“He is richest who is content with least, for contentment is the wealth of nature.”
Reading time: 10-15 mins
In this final post on Strive for Simplicity, Economise on Energy (SEE) we’ll summarise what’s gone before and end with a list of what we can do to get the ball rolling and a few other nuggets of interest to whet your appetite for change.
We looked at how SEE is expressed through Taoist traditions, the I Ching, Wabi-Sabi and Nature. This was followed by an exploration of how Western culture has lost sight of living simply with an unhealthy adherence to civil law and its development of “bureaucratic insanity.” A useless complexity bound by rigid absolutism enforced by an army of “robopaths” is in direct opposition to Natural and Common Law – not least the human wish to work together and seek self-sufficiency. A resurgence in voluntary simplicity and the natural community virtues that arise if cooperation were given the needed nourishment were also explored.
The challenge of simplifying our lives in order to reconnect with beauty and truth in practical ways can only be achieved with knowledge of how we use our energy – thoughts, feelings/emotions and body awareness. Our task is to use our energy more productively so that we turn towards creativity in everyday life. As a primer for further discussion on energy as it relates to applying SEE, we reviewed the nature of energy and the centres/chakras from a 4th Way perspective. The role of our planet, organic life and the moon as largescale sources that might drain our energy were reviewed, with a brief description of ancient and modern myths.
We then looked specifically at energy economy and conservation. After using the analogy of the house as our body-mind system we returned to Taoist and I Ching symbolism through the archetype of The Well as our fundamental resource, The Mouth as nourishment and The Cauldron as the alchemical vessel by which consciousness is refined to make SEE a possibility. This acted as a backdrop to the subject of sex and sexual energy which was briefly explored from a cultural perspective and the divisions and pathology which has led our sexual-creative centre being misused.
Beginning with a confirmation by science of the reality of the Chinese energy system we delved into the nature of sexual energy and back to the 4th Way views of the sex centre’s role in relation to culture, sexual relations and masturbation – a dynamic that is not just focused on the gentials but appears throughout our culture under different guises, all of which lead to the loss of intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual energy.
Finally, a brief look at the brain as the hub of energy refinement and loss was covered, along with some pointers on a digital detox from social media and other forms of infotainment – a major source of energy drain. Two bio-mechanisms of procreative sex and pair-bonding were highlighted and the role of dopamine in the reward circuitry of the brain leading to a circle of unrecognised addictions. In light of these, we delved further into a narcissistic and orgasm-centred culture predicated on addictive behaviours which have displaced intimacy and bonding behaviours. This was followed with an introduction to the love-making art of Karezza as the most useful method for sustaining intimacy and harmony within a relationship.
“Asceticism is not that you should not own anything, but that nothing should own you.”
— Ali Ibn Abl Talib
A lot of time was spent on sexual energy simply because it underlies everything we do, (including all 31 suggestions) and holds the promise of creative meaning, purpose and will. Without attention to how it is operating in our body-mind system, we are effectively vulnerable to all kinds of mental and emotional distortions which eventually impact our immune system. Adopting SEE as a life choice will naturally lead to moderation instead of habituation toward normalised extremes.
The take away from all this is as follows:
- The fundamental core of the Universe is simplicity, even if it may appear complex to our limited human minds. Therefore, to move toward simplicity is to move toward alignment with the Universe. Which stream of the Universe – Creative or entropic – is determined by what we choose.
- We must temporarily set aside moves toward complexity and return to an overt simplicity. When we do so, we lay a neurological/cognitive and energetic foundation for greater complexity, this time with the right intention, motivation and aim. This enriches our lives toward creative flow, setting in motion a healthy open feedback system based on incremental thresholds or “jumps” toward complexity. These can then be handled and utilised with growing will power and the accompanying constancy.
- All life requires energy to live, from our back garden to the whole Cosmos. We can choose SEE in order to develop the ability and capacity to work on ourselves and limit the amount of mind-body energy that is lost to macrosocial and macrocosmic forces that covet such energy loss. As stated in a previous post:
Everything in the universe eats and consumes at different levels of being – from an amoeba to a black hole. It’s what we choose to “consume” and “digest” that determines the quality of our mind, body and spirit. If you want to extricate yourself from that feeding frenzy then build your own resource within.
- Recognition of a Natural Law whose nature is simplicity and economy. By adopting SEE we naturally return to that law and have a greater chance in living in harmony, provided we become aware conservation principles. The human creation of Common Law is an interpretation of that Universal principle.
- You do more by doing less. Decreasing our desire to do, be and achieve something, paradoxically allows you to achieve more. By letting go of the desire and anticipation we streamline and re-focus our goals and aims.
- How we see the world is more important than what we see. Similarly, how we do something is more important than what we do. The former takes care of the latter. How we manage life’s challenges will determine the level of chaos which momentarily enters our body-mind system (input). We can use such obstacles and oppositions to grow and depending on our level of awareness and Being, expell excess chaos (output) which will inevitably confront us.
- Learning to see the beauty in the mundane and forgotten minutiae of our daily lives helps to move us toward SEE. It shifts our attention and widens our field of awareness.
- Recognising variability and diversity in thought and action helps us adapt, whilst bringing into focus our values and virtues.
- SEE allows to conserve and refine energy. When we adopt constructive emotions and discipline our thoughts our actions become an expression of that change and over time, define who we are. With more energy, we have a greater capacity for self-development.
- By slowly adopting principles of SEE we learn to exercise persistence and constancy in a similar manner to tending a garden.
- There are Official Culture’s laws, rules and restrictions which we know as bureaucracy the exact opposite to simplicity and creativity. Some of these limitations are valuable, most exist to engender control and conformity to a singular paradigm. The principles of SEE naturally flow in a different direction to those impositions.
- When we begin to move toward simplicity in our lives this can cause disruption to those around us who do not understand nor wish to. Authentic change always stimulates a reaction for Official Culture to claim back its lost energy.
- SEE brings us back to qualities we may have lost when submerged in socio-cultural constraints of “normality.” Moving towards simplcity and economy fosters compassion, virtue, positive personal values, moral autonomy, receptivity, openness, integrity, self-reliance, increased aesthetic appreciation i.e. soul growth.
- Happiness arrives naturally since we are not seeking it but allowing it to emerge from a change in focus and perspective.
- Fantasizing drains our energy whereas creative imagination toward a specific goal, augments it.
- Stripping away the useless and outdated means we return to a sense of the sacred within ourselves and how we view the world. And if we seek truth through knowledge then we are receptive to organising and building a “sacred space” for the soul to grow. Paying close attention to what we take into our body-mind will determine how much energy we can use creatively. Once we nourish ourselves correctly we can then decide how we will use it. Whether or not that is put to productive use depends on how much internal and external awareness is available to us.
- The right use of the sex centre and sexual energy lie behind all intellectual, emotional and instinct/moving centered activities. How well we adopt the principles of SEE will aid in the healing, re-organisation, integration and synthesis of energy and its re-distribution.
- Fertilisation or procreative sex is only designed to propagate our genes not to promote longevity in relationships. Hence, the activity is draining and unsustainable. It facilitates a natural move away from pair-bonding and the associated qualities of non-biochemical love and affection.
- Frequent orgasm becomes addictive and places strain upon our nervous system. Even when practiced in a moderate fashion it is still a drain and over time, the likelihood of placing strain on a loving relationship is very strong. Without supporting bonding cues and exchanges life becomes a desire to appease the dopamine-based reward circuitry and the bio-mechanism for male/female genetic variation.
- Male/female masturbation is generally counter-productive to SEE. Promotion of this little ritual is largely a product of tension release and the pleasure principle; a microcosm of “service to self” and the narcissistic culture we live in.
- Updated methods to encourage our brains and bodies to habituate to bonding cues is found in Karezza. This introduces biological and psycho-spiritual marriage which placates the mammalian mating game, fosters increasing intimacy and nourishes mutual soul growth. Within a loving relationship, it is the primary means to develop, apply and sustain the principles of SEE.
- Detox from digital encroachment. Give your brain a rest and help reduce overstimulation.
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
SEE Means Friction From Others
Our notion of what is important will likely change as we begin to adopt these qualities consciously and deliberately. Yet, we mustn’t be too zealous in our bid to eliminate what goes counter to our primary aim and objectives. If we seek to enforce simplicity rather than gently penetrate to the core issue that gives rise to chaos, we will only make things more chaotic, the effects of which may cause psychic ripples of resistance for our family and friends who may not understand our intentions. A strategic and moderate approach is key.
Simplifying does indeed mean careful identification and elimination, or, cutting out the chaff. That includes your own bad habits but equally important, those people that are toxic and drain your precious energy. This can be blatant or subtle but you need to re-visit friendships, family and acquaintances and carefully analyse your social interactions and their dynamics.
To discover whether your relationships promote true exchange, true support and genuine trust. Can you depend on them? Are they only with you because you provide a one way street of assistance? Are they energy vampires? Can you look back and find clear evidence of those that had your back and those that conveniently departed when things got tough? At the same time, are you engaged in a relationship where you are actively preventing someone from learning a life lesson because you can’t bear to “hurt their feelings?”Are you excusing, thereby enabling their repeating patterns of negative behaviour because you “love them too much” to hurt them?
You may need to risk losing them in the short-term in order to act for both your own destiny and theirs.
Relationships are emotional exchanges shaped by context. We must train our emotions before making choices and decisions in an ever-ceasing world of complexity. We are made up of shifting sands of multiple viewpoints and desires, sending out and receiving complex messages which we must learn to read. Cultivating a sense of how our actions can lead to constructive trajectories means we see ourselves as we are and strive to see how others really are. Then our decisions and choices will begin to reflect what is hidden.
Decluttering emotional ‘noise’ and ‘static’ by adopting principles of SEE can help us navigate through the unpredictability of life. After all, if we let our feelings direct our emotions to react to others then we can’t be surprised if we create more chaos. Most folks won’t be simplifying or economising – they will be feeding off the energy from those who are. It’s equal to driving too fast on a road where you’ve had many acccidents. But instead of slowing down and observing carefully, you crash and burn again and rationalise the event by blaming others, suggesting it was fate, or feeling sorry for yourself.
It’s inevitable that we will encounter events, situations and people that conflict with our goals inducing inner disorder. How much economy of energy is available to us will ensure that we have made a good investment to meet these challenges with integrity and poise. That’s when you start to be an example for others and all your efforts begin to bear fruit.
Re-evaluating the nature of your exchanges with friends and family can be disruptive but also rewarding. Slowly reducing or cutting out people from your life whom you know is detrimental to your well-being may initially result in more solitude than you’re used to – even loneliness. As you change, reality changes and people may flow away from you naturally to inhabit another reality that is a better fit to yours.
So be it.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
If you can’t handle being alone then it means you are in a state of dependence toward others and have a fragile sense of self. Admit that, then it’s already a step forward. Deny it, then you might as well resign yourself to staying at the base of the mountain safe and warm in the tent. That tent will eventually maximise your coping deficiencies and accentuate the dullness and suffocation, despite the many accoutrements that will shield you from the Great Outdoors.
We cannot divide our lives up into neat little compartments for escape at the weekend or a two-week retreat to find our bliss and a fabled road to nivarna. We are back to a reductive approach to life by fragmenting our focus. Simplifying means to recognise that our lives follow a continuum of unbroken relations, and ebb and flow of choices. Once we see how these all interconnect and interrelate we begin to see patterns and permutations of causes and effects.
There’s no greater aim than to live a normal life of self-acceptance and understanding. And that comes, more often than not, from non-action. It is amazing to me how pausing, waiting and NOT doing leads to exactly the right outcome if we would only exercise patience, trust and faith. This is especially true in relationships. It does not mean thought loops of indecision and procrastination. Only that we learn to read a situation and sense its flavour.
How do the qualities of SEE influence what is taking place? Is this event a product of reaction and resentment or is it in free-flow and playful? Sometimes silence and non-action are extremely powerful in defusing negative actions since it denies energy to fuel it. Obviously, this doesn’t mean passive aggression or petulance. It can be pause so that emotions and bids for energy burn themselves out. Anyone that listens and excudes calm will not only induce it others but acquire respect for doing so. In the same way a charismatic, exciting person can bring a room alive with her energy so too it can be used to calm and sooth.
Everything is in potentia within us. Learning to cultivate our innate qualities is to bring order and even joy to the external world as you do so. Webs of connection are formed in this way – you energize them positively then you will be “attractive”. De-energize them, you will be “repulsive”. The latter can be hidden by all kinds of cultural clothing and ettiquette. But if our inner setting has been switched to suck others’ energy – people will sense it. SEE it with full clarity and you begin to tread a path of inward training. You switch on your own sacred space ready to be filled with your self-creative possibilities.
Simplifying one’s life also means learning to be content with one’s own company and not reliant on external distractions. That inevitably means you’ll come face to face with your demons; the psychic stuff that sometimes preys on your mind late at night. To build true individuality and inner strength you must be able to handle alone time and the opportunity to find new friends and diverse relationships. It’s impossible to move forward if you refuse to confront short-term loneliness. And it is far, FAR better to be alone than to submit to fake friendships, conditional exchange and a lack of dependable people. What is more, it is crucial to be free of those who use you as a vessel into which they can empty their dissatisfactions; who criticise everyone and whinge about their lives while ignoring solutions. Perhaps they share their problems but only give lip service to your own life. Maybe some chip away at your self-confidence and love of life because they are too weak or damaged to make changes in their own.
Conversely, investment in your life must include people at some in time. Choose to be around those you can count on. Simplify your life by cutting out the psychic garbage constantly polluting your energy from those who take advantage of your good nature. If you encourage or enable such behaviour then evaluate your own part in why you attract the same personalities and the same dynamics over and over.
Change yourself in a way that increases receptivity so that you can refill your inner well and invest in quality.
If you have only two or three friends or just one person who inspires and supports you as a responsive exchange, this is a better deal than having many friends whom you can never count on. When you think about it, you probably don’t have much in common or your values differ so widely you might as well be in a different universe.
Occam’s Razor means that all things being equal, the simplest theory is most likely true. If that’s the case, then our job is to attain a simplicity that naturally offers an equalisation and balance throughout all aspects of life – that aligns us to simple Truth.
“All that really belongs to us is time; even he who has nothing else has that.”
Simplicity and Time
We live in a world where gradual changes are a thing of the past. People can no longer adapt to the alteration of time and space through an increasingly technological meditator. Change occurs more frequently and with greater haste. We have the built-in obsolescence of products which has now travelled to relationships and psychological perceptions. Yet, all this speeding up of time is within the same groundhog day continuum, stuck in the loop of a tired paradigm. Maybe we are those people who can’t put down roots or stay within a community long enough to make a comparision between novelty and routine, so that spontaneity is devalued. Or we are so indentured to work that we are always running to catch up and attain an equal ratio of personal life to income generation. Spontaneity is then a luxury many can’t afford.
Too much change and or too little, the speeding up of time or the slowing down when we do not desire it – they are both bound into an unchanging societal machine that seems to remain the same. That meaningless pace of change can leave us burnt out, detached or dissociated with our bonding mechanisms all but atrophied.
There is a profound simplicity that arrives from the contemplation of qualities that bring us back to ourselves and thereby positively slow down or speed up time so that we set the pace of change. It’s that same reminder nature and the corporeal world has, the same battle between stability and variability, chaos and order that reaches for the creative tension that births new forms, species and states of mind – even new worlds. That is beautiful because there is truth in stillness and its often imperceptible, yet unceasing in its motion.
When we simplify life and if we do it right, time becomes compressed. When that happens we are more open to insights which might have been lost in the hustle and bustle to be and do. The brain prefers to be operating in the “now” (which is about 3 seconds before we lapse back into the past or jump forward into the future). Time moves quickly when we are daydreaming, enjoying ourselves or crawls along when we experiencing something less than interesting.
So, how do we slow down time so that we have greater access to those “Aha!” moments? How does this relate to creative flow?
Writer Jean Paul Zogby has some interesting ideas about this and explains how and why simplicity and slowing down facilitates insight. As you can imagine, it pays to organise our lives so that we can use time instead of being used by it.
“… our brain is in the business of detecting motion and controlling movement by capturing and processing sensory information in a specific order so that the world makes sense to us. This processing takes a fraction of a second, which is why we are always lagging slightly behind reality. The brain’s electrical activity and amount of neurotransmitters determine the speed at which our brain absorbs and processes sensory information. This brain information processing speed can be assessed by measuring reaction times and performing psychomotor speed tests. It can also be measured by the amount of electrical activity produced by neurons, displayed as brainwaves in EEG scans. This electrical activity reflects the state of our brain’s consciousness and alertness, from fully awake to fully asleep, … it defines the essence of our time experience. 
And sure enough, honing our attention plays a major part in organising our time. This is based on what is called “Discrete Theory of Perception”:
Attention is considered to be the gateway to our consciousness. Thus, if the attention gateway of our mind opens and closes in a fast periodic manner, at the rate of seven times per second, then the contents of our awareness will be rapidly updated at the same rate and in a discrete periodic manner. Our brain’s electrical fluctuations and brainwaves define the speed of that periodic updating and define the duration of the successive mental snapshots of our awareness. Faster information processing, means more mental snapshots are being captured within a certain time interval, causing that interval to stretch in our mind, as if time ran slowly, and vice versa. 
“…a key aspect of the discrete theory of perception is that information received through the senses are perceived as distinct “life moments” or mental snapshots. Information cannot be processed in an equally continuous manner at each moment in time, but is captured and processed in discrete chunks, or “mental snapshots.” The “recording” process leaves a signature, at the neuron level, in the form of electrical spikes that rise and fall in intensity with every captured mental snapshot. By measuring the timing of these EEG electrical spikes (brainwaves), we can assess the speed at which our brain’s “video camera” updates our consciousness and the number of mental snapshots it records each second. The discrete nature of this process also implies that distinct events that occur within the confines of one mental snapshot are blended to produce one single and continuous experience. 
Controlling our experience of time is achieved by changing the speed of our brain’s internal clock and the speed at which we record mental snapshots and how many memories are retained. We do this through via attention, what we choose to focus on. Some of us have a clock that’s fast others, slow. And this is where mindfulness can help us slow down time, something we’ll look at further in No. Meditation. As mindfulness is about becoming aware of the present and paying relaxed attention to what is going on around us moment by moment, it means time slows down since we are consciously expanding the duration of time and our attention levels.
Official Culture, of course, uses our reward circuitry to speed our time up for us by diverting our attention to buy goods and services. So, if you want time to pass more quickly then distraction is the name of the game. If we are doing something we don’t like then the best way is to make time fly is to embrace that boredom whilst distracting our focus on time itself. This brings us back to the idea of altering our state of consciousness toward flow (as discussed in No.4 Have an Aim / Objective (2)). When we become totally absorbed in what we are doing we enter a state of union with that activity that is enjoyable and harmonious. Troubling thought loops and personal problems dissolve because there all the processing power in our brain is devoted to this one activity so that any awareness of time is no longer possible. Hence, total absorption makes time go faster. Total attention to the present moment and what is occurring in that present makes time appear slower.
Total absorption = total attention = total eclipse of the time’s passing. And it is the slow micro-changes toward simplicity and economy in daily life which encourages such shifts in consciousness.
To create flow we simplify. To simplify we divert attention and focus.
“Receive without conceit, release without struggle.”
— Marcus Aurelius
Bringing It All Together
Ask yourself how you might simplify:
- Family life / Home
- Social life
- Your daily routines
“SEE” is an appropriate acronym since we are effectively training ourselves to see that which is hidden. It is the development of discernment, discrimination and proper perception or perspicacity. (More on this in the next post) To train ourselves and to change our brain, mind and body responses is to align to the truth – or as close as we can get to such an ideal. The closer we get to Truth, the simpler our lives become, whilst developing the capacity to engage with greater complexity in thought and emotion.
Meantime, here is a wide-ranging distillation of what is required to welcome SEE into your life.
- Manage your time – release yourself from unnecessary time commitments, not in line with SEE. You can still be spontaneous and be organised.
- Declutter and downsize your home – Simplifying and economising can be applied to your home as much as yourself. Start by subtracting one thing that you never use or don’t need each day. Go here and here.
- Declutter your emotions/thinking – work on a balance between negative and positive emotions. Look to heal that which is causing problems.
- Self-observe – watch your words and reactions – they have power.
- Develop your creative imagination and limit fantasizing.
- Slowly disengage from anything that drains your energy and which is a part of your dopamine loop. Any addiction limits potential. Think carefully about your habits and work to reduce or eliminate entirely.
- Elevate beauty over fashion. Listen to what moves you not Official Culture.
- Detox from social media and TV. Technology has a definite dark side which most of us are tuned into. Reduce or cut out.
- De-stress and Meditate – Take regular time out to just BE – even if that’s 5-10 minutes in your day. (See No.24 Meditate)
- Mindfulness is a useful tool of SEE and can help us relax and be present (as long as it doesn’t become an escape). Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world is probably the best of the bunch.
- Lighten up – See the humour in everything even if it’s dark! (See No. 11 Hone Your Sense of Humour).
- Take an annual retreat. A change in the environment and meeting new people is revitalising.
- Learn to say no. A polite refusal is necessary and is not only a way to keep to necessary boundaries to conserve energy but a mark of integrity and self-assertion.
- Choose an exercise that gets you fit and most importantly, that you enjoy. (See No.22 Exercise)
- Reduce the goals you have down to the most important. Don’t let them take over your life.
- Let go – Over-identification is the road to obsession and burn out.
- Small is beautiful. Start small and go step by step.
- Re-connect with nature. All kinds of possibilities to downsize and live a simpler life closer to nature. (See No.23 Reconnect With Nature)
- Reduce your debt – Take responsibility and set clear goals. Read this 21-day guide to get started.
- Re-invest in the right relationships and ease out those which are unhealthy.
- Re-enchant your sex life towards intimacy, love and affection. (See the previous post)
- Create your own vision of simplicity. Voluntary simplicity can be unique and creative. Make it yours. No preconceptions or anticipations – just let it flow. And these values and virtues will thrive if you…
- …Give back – Don’t give to get. That one can be very subtle…Share your successes (and your failures) and you’ll connect with others who might try the same. This is how you change yourself and change your locality.
You’ll see that this series on SEE has repeated certain themes in different ways with values and qualities reoccurring. Apply this practical philosophy across the board and benefits such as these will become apparent. And if you’d like an even simpler summary of all those possibilities, here’s two nuggets from Leo Babauta at zenhabits.net:
- Identify what’s most important to you.
- Eliminate everything else.
Every one of the 31 suggestions in this series will complement or encourage simplicity and economy of energy. Keeping SEE in the forefront of your mind can mean the difference between more chaos or attracting creativity and happiness.
You can do it.
 pp.49-51; Zogby, Jean Paul; The Power of Time Perception: Control the Speed of Time to Slow Down Aging, Live a Long Life, and Make Every Second Count (Time Life Series Book 1)
 p.66 Ibid.
 p.61 Ibid.