Meaning Experiment of the Week – Design Your Simple Life

I’ve been craving the simple life recently and have spent time pondering what that might look like for me. I also have an intense curiosity for how others structure their lives, both here and around the world.

I watched an episode of “An Idiot Abroad” the other day, a program devised by Ricky Gervais. The show is centred around Ricky’s real life friend Carl Pilkington who is as cynical, pessimistic and unadventurous as they come. The program is all about sending Carl around the world to see the seven human made wonders. In the episode I saw, Carl went to Mexico to see the Chichen Itza, an ancient Mayan civilisation. As part of his trip he went to visit some Mexicans living in a small village and he was struck by the simplicity and the obvious happiness of the residents. Carl also observed this sort of simplicity in the rest of Mexico, where inhabitants seemed to be truly living their lives and choosing how to spend their days, rather than conforming to a standard model. Amongst his usual rants and complaints, these honest observations were very striking coming from Carl.

I’ve also been inspired by Melissa over at Peace and Projects and her transformation of her life and that of her family’s into a simple and nourishing lifestyle. You really must read what she has to say because she’s been through it all. Melissa understands what a simple life is and is not, because she’s done the experimenting already. In the desperation for a more simple existence she tried a life of convenience. This meant ready-made meals and disposable items; all those consumer products that advertising tells us will make our lives simple. But this is not simple life that most of us envisage.

So what is a simple life all about and how do you go about designing one for yourself?

To me, a simple life means having an abundance of time and the flexibility to choose what best serves my need to feel fulfilled and nourished.

A life of rushing around to achieve goals, big or small, that don’t reflect my authentic self, is certainly not a simple life. Nor is working to accumulate funds to buy things now or in the future. A simple life is not maintaining relationships that don’t excite my interests nor fulfil my needs for meaningful conversation. A life of television and mind numbing work also does not constitute a simple life for me.

Identify the areas in your life that are not the reflection of what a simple life looks like to you. This is perhaps the easiest place to begin.

Now ask yourself what it is that your body and mind are truly crying out for. What is it that you need to be more you?

Do you need more time to move your body naturally with long walks, rather than slogging it out for an hour on the contraptions at the gym.

Do you need more time to plan and create nutritious meals rather than the usual mad dash around the supermarket or your usual staple of Monday to Friday meals?

Do you need more time to discover your creative outlet and to invest in projects that are an expression of yourself?

Is it that you need more time to read and to sit and ponder without one eye constantly on the clock?

Whatever it is that you need, and you may need all of the above, the common denominator to it all is a need for more unscheduled time. If you’ve been reading anything that Leo Babauta has been writing recently, perhaps you too have felt the deep thirst for waking up each day and choosing where to focus your energies based on what calls to you at that moment.

What you will also notice with your list for a simple life is that nothing on it costs much in the way of money. The first key to establishing a more simple existence is to analyse where you are wasting your money and what can be eliminated. This isn’t about being frugal or cheap. It’s about identifying what you really need to feel fulfilled and then investing accordingly in turning this into a reality.

For this week, turn your attention to what a simple life looks like to you. How will it feel? What will a typical day look like? What is it that you need to nourish your true self?

The beginning of any design is a feeling of what the final creation will look like. Don’t worry about how it can all be made possible, just focus on creating a clear feeling and vision of what it is you need most deeply. The rest will come.