I think we all recognize today that a rising commodity is simplicity. Once on a job we were trying to solve a complex prop/costume trick, I can’t even remember the trick but the prop/special effects guy kept saying to his team “KISS” “KISS”. Finally I asked him – “What are you saying?” – “Keep it simple, stupid”, was his reponse. Well, of course, I don’t love being called stupid, especially if it’s true and I am being stupid, but I love the idea of keeping it simple. I had a great artist friend many years ago who lived by that mantra and regularly simplified his life by purging all unnecessary elements. I respected him for it but I didn’t understand it back then. Now I do. However, I understand it on a much more profound level than by the face value of keeping things simple.
It is a far greater challenge to keep the mind simple, to keep the inner dialogue simple, to keep the connection to the heart simple than it is to clean up our outer world. Interestingly in the process of my own spiritual practice I have learned that the two, the inner and outer are magically interlaced. One time I was weeding my garden and I had a visceral experience of weeding my inner being. Each weed plucked from the garden felt like a cleansing of old nonsensical concepts or ideas or judgments. Who knows what it all was exactly but clearly something was going on. It was as if the outer moved inside me. Simplicity has an alluring quality of ease about it. It is a welcome into a natural state of comfort, understanding and authenticity. Heaven is not complex, it’s answers come easily and naturally, you know it already.
It’s odd that in a world of so many advantages, conveniences, connections, entertainments, and diversities that the stress level of complexity would become so heightened. Yet, with all our multiple choices we forget how to connect to the simplest delights. The mind becomes infatuated by the dizzying array of challenges and leaps into the fray. I am very practiced at stilling my mind and still I get caught up, it’s the greatest challenge of city life. But really it is not at all about cleaning up the outside, the world can and will get crazier, busier, more demanding, more exciting and our job is to meet it with increasing stillness and simplicity. The simple understanding of the heart is profound. Yes, that is oxymoronic isn’t it? But the heart understands this, the mind will never.
The easiest way to keep it simple is to go for the delightful, the elegant solution. Working with what presents on the outside helps, afterall we have inherited heaven, it is our birthright so why not manifest it around us? In my old apartment I hired a Feng Shui master to sort us out. We discovered that the “money” corner was a disaster. It was a complete mess of stacks of incomplete art projects. It was crowded, unattended and inaccessible. Our finances were in similar shape. We immediately went to work to clean up the physical space of that area and after time our relationship to the financial has shifted remarkably. Meanwhile in the marriage corner which was quite a cramped part of the apartment everything was beautiful. The Feng Shui master approached that corner with a look of great concern on his face then he stood for a long time looking at it. When he was done he pointed out how we had naturally mitigated the effects of the tight space with all the appropriate items; plants, natural objects of stone, pictures of our ourselves and even all in the appropriate numbers and colors of items. He was impressed. I have since learned a tiny bit about Feng Shui and make sure to pay attention to the effects of the objects in my space. It is a powerful practice of awareness that beautifully serves to uplift our experience of our spaces. I recommend it.
Without ordering a Feng Shui master though we can in very simple ways begin to align with heaven, to call it into our sphere in a more pronounced and recognized way. You have heard it said, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. Notice that in yourself. I know I feel so much better when my apartment is clean, my clothes and self are clean. My mother’s dog used to run around in a maniacal delight after her bath, even she loved being clean. Flowers lift my spirits, especially in winter. We are so blessed that we can get such a thing in winter. Even princes were hard pressed to come up with fresh flowers in the Middle Ages. Inspiring art is another simple delight, a great piece of art brightens a room, usually requires no fossil fuel power and can provide many hours of joy. I love looking at my new wall of art. A candle can provide warmth and comfort and a guide into meditation. These are some of the ways I create heaven in my own space.
And Oh! I almost forgot, I am sitting next to a beautiful fishtank with a world of lively fish in it. Living beings, plants, fish, cats and dogs provide the simplest loving interactions that point us toward understanding heaven.