Omit Needless Things

In the post that I wrote a few weeks ago about coming up for air, I asked “How can I not concentrate on something as simple and fundamental as my own breath?”

In the time between that post and now, I have not really changed my routine all that much.  I go about my day, rushing from place to place, trying to finish tasks at work or complete chores at home.  But now I stop and ask myself that question. What is it that is keeping me from being mindful of my own breathing?  Or in other words, what is it that is keeping me from being able to focus on what I want to focus on?

It’s the routines that I have set up in my life.  Waking up and getting ready for the day.  Commuting.  Checking emails, writing code, talking to co-workers.  Eating meals.  Spending time with the family.  These are just a few of the things that take away from my ability to control my thoughts.  A number of them are essential to my life.  If I had to choose, I would gladly give up control of my thoughts for some of them (especially family time).  Some things I want to keep around, some things I don’t.

I need to determine what things are important in my life and remove any items or tasks that do not support those things.  Zen habits has a good post summarizing Leo’s various posts about how to be a minimalist:  Omit needless things.  I have talked a lot about how my thoughts get in the way, but I have not really focused on how I can change my environment to help focus my thoughts.

Do I really need all this stuff?  No.  More importantly, what am I doing day-to-day that is solely to support this stuff?  What are some of my hidden assumptions that push me to keep up these routines?  Can I get rid of them?  I am not talking about going off the grid.  As a matter of fact, I think that I have used the image of me becoming a smelly, heavy-bearded hippie living off the fat of the land as a way to dismiss the idea of giving up some of these assumptions.

Routines are comforting.  The idea of removing them from your life can be frightening.  But overcoming this fear is essential to focusing on what is important in life.

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