More, or Less?

Less Is More

Do we really need more than we already have to be happy? More love, more money, more knowledge, more unique experiences, more good memories, more esteem, more clothes, more food, more things, more of what we don’t have, more of everything? Is the pursuit of happiness nothing but a never-ending effort to accumulate more?

I’m not sure about you, but I always want more than I have, whether it’s love, attention, knowledge, or blog followers. My nature is not an immoderate one; I don’t seek to wallow in excess. Yet somehow, I never seem to have enough; something in me craves for more, tempting me with the promise that just a little bit more will be enough to make me happy. Of course, nothing is ever enough.

If I somehow manage to catch the attention of a girl, I’m not satisfied with her friendship and I invariably think of how to get more (and in the end I end up with nothing at all). If I spend three hours a day writing, I am not content but regret I have not spent four or five. If I go out Saturday and wander through the city center, taking photos of people, I don’t truly appreciate the five or six good shots I get but want more. If I enter a bookstore and decide to buy a book, I feel this urge to buy another, and another, and another, so that before long I have more books in my basket than I can afford.

“Going on as we do, obsessively trying to improve our conditions, can become an end in itself and a pointless distraction.” – Sogyal Rinpoche in the Tibeban Book of Living and Dying

Like you, I have heard time and time again the saying ‘less is more’, and I agree with it. It can be applied to everything in our lives. It can help us curb our ‘vaulting ambition’, as Shakeskeare would put it, and teach us to cherish the here, the now. Oh, I know the theory well enough, but it’s the practice that grieves me.

But I am resolved to change, to learn to appreciate what I already have, starting with myself and with those qualities that, like shiny gold coins spilled from a torn purse on a muddy road, I know that I, like everyone, possess, together with a muddiness of faults, and to appreciate the value of the people around me, such as they are, and of my belongings, and of the shelter above my head, and of the warmth and all the comforts of my home, and to live more in the present, to be fully emerged in the here, in the now.

“Our task is to strike a balance, to find a middle way, to learn not to overstretch ourselves with extraneous activities and preoccupations, but to simplify our lives more and more.” – Sogyal Rinpoche

I begin this quiet revolution by cutting my screen time, by meditating on my feet during my walks and in my moments of repose, by abandoning before the checkout the clothes I want to buy at my favorite online shop, by walking into a bookstore and picking up books that catch my eye and savoring a few lines from each of them and admiring their covers but then leaving without buying any one of them, knowing that plenty of unread books already await me at home in my old library, by trying to do more by doing less, by not filling all my time with thoughts, worries, hopes, and activities, but trying to spend more time alone with myself.

I am resolved: from now on I will try to enjoy life and search for happiness by yearning not for more, but for less.

 ***

Are you happy with what you already have? Or do you want more?

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38 thoughts on “More, or Less?

  1. Great post. I totally agree with you and think that we all need to be more mindful of the present. Actually, I think you may be interested in this 60 Minutes segment on “Mindfulness Meditation.”

  2. It’s a good practice, if you can. I am always on the hunt for knowledge and I only wish I could let myself try and learn and keep knowledge within my mind without having a physical representation of it. (ie. a book, map, etc.)

    1. I seem to forget knowledge not long after I acquire it. I have read hundreds of books in recent years and though my linguistic ability has improved, I feel none the wiser for it.

      1. Being wise is more than knowledge, it’s also experience. Of course we link religious ‘immortal’ figures with being wise, so I feel as though people believe it is impossible to be wise. I’m sure modesty needs to be considered. You’re probably wise in various ways, not simply due to retaining knowledge on a topic.

  3. I am actually half way through reading The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (for the second time) right now and enjoying it immensely.

    I must admit to yearning for many things in life… I think it is only human to do so. It is what drives us to create a better world perhaps? I do wish for more of the things that don’t cost money – peace, purpose, patience, understanding and writing skills spring to mind.

    I think what matters is taking time to appreciate what we do have – and your post beautifully reflects that.

      1. ‘The miracle of Mindfulness’ is on my bookshelf and has been read many times.

        It was a good introduction to meditation for me many moons ago. Along with a few others, it helped me to build a practice that changed the way I experience life.

        I must read some of his other works. Have you read any yourself?

  4. I thought a lot about this after I read your post. I am very much of the notion that I need more in my life. More friends, more money, more clothes, more things.. However the resolution you suggest for yourself, while it may work perfectly for you, seems to nag at the corners of my consciousness and I don’t know why! Like it wants to be explored in a different fashion, perhaps.
    More than anything, though, I find myself wanting to write more like you. Wonderful piece, sir. A joy to read, as are all your other pieces.

      1. Hi Vincent,
        God is in heaven and we are on earth. Sometimes we forget that life is only temporary and think that we will live here forever. The world is not the problem, it’s us. God bless you!

  5. Great post. I believe that if we appreciate and are content with what we have, the surprises that come our way are even better. Of course I’d like more time for writing too. Such is life.

  6. Gratitude is always an important aspect of living – as is acceptance. I am suffering with a bout of infection at the moment and I am grateful that it was not worse and feel for those who are suffering more. Randy

      1. I have prostatitis which has lingered longer than necessary because the first doctor failed to send a culture out, had me on the wrong antibiotic, and so it went 5 more days before i could try a second antibiotic, which seems, now, to be doing the job. But I was suffering difficult urinary pain, both feeling like I always had “to go”, and then continued pain upon urination. Along with 101 degree fevers, unable to sleep, loss of appetite, and inability to concentrate and a general malaise. But other than that – life was grand. I am obviously feeling better now. That was way too much information, I’m sure. But since you asked…. 😉 Be gentle with yourself, Boy With a Hat. Randy

  7. I am on the same path. I think part of it is a drive to improve. Everything needs to be balanced. Too much time or money on anything can throw life out of whack.

  8. My 81st birthday is soon to be, and I am acutely aware of the uselessness of my possessions. Surely life is benefitted more by “being” than by “having.” I find great wisdom in a scripture from the Holy Bible (Collosians 3:12) that says to “clothe yourself with…tender-heartedness, kindness, humility, meekness, long suffering.” After I am gone, those attributes will be of much more worth to my family than this abundance of collections, hobbies, books, etc.

  9. Nice post – very appropriate at this time as we start the new year with a clean slate and good intentions. I do think it is human nature to naturally want more but I agree – less can also be refreshing. I myself have vowed to live a more minimalist lifestyle for 2015. However, it is very hard to let go of things and just focus on what you already have. My vice is electronics and gadgets. I tell myself I have everything I can possibly need and I should stop wanting to add more to the pile. I think what will be helpful is mindful consumption. Ask yourself – do you need the thing you are considering? Will it improve or save your life? Most likely the answer is not really. So you have to let go. Besides, we can’t take our stuff with us when we die.

  10. Honestly I think this post is spot on. But I also think it’s dead off. Your words make sense but I’m a strong Christian and I think only God can satisfy our constant hunger. I understand a lot of people may give me hate just for commenting about God and being a follower of Christ, but that’s beside the point. We, humanity, our constantly dissatisfied, just as you said. The difference is I don’t agree with your solution. You can try to do that all you want but the craving will always be there. Only God can truly fulfill us.

  11. I love this post and wholeheartedly agree. The only thing I’d add is that, yes, it is natural to want more. Frequently we associate the want of more with possessions, which of course does not make us happy, but the want of closer companions or more experiences… Perspective is everything, and experiences and friendships provide these. Your Bucharest holds so much that I, too, wish I could see. And if I could show you San Francisco…

    I also think we’ll always want more because this world is not the way it is supposed to be.

  12. Hm… Since when do I have to fill in a form to make a comment…?

    Well, this is one of the bests things you have written. Very deep and wise. To long for more is set in human nature but it doesn’t make us happy. In fact, the more we have the less happy we are, but most of all, the more lost we become. I’m glad you’re learning to appreciate the minimalism in life. I’m sure it will help you find your happiness.

    1. You were probably logged out. I am delighted to see you around here and hope with all my heart that motherhood will be just as you want it to be. The idea of it, of another being slowly growing within you seems beautifully unbelievable, astounding. I don’t know how women pull it off but it’s a wonderful feat.

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