The Power of Less by Leo Babauta is a slim volume with a huge impact. Have you ever gotten yourself on a path, convinced it was the one for you, only to realize how unfulfilled certain areas of your life are? The Power of Less is a wonderfully simple book on simplicity. Just reading the first couple of chapters have led me to realize that the path I’m on doesn’t have everything I need. Babauta asks the question: what’s essential? When I started asking myself that question I came up with unexpected answers. In my early 20’s (I am now 32) I was part of a couple wonderful spiritual group. I was part of a tiny, intimate really, interfaith church. I formed a very close friendship with the minister and was ordained myself. This group was really magic, they were my community. I always felt so valued, encouraged and loved among this special group of people. With their support, I ministered a young woman in JV and taught a spiritual class at the local metaphysical shop.
So what happened with all this? It felt apart, but not for the usual reasons. Many times in groups you will find personality conflicts and drama. The magic of the center, in part, was that this never happened. What did happen in the end, I’m not sure. After my affair, I was in a deep and terrible depression. I blamed some of what happened on my “new-age” involvement, thinking I was flying a little high with it. Plus, I was so angry at God/Goddess/whatever you call it if you believe in that sort of thing. The next thing I new my dear friend, minister of the group, had departed to live out West on an American Indian reservation. Everyone went their separate ways. And I was left with a hole in my heart that I tried to ignore, or worse, fill with other groups of people that didn’t quite fit. And now I realize something that’s essential to me: community. I realized that I felt my happiest when I was part of that group.
But just any community won’t do, I get that now. I tried another group and it ended badly for everyone. I’m still friends with a couple of people, but the whole thing was so unnecessary if I had really acknowledged that I was measuring against my earlier experiences. So no, a Unitarian church probably won’t do, or a group of friends that are disconnected, or a buy nothing group, etc. I also wonder if I’ve been measuring my friendships against the one I lost. But, right now it feels impossible that I will ever find another group where I get the same feelings of total acceptance, value, etc. It really feels like something I might have to start myself. EEEKK!
Babauta says we should take those things that are most essential to us and let everything else go. According to his principles, I should pick one or two goals to put my energy into. Yes, of course, there are things that have to be done every day that aren’t essential. Apply this tenant to your stuff and every task during the day and you will free up time to do what is essential. What is most essential to complete today? What will have the biggest impact on what is essential to you? If it is essential to you to be healthy and cook meals, maybe that should be higher on the list than finishing laundry – as long as you have a few clean garments to get you through! Ask yourself – is this object essential to you? Does it get used? Is it cherished as a decorative object? Or is it a waste of time? Remember, everything you buy you then have to bring home and care for. You have to find a place for it, keep it good condition, possibly fix it and clean it/around it.
I had a eureka moment thinking about everything Babauta has to say. Do you have a friend or acquaintance you are in awe of because they are truly very happy and seem able to accomplish so much? I found myself measuring my worth against such an acquaintance: she has a home business supplying spiritual supplies, two young children and enjoys a bull’s constitution that allows her to do everything on little sleep. Plus, she is a very generous person. How does she do it all? The secret that I’m pretty sure she knows without really articulating is: she focuses on what’s essential to her. This gives her tremendous energy. Note that being super busy and accomplishing a lot without being happy doesn’t count! I have vacillated between extremely low energy and high energy periods. However, usually I have not been happy with what I accomplished. I think that it’s hard to even recognize everything that we do accomplish because we are so scattered, thinking about the next thing we have to do. This, combined with pursuing things that aren’t essential to us is so draining.
So what’s the solution? Babauta says goals are important. But unlike many people, we shouldn’t be setting a ton of goals. Instead, we should have one or two big goals. A big part of what Babauta is teaching is focus. By focusing on one or two of our most essential goals, we can achieve quicker results more easily because we focus. Using these same principles, you can try cutting back on anything, say checking emails. Check your emails as few times as possible, give yourself a week to figure out what that magic number is. But it doesn’t end there – consider which emails are most essential or have the biggest impact. Read, answer or send only those essential emails and leave the rest for another day – or delete them.