credit: kenichi nobusue

3 Principles for 2017

In case you didn’t have enough New Year’s stuff to read

The more I have written, the more I have read, and the more work I’ve taken on, the more I appreciate the spirit of minimalism. I guess sometimes, I just wish I knew what “minimalism” meant.

But let’s pretend that I know what it means. I think maybe it means to reduce the amount of resolutions for yourself in the new year. Perhaps it means reducing the amount of things on which you wish to focus. Perhaps it means not even adopting certain goals, but rather choosing principles to follow — regardless of the results you get. Luckily for us, many of the principles we could adopt end up covering pretty much every resolution we’re thinking of making.

Funny how that works, right?

I’m still adopting resolutions — ones for the eyes of my family and me only. But in the spirit of minimalism (again — whatever that means), here are 3 principles that I’ve adopted to guide my behavior in 2017.

[author’s note: like so many things that I think and write about, these are lifted from eastern philosophy — the Tao Te Ching, to be precise]

Simplicity

Be simple in actions and in thoughts, and you return to the source of being.

Too often, I wrap myself up in complex thoughts and even more complex actions. What tends to make them complex are the motivations I have for them. I want too much. I chase pleasure constantly — in food, in drink, in media. I look for more stuff I can buy to build a lifestyle. I look for the next great culinary experience. I search for the next book to read that will make me that much smarter and more well-read. It becomes too complex.

Rather, adopting the simple attitude of enjoying and caring for the things I have is what I should be doing. I can enjoy new things, but as bonuses — not as the fulfillment of long-held desires. In fact, that may help me to enjoy those things even more.

Patience

Be patient with both friends and enemies, and you accord with the way things are.

In many ways, I am terribly impatient. I can’t wait for things. I can’t wait for people. I lose my temper quickly. But in nearly every case, being impatient hasn’t done anything for me. Actually, all it has done was keep my anxiety high for a while, and kept me from enjoying what I have until I got what I want. Then I’d repeat the cycle over again.

I will have to learn to wait. I will learn to enjoy what’s here now, and not hang so much of my happiness on desires.

Compassion

Be compassionate toward yourself, and you reconcile all beings in the world.

I deserve compassion, but I rarely give it to myself. My loved ones deserve compassion, but I also rarely give it to them. We all deserve compassion from one another, because we’re all on a difficult journey, and we’re all a bit afraid of how it will turn out.

Every time I forget this (which is often), I do poorly. The more I remember that we are more often stumbling than running gracefully, the more I can be at peace.

Perhaps I can laugh a bit at how much your stumble resembles mine. Perhaps we can share pointers — punctuated by shared laughter — on how to more gracefully trip, tumble, and shuffle on to the finish line — wherever that is.

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