simplicity and the internet

as someone with a strong buddhist influence, i often think about simplicity, and make tiny, cautious steps towards it. my baroque mind finds this rather ridiculous because life is most fun and exciting when there are lots and lots of decorations and curlicues, when there is boundless abundance and variations upon variations on themes upon themes, n’est-ce-pas?

and still.

some weeks ago, we held a garage sale. the items we sold were spread out on the lawn. there were more possessions than a poor family in haiti ever has – yet so little was missing from our house that no-one noticed a thing.

this left quite an impression on me. ever since then i try to get rid of at least one thing every day, and have tried not to buy too much.

that’s my material life. then there’s other aspects of my life. i know so many people, and i don’t feel i do them justice. they give me their friendship and i only have so much time and energy to reciprocate (or let’s say i think i only have so much time; i truly don’t know whether this is an accurate assessment).

and then there is the internet. sooooo many interesting people. soooooo many interesting words, thoughts, images, so much fascinating music, so many games to play! for all intents and purposes, or, let’s be precise, for the intents and purposes of this person with this mind, the internet is endless, fathomless.

now what?

i’d like to find a way to honour all the good people on the internet that i come across while at the same time moving closer to the principle of simplicity. i’d like to do this with love, with an open heart, in fluidity and organically.

have you found a way?

i’m asking this question, among others, of the buddhist bloggers that buddhist chaplain andy fisher took the trouble the other day to list. here you are. thanks, andy!


  1. Hi Isabella,

    Have you ever read the book, “How to Simplify Your Life,” by Tiki Kustenmacher?

    It’s a great book full of wonderful ideas to make life more straightforward.

    Personally, I feel that one of the key aspects of simplicity is that of prioritization – less quantity, more quanlity. It means spending more of your financial, time and other resources in fewer, key priority areas. It means letting go of the less important to concentrate on the more important.

    From my viewpoint, priority managment is at the forefront in terms of the effective management of virtually any area of life.

    Less quantity – more quality!

    Andrew’s last blog post..IBAT – Showing how cooperation produces results

  2. What a wonderfully baroque list of buddhist sites in your post on simplicity…


    I’ve always had, due to a mind that nearly abhors life in western materialistic culture, next to no possessions…

    In fact, the damn government gave me a small pension recently and now I have things that I don’t want to give away…


    ~ Alex from Our Evolution

    Alexander M Zoltai’s last blog post..Game of Life – The Rewards

  3. Hello there, and thanks for the mention of The Buddha Diaries on your blog. I don’t have a useful answer to your question about the Internet and simplicity: it does seem to me a place of infinite complexity. I suppose it gets down to a matter of choice. If I choose to keep it simple, it will remain so. Too often, though, the opposite takes hold, and I get lost in the labyrinth. On my blog, I have a handful of faithful correspondents, and maintain contact with them. This helps. By the way, I notice that in your practice you have a special interest in eating disorders–a disease with which we had close contact in our family some fifteen years ago. I honor your commitment to help those who suffer from it.

    Peter Clothier’s last blog post..Miscellaneous Political

  4. Isabella, thanks for the post and question. Excuse me in advance for the flight of fancy this response will become.

    I can relate wholeheartedly to the situation you describe. I have felt the longing to simplify, at times already recognizing a rather simple life, and I also have felt the desire to dive into a world of rich texture. I guess poking for a Buddhist answer we might come to the Buddha’s teachings on the Middle Way: Neither to dive into the worldly, nor to stand aloof. But that would point us only to the dilemma — in other words, it begs the question just to say that. The question is precisely how might we accomplish that balancing act.

    For me, the question might even be better asked with more complexity: does that supposed middle way have to be an “in-between” space between those two options presented? Does it have to be such a dualistic conceptualization? Might a good answer not just recognize more than the dichotomy, and that an answer is likely not to be pious to any notion of purity or perfect states? Hence, the answer might not be to walk a tightrope between these two poles (say, simplicity and richness), but rather how simplicity and richness occupy a circle, a common space, a common ground or dwelling space we inhabit when we look deeply, when we learn not to oppose them and antithetical to each other.

    Simplicity does not have to be bareness of material goods (although that might be a part of it), and richness does not have to be profligacy or excess. We might take heart from our use of the word “simply.” Being simply present, being simply friendly, being simply loving, being simply rich in friendship — being simply has a bit more texture than “simplicity” conceived as a kind of austerity. Being simply… points me to being fully present, being fully with what is, also recognizing the flow of being — becoming, and our various interactions with what flows into that dwelling space and with which we interact – richly, by simply being.

    Let me try another approach. Your question and post made me think of Gadamer (hermeneuticist). Gadamer’s philosophical work points to how we enter into dialogical relationships with the past (but substitute here the text, or events, etc.) and from that engagement with derive understanding. That understanding is a “fusion of horizons” (the horizon brought to us by the text, or the past, and the horizon we bring to it). Instead of seeing meaning, understanding, or an answer emerging from the dichotomy highlighted by the question, we might consider that a living of that moment, of that relationship, is fused through us as intersection point. The question then becomes, as Kierkegaard noted, a question to live, rather than a question to answer — because it is in that living that we might answer it for us, that we might find, at times more than others, an understanding, a “simply-ness.”

    Now, that’s enough of the abstract. On to the pragmatic: my own experience has been that even when I dive into the richness, I find ultimately that what is fulfilling me in that are rather straightforward and simple relations. For that, it helps when I do a bit of abstracting: what do I find in that diving that fulfills me? love, caring, companionship, friendship. What stuff in that diving in do not offer that, or mask other things for that? Over-consumption, for instance, is a way to mask those things. In what way might I curtail over-consumption and still find fulfillment of those social needs? This is active and tough work and much is arrayed against us in our social world.

    I often ponder this question, and its offshoots, when I am with my children. : )

    Oh, I probably didn’t help any, but your question gave me a moment of mindfulness and thought, and recognition of kindredness. Thank you.


    Nacho’s last blog post..Goofy Break

  5. thanks all for the great comments!

    nacho, what a delightful long answer! i actually found it very helpful.

    always come back to the being. simply.

    and simplicity and richness occupying a circle, a common space.

    that speaks to me.

    may i listen.

  6. Hi Isabella

    I love the simplicity, and make tiny, cautious steps towards it. That is so true in so many level. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

    Giovanna Garcia

  7. giovanna, thanks for visiting! nice to meet you over at liz’s blog.

    nacho, thanks for encouraging me to delve more into this. interestingly enough, i have a TON of things on my plate next month, so probably that will focus me a bit. but that’s not really the intention. i’d like to live the simple internet life even when i’m not forced to.

  8. Simplicity is a goal of mine. I am very tired of all the clutter in my life. More and more I am looking for less and less. It means less stress, cleaning, upgrading, filing, etc.

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