The Power of Simplicity

The normal learning arc when we are mastering a new skill, ability or knowledge set, is that we start out with the simple, the ‘basics’, and from there it gets gradually more complicated. In every area of human endeavour this tendency can be seen, be it music, science, sport or psychology, and the belief generally is that basic = beginner whilst complex = expert, which is where we all want to be.

Generally, this works fine, and we can happily explore our passions in greater and greater depth, enjoying each new discovery, but when it comes to mindfulness practice, this tendency will get you bogged fast.

The reason for this is that mindfulness (or awareness practice as I sometimes like to call it) is incredibly simple; you just shift attention from thinking to experience, that is, to the body, the breath, the senses, and then you remain there. This is not easy of course, you know how addictive the whole thinking thing is, otherwise you wouldn’t bother reading this in the first place, but it is straightforward.

But when the mind gets bored of this simple sameness, it goes seeking something more entertaining, something more complex, something to think about. And so it spins off into theories, into fantasies of perfect calmness, into stories about the nature of the world. None of this is a problem in itself, but it does lead into the problem filled world of thinking, the difficulty of which lead you into mindfulness in the first place!

And this is the finest trick the mind ever pulled, to pull you, the awareness, back into compulsive thinking by telling stories about mindfulness, by using your desire to be free to tighten the snare. What a brilliant trap.

To sidestep this pit, we have to do something very difficult; keep it simple. Stay with the basics and allow the depth to come not through complexity of thought or intellectual understanding, but through dropping your attention deeper within. Stay here, in the space you find inside, and allow problems to fall away, allow time to fall away, be curious about the nature of things. This is the space of transformation.

For this reason, breath awareness is incredibly powerful, body awareness is transformative in its own right, the basics are the ‘base’ of all change and growth. They don’t need improving or complicating, for it is through their sustained application that the false dissolves and the truth of your self shines bright.

So today my friends, keep it simple, trust the basics and let them do their work on you right this instant.

6 thoughts on “The Power of Simplicity

  1. Thanks Oli,

    even with long term practice these words are helpful for me. I find daily formal practice helps but then the mind slips back so body breath senses will be a reminder.

    My young clients gain benefit from an exercise where I guide them through body, breath, senses. the main reports are of calmer responding but even self esteem shifts so I use mindfulness in my daily client contact which is mainly with children youth and disabled.

    Cheers Oli and thanks!

  2. Useful article Olie! I like the use of awareness practise too, as mindfulness can often seem complicated and means do many things!

    Thank you!

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