April 10, 2009

Simply Nervous

As I come back to America for the month of May, one thing that is making me very nervous is losing sight of simplicity. My life and the lives of those around me here in Mongolia are not complicated and I think that makes things so much easier. Desires are few (food variety is a perfect example), people feel satisfied with what they have and they focus on relationships almost every hour of every day. Sometimes this means shopkeepers play cards with other shopkeepers or maybe health department workers get together to take a hike into the countryside or play basketball on Tuesday nights. It's nice.

I'm nervous about seeing ads everywhere telling me what I should buy, what I should wear, drink, eat, say, look like, do. I'm nervous about the high speed of American life and commerce and the fact that society back home can be based on the idea that people need to consume new things regularly, regardless of how good the things are that they already have ("We know you just bought a new computer yesterday, but look, it's already outdated by this new one..."). I like the fact that all the vehicles here are old enough that I don't know when they were made, the fact that I haven't seen a magazine advertisement, heard a radio spot, seen a billboard, watched a commercial or seen trademarks or brand names in almost a year. My stuff, all my clothes and electronics and shoes and whatever, are all just fine. If I saw more ads, maybe it would be harder to believe that.

Not worrying about keeping up with the pace of society allows me a lot of extra time to focus on relationships with people, working on my own personal fitness, and taking up new hobbies like cooking and painting. These are things I have wanted to do my entire life. My life is more simple here and I have never been less bored in my life.

If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing, and shelter to protect yourself from the elements. And finally, there is an intense delight in abandoning faulty state of mind and in cultivating helpful ones in meditation. The Dalai Lama