• Antti Vanhanen

The Profound Simplicity of Life


Life is profoundly simple.

It only becomes complex when we try to figure it out with words or numbers.

Words, numbers, thoughts, concepts… they are all tools that divide the whole of experience into smaller pieces.

So that we can understand and control them.

But once we break the whole into smaller pieces, we need to divide each piece into smaller pieces still to understand them.

Over time, we keep dividing things up into smaller and smaller pieces, and before we know it, things have become far too complex to manage or even keep track of.

In the words of Alan Watts, “it becomes like trying to keep count of all the leaves in a constantly changing forest.”


What does this mean in practice?

Well, consider this very moment.

No matter what you are in the middle of or what your circumstances are, life just is however it is right now.

There’s just this moment unfolding right now. It’s the simplest thing in the world.

Your cat knows it. Your dog knows it. The tree outside your window knows it.

And if you happen to be in a peaceful, content and loving mood, you know it, too.

You know to let this moment be as it is.

You do not try to figure it out, improve it, or cope with it.

You simply allow it to be, undivided and undefined.

If, however, you happen to be in an anxious, insecure, irritated, or bored mood, it is difficult to leave the moment the way it is.

There’s a desire - a craving - to analyze, improve, or cope with the bad feeling.

So you start asking yourself various questions such as:

“What is causing my suffering?”

“How can I escape it?”

“What can I do to fix it?”

All these questions engage your analytical mind to start figuring life out.

So the mind starts dividing your life up into various categories and segments in order to locate the perceived problem:

“Is the problem my money situation?”

“Is my career moving fast enough?”

“Is it because I’m single?”

“Is it my lack of ambition and motivation?”

Whichever “suspects” seem to fit your insecure, anxious feeling becomes the object of you attempt to analyze and fix.

Of course, in order to analyze, understand and try to change it, the mind needs to divide that object into smaller pieces still.

Little by little, the mind turns something so profoundly simple - an uncomfortable feeling - into something that is incredibly complex and requires a lot energy and focus to comprehend and manage.

Let’s take it a step deeper.

What is it that divides the world?

What are numbers, words, and concepts made of?

Thought.

In moments where we are caught in the moment - reading a good book, having a stimulating conversation, or enjoying a fun activity - there is an absence of thought.

In those moments, we are simply flowing with life - we are one with whatever we are feeling and doing.

Life is simple and effortless.

But then a thought appears.

And because the nature of thought is that it is always either seeking or escaping, it pulls us out of the natural flow of the moment, out of our oneness with everything.

Thought is the ultimate tool of division.

By creating the idea of good, we create the idea of bad.

By creating the idea of cold, we create the idea of hot.

Even the seemingly harmless idea of a “me” divides, as it creates a separation between me and the outside world.

Where moments I go I was one with the universe, I am suddenly the thinker and the doer who must make decisions, manage circumstances, and get somewhere.

When I identify with the “me” as the doer and thinker, life tends to be filled with complexity and stress.

As far as I can tell, most people on earth live from this perspective of the separate self most of their awaking hours.

It’s why we are constantly seeking love, approval, safety, control, and pleasure or avoiding or escaping fear, pain, and suffering.

From the perspective of the separate self, we are not enough. There is so much to control, figure out, and manage! We cannot be enough.

This is why it is so impossible for most people to be at peace: because they are constantly trying to get somewhere or away from something.

Yet the more we try to analyze, fix and control, the more out of sync with the natural flow of life we become.

Life quickly becomes overwhelmingly complex and difficult.

So what do most of us do?

We analyze it even more.

We buy books, attend courses, and set goals to fix the problems. We double down on motivation and self-discipline.

But the more problems we fix, the more problems there seem to be that need fixing.

If you’re lucky, you will get to a place where you lose all hope in your ability to manage and fix it all.

If you’re lucky, you will lose all hope and stop identifying with the separate self.

If you’re lucky, you will stop analyzing, fixing and coping.

Fortunately, what feels like death to the ego is only the death of division.

When division ceases, the parts meld back into the indivisible whole and the simplicity of life reveals itself again.

And you realize that maybe, just maybe it was that simple all along.

#simplicity #complexity #wisdom #selfimprovement #analysis #psychology

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