Beyond the substantial benefits meditation creates for the mind-body physiology, the greatest...
Perhaps the greatest gift of meditation is the way in which it cleanses the windows of perception, allowing us to experience our natural state of simple and open awareness. When we’re awake to our essential self, we feel happy, light, and at peace. In contrast, unhappiness is a state of complication and imbalance in our body, mind, and environment. Complications take many forms, including a non-nurturing lifestyle, toxic relationships, hidden emotional debts, resistance, indecision, addictions, and negative conditioned beliefs. When our life is overly complicated, we’re weighed down by superfluous things at every level.
We can begin to let go of the complications that cause unnecessary suffering by cultivating inner and outer simplicity. In this process, tiny steps yield big results, in part because simplicity is nature’s default position. Suffering and the complications that fuel it are unnatural; it wastes energy to maintain complexity.
Exercise: Let Go of Complexity
Here is a practice that will help you let go of whatever is no longer serving you and return to your inherent state of wholeness, happiness, and wellbeing.
First ask yourself, Is there anything in my life that is causing me to feel a sense of unease, discomfort, or pain? You can choose a persistent issue that has bothered you for years or it may be something that has recently come up for you.
Here are some of the most common complications:
Clutter and disorder: Chaos is complicated, order is simple. Consider your physical environment. Is your house a mess? Is your desk buried under stacks of paper? Are you letting other people leave clutter and messes in the space you share? Have you hoarded so much junk that your environment is like an archaeological record of your past? Just as with the physical body, when we accumulate too much stuff in our environment, the flow of energy and information becomes blocked, creating stress and disharmony in our lives.
Stress: While the pressures of life are inevitable, if at the end of the day you are unable to completely let go and return to a calm, centered inner state, you are overstressed. Consider all the things that are creating tension and dis-ease in your life. Are you going to bed too late and not getting enough sleep? Are you ignoring signs of overwork or exhaustion? Is your body stressed by being overweight or sedentary? Make a list of the choices and lifestyle patterns that are creating unwanted stress in your life. Then start to brainstorm ideas to either eliminate the source of the stress or to change the impact it is having on your emotional state.
Inertia: When you feel stuck, you are most likely giving in to old habits and conditioning. Rather than stepping into the unknown, you may be holding onto the past, repeating inertia’s motto: “That’s just how things are.” If you feel caught in a cycle of anxiety, depression, fear, or insecurity, it’s important to become aware that doing nothing is actually a way you’ve trained yourself to keep things the same. Notice if you’re dwelling on your problems. Do you reject helpful advice without even considering it? Do you find yourself repeatedly complaining about a situation without taking any actions to change it? Become aware of any aspects of your life in which inertia has taken hold, and consider what shifts you are willing to make.
Toxic Relationships: Are you in relationships with people who don’t have your best interests and wellbeing at heart? Make a list of these relationships and consider what you can do to protect yourself from their toxic influence. Sometimes setting better boundaries and practicing the tools of conscious communication can be transformative. In some cases, ending a relationship may be necessary. At the same time, focus on nurturing your healthy relationships so that they are even more loving and fulfilling.
Negativity: Health and wellbeing are the natural state of the body and mind. By dwelling on negativity, we prevent ourselves from living in the simple state of wellbeing. Do you often gossip about others or relish their setbacks? Do you tend to choose friends who like to criticize and complain? Do you feel compelled to watch every disaster or catastrophe unfolding on the evening news? Remember, whatever we put our attention on expands in our experience, so consider where you are focusing your time and energy.
Non-nurturing Habits: Do your daily routine, diet, and overall lifestyle support your health and wellbeing? When we don’t nourish ourselves with fresh, healthy food; restful sleep, regular exercise, a daily spiritual practice such as meditation or journaling, and other mind-body healing habits, we will inevitably feel tired, out of balance, irritable, and sometimes even depressed. What aspects of your lifestyle would you like to transform to bring you greater health and happiness?
For the next few weeks, sit by yourself for at least five minutes each day with the intention to clear away complications. In the time you set aside for this clearing, determine what area you need to focus on the most and work on that. It may be one of the complications mentioned above or a different area that is preventing you from experiencing a state of peaceful simplicity.
Take the Smallest Possible Step
Start by coming up with the smallest possible action you could take – and then take it. Then choose the next smallest action, and do that. The action can truly be as small as opening your closet to find your gym shoes. Then the next day you can commit to putting on your shoes, and the day after that you can decide to walk to your mailbox. Although such small acts can seem trivial, over time they help you build momentum and experience transformation.
As you focus on simplifying your life, make sure that your approach is loving and accepting. Know that you are now doing all that you can do right now, and that is all anyone can do. When you stay in the moment, you have all the time in the world and whatever needs to be done will be completed in the exact right time.
Deepak Chopra, M.D is the author of more than 65 books, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His medical training is in internal medicine and endocrinology, and he is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and an adjunct professor of Executive Programs at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He is also a Distinguished Executive Scholar at Columbia Business School, Columbia University, and a Senior Scientist at the Gallup organization.