Living A Simpler Life

My efforts to be more here and to truly and honestly observe the world around me. Inspired by my girlfriend’s dog Luna, and Bill Murray.

The other day I was sitting down, eyes glued to the screen, and outside was Luna, my girlfriend’s dog. I looked over and saw her laying in the grass on her back rolling around, I laughed to myself and carried on looking at my phone, likely scrolling through my twitter feed. 5 minutes easily pass by and I look back over at Luna, she’s in the same place as she was before except she’s no longer rolling around; instead she’s lying there just looking around, observing and listening to what’s around her.

At that moment a realization swept over me—it wasn’t anything necessarily new to me, however, I had never made an actual acknowledgment of it—this is a dog’s life. This is how they live.

As I watched Luna lying there on the ground, I asked myself “How do they live such a simple life?” Luna continued to lay there in contentment, and that question filtered through my mind. I looked down at my phone and then asked myself a different question, “How can we live such simple lives?” As I began to evaluate the question, I realized the I should actually be asking, “Why don’t we live such simple lives?”

The question isn’t how can we do it because our lives are already simple;  instead we need to be asking ourselves why are we actively avoiding it?

With these questions running through my head, I began to wonder what gives Luna such enjoyment. Can we get as much enjoyment out of simply being a part of this world? Can we enjoy being in the present? Why must we escape our realities and the environment we are in? While watching Luna, wondering about the simple lives of other animals, and asking myself an endless amount of questions, I was reminded of the following quote.

“I always wonder why birds choose to stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth, then I ask myself the same question.” — Harun Yahya

The quote brings up two points for me, the first which is about taking control of our own lives, and the second which is choosing to live simply. We complicate our own lives. We purposefully complicate things. We develop roles, needs, and obsessions that require our attention; forcing us out of our present lives and into a state of artificial fulfillment. I always say and think that I want to live a simple life, but never work towards it.

I never see the reality of it or see it in practice because no one seems to do so which makes it difficult to work towards. However, I could look at this similar to the quote above and rephrase it as, “I always wonder why people choose to live such stressful and complicated lives when they can live one of simplicity, then I ask myself the same question.” This is how it becomes a question of taking control over our own lives. I’m going to say this again and again, we complicate our own lives.

The need to constantly check social media is your own decision. The need to be ever present on social media is your own decision. The need to curate a crafted perception of your life is your own decision. The need to have a lot of things is your own decision. The need to be successful is your own decision. Most of what we do and pursue in life isn’t of necessity, it’s of our own decisions. It’s of our own decision to allow societal pressures and norms dictate the ever growing complexity of our lives.

We complicate our own lives, which isn’t always or by default a bad thing, however, I intend on living a simpler life. I want to make an effort to effort to escape the noise of data and truly be present. This idea of being present—of being here—stems from an interview Charlie Rose did with Bill Murray in which he asks him, “Tell me what it is that you want that you don’t have?”

Below is an excerpt from the interview.

“Well I’d like to be more consistently here, you know? I know it’s probably ever maybe possible, but because it’s so improbable and so impossible, I’d just like to really see how long I could last as being really here. You know? Really in it, really alive.

I’d like to just be more here all the time and I’d like to see what I could get done, what I could do, if I really didn’t cloud myself with automatic—if I was able to not get distracted, to not change channels in my mind and body. I’m my own channel, it’s just really here and always with you. Like you could look at me and go, ‘Okay, he’s there. There’s something there.’”

The rest of Bill’s answer is great, and definitely worth watching. You can watch the 5 minute video below or watch the hour long conversation here.

For a while now, I’ve been working on being more conscious and intentional with my actions, but now I want to be more here and in the present. Following Bill’s answer above, he explained how most times we see ourselves in the mirror, but rarely are we that person. When you see yourself in the mirror, you may catch yourself and think, “Oh, that’s not me there. That’s what I’m doing right now, but that’s not necessarily me.” Most often we aren’t the direct reflection of what we’re doing, and so I’m wanting to focus my energy on aligning my actions with who I actually am.

I want to become more of an observer of the world—an actual part of what’s here—rather than just a consumer of data.

Running is helping me get there. Every morning I go out without a phone and without music, it’s just me, the road, and my thoughts. This gives me the chance to actually see the world around me. I can physically experience what’s going on. One morning at the tail end of this past winter, I saw a sunrise so beautiful it honestly changed my life. I can remember it so vividly. I can still see the silhouettes of the trees, and the clouds which seemed to be melting into the sky. I have never had an experience like that through my phone or on a computer. Never. Your life changes when you spend time actually observing what’s there. It’s not easy at first, you have to force yourself to actually look, and it takes time.

Other than my runs, which are focused on getting an effort and distance in, I’m going to start making time to be outdoors more. I live in a beautiful and historic town, but whizzing by scenery while on a run or on my bike doesn’t suffice. So my plan is to start scheduling time to actually go for walks without my phone—free of distraction and a need to photograph/share everything I see. One thing I love about running is that it makes me into a storyteller because I have no phone, and so I’m forced to actually describe things, tell stories, and remember the things I see. I want this to carry over into other aspects of my life such as these walks. If I don’t have a phone with me then I’ve left with my curiosity, my thoughts, and my ability to then tell others of any great finds.

Luna has taught me that I can find enjoyment without a piece of technology in front of me, and observing my surroundings is a part of life’s simple course. Observation is the cornerstone of humanity, it’s where we started and how we’ve been able to grow and evolve into who we are today, and by stepping back to it we can continue to grow and learn. We can learn not only about the world, but also about ourselves.

Bill reminded me that there is more to just being here in the present, and that we are more than just a sum of our actions. We know ourselves, but being here as that person we know requires time, patience, and a constant reminder of who we are.

Every day I’m finding myself on a deeper course of living the life I want to live, being the person I know I actually am, and focusing on the things that I enjoy and make me happy. I encourage and challenge you to be more here, actually and intentionally observe your surroundings, and allow yourself time to follow your own train of thought free of distraction.