Do less, live more

This morning I took an early walk around the side streets of our neighbourhood. It’s a leafy green area, and today was the first real cold morning of autumn. In the damp morning air I walked very slowly, enjoying the feel of the cool air, the smell of damp autumn leaves in the trees and on the ground.

It’s such a privilege to be able to walk slowly in the early morning, with so much rush in the world. More often I’m rushing like everyone else, but when I walk so slowly it feels like I’m putting some balance back, into me, into the world. Of all the mindfulness and meditation practices that exist, that’s my favourite. Slow mindful walking outdoors.

Yesterday a friend told me ‘I’ve got so many projects going on, juggling so many projects and activities up in the air. I’ve got a coldsore, I’m sure it’s because of that.’ I wonder if things like coldsores are actually a blessing – like a bell of mindfulness that appear to tell us ‘you’re overdoing it, slow down’.

I haven’t written here for a while as I’ve been slowing down. Taking stock of my cows, setting some free. Working to reduce the number of projects I’m involved in to just one or two. As Thoreau says in the wonderful wonderful book Walden, “Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand;”

Now my affairs are but as two or three again, and I feel freer by far. Do less, live more!


A friend sent me this quote yesterday, so perfect for autumn.

I asked the leaf whether it was frightened because it was autumn and the other leaves were falling. The leaf told me, “No. During the whole spring and summer I was completely alive. I worked hard to help nourish the tree, and now much of me is in the tree. I am not limited by this form. I am also the whole tree, and when I go back to the soil, I will continue to nourish the tree. So I don’t worry at all. As I leave this branch and float to the ground, I will wave to the tree and tell her, ‘I will see you again very soon.’”

That day there was a wind blowing and, after a while, I saw the leaf leave the branch and float down to the soil, dancing joyfully, because as it floated it saw itself already there in the tree. It was so happy. I bowed my head, knowing that I have a lot to learn from the leaf.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

9 thoughts on “Do less, live more

  1. Walking other streets in Madrid this same morning, I also noticed the shift to fall. It was not a gradual change. It seemed to arrive overnight.

    In the U.S., there is a strong emphasis on doing. I do, therefore I am. Being is seen as unproductive. That said, the concept of “mindfulness” is becoming mainstream. But my impression is that it’s being seen as a step toward something, and as such is part of the ego’s striving, when the best thing would be for doing to arise naturally from being.


  2. This is such a powerful post, Ben! Thank you. I can identify with the line about a coldsore being a blessing. Whenever I catch a cold, I take that as a sign that I’ve been swimming too much. It’s my body’s way of slowing me down, of getting me to live in the present and be mindful of my current capabilities.

    Thanks too for the quote by Thich Nhat Hanh. As always, he’s so profound.


  3. would love to know your favorite place for meditation and dharma talks in Madrid, Travelling there for 2 weeks and want to hear dharma talks in Spanish…..


  4. After a week of typical early October heat, this morning was cool and overcast. I road downtown to sit in my favorite cafe for an hour before yoga class begins. Could this moment get better?

    Well, yes. I find a beautiful post on Autumn and doing less to live more fully.

    As always, much gratitude to you Ben. Cheers from California.


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