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This is not about nutrition

The majority of the world’s people live largely on grain and beans. Seeds. In Mexico it’s corn and beans, in much of the rest of the world it is rice and beans. Even here, in the US, we fall back on a few staples, especially when things are tight or maybe when we’re just tired of excess. I’m pretty tired of excess. I’m moving towards a rice and beans life.

My writing here is rice and beans

If you scan the stuff I post here, it veers between business advice and personal observations. I’ll be honest, I don’t have an agenda for my writing here. It is fantastic when a story resonates and people read it and respond to it. But that isn’t why I’m here writing this morning. Nor is it the money, which, it appears, requires a gargantuan effort for a very small return. If getting paid was my only priority as a writer, I wouldn’t be wasting time here. I certainly hope someone takes that to heart. There are many ways to live on writing, this isn’t one of them. But it is extremely valuable.

Minimalism is a meta description

Do you know what a meta description is? In web development, a meta description lies in the page’s code and tells a search engine what the page is about. If the meta description is associated with an image, it serves to tell a visually-impaired person what the image shows, via a voice reader. In life, minimalism is a meta description, a distillation of the complexity into its basic elements. Everything else is an embellishment.


I’ve been rereading Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, a set of brief teachings from Shunryu Suzuki (not to be confused with D.T. Suzuki), a Zen roshi who emigrated to the US in the sixties and started the Tassajara Zen Center in Marin and the San Francisco Zen Center, two of the earliest Zen centers in the US. These brief lectures are the essence of Zen and for those who find the mindfulness movement a little too wishy washy, they cut through and illuminate the process quite clearly. They are eminently practical and straightforward which defines a minimal mindset. Get to the point and deal with it.

The present is a slippery thing

Did you ever mix a box of cornstarch with water in a bowl and play with it? It looks like a thick liquid but when you put your hand in and squeeze it, it gets solid, like putty that you can move around. But the minute you release the pressure it slips away back into a liquid state. This business of being mindful and minimal has that same slipperiness. Too much focus and you think you have it, then you let up for just a moment and…there it goes. But the exercise has value. For that moment you are just here dealing with that thing.

Editing makes things more powerful

I’m intentionally letting this notion follow its own logic. I could rein it in and beat the metaphor to death but I’ll skip that. This morning I read an open letter from a writer here to a friend who is coping with alcoholism. The writer admitted to being ADHD along with about five hundred other things. He created lists of things his friend should do (long lists) and included a very long list of his accomplishments. I’m not quite sure how this helped his friend but it probably made him feel better. I resisted the temptation to be a dick and edit his writing until it no longer focused entirely on him!

In the white room

The white room, with a few pieces of very well designed furniture and a treasured piece of art on the wall, is an icon of modern interior design. It rests the eye and with it the mind. We see an image of a room like that in a magazine or online and a part of us wonders why we don’t live in a place like that. I have the same reaction when I see Japanese Zen gardens. I’m fortunate enough to live across the street from one that is behind the Rochester Zen Center. It is hidden but open to the public for contemplation, however when I go there to practice for a bit I never see anyone except the occasional Zen student, and they are always quiet. These gardens turn minimalism into an art but the goal is not public acclaim. It is to provide an environment that helps people drop things from their mind and simply exist for a moment.

It turns out this actually is about nutrition

Remember Chicken Soup for the Soul? That ridiculously successful book series that turned a simple concept into a business, then got completely out of touch with its original premise of simplicity? The authors had a great concept. Refine some simple life lessons into comfort food on the page. And people responded by buying millions of books and other products. Then they went and made it into a cash machine. They turned homemade chicken soup into Campbell’s, then they added about a hundred new flavor variations. But we don’t need a hundred flavors of chicken soup. Or rice and beans. Make it the way you like and share it with someone. That’s enough.

Written by

Novelist, Tech Marketing Writer, Growth Consultant. I have been a professional writer for over 20 years- 8 non-fiction books and 1 novel, many articles, etc.

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