My hut lies in the middle of a dense forest;
Every year the green ivy grows longer.
No news of the affairs of men,
Only the occasional song of a woodcutter.
The sun shines and I mend my robe;
When the moon comes out I read Buddhist poems.
I have nothing to report, my friends
If you want to find the meaning, stop chasing after so many things

Ryokan ( 1758 – 1831 )

Before you started reading this article – what were you doing and where was your mind attending? Were you concentrating on one particular task, fully focussed, giving your best effort? Or were you mentally elsewhere, distracted by a stream of fragmented thoughts, totally unaware of your lack of mindfulness? If you are anything like me you were probably in this latter category, over-reaching and dissipating your energy – “…. chasing after so many things.”

Our preoccupation with doing and achieving is an anxiety that largely accumulates from our exposure to fiercely competitive, economic environments. Financially driven, market cultures – now increased to global proportions – that constantly strive to maximize material production, performance and consumption, at all costs. And in the process of ‘ busying ‘ ourselves with all this activity, we can become lost, kept away from looking deeper into life, from asking those spiritual questions that can led us into enriched understanding, deeper awakening, true liberation……..


Life gets difficult when we try to meet so many expectations, often imposed on us, by us. We over-burden ourselves with multiple tasks then end up feeling guilty when we do not accomplish the desired results. Leading a better life, a simplified, saner life means letting go of so much that preoccupies us unnecessarily. Letting go of that, which we know deep within us, is not essential to our true being.
A new life, a spiritually enriched life that will take us off to deeper appreciation, is only a choice away. So do we continue to cling to our acquisitive, materialistic values and allow ourselves to become over stressed in a situation that is unsustainable for us, and the planet, in the long term? Or do we follow the lead of Ryokan and try to simplify our existence to manageable proportions?


Once a self-confessed, over-worked, over-stressed friend of mine was late for an important meeting, He dashed to his car and headed towards his destination only to find heavy traffic congestion all along the route. He tried to take alternative ‘ short cuts ‘ but to no avail, there seemed to be traffic jams everywhere…. At a crawling pace, getting very agitated, he suddenly, for no apparent reason, said he made the decision that he was going to be late. I like that, he reframed his normal response of anxiety / denial and accepted the reality of a situation he couldn’t change. This marked his entry point into a whole new way of thinking, a whole new way of being in the world. His busy lifestyle of trying to juggle so many different things was in sharp focus, like never before, and he knew he that he had to trim down his commitments in order to achieve more peace, contentment and easiness in his life. Soon after he started to attend retreats and engage with the pragmatic teachings of Buddhism ( Dharma ).

To reduce our burden of over-achieving, over-reaching and over- stretching we must start somewhere – like my friend. A decision needs to be made, whatever we are doing, to simplify. This decision then becomes our starting point, our entry into a new life. We must never again make adjustments to keep up with the run away schedules, timetables, performance targets of a fierce economic culture; instead the latter must be scaled down and ‘ humanized ‘ to meet our real needs and desires.
Our lives are precious, our time is precious – greater than the value of the Stock Market’s trading, greater than the value of the F T Index…..


“ We can travel a long way and do many different things, but our deepest happiness is not born from accumulating new experiences. It is born from letting go of what is unnecessary and knowing ourselves to always be at home.”

Sharon Salzburg

“ Being at home “ is what we should aim for – a space that allows us to rest mindfully in non-attachment. A space where contentment and deep happiness abides. A space that allows healing and restoration to take place….
It seems that everything we touch today has “ Now, now, now,” wired into it and unless we challenge our mind-set coding we will just go on repeating the same old patterns of behaviour. We do not have to be driven by turbulent thoughts that tell us that we must be constantly ‘ doing,‘ thoughts that tell us that rest is lazy and somehow unproductive. To the contrary, rest is not laziness, and quite often it can be uniquely productive. Take nature for instance. During the winter months, the months of dormancy, an apple orchard is at rest but within every tree, right down to its deepest roots, there is a promise of what is to come, the full fruits of its creative cycle. Without the rest there would be no apples to harvest. The latter is simply a product of the former all expressed in a natural cycle of seasonality

Rest nourishes growth

The more we can quieten our minds of their restless, at time neurotic thoughts, the more we are opened up for a listening to take place. A listening so deep, so still, that we may never be the same again. Yoniso manasikara = Wise attention…..
Letting go creates space for letting in. Ryokan was very much aware of this, that’s why he dedicated his life to the pursuit of simplicity in order to be able to somehow ‘ touch ‘ the truth of his existence. And how else can we start to touch our truth – in a world that provides so many materialistic distractions – unless we start to pull away, simplify and pay attention…..

Simplicity means living lightly, this involves not only watching our consumption levels, but also following earth friendly strategies for a more sustainable future. Then we can rest knowing that we have done all we can to make this world a better place. Living in harmony with the natural world, paying due respect to its universal gifts, is an imperative that we cannot afford to ignore anymore. And whilst we may not be able to influence global environmental policies we can at least make certain that we are engaged and committed to doing what we can.

The deeper we venture into simplicity, the deeper we experience a ‘ knowing ‘ that transcends the rationalistic, surface thought that we too readily accept as ‘ normality.’ Simplicity helps to support focus, clarity of vision and insightfulness – bringing us the realization that less is often more and within this knowledge lies sacca = truth. A truth that we must all embrace for our spiritual and environmental salvation…..

“ The mystery does not get clearer by repeating the question,
nor is it bought with going to amazing places.
Until you’ve kept your eyes
and your wanting still for fifty years,
You don’t begin to cross over from confusion.”