The Elements of Living Lightly

Today I’m going to suggest a small change in mindset that could change your life.

It’ll help you to live life less angry, less stressed, less frustrated, less weighed down by disappointments … live a lighter life, free of these attachments, in the moment.

I won’t keep you in suspense. Here it is: think of nothing that happens as either good or bad. Stop judging, and stop expecting.

It’s a tiny change — all you have to do is say, ‘That wasn’t good or bad, it just happened, it just is.’ It’s tiny, but it takes practice, and amazingly, it can knock you on your ass.

Why? Because with this little change, you will no longer be swayed up and down depending on whether good things or bad things happen to you, whether people (and their actions) are good or bad. You will learn to accept things as they are, and move within that landscape mindfully.

You will no longer expect good things to happen (or bad things), but will just take things as they come, and be content with whatever comes. This means you’ll no longer be disappointed, or unhappy. It means you’ll be unencumbered by these burdens, and free to live happily by what life brings.

“When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.”
~Lao Tzu

A Little Exercise
Think of something good that happened to you recently, and how it affected your mindset. Now think of something bad that happened, and what that did to your mindset.

Now imagine that neither event was good, and neither was bad. They simply happened, existed.

How does that change how you would have felt as a result of those events? How does it change your happiness, your mood? How does it change what you do in reaction?

Nothing is good or bad
Hamlet said, ‘There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’

He was right. Without the human mind, things just happen, and they are not good or bad. It’s only when we apply the filter of our judgment that they become good or bad, beautiful or ugly.

A weed is only a weed when we don’t like it. Children are only naughty if we don’t like their actions. Life only sucks if you judge it as bad.

But what about truly horrible tragedies, like a plague or tsunami or the Holocaust? Surely those are bad? Sure, through the lens of the judgment we’ve been raised to make, they are terrible. But then again, remove the judgment, and then … they simply happened. Death and cruelty will probably always make us sad, but they’ve always happened and always will, whether we like them or hate them.

Holocaust survivor and author Victor Frankl wrote of a rich woman who went through the Holocaust, and who was grateful for the experience, as much as she suffered, because it opened her eyes. It transformed her. This was just one of his many examples of people who rose above this incredible cruelty, who found happiness not in spite of it but because of its transformative nature. I’m not saying the Holocaust was good, in any way, but perhaps we can just say that it happened, and try to understand it. It serves as a lesson — one we should heed, by the way, in these days of politically charged hatred, of blaming our ills on immigrants and minorities.

There are other tragedies that happen that aren’t necessarily bad. They’re devastating losses, without a doubt, but in life there are always losses, and people will always die. It’s how we judge them that determines our reaction, and determines whether we’re capable of dealing with it sanely.

Great Expectations
The second half of this change is just as small, but just as important: dropping expectations. Not lowering expectations, but eliminating them.

Think about it: when we have expectations, and things don’t go the way we expect (which happens quite often, as we’re not good prognosticators), we are disappointed, frustrated. It’s our expectations that force us to judge whether something is good or bad.

‘Plant an expectation, reap a disappointment.’ ~old adage, quoted from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed

When you expect something of a friend, co-worker, family member, spouse, and they don’t live up to that expectation, then you are upset with them, or disappointed. It causes anger. But what if you had no expectations — then their actions would be neither good nor bad, just actions. You could accept them without frustration, anger, sadness.

What if you went on vacation, to a place you had high expectations of, and it wasn’t what you thought it’d be? You’d be bitterly disappointed, even though it’s not the fault of that place — that’s just how the place is. It’s your expectations that are at fault.

When people disappoint you, it’s not their fault. They’re just being who they are. Your expectations are at fault.

The Why
But why make this change? Why should we stop judging? Why should we stop expecting?

Because judgments stop us from understanding, and can ruin our happiness. When we judge, we don’t seek to understand — we’ve already come to a conclusion. If we stop judging, we allow ourselves to try to understand, and then we can take a much smarter course of action, because we’re better informed by our understanding.

Judging makes us unhappy. So do expectations.

When we leave judgment behind, we can live in the moment, taking what comes as neither good or bad, but simply what is. We can stop ruining our happiness with our thinking, and start living instead.

The How
So how do we start doing this? In small steps, as always.

1 First, start by being more aware. Throughout the course of the day today, note when you make judgments, note when you have expectations, and when things don’t live up to them. Over time, you’ll notice this more and more, and be much more conscious of these types of thoughts.

2 Next, pause each time you notice a judgment or expectation. Take a breath. Then tell yourself, “No expectations, no good or bad.” Repeat this, letting go of the judgment or expectation.

3 Third, seek to see things as they are, and to understand. Be curious as to why things are the way they are, why people act the way they act. Investigate, empathize, try to put yourself in people’s shoes. See the landscape of your life as it actually is, without the filter of judgments or expectations.

4 Next, take what comes. Experience it, in the moment. React appropriately, without overreacting because it isn’t as you hoped or wanted. You can’t control life, or others, but you can control how you react.

5 Then, accept. When things happen, understand why they do, without judgment, and accept them as they are. Accept people for who they are. Accept yourself, without judgment, as you are. This takes practice.

6 Finally, know that the present moment, being as it is, also contains infinite possibilities. And those possibilities are opened up once you see things as they are, without judgment or expectations.

-Leo Babuta,
Zen Habits

What do you want?

People think they have too many needs. Needs are non-negotiable. Not in the “I’m going to be bitchy/unhappy if I don’t get it,” way, but in the “there’s a serious chance I’m going to stop breathing” way. Things like food, water, shelter, basic medicine and heat. So when someone says that they need something, it means that they cannot live without it. So when someone tells you that they needed that new purse, new shoes, fancy car or big house, what they are really telling you is that they wanted that thing, but are not willing to express themselves as a person with normal desires like everyone else.

Needs are all about you. Wants, desires, ideas, thoughts, feelings-these things open up space for co-creation, for trust, and at their best, for wildly better and more fabulous fulfillments than you ever thought possible. Someone with five dozen needs is a pain in the ass. Someone with ten thousand wants is someone you can work and live with.

What do I want? Pretty much everything. I want a job that I can enjoy and make a decent living with. I want an extra few hours in the day. I want to be able to train 7 days a week and spend the rest of my day hanging out in a zen garden with green tea and a never-ending stack of good books. I want to change the world. I want to be the change others want to see in the world. I want people to stop starving, stop fighting, stop arguing, to just stop. I want to go skiing, right now. I want to spend the day at the beach. I want there to not be so much anger in the world. I want there to be a zombie apocalypse, for just one day, and have no one really get hurt. Just for a lark. I want a thirty car garage with all of the coolest cars on the planet and my own personal race track. I want a cozy little house just outside of the city. I want a penthouse loft in that really cool new building with the rooftop pool and hottub. I want to design and build the perfect house. I want a restaurant-quality kitchen with a industrial strength dishwasher. I want to cook hot dogs and marshmallows over an open fire. I want crackheads to wake the fuck up and stop smoking crack. I want everyone who is gone to come back. I want to go find them. I want every macho wannabe juicemonkey wake up one day and realize that being a jackass is no way to go through life. I want an even larger circle of beautiful amazing friends than I already have. I want. I want pretty much everything, now that I think about it.

I want to be a writer, without the trouble of actually having to write anything. I want to be a world-famous z-list blogger, just to see what irony really tastes like. I want to try being a vegan, just to see what the fuss is about. I want things to not have to suffer and die so I can survive. I want everyone to realize that suffering is a fact of life, it’s just a matter of degree. I want to leave the house and never come back, wandering the earth in search of truth and fun. I want to curl up in front of a fireplace with a good book and never have to get up. I want to go lay on the beach and sip on grossly over-poured cocktails with little umbrellas in them. I want to meet every famous person in the world. I want to be every famous person in the world, just for a day. I want everyone to wake up tomorrow with their heads full to bursting with common sense. I want to be one of those absurdly talented people that everyone stops to watch when they dance. I want to paint a famous picture. I want to doodle all day, and make my life as a webcomic artist. I want to tell the perfect story for everyone. I want to go bungee jumping. I want anything and everything the world can imagine. I want to believe 6 impossible things every day before breakfast. I want to plant a mango tree. I want to be able to eat whatever I want all the time and always stay fit and trim. I want a new wardrobe full of tailored clothes and fancy stuff. I want to sit on my ass all day and never do anything. I want to never stop living and learning and loving. I want to learn to surf. I want to backpack around the world. I want to live in Japan and never come back. I want to find the perfect twisty road and the perfect car and never stop driving. I want to cook with the great chefs, alive and dead. I want to make the perfect martini. I want to learn every language in the world so I can ask the world “How’s things?” I want to study with Buddhist monks. I want to be the perfect person to everyone. I want to be the perfect person for myself.

Just because you want something, doesn’t mean you’re going to get it. And I want everyone to realize that that’s ok too. If you need everything, you are going to be one unhappy cookie. (I want a cookie, too!) If you want something, you will grow around and live with that desire. Learning to balance your needs and wants is kinda like eating apples. It may not keep the doctor away, but it’s a mighty tasty proposition and you’ll probably find yourself happier and healthier if you start doing it on a regular basis. There’s something to be said for taking what comes and learning to make the most of it, for accepting what’s not likely to happen and learning to love that space or absence for what it does give you rather than draining out your energy on disappointment or on lamenting the lack of things that would make the perfect picture in your head come true. When in doubt, chill the fuck out.

Inspired by a blog post by Andrea. Two things I couldn’t figure out exactly how to say I stole directly from her. I hope she doesn’t mind.

Why am I a super awesome roommate?

Why am I a super awesome roommate?

I work three jobs, so you know I can pay my share of the rent, and it’ll even be on time, all the time!

I don’t watch TV – you can watch whatever you want whenever you want!
(But if it’s Hannah Montana and I’m around, expect that I will make fun of you until you turn that crap off.) If you’re watching something awesome like Monty Python, Family Guy, The Simpsons, or Futurama, I just might join you.

I’m laid back and chill!
I can sleep through a bomb going off, and I work as a bouncer, so I probably won’t even be home even if you *are* partying!

Non judgmental!
Frankly, I don’t care who you are, what color you are, what type/gender of people you sleep with, or what you believe in, unless you try to browbeat me into joining some crazy cult or something. Don’t browbeat, leave me the literature and I’ll make my own decision.

I can fix stuff!
Is your computer broken or stuffed full of viruses? If it’s not a Mac, I can have that thing running like new in no time. Your car all cranky and stuff? I can probably fix that too! Also, I have a server with a metric ton of movies and music on it, so that’ll save you like $500 per year on blockbuster rentals!

I’m quiet!
I work three jobs, so I don’t make a lot of noise because I’m either sleeping or not home. When I am home, I’m usually too tired to do anything except read my book.

I’m clean!
Almost never home + minor OCD about cleanliness = clean kitchen and living areas.

You want tasty grub? I can cook it!
I was a chef for 5 years! Got a hot date? I can cook up some tasty vittles and then disappear so you’re pulling out an awesome spread when your future spouse/one night stand shows up! (A small fee may apply)

You want tasty drinks? I can make em!
I was a bartender for 3 years!

Got rowdies in the place you need to get rid of?
I’m a frickin’ bouncer!

I’ve got my own car!
No bumming rides or being all passive-aggressive emo “OMG life sucks I can’t do anything because I can’t go anywhere waah waah waah”

I’ve got my own stuff!
I don’t need you to supply me with anything, I’ve got my own furnishings etc. If they’re already there, we can work something out – but I’m keeping my own mattresses. I also hate using other people’s stuff, so no more searching for your nail clippers that mysteriously went missing.

I buy and eat my own food!
No need to worry about someone chowing down on those leftovers you were planning on having after the bar at 2am!

I like animals!
Cats, dogs, whatever – as long as they don’t eat my stuff I’m cool with that. (Unless you keep spiders or something like that. Creepy.)

I buy my own toilet paper, laundry soap, and stuff!
No more “Wait, I know I had one more roll in here!”

I’m all clean and sexy, and I even wear pants around the house!
No more feeling embarrassed when you’ve got the family over and your half-naked smelly roommate walks in and creeps everyone out!


I’d prefer something with a garage where I can store my car, a dishwasher is nice but not essential, a separate as opposed to shared bathroom would be great, I don’t need any extra storage space as I have a storage unit. If you have a hot-tub, you move to the front of the line.

In-house/in-suite laundry is 100% mandatory unless you’re gonna wash and fold my laundry for me, for free. None of that coin-op crap. I work too long of hours to be leaving the house to do laundry.

Location isn’t a huge issue for me, I’ve got my own vehicle, but something that’s not too far out of town would be great. I don’t really want to have commute too far to work, but pretty much anything is workable.

No super-hardcore party houses, please. I *do* work semi-early Monday-Friday and would like to be able to sleep sometime. Feel free to giv’er as hard as you want on the weekends though.

I can afford to spend up to $600/mo including utilities, but the cheaper the better of course.

Hope to hear from you soon,
Your next super awesome roomate.


Thanks to everyone who replied, I found an awesome place, it’s gonna be a great year!