One of the many beautiful aspects of the spiritual path is how simple everything becomes. The more the unconscious ego dissolves away, the more we see what is necessary in our lives and what is not.
For the Westerner and for many of those who are adopting a lot of Western ways around the world, life has become exceedingly complicated. There are pressures of all kinds to succeed in relationships, jobs, endeavors of all sorts, and more. The tools and means that a person needs to achieve all of these goals seem to get more and more complicated every year too, and the amount of energy needed to get everything and hold onto it can feel astronomical.
It’s all very, very exhausting.
In some ways, this is why I think many of you find yourself exhausted at the outset of a spiritual awakening. It’s not a sign of inner work yet; it’s a sign of how tired you already are from doing all this.
But then you get on the spiritual path. Maybe you have an awakening. Maybe you are just called to it. And the true spiritual path starts taking things from you instead of giving you things. This aspect of the spiritual path can be distressing at first, but then as you get used to giving away clothes you don’t wear, emptying out closets of junk, releasing false beliefs, and so forth, you feel lighter and free. You realize how few clothes, beliefs, and other things you actually need to survive in the world, and you begin to divorce yourself from the concept that external things, people, and situations bring you happiness. Happiness is already within you.
As you realize that, you start to willingly simplify.
So let’s talk about this path towards simplicity and what it means to everyday life.
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Those of you who know me know that I don’t like to over-complicate my writing with “spiritual jargon,” which is usually just a bunch of nonsense words created to make people feel special. However, I do regularly is re-craft words to be useful in effectively explaining something. This is one aspect of spiritual simplicity; we look at things to see if they are actually useful.
So to be clear about what I mean regarding spiritual simplicity, I would define spiritual simplicity this way:
Seeing what is real and useful, and living your life based on reality.
For instance, we are here now. That is a spiritual truth. By bringing our mind’s full attention to this moment, we can better pay bills, do work, look after our kids, and much more. Focusing on whatever you are doing right now naturally makes things much simpler. You aren’t trying to pay your bills, do work, and look after your kids all at once. Many of you already know that doesn’t work particularly well. Heck, sometimes, if you’re just walking lost in thought, you’ll stub your toe or trip and fall.
Life Simplifies More and More
As you develop further on your spiritual path, you keep coming back to the present moment and focusing on what is real. You are likely to notice more things such as:
You need to take care of your body to enjoy life.
That tends to lead to additional useful and logical conclusions like:
- You need to eat well.
- You need to get plenty of rest.
- You need to drink water.
Interestingly enough, spiritual simplicity takes us to the most mundane and basic things. It becomes obvious that if we do not take care of our bodies, then we won’t enjoy life. We also don’t think well or react well when our bodies are not taken care of.
Of course, spiritual simplicity extends beyond just eating and sleeping. As we pay more attention to life, we see that simple kindness is powerful. One kind word can make someone else’s entire day. We see that other people tend to respond to us how we respond to them. So being kind to another human being tends to return the same reaction from them. We also realize that life isn’t about us; a lot of things that happen in the world and to us have nothing to do with us. This tends to lead us towards greater and greater humility.
More and more realizations and revelations come to you as you pay attention to the real rules of life.
Through Simplicity Come Greater Abilities to Deal With Complexity
I am sure that some of you are hearing ego objections in your mind. They’re talking about all the complicated things you have to do in your job. They’re talking about taxes. They’re talking about planning for the future. They’re talking about plenty of other ideas that they want to hold onto.
In all my experience and intuitive awareness of the spiritual path, I have found that being focused on what is real and necessary in this moment has greatly aided me in dealing with anything complex. Some types of complexity exist in the world, but a lot of these complexities are human-made. A lot are made up by our own misconceptions of life. That’s why we first must learn to let go of our own unnecessary complications, and then we can see what mandatory complexities still exist. For instance, things like paying taxes are not going away any time soon. But with that, it’s just one line item at a time, right? One step at a time is all we can do, and that simple focus helps you to unwind the most complicated scenarios as consciously as you can.
Additionally, we plan for our futures from the present moment, and a little planning goes a long way. Too much planning and we can block out the creativity of life. We are usually lost in a control issue when we are doing this, and control is an issue that endlessly complicates things. Once again, go within first. Root out the deeper issues that make you try to complicate things in life, and then see how you plan for your future.
Spiritual Simplicity Is Not Poverty
Sometimes spiritual simplicity is confused with poverty. Some people–usually still trapped in the ego ideas of right and wrong ways of living–leap to a conclusion that having things and money are problems. These people see the things the source of complication, and so they get rid of everything. But the Divine does not say that things are a problem or that money is problem. In this example, we see how people confuse how they interact with some thing with the object itself inherently having a problem. That has lead more than a few spiritual people into unnecessarily distressing times when they cannot take care of their basic needs like eating and having safe shelter.
It is natural for a lot of preferences to dissolve as we walk on the spiritual path, and getting rid of a lot of things is fine and healthy. But I often have to caution someone at the beginning of their transition after a spiritual awakening to not overreact in the way I have described above. People can be shocked at all the things they’ve collected, and they just want to give it all away. This giving spirit is wonderful, but it needs to be tempered and grounded. A lot of people’s initial realizations are only in the intellectual mind. As someone integrates, they learn to understand what these realizations truly mean, and then s/he can act consciously.
In some spiritual traditions, people take vows of poverty. That’s fine. But that is no more spiritual than being rich or somewhere in between. The Divine embraces everything. It does so without preference. If you choose this lifestyle, be sure that you can still take care of your basic needs. Awakening or any other spiritual shift does not dissolve your need to eat nor the need for resources to take care of other important issues in your life.
So instead of putting yourself in excess physical duress living in a box under the bridge, you may sell your home and live in a more modest residence if your home was more than you needed. You may give away a lot of things you do not use, but you keep their silverware, dishes, pots, and pans. Whether you have the latest phone or gadget is irrelevant and superfluous. Having the newest fashionable clothes is unnecessary, and many other things are just cluttering your life. Ultimately, it’s a waste of energy to get many of those things, but some things in life are clearly useful. Practice using your discernment to figure out which are which.
Over-simplification Versus Spiritual Simplicity
Another issue that can arise on the spiritual path with regards to simplicity is with over-simplification. Over-simplification is where the unconscious ego is jumping in. It’s saying, “Hey, I get this spiritual thing! And I want to stick around too.” So the ego gets to work on judging everything in life, but now in a slightly different way. It’ll look at everything and decide if this is the right spiritual way to live or not. That’s part of how some people jump to the idea that being poor is the spiritual path. Along with what they perceive or have seen in some spiritual traditions, the ego needs to have reference points. It needs to know that there is a right or wrong, but there are no right or wrong ways to live. There is just life.
These last statements are deeply confusing for anyone with right-or-wrong issues. Right-or-wrong thinking is a type of thinking that is, in and of itself, an over-simplification of life. It reveals some of the fundamental workings of the unconscious ego, and one of those fundamental workings is all around being safe. Categorizing things as right or wrong is fundamentally aimed at figuring out what is safe or not safe. Ultimately, safety really is the ego’s number one goal, and most of our basic beliefs are rooted in that one goal. The other big driver behind the ego is the sex drive, and in these two things–safety and sex–we can see the biological animal within us still alive and well.
Spiritual simplicity doesn’t deny any of our needs, but it keeps the playbook open. While the ego is busy trying to categorize everything into right (safe) or wrong (not safe) choices, the spiritual path shows us time and time again that we can never have enough information (or time) to so narrowly apply that thinking to every possibility in life. Instead, spiritual simplicity is about staying open to the present moment and the many possibilities and challenges life presents. Then we go from there.
A New Kind of Practicality From Spiritual Simplicity
As beliefs continue to dissolve away, you find a clearer everyday practicality at your disposal. Being fully present in the moment helps you to engage with whatever is in front of you. There’s no need to try to multi-task with a bunch of things; that depletes your attention and also your effectiveness. Having the ability to fully focus on where you are enables you to really receive all the information (emotional, intellectual, energetic, and physical) in that moment and process it consciously. Then a natural and intuitive response arises. You know what to say or not say, do or not do. Life without the unconscious ego creating inner conflict is so much simpler.
When you are not in the midst of internal battle with yourself, you have way more energy to effectively do the things that you need to when you need to do them. You also aren’t wasting energy doing things that do not feel true to you. Releasing issues and attachments can be so energizing precisely as result of how much of your energy was being wasted doing things that weren’t true to you and trying to be someone you’re not. Additionally, buying things you do not need is a waste of energy. Doing a job that you do not want to do is a waste of energy every day because you are fighting yourself to make yourself do it. Being in friendships and other relationships you don’t truly enjoy is a waste of energy and causes you to act in ways that may conflict with what feels truthful to you. All of this facade gets increasingly complicated to uphold!
Additionally, spiritual simplicity helps us to see reality so that we don’t get caught in fantasies about how the world should be or how we would be so much happier somewhere else. Our happiness can only ever be here and now, and linking our happiness to external events is a recipe for on-going misery. So we choose to be happy in the present moment even if we don’t feel good. We don’t deny feelings and body sensations either, so this isn’t about suppressing anything. It’s simply understanding the body. It has good days and bad days. Things in life can be easy and also be hard. We don’t have to complicate things further by choosing to resist and be unhappy with these ever-present and ever-changing parts of the external world.
Expanding Clarity on What is Real
Clarity continues to grow as ego beliefs and old issues drop away. It’s like if some goo had been smeared over your eyes your whole life, and now, it’s being wiped away. As it is wiped away, you see life for what it is, but not necessarily as you’d like it to be.
Melting Into Silence
From this clarity, action and non-action take on new meaning. Most of humanity is running around clueless about the state of life and why other people do what they do. The more at peace you are in yourself and the less ego complication you impose on yourself, the more you see the harm of so many of false beliefs. You can also see more of the amazing opportunities life presents you every day.
So, you act according to that clarity. That changes everything. In some regards, it speeds things up.
Consider if you rode a bike your whole life, but you could not really see it. It’s been rattling strangely for years, but you could never see the issue. Once you can see it, you realize that the gear chain has gotten loose and needs oil. Instead of the thing falling off or rusting out potentially causing a crash, you fix the chain and oil it now. Now everything runs even smoother, and that change was exceedingly quick compared to waiting for it to fall apart and still not seeing clearly enough to effectively remedy it. You also probably averted other problems by addressing the problem before a crash happened, and these problems you might never know how they could have impacted you. Now, you might also more easily get to where you want to go. Everything just got easier and quicker, and it probably demands less energy of you. These are some of the benefits people reap on the spiritual path as things simplify.
Settling Deeper and Deeper Into the Present Moment
I always like to remind people that we do not lose our faculties of perception and decision-making on the spiritual path. Instead, the more we let go of our many, many beliefs and old pains, the clearer and easier they are to use. One of the simplest ways to deepen that clarity is to sit in the present moment with no expectations. Just be here now.
If you’ve had the experience of expanding clarity, sit longer. You will find that your clarity continues to sharpen and your vision continues to expand. It runs counter to the false belief that we have to do things to achieve things. I would distinguish being engaged with the present moment from doing. The present moment doesn’t require anything of us to be here now. We only make the simplest of shifts of attention to notice this presence. That’s the smallest of smallest of doings I can think of, and the more we allow ourselves to be in our own presence, the deeper we go and the clearer we are.
Awakening to Simplicity
Because so many people have come to believe that doing is necessary to achieve things, some spiritual paths have gotten over-complicated with doing. There are techniques and beliefs and all kinds of things to keep people busy. Some can be useful to help someone break-thru issues or to start to see life differently. But some can soon become just as much a block to spiritual truth as anything else.
The spiritual path is not that hard. But we have been so committed to complication and attachment that our very ego identities are built upon such things, and we are used to defending our identities. Whole lives get built around complication, and so the very notion of simplicity often gets associated with being dumb, stupid…being a simpleton. It also can represent a major shake up of the very fabric of your life if you’ve been building it on a foundation of false beliefs.
However, spiritual simplicity is far from stupid. It is a very bright and clear space, and it will show you many truths. Just let go and the power of spiritual simplicity can show you that truth and totally re-shape you in the ways most true to you.