Posted on Apr 20th, 2006

No matter how enthusiastically we embrace the concept of simplifying our lives, things have a way of getting complicated.

Perfect example: My family sold nearly everything and moved to Mazatlan, Mexico to explore living with less stuff and more fun. And it’s been working beautifully. It’s amazing how much less there is to worry about when, well, you have less.

Here’s my favorite equation:
6 people (4.5 drivers) x 0 cars =
0 car insurance/maintenance/gas/worries
about being on the road

Now, that’s some beautiful math.

Still, despite the simplicity of our daily routine, we all find little irritants to magnify.

In fact, we laugh every day about the ridiculous things we find to stress about. It’s as though we NEED a bit of agitation–or we’re still weaning ourselves from the go-go habit–so we stir it up from the dumbest things. And precisely because we have so few of these little stressors, they are easy to see–and laugh about.

We joke about the fact that the thing my husband is most likely to get stressed about is the possibility that the door-to-door water bottle delivery guy–who comes on Tuesdays and Saturdays–MIGHT come a day late, necessitating a block-long walk to the corner tienda to pick up an extra bottle.

Bottled water is important, as our tap water is not drinkable here in Mexico. In fact, there are days when it comes out brown–which does wonders for a load of white laundry, let me tell you.

Now, it is true that one time the water bottle delivery guy missed a Tuesday delivery. And yes, we ALMOST had to to get water. ALMOST. But not quite. We had enough.

Whew. That was a close one.

Another classic example: when we run out of coffee. If Tom notices that we have no more grounds in the bag in our freezer that morning, he makes a loud mental note that goes something along the lines of: "Dang it! We have to remember to get coffee today."

Several times during the day, he’ll say, "Okay, after lunch, maybe we can go out and get coffee" or "Let’s pick up some coffee on the way to Spanish class."

The place where we buy coffee is El Faro, a corner-facing storefront at which you walk up and get your espresso or ground coffee at the counter.

It is located approximately 50 yards from our front gate.

Now, to be fair, Tom still has plenty of Real-World worries. He is, after all, the father of four teenage

daughters. He runs a company–virtually–with hundreds of customers/vendors. He has college bills to consider, kids scattered around the globe, and a fair number of extended family issues that arise.

But the daily stuff that used to fill our minds

and suck our energy? That’s gone. Or, if not

gone, then replaced by trivial things like worrying

about the water guy.

The value of simplicity is that it leads to clarity. It’s as though you’ve got a big soup pot on the stove. You can fill it will all kinds of things, concocting a thick stew. Or, you can simmer a broth and add a few carefully chosen ingredients.

Now, the stew is rich and hearty. It’s also thick and you’ve got to keep stirring it or else

there is going to be something burning

on the bottom. It’s so thick, in fact, that you

can’t really see everything at once–just whatever

you happen to stir up toward the top.

The broth, on the other hand, is clear. You can see right through it to every chunk of potato. It is simple to see that nothing is burning on the bottom. You don’t have to do a lot of stirring because it’s all right there, easy to watch.

The stew has its advantages, sure. It’s more complex and meatier. But it’s also very time-consuming, both in preparing the ingredients and in maintaining (stirring) it.

The broth is clear and simple. It’s very satisfying in a different way, because you can really appreciate the flavors of the few things you’ve added. It’s easy to make and takes no stirring.

So, the question is: are you cooking broth or stew?

If you’re looking for clarity, consider the value of going for the broth. It makes life so much easier.

We’re seeing our soup quite clearly these days, and we’re appreciating every tasty bite. When the "coffee" potato or the "water guy" potato shows up, at least we can see it for what it is and there’s no danger that it will stick to the bottom and ruin the flavor of the whole pot.

Consider simplifying your soup, and you’ll be creating room for clarity, comfort and comic relief–and plenty of time to remember to get coffee.

Maya Talisman Frost has taught thousands of people how to pay attention. Her playful, eyes-wide-open alternative to meditation has inspired too-busy people in over 100 countries. To read her free tips and tricks for practical awareness, visit http://www.Real-WorldMindfulness.com

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