If a man carries too many worldly burdens, his body will soon wear out. If he worries about too many worldly problems, his mind will soon collapse. To be so occupied with material things is a dangerous way to live, a foolish waste of energy. A man ought to simplify his needs and use his strength to attain spiritual goals. Nobody ever ruined his mind or body by exercising self-restraint.
We can simplify our lives. Han Shan isn’t telling us we have to, this isn’t a command. But he’s telling us it’s a good idea.
Ming Zhen Shakya said, “In its own quiet way simplicity does the most to ensure our success on the path.”
I think that’s right. Our lives are simple and we make them complicated. We don’t need to spend a bunch of money on clothes or nice cars or the cool new gadget or whatever.
In Fight Club Brad Pitt said, “We buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.”
Simplifying is good for our Zen practice and it’s also good for our bank account.
We also benefit from freeing ourselves from the need to compete, to try to get the best things. Our value isn’t in the things we own. So often we live in a state of competing with others in collecting material things or dressing ourselves up to create a big presentation.
Also, how many things do we have that we can get rid of, things that serve no purpose? If you’ve ever had to move without any help, you really know how much junk we collect. The things we own end up owning us, and sometimes we need entire extra rooms for things we never even use.
Another way to simplify is to get rid of things, take stock of your possessions and see if anything is just taking up space.
Simplify your life. You’ll be glad you did.
Daniel Scharpenburg is a meditation instructor and dharma teacher in Kansas City. He regularly gives teachings through the Open Heart Project, the largest virtual mindfulness community in the world.
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