews collectively
Simplicitiy / Simple Things were mentioned by approximately 16% of the participants in this project as an important part of a good life.
Numerous participants mentioned travelling to other cultures in order to appreciate how simple things made people happy. While another participant noted how modern life imposes complexities that make it harder to experience simplicity.
One participant associated simple things with moments where he didn’t have to achieve anything to feel fulfilled. Time with family, friends, animals, and in nature were most frequently cited in terms of moments of strong fulfilment.
“It is always the simple that produces the marvellous.” – Amelia Barr
3. This week’s reflection
Each week I share a personal reflection on the weekly theme
Four years ago, when I left Vancouver for Peru, aside from my savings and investments, everything I owned was contained in two bags - a suitcase that I sent back to Europe and the rucksack that I had on my back. Very few moments in my life felt as satisfying as this.
While I know my life will most likely never be as simple as that again, nor is it currently possible, it left an indelible mark reminding me that more is not necessarily always more.
It also made me think that, whether or not our goals are material, what we are ultimately desiring is a feeling, not a thing or accomplishment. If someone were to offer you all the worldly success you could imagine, with the caveat that you would constantly feel miserable, I’m assuming most of us would say no.
For me, the most important thing is to pay attention to whatever brings me that feeling I’m seeking; whether that’s from a walk in the park with my dog, gaining financial success with a project, exercising, reading a book, etc.
It’s important to pay attention to whatever brings us contentment in the moment, instead of waiting for what we imagine will.
“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without.” - Henry David Thoreau
4. This week’s questions for personal reflection
Each week I pose questions to support your own inquiry into what a good life is for you
If you were to simplify your life down to what is essential for you to have a good life, what would you include?
Take inventory of the things that make your life more complicated or challenging. Is there anything on that list that doesn’t merit the complexity it brings?
That’s all for this week. I’d greatly appreciate you sharing this newsletter with your friends. I’d also really like to receive any feedback with suggestions for what you would like to see from these weekly updates. If you want to contact me directly, here’s my email and LinkedIn.
I’m a coach, based in Berlin (via Dublin, Ireland). I formerly had a 15-year career in Capital Markets, and for better or worse, I’ve convinced myself that I’m going to make a discovery around human thought / behaviour.