A Smaller Life

July 16, 2023

I recently celebrated my 69th birthday.  As I begin my 70th year on the planet, I finally understand the wisdom of living a smaller life. 

Stuff, expectations, productivity, farsightedness… Whether it translates to multiple (& unused) sets of clothing, voluminous email & document folders on my computer, bins of stored materials from previous moves & projects over the decades, or endless “to do” inspirations in journals & on post-its… all this evidence reflects a dizzying pattern of chronic movement, acquisition, performance, living in the future… & overwhelm.

The performance piece is the most provocative for me.  Sure, there have been ego-boosting accomplishments & accolades, a sense of utilizing multiple talents, opportunities & resources.  But at a price, a huge one, I now realize: the price of never truly being able to rest or be content, a chronic dis-ease of never being satisfied with myself or my world; a life of “never enough.”

The prologue in Sue Bender’s transformative book, Plain and Simple comes to mind:

“I had an obsession with the Amish. Plain and simple. Objectively it made no sense. I, who worked hard at being special, fell in love with a people who valued being ordinary.”

The first time I read those words, I felt instantly, utterly exposed.  No, I don’t share any obsession with the Amish (although I do greatly admire aspects of their culture).  But what so immediately resonated was the contrast between never enough & contentment, between addiction & freedom. 

Mindfulness continues to be my most powerful ally here.  Informally, being present in the moment encourages gratitude & joy.  Those gifts help me better appreciate who I am, what I do & what I have; that, in turn, helps cravings of all kinds recede into the background for a while.  Formally, through meditation, I can explore or rest in my own inner “sanctuary.”  Especially when I’m feeling frazzled & inadequate, that process often brings calm, clarity & comfort. 

When I’m tempted to impulsively tackle my “to do” lists (which often increases my anxiety!), my mindfulness practice encourages the pause I need to recognize my patterns & their negative effects.  When I can respond after reflection rather than react on impulse, my choices are much more attuned to my deepest values & priorities.  

The more I ponder creating a smaller life, the more I’m inclined to recognize that as a deeper life.  A life with more reasonable & genuinely satisfying possibilities. That feels really good, & much more sustainable.

Do you struggle with any of what I’ve described here?  If you do, I’d love to hear from you. 

Can’t we all use additional support these days?  

Thanx for listening,



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