I am the kind of person who likes to start any project by reading. At one point I did a lot of reading about distance running and found it really interesting and inspiring. I didn’t actually do any distance running. I went through a Tour de France period (drug free) but the only cycling I did was at the gym. Its not necessarily a bad thing to read outside your experience, as there are usually other aspects of life where you can apply the learning. Even so I sometimes feel that reading and learning can get in the way of doing.
When I wanted to get fit I joined the gym and toyed with reading my books on personal training. (These books are unreadably boring in my opinion, and I never get very far). The reality is, I know enough. I know enough about walking, running, yoga and pilates to start my own fitness programme. I could just do it.
Its similar with meditation. I know enough to meditate effectively. I have more than enough techniques. Way, way more than enough. In this case, I probably know too much. My learning has exceeded my practice. It feels encouraging to read about other peoples experiences of meditation; it makes me feel a part of something. But when the book is finished, I need to find another book so I can stay involved. In reality, one book is enough. One book on meditation contains everything you need to make a good start. But its not actually in the book. You have to practice it for yourself.
I was reading a self help book this morning and started to feel like I was drowning in advice that I already knew, or didn’t agree with. Do I really need more input, or is it just a habit? Taking in more and more, I feel like I am working towards my goals. But there comes a point when you need to move beyond learning, and focus on acting.
For those of us interested in simplifying, we reach a point where we have to confront what we are simplifying for. What are we going to do with the space. There is a lot of purposeful activity at the start of the process as we jettison unnecessary stuff from our lives. Ironically simplifying brings us face to face with our physical stuff in a very concrete way. For a while, we think about our things and how to manage them more than we did before. But what happens next? What happens when you have what you need, and not a whole lot more? What happens when have your shopping under control and you are satisfied with a modest lifestyle?
I don’t know if blogs on minimalism and simplicity can answer the question of what happens next, because that’s a very personal issue that will vary for each of us. I think of the monk or nun who chooses a simplified life in order to devote their life to spiritual practice. Their attention is not on what they don’t have, or what they gave up. Its on the practice, the thing they made space for. Of course some of us who simplify will go on the teach and encourage others to do the same. But for some the simpler life becomes a backdrop for something else.
For me the struggle with material consumption has died down, and I am facing the other things that I consume. Information, ideas, entertainment. Always taking in more and more. Always keeping my mind busy, challenged and entertained. Looking for the next thought and project to eat up.
At the start of this new year I am taking some time to reflect that in this area too, I have sufficient. I am full of ideas, full of learning, full of self help tips. I know enough to start doing things that I want to be doing.