the practical buddhist : essentials

the tpb-simple living link

At one time the tagline for TPB changed (I love changing things up) from ‘three simple practices to end suffering forever’ to ‘end suffering, live simply, be happy.’

As my own path evolves, I think about where I am and what in my present experience makes me happy. I find great joy in my daily practices of meditation, mindfulness, and compassionate kindness. I also find that when I don’t practice, my life seems less full.

But there are other practices outside of the Practical Buddhism, that also add to the fullness of my life experience. Living simply is one of these. Recently I read Tammy Strobel’s book, You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s cheap). Tammy’s book renewed a sense of importance around living simply and it gently nudged the dormant awareness of my own surroundings.

A few years back I wrote a blog called 4 Plates, 4 Cups, 4 Bowls (no longer online); it was about how I was living simply with my then 12 year-old son in a small apartment. I wrote about simple living tips and hack to living more authentically. As the years have passed, I’ve accumulated a lot of needless stuff and I’m once again, with the help and guidance found in Tammy’s book, feeling the need to downsize again.

Since writing is my most meaningful form of work, the TPB blog content will begin reflecting this and so I wanted to expand the scope of the blog to include simple living. But there are other reasons for expanding the scope of the content.

The Zen of Order

I find that I’m happiest in environments that are sparse, neat, and tidy. I think it’s why I’m drawn to images of Japanese Zen gardens, meditation halls, and spartan living spaces. It’s why I don’t tire of viewing the photos of Tammy and Logan’s tiny house pictured here. The order and spartan appearance not only impart to me a sense of expansion and freedom, but one of order and peacefulness.

My favorite tiny home.
My favorite tiny home.

A few years back I was in San Francisco for a business meeting at HOK Architects in the Financial District. I entered the ground floor of the building and realized the perimeter of the building was huge Zen garden. Upon entering the building I felt an immediate sense of peace and order. The interior design was simple, minimalist, and orderly. Nothing in the decor distracted my attention; it was as if all of the elements achieved their desired effect. I didn’t want to leave.

I’m at peace in neat, orderly spaces. I abhor clutter but am just as prone to allowing it to get out of control as the next person. Without warning, it seems, my own small home, a two bedroom, one bath apartment in a fourplex near the beach that I share with my 17 year-old son Jay, attracts the stuff common to teenagers and adults alike. At times it feels just right for the two of us (plus Buddy, our black labrador pointer mix). But at other times, especially when it’s a jumbled mess, it feels too constrictive. This is largely my own doing because I’ve allowed too much stuff to accumulate without donating or selling the stuff that is no longer essential.

The Larger Influence of Buddhism

Simple living isn’t new. It isn’t a fad or a trend, but a way of living inspired by nature and adopted by Homo sapiens since the first of their kind walked the earth. But as time has passed and technology has become more advanced, some cultures have forgotten about simpler living. We chose to attach ourselves to our stuff and the false happiness it brings.

Buddhism, despite its many ornate rituals and ceremonies, in many ways is concerned with the essentials of life and encourages followers to discard that which is non-essential. I like what Leo Babauta of Zen Habits says: Focus on the essentials, discard the rest. Practical Buddhism focusses on the essentials and discards the robes and rituals.

Practical Buddhism is living simply, focussing on what’s important, and being happy.

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