Karma Yoga - Simplicity

By Laura Hansen.

The self is not seeking physical indulgence. Your mind does not want a more expensive car, a bigger house or more shoes. You are seeking for something much deeper but you have been distracted from that search by superficial pleasures. Happiness is not to be found in decadent goods, fast cars or the ego. The ego distracts us from quiet reflection and simplicity.

ego quote

True happiness comes from freedom from self. Every time we reward ourselves with material things we strengthen our bond to the ego. “I” deserve this, “I” need this, “I” earned this, and “I” have been recognized. Each time we strengthen the “I” our bondage intensifies, our self-absorption is validated, and we move father away from freedom.

Simplicity and self-denial are really “I” denial, denial of the ego. According to Gandhi, “the less you possess, the less you want, the better you are,” (Gandhi, 2012). According to Gandhi, the best place to start is by doing as much as you can for yourself. For Gandhi, this meant cooking his own food, weaving his own cloth, sewing his own clothes, and cleaning his own toilet. Having attempted some of this, I immediately discovered how increased self-sufficiency both reduced my workload and improved my mind.

For example, making the decision not to wear any clothes I cannot launder myself meant fewer clothes in my closet, fewer trips to the drycleaner and less money spent on expensive clothes. Basically I saved money and had one less errand to do. For me, one less errand to do is a beautiful thing and means more time to do things I enjoy, like writing for this blog.

Total self-sufficiency, the way Gandhi describes it, is beyond me and probably beyond most people with a job and/or a family. Nevertheless, each of us can take steps to lighten our own burden by not buying things we do not need, by giving away or throwing away clutter, and not using services we don’t need.

If you really enjoy your biweekly nail appointment, then by all means keep it but if you are having your brows waxed monthly, nails done bi-weekly, hair done monthly, pool cleaned weekly, dry-cleaning picked up weekly, maid service bi-weekly, lawn service weekly, personal trainer three times a week, dog trainer monthly, etc., etc., then basically you have no life. To free yourself from the ego requires uninterrupted time to reflect, which you cannot have if all your time is devoted to maintaining your things or to getting more things. Things aren’t what you want, what you want is peace of mind which is the antithesis of things.

I read once of a monk who limited himself to no more than 500 things including silverware, pens, pieces of paper, and food. The rumor was that he quickly achieved enlightenment and no longer had any need of the 500 things he accumulated in life.


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