Saturday, December 24, 2011

effortless living?

an interesting concept
i arrived home yesterday in a contemplative mood and decided to spend the evening reading leo babauta's latest book, the effortless life. it is available in pdf [or iPad/tablet/reader form] and the price is up to the buyer -- one can contribute anything from $0 to the suggested retail of $15.99.

i've been a little negative about some of the current ideas and teachings on zen habits [and it still makes me sad that he one day he proudly proclaimed that he had no health insurance . . . ], but i did really love this book and found myself strongly impacted by some of his ideas.

i know many of you are out celebrating today and few are hanging around reading blogs! but if you find yourself with some free time as the year winds down, i recommend checking out this quick read. you may find that some of his points resonate with you, too.

ideas i loved from the book
identify true vs. false needs
true need = food, shelter, clothing [basic clothing -- not anthro].
false need = having the latest gadget; cable; fancy trips and experiences

now, i am absolutely NOT one to be preaching minimalism. i love life's little luxuries, from fancy paper to lululemon to fantastic shoes to [now] baby outfits that cost more than -- well, more than they should. but i think it's important to take time and acknowledge what is truly a need and what is just extra bonus.

i may want slightly absurd-looking gaga-esque anthro wedges this spring.
but i don't need them.

it helps to provide perspective and to get out of the mindset of: "if only i had that . . . [fill in the blank]." it also means that i can still be happy even during times that the little extras aren't quite so accessible.

this extends to less tangible false needs, as well: the need to feel "successful" [ie, the true conventional 'american dream' version of success]; the need for outside approval [gretchen rubin's "gold star" phenomenon].

let go of all expectations
in no way do i believe this is easy. but i am convinced that it is one of the keys to a calm and happy life. this includes the expectations of how other will/should behave -- any idea of control in this arena is utter illusion, anyway. it includes expectations of exactly what life will be like in 10 years [though i still maintain it's FUN to think about the various possibilities], 1 month, or even 5 minutes from now.

it includes expectations for what this call weekend will be like and how many times my pager will go off.

yeah right . . .keep dreaming.

don't rush, go slowly, and be present
fairly self-explanatory. after all, where are we rushing to exactly? and what are we missing along the way? leo mentions the concept of giving equal weight to every action -- something introduced to him by a friend who happens to be a zen monk. i love the idea of this -- neither overdramatizing the big moments nor ignoring the little ones. paying attention to the spaces between activities. the commute to work. unloading the dishes. those 10 minutes under the covers just after the alarm goes off.

every moment has value. [source]

basic rule: cause no harm
you may have picked up that i'm not a religious person. but if i did follow an organized religion, this rule would be at the very forefront [i think it's somewhere in those commandments somewhere, anyway!] <-- vintage 2004 post!

leo takes the above tenets and applies them very well to several realms: effortless parenting, effortless work, effortless relationships. while i maintain that nothing will ever truly be effort-free, i think he makes some excellent points in these chapters.

ideas that didn't resonate quite as strongly
living without plans
i just don't know. i personally get true pleasure out of making plans -- and certain things, at least for me, require planning [for example, having healthy ingredients in the fridge in order to assemble a week's worth of dinners]. does this mean i'm not even supposed to make a massage appointment or schedule a trip to philadelphia to see family?

i think it's the expectations [see above] rather than the plans that truly cause trouble. i love to plan and i'm going to keep on planning. but i will pay attention to becoming to attached to specific end results.

living without goals
i did like that he clarified himself a little [excerpt]:
My Definition of “Goal”: I don’t define goal as “any- thing you want to do”. I’m not talking about getting rid of all desires. I’m talking about letting go of predefined outcomes. So “goal” means “predefined outcome or destination”. If you start walking, without knowing where you’re going, you could say, “I have a goal of walking!” But you don’t know where you’re going. If instead you start walking to go to the store, that’s a walk with a goal. When people say, “You’re doing something, so therefore you have goals!”, my response is, “Yes, but I don’t know or care where it takes me.”
i still find it hard to rationalize both his goal-free stance along with his emphasis on developing habits.

needless to say, i'm not ditching the resolutions this year. but the focus on results is again something to think about.

eating a vegan diet
this is a whole post in itself, but i'm not looking to change my [conscious] omnivorous ways any time soon.

off to round!
i have a great [and in some ways very zen . . . ] attending on with me this weekend and i'm actually looking forward to heading in to the hospital for a little bit. i have some loose plans for the day, but no expectations :) have a wonderful holiday if you are celebrating today and tomorrow!