I’ve had writers constipation.. the literary yips. So much to write and yet for a litany of reasons I haven’t put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard. A lot has happened in the last few months. I’ve started a few articles, keen to work through a problem, but slunk away. I could claim it’s because I’ve not wanted extra time at my screen, but that would be a convenient excuse. I’ve just not had it in me to write. Perhaps all this post will do is to overcome the hurdle of a few months of quiet rather than provide anything new. Ease things gently into being. A start. A spring-cleaning and cobweb removal post. Or perhaps I’ll finish here and go and do something else…

No… must… get… it… out…

A beautiful post by a friend Freddy reminds why we write. “The answer is simple. For myself.”

He goes on to say, “Like so many of us I feel scared to express that which may not be accepted. Sometimes that’s useful. Occasionally its essential – evolutionary-programming for societal survival in action! But so often I reject my own knowing in order to avoid creating imagined ripples, waves, or even wrecks! Ironically, that way, treasures that could blossom are lost, lying buried and unclaimed on the ocean floor of my unacknowledged being. I want to share my treasure, whatever that is. I am deeply grateful to anyone who’s willing to witness it. I suppose this is the curse of having my sun and moon in Leo – a great need to be “seen”! But perhaps there can be a positive outcome also, beyond my own selfish needs, to transcending the fear of authentically expressing oneself?”

An astral Leonine paw high-five to that. A sprinkle of quotation to help my writing on its way.

Also, by way of an apology for the lack of content, the first two tunes from my amazing sister’s upcoming EP.

Proud Brother Am I. Her music demonstrates how beautiful the fear of expression – as Fred mentions above – can be when manifested, explored and shared. The music speaks to her truth and feels like a expression of her voice and her being. It is like putting an ear to her chest and hearing her soul sing… in both its beauty and blackness.

Her treasures are indeed blossoming, with some sumptuously penned reviews here, here and many, many more.

And so, I get a blog post out… ending “the frustrating ricocheting quality of our internal dialogue

It’s good to be back…


Start Down

The Dalai is a wise man. I shall be remembering these words as I continue to keep my head down, with my start up.

This will be a bit of an update post, rather than an amazing-tips-for-simplification-post. Please forgive the self-indulgence, but hopefully it explains my absence and current perspective.

What a few weeks… I’ve been in beavering mode, working hard to pull together the pieces of this new business.

There have been many moments of ‘flow’, enjoying the focus and singlemindedness that it brings. There have also been intense frustrations, my forehead metaphorically connecting at high speed with my desk. I’ve both lots to show, yet very little concrete for months of relentless graft. Generally, however, I’ve hugely enjoyed the creativity (people forget starting a business is a massively creative process), the intellectual stimulus and the feeling of building something bigger than oneself.

Ironically, or usefully, the main focus of my attention has been trying to find a technical co-founder, which means for all the claims of doing something ‘new’ I’m essentially doing exactly what I used to, but for me instead of a client.

That should stand me in pretty good stead, you might think. Yet it is still proving the hardest search I’ve conducted so far. I got to within a hairs breadth of taking on a dynamic duo, but for technological reasons we decided it wasnt quite a fit. So I continue, day and night, to scour for this elusive beast – the technological wizard with a business brain.

I’ve learned so much these last few months – about co-founders, internet businesses, strange computing languages, investors, negotiations. All of which, of course, I will be distilling into simple observations in short order.

I’ve also taken moments aside to live and enjoy – tobogganing, a blustery hike, ales with friends, an aborted attempt to build a snowman on account of snow that refused to roll itself into convenient ‘snowballing’ balls. Yeah, I know, ‘bad workmen…’

So, forgive me if I’m not as present as the Dalai would want. More shortly… for now, I present the rather pathetic snow nipple:

It was cold out there...

The 10 Best Simplicity Books

When does a movement or decision strike with such force that it becomes instrumental in one’s life?

Is it a moment experienced personally, or one that another teaches?

I’ve never been good at Damascene moments. Even clear indicators often have me going the wrong way (with the clarity of retrospect).

I don’t know when I first started to simplify. What I do know is that a few key books have helped me along the way. Here are my favourites, in no particular order. Sorry for the lazy-looking list approach, but these actually take some time behind the scenes and I’ve tried to qualify my choices. Enjoy.

1. Siddharta by Herman Hesse. I remember reading this in a little shack by the crystal clear waters of Lake Malawi. It was a friend’s copy and one of her friends had written ‘I love you’ deep within the pages at a random point. There couldn’t be a more fitting book in which to write such a message. Although it is short, all of life’s mysteries lie within. I must have noted down most of the book in my diary. Although simplicity is not its central message, per se, it is very much at the core of this wonderful, wonderful book.

2. Small is Beautiful by E. F. Schumacher. It’s tagline is ‘A study of Economics as if People Mattered’ which neatly encapsulates the book and my views of traditional economics. Schumacher was a brilliant mind and managed to write a paper that caught the imagination of Keynes whilst working in the fields as a war runaway. It is another small book, elegant and evidence of a sensational mind.

3. Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin. Perhaps the most famous simplicity tome, just re-released. It cleverly uses other peoples’ stories cumulating in a popular yet wide-ranging guide to simplification. As much included because of it’s influence as the wonderful message it preaches. Here’s an article I wrote about it.

4. Happiness by Matthieu Ricard. Matthieu is a French-born Buddhist monk, famous for the book he wrote with his father called the Monk and the Philosopher. Although Buddhist, the book is a recipe for happiness and one of the key ingredients that Matthieu mentions often is simplicity. He’s also an exceptional photographer – have a look at his website to see some of his photos.

5. Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I’ve mentioned Thoreau and Walden in this previous post, so I won’t say too much more. This book is somewhat indigestible at times, but sits as one of the most influential and important simplicity books of all time.

6. Ancient Futures by Helena Norberg-Hodge. Again, I’ve posted about this before. What struck a chord with me in this book was its majestic coverage of a culture that lived so simply, so purely and with such elegance.

7. To Have or to Be by Eric Fromm. This is quite a dense philosophical book which discusses our ‘western’ obsession with consumption, versus the idea that what we are, is more important than what we have. It is a classic, even if it’s not always easy.

8. Maverick by Ricardo Semler. I love this book. It details one man’s desire to break the typical business mode and do things differently with great effect. If I ever run a sizable business again I shall look to Maverick to set my rules. Some might not understand how this fits in with simplicity – but at its core Ricardo is talking about letting a business run itself and adhering to natural forces rather than trying to control. The result is exciting.

9. Affluenza by Oliver James. Although slightly pop-lit in its approach. This book covers one of the most important phenomena of our times – that of runaway consumption and include frightening statistics and simple solutions.

10. Let my People go Surfing. Again, not a simplicity book as such, but I love Patagonia’s approach and this wonderful recount of creating a business for the sheer love of it, rather than to make money. Other companies inspired by this approach include Howies, Sawdays and Innocent Drinks.

Watch this space for my own addition.

Although it may be a few years in the coming… so don’t go watching too hard.

Happy Reading.

Happy Christmas – Being Thankful & Having Time

“If you as an individual no longer found an identity from your thoughts, then you would break free of time and enter the sweetness and clarity of the timeless.”

— Bernie Prior

A Happy Christmas to you all. Oh, and a Happy Birthday to my Mum!

Sadly, I’m not with my family this year. Instead, I’ll be celebrating in Kenya in the heat -a far cry from the usual frost, fires and mince pies of the UK. Perhaps I’ll work off Christmas lunch with an afternoon kitesurf.

It’s a tough life.

Thinking of my absent family, I hope you celebrate what you have and who you’re with. Put your feet up and indulge in a little laziness. Enjoy taking some time away with people you love.

Here’s a thought-provoking post on why simplicity works, from someone who has been forced to adopt it for health reasons. It’s important to remember our own mortality.

I don’t need any presents – this year has already treated me well enough. Here’s a few things I’m thankful for:

  • My health.
  • That I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to explore simplicity this last year without worrying about where my next meal was coming from.
  • For all my family and friends, some of whom have visited me out in San Francisco and Kenya whilst I’ve been living ‘elsewhere’ this year.
  • Time.

Each of us battle with time. Too many of my previous years have felt like the Pink Floyd song:

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the english way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say

Pink Floyd – Time

It’s a fight that I’ve been on top of this year. This year, I’ve had more time than ever before. Sometimes it’s felt like too much. More often, it’s still not enough. Obviously, in reality, it’s been the same as every other.

If you don’t enjoy the passing of time, if you always feel that you could have achieved more and that there’s more to do, my sense is that you’ll never truly be happy.

Enjoy this moment, right now. It’s your present.

An old classic… Instantes by Jorge Luis Borges

Here’s an old classic a newly engaged friend Lucy just pinged my way. You may well have seen it before, but who cares – it’s still stunning.
Instantes (Instants)

If I were able to live my life anew,
In the next I would try to commit more errors.
I would not try to be so perfect, I would relax more.
I would be more foolish than I’ve been,
In fact, I would take few things seriously.
I would be less hygienic.
I would run more risks,
take more vacations,
contemplate more sunsets,
climb more mountains, swim more rivers.
I would go to more places where I’ve never been,
I would eat more ice cream and fewer beans,
I would have more real problems and less imaginary ones.
I was one of those people that lived sensibly
and prolifically each minute of his life;
Of course I had moments of happiness.
If I could go back I would try
to have only good moments.
Because if you didn’t know, of that is life made:
only of moments; Don’t lose the now.
I was one of those that never
went anywhere without a thermometer,
a hot-water bottle,
an umbrella, and a parachute;
If I could live again, I would travel lighter.
If I could live again,
I would begin to walk barefoot from the beginning of spring
and I would continue barefoot until autumn ends.
I would take more cart rides,
contemplate more dawns,
and play with more children,
If I had another life ahead of me.
But already you see, I am 85,
and I know that I am dying.

Now is the time – Hafiz

Here’s  a great poem I read this week by Hafiz about taking time and trusting yourself. I’m flying back to the UK tonight, I’ll write more from the other side – Simpletom!
Now is the time to know
That all you do is sacred
Now, why not consider
A lasting truce with yourself and God
Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong
Were just a child’s training wheels
To be laid aside
When you can finally live
With veracity
And love.
Hafiz is a divine envoy
Whom the Beloved
Has written a holy message upon
My dear, please tell me,
Why do you still
Throw sticks at your heart
And God?
What is it in that sweet voice inside
That incited you to fear?
Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred.
This is the time
For you to deeply compute the impossibility
That there is anything
But Grace
Now is the season to know
That everything you do
Is sacred.

Simply stand and stare – ‘Leisure’ by WH Davies

This was sent to me by a friend Lucy, and I wanted to simply stand and share…

Leisure – WH Davies

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.