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Keep it simple, silly!

11 July, 2022


‘The neurotic person worries about things that did not happen in the past, while normal people worry about things that will not happen in the future’. What a great quote and what a magnificent truth! I came across it in the book I’m reading right now: Awareness by Anthony de Mello. He was an Indian Jesuit priest and psychotherapist, and had a refreshingly no-nonsense way of teaching his spiritual insights.


In the many years before I discovered mindfulness and started integrating its sensible principles in my everyday life, I had collected a library worth of books about awareness and spirituality. I had read them religiously, heartily agreed with everything the writers advised… yet never quite understood their valuable lessons. And so I had blindly kept stressing out and undermining my health. Only when I burned out and crashed, I was able to open my eyes to awareness.


I became hungry for more on mindfulness, but all the books I found were written by psychologists who served up complex concepts of the mystery of awareness, riddled with dry facts and undigestible jargon. While they wrote about the trappings of ego, the books were littered with ego-driven ‘look how smart I am’ quotes. Later I re-structured and edited the book written by my mindfulness teacher, and our egos clashed over chapters full of professional gobbledegook which I knew the average reader wouldn’t understand, yet had to remain in the book as these would show his peers how much knowledge he had so that they couldn’t but appreciate and admire him. As a copywriter I was thoroughly trained in simplifying complex ideas, and motivated by such a lack of readable works I wrote several books on mindfulness in such a down-to-earth way that normal people would actually understand what it was all about.


I often wondered about the need to make something simple so complex, and I cannot but conclude that making simple things look complicated is ego’s way of trying to look intelligent. Politicians especially love to use the complexity concept to explain away their failures. When asked why they haven’t acted upon election promises and why things haven’t been put into action, they say stuff like: ‘Look (they always start with ‘look’ to look informal and demand reasonability), we shouldn’t simplify these incredibly complex issues’. What they really mean to say is that the public shouldn’t ask them these obviously silly questions about why there hasn’t been any progress made. Underneath this apparent arrogance hides a lack of vision and the incapability to deal effectively with the demands and objections of all parties involved. The overload of information first overwhelms, then paralyses them, forcing them into the arms of the ‘complexity’ adage to make the critique go away.


I have noticed that, quite like politicians, many spiritual teachers are masters in making straight-forward principles look complex. Rather than serving their pupils and actually explain mindfulness in simple terms, they lose themselves in fancy-pancy concepts in an attempt to come across as special souls. If you like to learn more about awareness, make sure to avoid those high-profile teachings full of Buddhist blabla. Rather go for accessible books which cut the mindfulness philosophy into easy to digest chunks of information, like the ones by Anthony de Mello, Osho and Eckhart Tolle. They understand that awareness isn’t complex but simple, and attainable by all of us.


n Marisa Garau is a mindfulness expert who has lived in Mangawhai since 2007. Find more practical tips on how to de-stress your life at her website or flick her an email if you’d like to have a personal chat: marisa@growingmindfulness.com

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