I would like to talk about simplicity. What are you inspired to say about simplicity in our work?
I’d say it’s removing all the excess.
And in what context?
I think it can be applied in all contexts. For example, in social relationships, do not seek recognition, impress, or add something to fill the void. However, depending on what is required socially, I can also act “as if” to smooth out my interactions with people.
Simplicity is what you just said, but it comes first from simplicity with myself. So trimming the superfluous in myself means staying with what I am and what is there, and expressing from there without adding superfluous layers of desires, for example. From there, there may be a functional need to keep a social life or not, so simplicity is not to create it, not to generate something that is not necessary, not to generate things that do not exist, in my personal life.
I relate this to the concept of the three centers. When the three centers work independently, there is simplicity. When this is not the case, then all superfluous things emerge.
The “complexifier ” emerges!
For me simplicity is associated with vigilance. For example, with regard to speech, there is vigilance with regard to where the words come from.
It could be accepting me as I am with everything I know, with everything I don’t know, and not doing too much, not filling the void, not filling anything, accepting the questions, accepting that there is no answer. Listening to that sincerity sends me back to simplicity, and it is also linked to humility.
For me simplicity comes from humility: when one is in a state of humility, one is in simplicity. It seems unlikely to me to be in humility and to complicate things. And I’d say it generates very natural behavior and even thought. There is also a kind of innocence in simplicity, an almost childlike innocence.
I recently witnessed an exchange between my two grandchildren who are 7 and 5 years old, and it seemed very beautiful to me. Now I am realizing that it touched me because there was that simplicity. They were playing quietly, and at some point one says something to the other, and the little brother answers peacefully: “You say that because you don’t love me,” and the other thinks and says to him: “Sometimes I love you” and the little one answers: “Yes, but not very often,” and they continue to play with equal emotion. I was in the next room, I was very touched. Yes, they don’t like each other very much. It was said with equal simplicity on both sides. Both children were in contact with their reality, as it was, without comment. That’s what was beautiful.
It comes back to “not adding superfluous.” It’s really what for me is the heart of simplicity, and it refers to the unreal. We talked about real life versus false life. Real life is simple.
I was thinking about what A. said about humility: I have the impression that it is a statement we can make afterwards. As long as there is acceptance of what is and of this simplicity of life, even if the situation can be very complex, we can see after that acceptance that it is humility, eventually.
In children, I don’t know if humility can be present. It may only be present when you’re an adult. Somehow, we’re going to have to make the trip backwards. First there is a complexification process, and then the path is made backwards, towards simplicity. And that’s where humility comes in for me.
I agree with you, I think you have to have a sense of control first to realize that you don’t control, and then it’s really humility. While children don’t think they can run life, change things, until a certain age.
You said: “Simplicity is removing the superfluous.” Is it automatic that when one is in simplicity, the superfluous is already removed?
Yes, I see them as equivalent, for me it’s synonymous, it’s two ways of saying the same thing.
So when we talk too much here, there’s a lack of simplicity?
So it would be nice to remember that from time to time.
I would like to come back to the fact of “talking too much.” How do we think we talk too much? Who can judge him, and against what?
At a certain period, we did the exercise of talking only in relation to the immediate functional.
Yes. We keep doing that. The instruction has not changed.
That’s true, but we kind of forgot about her! I must say that I still find it important to exchange, to know where people are in their lives. For example, I can ask A. where she is in her job. There are exchanges which do not concern the functional, but which are not necessarily superfluous, they are rather in the consideration of the other. Is there a space for that, or do we want to forbid it here? And is that complexification?
Is it really necessary here? It’s already done enough in everyday life. What need does that fill in yourself? If I want to talk to you about something, it’s different. If you want to tell me about your grandmother’s death, you tell me. But why would I ask you to find out?
No, I’m not going to ask to know, there’s no neurotic need to know.
Okay, if it’s casual, if it’s in the mainstream, why not.
I regularly think about this instruction, and I observed that it had changed a lot compared to a time. When I work with S. and H. it’s quite rare that we slip on personal things and when we do it, it doesn’t last very long. We give each other news because we have interesting situations to share, but I don’t have the impression that it interferes with work.
Yes, I think compared to before, it’s now at a healthy level.
Are there other areas where there is a lack of simplicity here? Where there’s too much superfluity, or unnecessary superfluity?
In cooking, I have observed that there is often a lot of complication for very simple things. For example, this morning, for hummus, I made all the quantity with garlic, and I was told that I should have put some aside without garlic. But it was done that way, for me it wasn’t a problem.
So you’re supposed to think about me or others who don’t like raw garlic, and you didn’t. How is that a complication?
Because after that it creates a headache “we didn’t think about it, and then if, and then…” For me it’s very complex, anyway we can’t change it.
You can make a dish again because you missed it, while keeping it simple. Care must be taken not to mix everything up. If you miss the soup five times and repeat it five times, but it’s simple in itself, there’s no problem. If, on the other hand, it generates a mess in oneself, an emotional shit, that’s superfluous.
Yes, that’s right. For example, in my opinion, yesterday’s soup production did generate some superfluity.
Did you detect any non-simplicity in the person who made the soup?
I think L. had the desire to satisfy everyone!
And remember what O. said earlier? To remove the superfluous, especially the desire.
It’s also important to take responsibility for what you’ve done, right to the end.
What can you do when you detect this unnecessary agitation (intellectual/mental, physical or emotional) in someone?
Point it at in each other.
Yes, to signal it to the other, by making yourself a mirror.
The other who sees him(her) wonders: “Oh, am I in emotional, mental, physical stress?” and then (s)he can stop it him(her)self.
What if that’s not enough?
It is up to the person to detect it in him(her)self. If (s)he doesn’t realize, too bad. But normally (s)he realizes, it produces a little shock.
Is it compatible to be simple and stressed at the same time?
On this subject, there is a definition that speaks to me well, which distinguishes between positive stress and negative stress. Stress is excess energy to do something. If I consume it, for example when a dog chases me, and I run away with the full power of my legs: I am consuming my stress. In this case there is no problem, and I am in simplicity. If on the other hand I stress about something, and it becomes mental: “why doesn’t he call me, something serious has surely happened to him.” In this case, it is a stress that does not consume energy, that makes thoughts loop, and we have lost simplicity. There, we added complexity.
Yes, in this case, we are in the superfluous. Actually, we’re not here, we’re not in real life. We’re in a fantasy.
There is also a stress that one consumes on the spot, but which causes disorderly gestures, where one becomes very clumsy. This stress is not mental, however, and it is expressed in the moment.
It is expressed by superfluous movements.
In my opinion, it happens when different centers try to control at the same time.
Yes, we are no longer in the equanimity of the three centers, that’s clear. It is either the mind that is agitated, the emotional that is agitated, or the physical that is agitated.
And indeed, there may be a real need to do something, a certain urgency. Because of that urgency, we don’t work to restore equanimity in the centers, we just do whatever needs doing in an agitated state.
Absolutely. (To L.) When you find yourself in unnecessary stress, you complicate.
Yes. What happened with the soup is a typical example.
Simplicity is incompatible with internal consideration. In other words, if there is internal consideration, there cannot be simplicity.
And you, H., have you ever gotten too into intellectual considerations when you start to stress?
Yes, but it’s a form of stress that I recognize less easily. It’s not the same kind of stress that we were talking about earlier. There is fear of error, among other things.
Yeah, that’s it. Unnecessary stress can occur at all levels.
For me they are two very different feelings of stress. There is one that is very physiological, very palpable, and the other that is actually much more in the mental energies.
That’s what I’m talking about. You can also call it feverishness. (To H.) Do you now recognize when feverishness might take over? There comes a time when you start to deviate, not doing things right, losing attention, that for me is your typical stress. And then you let go of your responsibility too.
You mean the tendency not to go through with things? Am I missing some kind of relentlessness?
Yes. That’s what happened with the roof preparation, you were really long overdue. And when it was already too late, you simply sent me information telling me that it wasn’t possible to do it, but it was clear that you hadn’t gone through with it, remember? There was probably some stress back there.
I remember the context, but I find it hard to associate that with the notion of stress.
I had never made the difference between useful and useless stress. But I’ve been under a lot of useful stress lately, and that’s when I really realized it. Yesterday, at the last minute, we decided to eat outside: we had to quickly move all the dishes and the food. My movements had the qualities of a safety and orderliness, and the mind did not interfere; for me it was clearly a good stress. And that’s when I really distinguished between this useful stress and the unnecessary stress.
Unnecessary stress takes us out of body consciousness, and also out of simplicity. Unnecessary stress can be physical, emotional or mental. And that’s interesting to watch. Cognitive restlessness is mental stress. Physical agitation has been talked about, and with emotional agitation, there is anxiety, fear, paranoia. Unnecessary stress is incompatible with body consciousness and simplicity. Either we are in body consciousness and simplicity, or we are in unnecessary stress, but the two cannot coexist.
Sometimes I get lost in the details and get stuck, so I have to stop and do something else. I stop, and then I come back.
Yes, getting lost in detail, identifying with detail is a typical example when there is unnecessary stress.
When I prepared for the trip, I experienced a useful stress that allowed me to be very efficient in terms of organization, getting my tools down and loading the car. There was acute vigilance, both in detail and overall. I had also made a checklist for the preparation.
I do that too. Yes, it’s very useful to be well organized. Can we say that good organization helps avoid unnecessary stress? And a good anticipation?
Yes, unless we over-anticipate. Because you can also get stressed in anticipation and want to settle details too far in advance. We have to find the right measure.
Being well organized and anticipating avoids unnecessary stress. Unnecessary stress is also unnecessary suffering, self-created unnecessary suffering. This is often due to poor organization. And over-organization is a special case due to unnecessary stress. You can’t over-organize if you’re not stressed.
Absolutely. Over-organization for me is clearly a response to an identity mechanism of fear.
Yeah, that’s it.
This morning in the kitchen i realized at a certain moment (when I saw that it was necessary in order to not be late) to hurry up. And then my movements became much faster.
Yes, it was managing useful stress well.
Speaking of organization, what can help is setting milestones. By estimating the overall duration of the task, we put milestones: “in an hour I should be at about this stage, in two hours at this stage,” it allows us to see its progress and possibly do speed up to reach the milestones. Rather than have all the stress that can become unmanageable in the last half hour.
Another point concerning the organization: it is good to calculate a little broader, to include unforeseen events. And it also avoids unnecessary stress when you have the time to deal with the unexpected. But despite this, there are unforeseen events so unpredictable that sometimes you have to switch useful stress, in these cases you clearly have no choice!
Body consciousness and simplicity are the guarantors to avoid unnecessary stress. Can everyone subscribe to that?
(To L.) I think you have discovered something essential for you with simplicity.
It’s true, when things aren’t going well, I complicate things! And it’s all about non-humility, pride, wanting to be perfect, the whole package that goes with it!
And when you’re stuck, when you can’t do anything anymore, because the situation is blocked, all you have to do is accept the necessary suffering. Sometimes the situation is totally blocked, it can happen too.
And A., when you go too far into the meanderings of your imagination, are you still in simplicity? I also see you complicating things sometimes.
Yes, of course!
It’s up to you to see what unnecessary stress back there triggers this. I wonder if it’s not also at the mental level that the wheels in the mind start to turn too much when you’re stressed? You lose it sometimes, I get the feeling, when there’s too much. For example the organization to come here, it’s very recent!
Yes! But the situation was hyper-complicated!
Of course there are complex situations, but there is also the way to manage them. For me when it gets too complex, I switch into detachment and I wait, and a little like Ad. said, I do something else. And then I get the impression that you didn’t do that, you stayed in the complexity, you stayed attached to “it’s complicated, it’s complicated! How do I do it, how can I handle it?”
Yeah, but I’m having a little trouble figuring that out. I will be watching this phenomenon closely.
Another example came to me. When I’m at work, sometimes I have rather complicated tasks, I don’t really know how to proceed and I’m a little confused. Maybe there is also an emotion, I have to hurry, I find it a stupid task, and I feel this discomfort in my body: this is not simplicity. But if I become aware of this situation, I see that it is indeed a complicated task, but if I am vigilant, it can remain really simple in me.
It’s the attitude that counts.
There is a big difference between complexity and complexification. We just talked about complicating things. It’s adding to the mess. Similarly, “being simple” does not mean being simplistic. I’ve been using Ockham’s principle a lot lately, and I realize you only find when you’re simple. It can be something complex, but in any case the simplest solution comes when we ourselves are simple.
The principle of what?
Ockham’s razor. It was a Franciscan monk who said that the simplest solution that works is the best. I will summarize very quickly: it is pruning, pruning, pruning.
And we find what was said earlier: “to remove the superfluous.”
And A-M, you know the unnecessary stress in your life?
Yes, and I think it’s emotional for me. It can paralyze me completely. There may be emotions such as fear and doubt, which create unnecessary stress.
And what are you doing then?
If I am aware of it right away, I come back into my breathing, and I observe what is behind it as necessary suffering. Usually it settles pretty quickly. I have a recent example, but it’s not really stress. My daughter and her children have gone abroad for two months to work. I haven’t heard from them at all because it’s not our family style to call each other every day. They came home recently and spent the weekend at my house with the kids. I was so happy to see them, we went to the beach the night before, and the next morning when I woke up there was nobody left in the house. They left without even leaving a note. And I found it a little bitter, because until the day before we had hardly seen each other. Then, I felt this emotion, and that was really interesting, because if there is this emotion, it must be coming from some attachment. So, I looked for the attachment that was behind it, and so I was grateful for this situation, because I could see the necessary suffering apparently due to the fact that my daughter no longer had anything emotional with me. And I had just become aware of all this, and she called me and said: “You know I didn’t want to wake you, but come on, we’re at the river!” I brought a picnic basket and we spent the day together. It was great. It was very clear to me how emotion can get out of hand.
For us it’s normal now, because we apply this work in everyday life, and that’s really great. But most people – and you too before – are regularly confronted with similar situations, and it produces daily dramas! I really feel grateful, because we’re lucky we don’t have to go through this useless shit anymore! Because we found the key, we found ways to keep/get out of these games.
And it’s a key that we can also pass on to those who want it and are open to it, I’m not talking about people who are hooked on their suffering.
Yes, but I can guarantee you that 99% of people are very attached to their unnecessary suffering, because much of their identity is based on it. If we take away the unnecessary pain, they panic! They have nothing left to hold on to! That’s the problem.
Sometimes I feel people are open, and I find that the distinction between useful suffering and useless suffering can be transmitted.
There must be, or we wouldn’t be here! (laughs) But still, you see the small number of people who do this work. Most people claim unnecessary stress and unnecessary suffering, that’s the big part of their identity. If they are offered to get rid of unnecessary suffering, they may kill you, because they cannot even imagine living without unnecessary suffering and unnecessary stress. It’s part of their lives, like breathing.
It reminds me of an interview with François Roustang, in which he explains that one day he received a patient who had undergone psychotherapy and who was really in deep suffering. He makes him sit down and hypnotize him and when the guy comes back, he says, “Oh yes, I know now what to do to stop suffering, but I won’t do it! Maybe I am suffering, but at least I have my bearings, and what you are offering me is the unknown, and I don’t want to go there.
Exactly. People say to you: “No, not that!” It’s about finding people who can do it, also because it takes endurance. You yourself have not completed one or two years of training. It took years of commitment and work to get there. Almost nobody is ready to do that, because it also requires learning: learning the tools, applying them, experiencing frustrations, not being able to do it. And of course, knowing how to welcome the necessary suffering is not easy, it is even unthinkable for most people.
I would like to add something about people’s resistance to change. The affirmation of the true is something much more subtle and less striking than denouncing the false. It’s like recognizing the silence behind the noise. It is much more difficult to recognize silence than to recognize noise. Well, it’s the same, it’s relatively easy to recognize emotions, but it’s much harder to recognize that something has changed, when it’s subtle, because it’s gone and therefore it’s something that’s no longer there.
Absolutely. From a certain moment on, you don’t create karma anymore, and that’s important. By doing this work, you no longer create additional problems that could have had repercussions for many years.
Here is a short text on identity, written by François Roustang, which can be found in his book “La fin de la plainte.” This text concerns precisely the identity which complicates: “Identity is composed of all the items that an individual can pride himself on. Its origin, its country, its history, its symptoms. The definition he gives himself in them makes it rigid because they are the place of his control and sufficiency. Singularity, on the other hand, appears each time identity is neglected. She’s like style, obvious and elusive. It involves the risk of irremediable loneliness, of what is estimated as a death threat, and although given once and for all, it is apprehended only by others, and never by oneself. The loss, for the patient, of his identity, which he does not want to change, is necessary so that the usual reference points that constituted his unmodified relationship to himself, to others and to the environment are abandoned, and so that he allows a new configuration of his world to happen, through what is given to him and that he cannot change.” He speaks of singularity as a basic value, as our individual specificity, which we never see ourselves. I thought it was beautiful. And that’s really the big simplification.
Yes, it’s very beautiful.
It was clear he was free. But he didn’t want to teach.
If he recognizes that he cannot be a teacher, he is not. Not everyone can teach. Like Stephen Jourdain and others. It’s very special to be a teacher, because you have to find a way to pass on what you understand. That aspect must be part of your essential value, otherwise it can’t work.