The Effortless Life: Leo Babauta Interview # 6

by Tess

Today's interview is with Leo Babauta, simplicity blogger and author of Zen Habits. Leo's latest ebook, The Effortless Life: A Manual for Contentment, Mindfulness and Flow is my favorite. Enjoy!

This book is eloquently written and filled with wisdom for a life time. Besides Susan from the Zen Center, who have been your biggest teachers?  

Leo: There have been so many teachers. I’m very lucky to have read and talked with a ton of fascinating, inspiring, wise people. My mom, Shannon Murphy, is one of my biggest influences. I’ve also been influenced by Thoreau, Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, Noam Chomsky and many others.

Can you explain to our readers how this book was written? How did the contributors find out about it?

Leo: Ah, it was a thing of beauty. One of my most exciting writing projects ever, because it was written collaboratively. I started a Google Doc, then thought, “What would happen if I allowed the world to watch me write this live?” So I shared it publicly, and announced it on Twitter and Google+. People could see me writing as I typed. Then I allowed it to be edited publicly, by anyone, and it was amazing — dozens of people were editing and contributing to it at the same time as I was. Chaotic but a lot of fun. I had no idea how the project would turn out, but I’m very happy.

Can you briefly explain what you mean by an effortless life?

Leo: For many years I struggled with life — not only with bad habits and debt, but with goals and frustrations with others, etc. I was thrashing around with a lot of effort, but not a lot of progress. In the last few years I’ve learned a lot about what works, what makes life easier, so that you can glide much further with much less effort. These days my life feels effortless, as I do what I love and live in the present.

You invite us to remove the need for many actions. Why do you think we fear doing so?

Leo: We have grown to believe that the more we do, the better. This comes from not knowing what to do, so we do everything we can, and hope some of it will work. But if we really know what we’re doing, only a few actions are needed. So the fear of doing less comes from fear of the unknown, and the only way to beat that is with small experiments that will tell you what works and what doesn’t.

What have you subtracted from your life recently? What do you struggle with subtracting?

Leo: I’ve recently stopped eating breakfast, which goes against most things we’ve read or heard. I live with fewer clothes than ever before. I only keep a few books these days, even though I love books. What have I struggled with subtracting? I still like eating out with family or friends, probably more than I should.

You state you live mostly without goals. What are some of the few goals you have kept?

Leo: I find myself setting goals all the time when I don’t really think about it. It’s a mental habit I’ve had for many years. When I think about it, I start to let it go. A good example is the last bit of belly fat around my middle — it’s not a lot, but I find myself wanting to get rid of it. Then I remind myself to accept my body, and just live a healthy life that I love living.

You’re currently learning to give equal weight to every action. Does this mean you don’t have the three most important things on your to do list each day?

Leo: Sure, I still have a few important things to do, but I don’t keep a list. I just do what I’m excited about. That often includes things I didn’t consider quite as important as work tasks, like reading or going for a walk or eating a meal or hanging out with someone.

Leo, what excites you today?

Leo: Life. I’m overjoyed by life. I can’t believe what a miracle every single day is.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

John Sherry November 2, 2011 at 9:30 am

I don’t know about a Bible in every room in the world Tess but Leo’s book perhaps should be as we could all do with a good dose of effortless living instead of the modern mania, frantic chasing of the tail, and high speed full on work and home. Hopefully Leo will teach, because he’s clearly shown, that life isn’t a fight or a fury but a joy and a journey to be revelled in and appreciated. Great interview Tess and love the natural questions – you should do more interviews, you’re really good at them!!
John Sherry´s last post…Why ‘No Pain, No Gain’ Is Killing Your Sports And Possibly YOU!


Tess November 4, 2011 at 6:06 am

I agree, I think Leo’s way of life is a movement and someday we’ll look back and say remember when??? I hope so anyway! Thanks for your compliment.


Galen Pearl November 2, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Wonderful interview. Choosing based on what excites you–that’s the ticket. I love that and I’m going to think about it next time I have a choice to make. Like right now!
Galen Pearl´s last post…The M Word


Tess November 4, 2011 at 6:07 am

What a great way to think about what excites you? Eh? I think a lot of people don’t know what excites them. Great way to look at life.


Betsy at Zen Mama November 2, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Leo and Tess,
What a wonderful interview. I’ve been reading Zen Habits blog for several years now. I look forward to reading your next book!!
Thanks for the inspiration!!
Betsy at Zen Mama´s last post…7 Ways To Become An Active Listener


David Stevens November 2, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Hi Tess and thank you Leo,
A wonderful thought provoking & altering interview. We tend to ‘overdo’ many things in Life. Doing only the necessary is enriching. I have some subtracting to do & some thought alteration.
be good to yourself


Tess November 4, 2011 at 6:07 am

Hi David,
I think we all have some subtracting to do. Even in thoughts and words:) Thanks for stopping by.


Cathy | Treatment Talk November 2, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Hi Tess and Leo,

Inspiring interview! As I read, my body just relaxed. You can tell from his words that Leo lives as he speaks. It is definitely a wonderful way to live when we let go of the the furiously frantic lifestyle, and just calm down.
Cathy | Treatment Talk´s last post…National Drug Facts Week: Did You Know?


Tess November 4, 2011 at 6:08 am

Just calm down. Hey that sounds like the name of a book! Thanks for your contribution and support at TBL.


sheila November 3, 2011 at 3:43 am

That is incredible! How brave to write and edit it live. Wow!
sheila´s last post…My Take on Chores and Children


Tess November 4, 2011 at 6:09 am

Yes he is always stretching the envelope! How fun and exciting.


Justin | Mazzastick November 3, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Great interview Tess, Thanks for sharing. :) I am in agreement with Leo in not going too overboard with achieving goals.
Justin | Mazzastick´s last post…Intimacy Is Not for the Faint of Heart


Tess November 4, 2011 at 6:10 am

Yes if we are always future focused we miss the wonderful miracle of now.


Tess November 4, 2011 at 6:11 am

Yes if we are always future focused we miss the wonderful miracle of now. Thanks Justin.


Christopher Foster November 4, 2011 at 10:37 am

This is such a great interview Tess. Thank you so much for creating this and thank to Leo for participating. Leo’s spirit and unique approach to life shines through very clearly here and is a blessing to me and I’m sure to many others. As is your own spirit and unique approach to life.
Blessings to you both.
Christopher Foster´s last post…What is fitness? Introducing a pioneering plan to get fit and lose weight


Jt Clough | Big Island Dog November 4, 2011 at 11:06 am

Its amazing what happens when one makes a little change. It tends to end up really a really big thing.

I made a big change this year, but it was through my little 10 minute change I feel like I’ve fallen into a world filled with “my people”.

So great to “hang out” with the likes of you and Leo and many others who are of like minds.

Aloha Wags!
Jt Clough | Big Island Dog´s last post…Kona Dog Training Gone Hawaii Style


KenWert@MeanttobeHappy November 5, 2011 at 8:35 pm

This was an awesome interview, Tess!

I loved your questions and Leo’s sage-like responses. Streamlining life to it’s most essential parts, living in the now, learning to slow down and do what matters most with less effort. All such wonderful advice.

Thanks for sharing this wisdom with us, Tess! And thanks to Leo as well.
KenWert@MeanttobeHappy´s last post…Metaphors of the Mind: How to Change Your Thoughts and Have Fun Doing It!


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