Thursday, March 5, 2009

So, how to simplify?

"Progress means simplifying, not complcating." Bruno Munari(1907-1998)

As you can see, I am smitten with balanced stone sculpture. This particular photo with the stones against the blue sky and water with a solo kayaker epitomizes the idea of balanced simplicity for me.

I think that a stone house would be excellent. An earthen house, say cob or adobe with a stone fence and walkway would be ideal.
For the Anishinaabe, rocks are 'ancestors'. For the Lakota as for many, if not all, of the First People, Earth was sacred. For these people mining, tearing holes in Maka ina(mother earth) in order to rip out the resources was horrifying. It was done with no respect for the Maka and her gifts. Look at mountaintop destruction to extract coal in Appalachia and we see it has only gotten worse.
In asking how to simplify we could make lists of things to do or not do, of things to save or to discard. You can find many excellent lists and suggestions at and these are practical and helpful. Eventually this may be a thing to do, especially if your life is extremely cluttered and complicated. I believe that before you actually add another 'thing to do' to an already frenetic environment, you take time to, as Alan Watts put it in the title of his excellent book, "Still The Mind". If your mind and heart are not simple, all the rest will only be busy work getting rid of a few items, dumping a few obligations. But without a prevailing attitude of simplicity, you will only accrue more things, take on more busyness."But I haven't the time" is the typical complaint. We all have the same amount of time, its a matter of how we spend it.

I started with talk about stones, earth and sky and water. In order to cultivate a simple heart, these are basic necessities. Find a stone. It can be lovely or plain. You probably have one you've picked up as a souvenier on a trip. Hold the stone and think of it as an ancestor. Think of its age and how long it took to form. If you have collected it, think of its environment, the hills, the lakeshore and sand from which it came. Consider your own needs and obligations in relation to the stone and its earth home. How long will these needs and obligations matter? Think in terms of all the things you own. Do they please you and fulfill you. Or do they bind you to a life you can't be easy in? When can you do this? Take time from diversions, from television, from music, from the desperate craving for entertainment and take time to be, not do. Be like the stone for a time and connect with the earth.
When weather permits, gather a handful of earth. Hold it, consider its makeup of finely ground minerals, organic matter, perhaps small stones. If possible, sit outside and hold the earth, allowing it to slowly sift through your fingers, consider its potential for providing you with food. Consider that it is very much alive and without this we cannot survive.
This may all sound airy fairy to you. It certainly isn't getting your closets organized or getting rid of clutter in the basement. But, if you cannot take time to connect with that from which we draw life and that to which our bodies will return, if you cannot take time to still the mind, do you really hope for simplicity?

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