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  • SuePattonThoele


Even though therapists and spiritual teachers, including the Dalai Lama, assure us that simplifying our lives will make us happier, not only do many of us have plates full to overflowing, but we are also juggling several plates at once. As a result, our time and energy can become fragmented by trying to answer the braying demands of multiple obligations and opportunities. Because we are many things to many people, it’s easy to be on-call twenty-four seven to everyone else and forget ourselves. One of my clients explained her experience of obligation-overwhelm as feeling “nibbled to death by ducks.”

Gently coaxing yourself back into the now by moving your attention away from the army of ducks seemingly poised for future attack and choosing to focus only on the ducks nibbling in the moment helps alleviate feelings of overwhelm. You can usually manage almost anything if you simplify by taking it one small step at a time, one little bite at a time...moment by moment. I’ve found that making detailed lists is also a great help in implementing the small-step approach to almost anything. Of course, there are extraordinary times of exhaustion, illness, stress and grief when the moment itself is so overwhelming that no amount of simplification helps. In those dire times, we need to allow others to help us.

But even in extreme situations, and definitely in day-to-day reality, mindful living helps us opt for the serenity of simplicity—the blessing of feeling underwhelmed— and gives us the ability to recognize whatever comfort is available in the moment. Because mindful minutes calm our souls, quiet our minds, and open our hearts, they are well worth the effort of learning and incorporating into our lives.

There are countless ways to simplify your inner and outer lives, and most of them bring at least a modicum of relief and relaxation. My friend Sophie, who recently retired, is now happily simplifying her home by throwing out at least twenty-seven things a day and organizing to her heart’s content. Her heart is actually more content. “All the clutter was affecting me physically and emotionally,” she said enthusiastically, “I’m already feeling so much lighter and freer and proud of myself.” With the luxury of time, Sophie is bringing more balance and harmony into her home and heart by getting rid of material things that are no longer necessary or helpful.

In the process of simplifying her physical space, Sophie is clearing and cleansing interior space as well. You may benefit from doing the same. If you have a habit of castigating yourself with derogatory self-talk like “You dummy, you!” it needs to be thrown out. Or perhaps you are lugging around an old grudge or injury that needs to be forgiven in order for love to flow freely from and to you. How much simpler our lives are when we toss such things in the trash and symbolically burn them into transformation.

Simple is calming. Simple is satisfying.

Simplifying creates inner and outer space: space invites serenity.

Excerpted from The Mindful Woman by Sue Patton Thoele. Available on Mango and Amazon.

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