5 tiny steps toward an #ineedless life

Let me be clear on this point, folks: I am on this journey toward an #ineedless life with you. Right alongside.

I am not speaking to you as those behind me on the journey. You may have never had the thought, “I need less” cross your mind before you came across this site, and yet you may be much further down the road toward living out a life of less than I am. Only you can know that, and only you should care about it.

Your relative position on the road to a life of less is not my business and it’s not anyone else’s business. I don’t care, honestly. But I want you to care.

What I do care about is the reality that we need each other. On those days when we start to feel like complete outsiders, complete loons, for pursuing less in this culture, we need each other to be reminded of the simple treasure which caused us to take the first step on this journey. Because things can get pretty fuzzy at times.

So regardless of where you are, the following five tiny steps might just be helpful to move you forward. These steps have helped me, and continue to help me as I remember them and use them. Sharing them with you helps me to remember again, to see them with new eyes and to benefit even more.

Some of these steps have to do with possessions and some do not. For me, #ineedless is about so much more than just a reduction in the number of my possessions.

It’s about awareness. It’s about mindfulness. It’s about peace and beauty and trust and Love and gratitude. And so much more.

With all of that out of the way, let’s move forward and explore these five tiny steps which I hope bring some peace into your life today:

5 tiny steps toward an #ineedless life

#1 – Hand wash your breakfast dishes each morning and use them for a full week

If you’re a creature of habit like myself, this might be a little bit easier. I use a bowl and spoon for oatmeal and a mug for coffee each morning. About 99% of the time at least. Three things I wash and dry and use daily.

I understand this might seem a little odd to you at first, but just go with me for a minute.

I developed this practice more than a year ago and I am grateful I did. This simple practice, which Leo Babauta at Zen Habits introduced me to, has repeatedly helped to focus me on what I already have to be grateful for and not on what I need today.

As I wash my bowl, spoon and mug I begin to realize these are more than enough for me, that I don’t need the 17 other mugs and 13 other bowls and 19 other spoons in my cabinets and drawers. Someone else in my home might need them, but not me. I have more than enough right there in my hands, and as I wash and dry them I do so very deliberately and give thanks for them. In those moments, I am mindful that I have everything I need.

This simple practice has started my days with a sense of peace, gratitude and abundance more than any other single practice…even meditation. But in truth, this is a meditative practice for me. Give it a try…

#2 – Slow down and pay attention to your food for a full week

Confession: I am not Italian. I have not fully learned the “art of lingering” over a delicious meal while deeply engaged in conversation with those around the table.

You should know at this point: I have no sense of taste or smell (long story, maybe for another time). So it’s a real challenge sometimes to slow down and savor my food. Too often, it just becomes a mindless activity I go through so I can get on with my day.

But the point is I try to do this as often as I can. So I’m kind of saying you have no excuse not to try as well. If you can taste and smell, it should be much easier.

Just look at your food and take a moment to consider all it took for that food to make it to your table. Listen to the way Thich Nhat Hanh describes this mindful practice while eating a string bean:

“We see the food as an ambassador that has come to us from the sky and from the Earth. Looking at the string bean, I can see a cloud floating in it. I can see the rain and the sunshine. I realize that this string bean is part of the Earth and the sky…I feel a connection to the sky, the Earth, the farmers who grow the food and the people who cook it.”  – Thich Nhat Hanh, Be Free Where You Are

The miracle of this food in front of you is enough to slow you down, to appreciate what you have. I believe this realized miracle can fill you along with the food itself and you will need less food to fill you, to satisfy you.

This is a small miracle of mindfulness you can experience today.

#3 – Choose one way to reduce the cost of your entertainment consumption

In my home, we have subscribed to (paid for) all of the following entertainment services at one time or another: Hulu, Netflix, CBS All Access, Amazon Video, and DirecTV. (Yes, I’m sure there are others I’m forgettting.) That’s a ton of entertainment, people.

When my DirecTV bill recently doubled (love the end of those promotional periods…chock and gasp) it made me take another look at our entertainment consumption.

After looking over the details of the plan and the other options available to me, we’ve decided to get rid of DirecTV (by far the most expensive, even before the huge jump) and replace it with a far less expensive streaming service which also includes about half as many channels.

With the savings from this switch, we plan to increase our giving to a cause we care deeply about and is making a difference for the forgotten children in our world: Love146

We need less mindless entertainment, they need more support for the life-giving work they are doing. So it’s a win-win. I hope you will consider supporting them as well with your savings from this tiny step. Everything helps.

#4 – Get rid of old and forgotten socks, underwear and t-shirts

For years and years, I stockpiled these items in my dresser and closet…especially t-shirts I had no intention (or need) to ever wear again. So. Many. T-shirts. Seriously, they could have clothed a small flippin village.

Looking back, I think I received some sort of sick comfort from having drawers and shelves filled to overflowing with all of these items. It was as if an empty space there revealed a painful emptiness in me I had no desire to face; keeping the drawers filled somehow helped me avoid dealing with my own internal crap. (Yes, this is a technical term.)

While I still have a long way to go in learning to let go and create empty space in my life, this was one of the first steps I took to begin freeing myself from my obsession with these possessions, with filling the space.

Try using the 30-Day Minimalism Game like I did to get started. It will give you some structure as well as a jumpstart of motivation.

Or, if you’re just a free-spirited wanderer, you can start out on your own and go through your drawers and shelves asking, “Do I need this item? Do I use this item? Can I easily and inexpensively replace this item if necessary?”

Donate the items you are ready to let go of, and then take some time to step back, pause and consider how it made you feel. Write down everything you notice and allow it to move you forward to the next decluttering task you are drawn to.

#5 – Give up one food or drink item you love for a week

Did I just cross a line? Sorry, but I think this one can be extremely helpful in many ways.

In his book The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer gave this advice:

“If you really want to see why you do things, then don’t do them and see what happens.”  – Michael Singer

You pay attention to what this tiny sacrifice of food or drink stirs up inside of you. It might be fear, it might be anger, it might be bitterness or irritability. Yes, even if we are just talking about food or drink. You might be surprised if you can pay close attention.

Whatever comes up, you will have demonstrated this to yourself: you CAN live without this one thing (less need) and you can then begin to understand the WHY behind your habit.

A simple step like this, if taken with a clear intention to understand, can be a much-needed doorway into the realm of a deeper and lasting self-awareness.

And when you can begin to see yourself, your needs and your motivation more clearly, all things start to become much clearer.

I would love to hear from you

With those five tiny steps laid out in front of you now, I hope you will take some action. At least grab a couple of these steps and live them out for a while. Don’t analyze them and question them and disagree with them. Just live them. This is the only way to find the right path for you.

And when you do take some action, I would love more than anything to hear from you about your experience. Tell me what you loved, what you hated, what you saw in yourself, what you learned, how you changed. This is the good stuff.

Via con Dios on the road toward a life of less!

#ineedless time under the crashing waves of desire

We have been slow-cooking in a carefully concocted stew of desire since the day we were born.

Can you smell it? Can you taste it? Can you feel it? Well of course not, and that’s the whole point.

It is in our DNA. Every mind-blowing six foot strand of it. And it’s not going anywhere, folks. That desire will be here as long as we are.

“Wait what?”, you’re thinking. “If that desire for more isn’t going anywhere, if I have no hope of eliminating it from my life, then what’s the point of this discussion? Are you just yanking my chain?”

Nope, not at all. Your desire for more may never go away. In fact, it will most likely continue to be fueled by our consumer-centric culture.

But when you make the choice to become aware of this desire, of what it looks like in your life and of what messages or events trigger you to act on the desire, its dark influence upon your life can be steadily diminished.

On the other hand,  if we remain unaware of it, we are truly powerless.

Picture a paddle boarder standing on the shore of the ocean.

The ocean is Life; the waves are the desires that often overwhelm us; the board is our own awareness.

Watch the paddle boarder wade out into the ocean, walking in the shallows with small waves just splashing up past her knees. She’s able to step over the small waves close to shore. No problem, no mess, no overwhelm. But also no gliding silently along on the paddle board yet.

Where are her eyes fixed? On the horizon. Because it is in that direction, beyond the breaking waves, where she will find the calm water she needs to stand on the board and deeply experience the serenity of this space and this experience.

The peace out there is her destination, her deep desire.

But the waves between her and “out there” are huge. They are violent. They threaten to rip the board right out from under her before she can even lay down, stabilize herself and start paddling toward the deep.

As she struggles, her eyes drift to the surfers around her. They seem to be making friends with these waves of desire, riding them for all they are worth and having the time of their lives.

But then she realizes something: the surfers always end right back up in the shallows, destined to struggle against the same crashing waves over and over and over again. Caught in the same cycle, needing another rush to make them feel alive. Again.

And so her gaze returns to the horizon. She reminds herself of her destination: the deep end of the ocean where peace and calm are the norm, the sacred reward.

Out there is where the beauty and majesty of this great ocean of Life can be soaked in and truly appreciated. Where she will not be constantly pulled under the surf, gasping for air and struggling just to survive.

This image reminds me: I know what my destination is.

I will be floating in the deep blue, more aware in each moment of every gift I already have. Now.

The surfers all around me can keep chasing after the next big, impressive thrill that each crashing wave promises. I think I’ve had my fill of that pursuit.

And I hope you will join me out there beyond the crashing waves of desire.

#ineedless. How about you?