I think the way we’ve organised to live is pretty awful. Poverty makes people miserable, and wealthy doesn’t bring satisfaction. Which reminds of Mannfred Max-Neef’s verdict on our current lifestyle – that it is, and I quote, “a stupid way to live”.
The better way of living is quite simple in essence I think. It is:
living at a human scale and at a human pace.
The details are as diverse as the areas of our lives. Here are some guidelines – something of miscellany: choose the easiest for you. Then move on to the next easy one.
Have casual encounters in diverse settings. It builds community and gives us a better sense of the whole of the person than if we just meet to get a task done or in just one place.
Listen to your sensations. Your muscles and gut provide you with information. If you need to consult others or experts to interpret the information, seek them out. But it doesn’t need a doctor to tell you that your muscles need relaxing or that you need to take a break. And doing these when your body tells you can significantly improve your life.
Listen to your emotions. They provide you with information about yourself and the world around you. The idea that we shouldn’t take account of our emotions in our way of life, our response to others and how we care for ourselves, is a silly prejudice leading to needless suffering.
Connect frequently to your sense of purpose. (Your values or your spirit.) Living with lasting satisfaction means more than the satisfying of bodily needs. This may just mean a pause a few times a day. Or it may mean time each day or going on retreat.
Have fun – by yourself and with others. Being organised, realistic, conscious are all wonderful human capacities. So are giggling and humour and silliness. And our culture tends to encourage the former, so provide some balance with the latter. This may be most difficult for (and so be most important for) couples with kids – the parent guilt industry and large, well resourced and relentless.
Live more locally. Ideally most of our necessities and connections to essential services would be within walking distance of where we live. Until then . . . we can do stuff like going for a walk (if the neighbourhood and climate is suitable) rather than going to the gym, grow some food (even herbs in a box can add a bit more delight to your meals, growing from seed can be very cheap – swapping the surplus you’ve grown with neighbours has multiple benefits).
Express your heart. In words to those you love (it can be a shock to realise how seldom we do this) and in an art or craft if this calls to you.
Look for beauty; and when you find it, notice it for a little while (even a second or two can make a difference).
Don’t neglect idleness. Just sit and let your thoughts and feelings drift and go where they may. Just hang out with friends. We tend to be too busy.
These are my ideas for a better way of living. I would like to hear yours. Let me know in the comments. What are the changes you think we need to make to live better? Any and all suggestion in any area of living are very welcome.