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21-Day Challenge: Garden of Simplicity

Awakin Call Garden Of Simplicity

They say it takes 21 days to change a habit.

At the turn of the New Year, close to 8 thousand folks from around the world made a conscious intention to simplify daily life for 21 days in a row. Last Saturday’s Awakin Call was graced with a global tapestry of stories, reflections, and experiences from KindSpring’s 21-day Simple Living Challenge.

Birju kicked things off with the seed questions, “Why do we practice simplicity at all? What is the aspiration for simplicity in our lives?” upon which Amit soon added, “What does simplicity really mean to you?”

After a round of shares from New York to Mexico to Germany to California—as well as seasoned insights from our emblem of simple living, Duane Elgin— Birju and Amit probed the conversation deeper. Round after round, a spectrum of shares spanned topics from inviting reflections on concrete stories to experiences that push boundaries to insights on the nature of our culture to intentions for the remaining 12 days of the challenge and beyond—and by the end of the call, it was hard not to be awed by the collective wellspring of wisdom from our shared yet independent experiments in simplicity.

Across the 90-minutes, three core elements of simple living stood out: simplicity as an “inside job”, a heightened awareness of nature, and our relationship to material possessions.

The “Inside Job”

“Simplicity is an inside job,” Mish began. “For me to have simplicity in my life, I think of my mind as a garden. I have to weed it constantly. When I weed it, I make space for buds of awareness to grow… de-cluttering my mind. From there, everything flows. For me, simplicity starts with taming my thoughts, breathing deeply, and coming from a place of stillness.”



In a similar spirit, Aryae from California noted that the current challenge idea of the day was to “Give Up a Guilty Pleasure”. One caller gave up coffee, another tea, another chocolate.

“Well, Gee,” Aryae thought, “I don't want to give up any of that. I don't feel guilty about any of that anyway.”

Then someone said they were giving up the guilty pleasure of negative thought. That was the light bulb moment for him: “There's a place buried deep in my brain where, whether I want to or not, I can sometimes find myself judging someone. The guilty pleasure for me is, ‘If that person isn't so good, that makes me better, right?’ No, not much. My practice for today is to give up that guilty so-called pleasure of judging another person.”



Building off that, Birju noted, “As I seek out ways to de-clutter externally, I have more space to build different habits. To build inner wealth... I took this note, saying, ‘How can negative thoughts be something I can consider as part of this challenge?’”

Amit wondered how simplicity impacted his mental state and way of interacting with others. He realized, “One area is truthfulness. You can get caught up in robotically saying, "How are you," to which somebody robotically responds, "I'm fine. How are you?" You may not be fully forthcoming with your thoughts on something. When you invite simplicity, you're inviting truth as well.”

In becoming aware of self-truths, Tiffany from Wisconsin noted due to health challenges like chronic fatigue, she’s been forced to simplify her life.

“I couldn't do much because I only had so much energy,” she explained. “But it became a blessing in disguise. I could think, "What do I want to put energy into? What's really important in my life? What do I want to do with this time I've been given?"

Tiffany noticed that her highest intentions were peace and love, and that they start from within.

“Maybe it's a cliché, but when I feel that sense of peace inside, I can share that and bring that to other people. It's not something I say or do; it's just holding that intention.”

On a similar note, Aurora from Mexico shared, “I was living a hectic life—trying to get through this day and on to the next one. Now I’m trying to pay more attention to who I am. It's a challenge, because it's something I'm not used to, but I am taking small baby steps toward that. For example, I realized I have not tasted the food I have been eating for who knows how long. Now I try to taste the food.”

Towards the end of the call, Mish and Aryae each offered an intention to simplify their daily to-do lists.

“Rather than have it cluttered with 10 or 15 or 20 things, what about the most important three things on the to-do list and focus on that?” Aryae posed.

As the saying goes, when we’re off by an inch, we’re off by a mile in the end. These small windows of simplified living served as touch points into our response to countless elements of stimulus in our lives—and how a small glimmer of awareness can transform murky waters into transparent clarity.

Noticing Nature

“For me, simplicity is the knife that cuts through the complexity and takes me into the aliveness of a living universe.”

Duane Elgin’s words pierced the air, crystal clear.



Perhaps when we step back from the clouds of human inventions—mental, physical, social, and beyond—we are more able to tap into the undercurrents of nature, the deeper frequencies that pulse within and around us.

Stephanie in Berkeley, CA observed how going out and taking a walk alone could change the trajectory of a day. Prakash in Hayward, CA found himself filled with gratitude for our natural resources, especially water. Several others noted the unassuming joy of connecting with animals.

“My greatest pleasures are the simple things now. Sitting under my arbor watching birds and the flowers, for example,” Mindyjourney offered. “My cumulative experiences have taught me that the best things in life are the simple things that cannot be bought with money.”

Adria from Washington added, “We have an outdoor pond with fish. They all have names. One of the greatest pleasures in life is to go to the pond and call the fishes. They come to the surface and say "Feed us." That's simple. That's connection.”

Small moments of attention can bring about the genuine, down-to-earth delights. When we pause and take notice of our biological existence, each moment of connection may just unearth a symphony of eternity at our fingertips.



A Material World

Inspired by the challenge, Swara in India interviewed Gandhian elders, Arun-dada and Meera-ba. Amit relayed Meera-ba’s answer to the question, “Why should we live a simple life?”:



"There is a beautiful saying: 'The more you have, the less you are. The less you have, the more you are.' Either you flourish, or the material around you flourishes. The more you possess outside, the fewer opportunities you have to spend on internal growth."

Similarly, Duane explained, “Where do I find aliveness? It's in my relationships, my creativity, my contributions to other people, my connections with nature. That doesn't cost anything”

Along those lines, Bradley noticed the difference between wants and needs, reflecting, “For me simplicity comes down to answering one question: Do I want this or do I need this? The vast majority of the time, the answer is 'I want it.' I want to minimize this answer.”

Kathy from DC posed the delicate balance needed as one comes-of-age as an adult.

“Where do you grow in your career, but still try to keep your life simple?” she asked. “My husband and I went from our one-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom house with the intention of starting a family soon… There's a sense that, the more you have— and as we grow older and more established in our careers, we're getting to have more things— we’re almost less connected and less simple. It's a matter of a balancing act.”

Perhaps simplicity lays not so much in our physical possessions, but in our mental relationship to them. When we are able to let things go as easily as we acquire them, we don’t accumulate much mental residue, and our physical environment can reflect that.



Angela in Berlin noticed this in her experience moving from the United States to Germany with the constraint of just 2 suitcases. “I had to give away or sell everything I had… It was the most freeing experience for me ever, especially coming from the American culture of ‘gather, gather, consume’ to completely letting go. So that was the first impulse of how wonderful letting go can be, and how freeing that is.”

Sandy in Georgia experienced a parallel lesson, as her family moved 24 times, including a few intervals where they switched their primary language of Spanish and English. “I have learned to let go of things automatically as life threw them at me. Thinking of challenges, I have been challenged. Life always made me let go of friends, space, school, language, everything. I can de-clutter very easily. I have reduced all my closets to a third.”

Whether through the lens of material goods, mental patterns, or natural circadian rhythms, simplicity is as pervasive as air—invisibly out-shadowed by our modern pace of life, yet always accessible, witnessing all and waiting to offer us its timeless gifts.

Story after story, insight after insight, Saturday’s "Garden of Simplicity” Awakin Call was truly a reflection of a community of resonant intentions put into practice. One caller wrote in: “While I knew simplicity is the right path for me, to be honest it is a lonely path. The greatest gift of the challenge has been the community.”

Throughout the 90 minutes, as one person’s share inspired another, as one idea or experience seeded many others, it was apparent that a resilient garden of simplified living is being tilled across the globe— one possession, one act, one thought at a time. 


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