“Let your mind wander in simplicity, blend your spirit with the vastness, follow along with things the way they are, and make no room for personal views – then the world will be governed.” ― Zhuangzi
Simplify perceived emotional turmoil, external challenges and desires, and existential push-back by taking personal power and control over the thoughts that enter the mind. Rather than allow distress to run both the mind and body, attempt to gather greater understanding over the causes. View matters from different angles in order to begin delineating between what is objective and truth versus what is subjective and skewed perceptions. Remember stoic wisdom in that whatever bad experience is undergone it is not bad in reality, given that it is not bad for anyone else. To clarify, an individual’s unemployment is perceived as a bad experience by the individual undergoing the experience; however, the stoics claimed how, in keeping with this example, the individual’s unemployment is not bad because it does not negatively concern or impact others.
Moreover, the concept of slowing down and exercising deep presence functions alongside simplification by enabling greater control and understanding of one’s thoughts, actions, and overall way of being in the world. Awake the consciousness and see with vivid transparency how baseless many social contructs, norms, and pathways are in the context as it currently exists. Question the self and the ideas floating within society over matters that burden the self, which the stoics called “matters of indifference.” To specify the matters of indifference, they are concepts that dwell on the outside of the stoic’s philosophy on how to live a good life. The final aim in stoic philosophy is to develop and sustain mental tranquility or acquire freedom from perturbations. Specifically, the aim is to conquer emotions with reason, especially fear.
Methods by which to aid simplifying living are bountiful, if sought. Spiritual pathways exists and are accessible through sacred texts and scriptures, such as is the case in Buddhism and its Tripitaka and Sutras. Buddhism is selected as an example due to its relatively renown 4 Noble Truths, which derives a succinct summary of its teachings. The Noble Truths are: human suffering occurs by virtue of living, the cause of suffering is humans’ state of insatiable desires, the cure for suffering is to remove desire, and lastly the pathway toward freedom from desire is by following the Eightfold path. For the purpose of the topic, emphasis is put on the solution for attachment, which is the elimination of desire. In order to simplify in a manner that is healthy and nurturing for the soul, one must identify the reasons behind one’s desires and rationally determine course of action. Ask the self, and more specifically, ask the ego and mechanisms of society why thinking and acting upon career development and paths result in stress or why counting all the have-nots result in unhappiness, and how even sometimes counting the haves results in dissatisfaction.
Another technique by which to simplify life and foster more happiness and fulfillment for the individual soul is by practicing gratitude daily. Writings from Irvin Yalom, a contemporary psychotherapist, scholar, and author, led to the following enlightening conclusion in that aside from religious teachings true darkness only exists before one is born and after one perishes. Since we cannot recall any experience to ourselves or others about the time before we are born and after we die, then true darkness lies in those realms. However, the spark of light that occurs between the two opposing extremes is life itself and experience that is vibrant in color and full of memories. Therefore, regardless of the literal night repeatedly appearing and also the unavoidable sufferings such as loss, pain, ill-health, weakness, and general suffering individuals are in the light and not in darkness, because they are alive and breathing.
Simultaneously, problems persist in spite of the aforementioned, since how can we determine in absolute if either one or another way is the way for better and enlightened living. Ethics and morality exist on a sliding scale according to the individuals’ developed core beliefs derived from his or her lifetime’s experiences. We are different for a reason, and we must learn to capitalize on our differences to obtain greater opportunity as individuals and as a collective unit. Also, since too much simplifying can lead to severe detachment whereby building significant relationships or purpose is unattainable and since too little simplifying can lead to stress whereby the essence of the end goal, such as providing for family or creating impact, is lost, balance is always key.