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.