I could write endlessly about the way that living in the jungle in Costa Rica transformed my life.
For the sake of brevity I will sum it up in one phrase: my life became simple.
Without the distractions of my city life and the stories I built around it, I had the space and the clarity to begin to understand what I actually wanted.
Realistically, we can’t all run away to Costa Rica the moment we feel a bit of chaos or stress in our lives. Fortunately, wherever we are in the world and whatever our lifestyle, we have the capacity to let go of the excess and simplify our lives. Here are the best ways that I know how.
Practice Mindful Purchasing
In other words, we should stop buying things unless we actually really want or need them. This is a huge change I made in my life when I began traveling.
I remember a time when I shopped simply because it was something to do. I would head to vintage stores with no agenda other than to find the best the store had to offer. Hundreds of dollars disappeared in a moment over designer clothes and I wasted hours in front of a computer screen online shopping. Buying things provided entertainment, instant gratification, and a distraction from whatever else was happening in my life.
But guess what? None of that stuff made me any happier.
It took time to acquire those belongings. It required space to store them. I had to work multiple jobs to afford them.
Today, living as a nomad, everything I own is literally a weight that I carry on my back and every dollar I spend determines how long I can travel. This has made me much more mindful of what I buy. I do not need ten bags of jewelry when I can wear the one ring I purchased from an artisan in Morocco. I do not need twenty different toiletries when Thai coconut oil achieves it all. Designer shoes are useless in jungles, on beaches, down cobblestone streets.
Next time, before we buy something, let’s ask ourselves if we actually need it or if there’s something deeper we’re trying to fill. The less we fill our space with objects, the more room we have for what actually brings us fulfillment.
Do What We Want
How often do we agree to things that we don’t actually want to do because we feel obligated to? What if we said no instead? What if we only participated in activities that we were authentically committed to?
Make no mistake, saying no is not always easy. Establishing and respecting boundaries is a lifelong lesson that is far from linear. However doing so is necessary. How many times have we let ourselves or others down by saying yes to everything? It is not all possible. There are limited hours in the day and the way that we spend our time reflects what we deem most important.
There is no value in being a martyr and the resentment it causes is a huge relationship barrier. We must recognize that it is our responsibility to spend our time in a way that makes us feel productive, respected, and fulfilled.
Use Mental Filtering
We do not need to know everything. With access to excessive amounts of information with one touch of the keyboard, flooding our minds with unnecessary content has become more and more automatic.
It is not the end of the world if we are not hip to the latest YouTube craze, informed on all the Oscar pics, or even aware of everything headlined across the news. In fact, this information can serve as a distraction from the things that we actually care about.
Let’s learn to limit our exposure to information that makes us feel more connected to ourselves and the world around us. Let’s fill our minds with images of our goals and dreams instead of the latest Hollywood wardrobe malfunctions. Let’s turn down the chatter so that we can actually hear the messages sent from the universe. Spending less time on social media outlets and turning off the television is a great place to start.
Take the Path of Least Resistance
Contrary to what many of us have been told, life does not have to be hard. Often we become attached to a person, a job, an idea and fight and fight to make it what we need when it just isn’t. How much easier, how much simpler, would our lives be if instead we let it go?
I stayed in relationships that did not serve me for years because I was closed to the possibility that maybe there was something better the universe had to offer. That was an enormous waste of energy that I could have channeled towards creativity and growth instead.
Letting go of what we think we want is one of the hardest things we as humans can do. It is also the most liberating. Surrendering to our circumstances is frightening, but once we do an incredible calm is imminent. We are rooted in what is and open to what could be.
Be Content With What Is
Contentment is a state I once thought I was incapable of achieving. In fact, I thought that it was a lack of contentment, the feeling that nothing is good enough, that gave me the drive to achieve. I could not have been more wrong.
Constantly seeking something better, a better partner, a better home, a better job, a better body, a better life, discredits what we have and who we are now. Accepting and celebrating what is allows us to find joy in the moment. When we are truly present and rooted in the reality that surrounds us is when we find the mental clarity, creativity, and confidence to pursue our big dreams.
What if we decided not to remodel the bathroom? What if we cooked with what you did have in our refrigerator instead of driving to three different grocery stores for an elaborate recipe? What if we embraced our curls instead of spending an hour ironing them out?
Would we have time for a long walk? Time to read a book? Time to take photos, make music, write stories? Time to do the things that make us feel alive? Time to sit and be present with the people around us undistracted by all of the things we think we need to do?
What in our lives do we think needs to be more than what it is? Could we feel gratitude for everything that we have now and let it be enough just for today?
Life can be much simpler and easier when we let it be.
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Apprentice Editor: Dana Gornall/Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo Credit: elephant archives