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April 30, 2009

This wonderful life

A Simple Universe

Henry David Thoreau wasn’t designing inspirational jewelry when he wrote the following words, but he might well have been for the number of times I have seen the phrase repeated on bracelets, necklaces and a full variety of T-shirts, coffee cups, magnets and other vessels for slogans: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.

See there, that’s all there is to it. Confidence. How do you live the life of your dreams? You just live it. Okay, class over. We can all go home now and start living the life of our dreams.

But wait, there is actually more to that line than that. Thoreau followed up with:

As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.* In other words, you will stop leading a ``life of quiet desperation.’’ Your perspective shifts. Pretty sweet.

*For my literary stickler friends, the oft-repeated lines above are actually paraphrased from Thoreau’s ``Walden,’’ in which he wrote: ``I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. . . . In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.’’

Since I started my bid to become more mindful and create a more mindful family at the beginning of January, my success has been mixed, to say the least. On one hand, I have been more aware of some things, both good and bad. I have beená a bit more intentional and more assertive in how I spend my time.

And at least once a week - usually on deadline - I take time to think about howá I’m doing on the mindfulness front. But I have failed to fully understand and implement those wise words of Thoreau’s.

In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex. My tendency, even when attempting to simplify, is to complicate.

We begin to plan our garden, one of the most basic, primal and simple human endeavors imaginable. We plant food, we grow food, we eat food. It’s simple. But like a drunken monkey, my mind works hard to complicate it. ``Who needs a nice little vegetable garden when we could fully landscape an acre or two with a combination of vegetables, flowers, fruit trees.

Hey, how about a boxwood maze for the kids?’’

Suddenly, I am too tired to garden, and we have not yet set the first plant into the ground.

I could supply dozens of other examples, but I don’t need to.

Thoreau was right. He should also have added that in proportion as you complicate your life, the laws of the universe will appear more complicated.

Based on the Byzantine, indecipherable appearance of the universe from where I stand, it’s clear I need to make much, much bigger steps toward simplification. Like Thoreau, I’m going to start with simplifying my surroundings. Hello, EBay. Hello Freecycle. For those of you who know where I live, this means quality goods will be making a regular appearance at the curb by the mailbox. Enjoy.

I’ll also be looking for other things I can get rid of. Are there commitments that complicate rather than simplify my life? Are there habits, attitudes and diversions that make life more indecipherable?

I’m sure there are.

This mindfulness thing isn’t as easy as keeping a promise to recycle more and start a compost heap. But the reward for the hard work is living the life you have imagined.

Elizabeth Trever Buchinger is going forward with confidence. You can connect with her at www.moremindfulfamily.