by Leo Babauta
I heard a saying from India,“All you need are two chapattis a day.” It doesn’t literally mean you should subsist on two pieces of bread a day, but is a reminder of how little we actually need.
I’ve found this saying useful lately, as I’ve had urges to eat delicious food, buy more clothes, and more. It stops me and reminds me that I need very little, even if I want a lot of things.
It amazes me how often we want things we don’t need at all. The idea pops into our heads, the urge to make that idea follows it, and we have a mental habit of just following the urge. The idea might have been put in our heads by something we read online or heard from a friend or watched on a TV show. It doesn’t matter where the idea came from … we instantly want it.
I know I’ve gotten it into my head to take a trip, or train for an event, simply from the mention of the idea by someone else. All of a sudden, I’m hooked on this idea, and am changing my life to make it a reality. I’ll book a trip and spend time planning it and going on the trip, simply because the idea came into my head. I’ve trained for physical events (like a triathlon, ultramarathon, the Goruck Challenge) for months, simply because the idea came into my head.
The same goes for food: I get a craving for a food, and I’m suddenly on the hunt for it. Food is in front of me, and I can’t resist eating it even if I’m not that hungry.
What if we stopped ourselves when the idea comes into our heads? What if we noticed the urge at its outset, and just took it for what it is: an impulse that arises in us like a thousand other thoughts and feelings do all day long. We don’t need to be slaves to our impulses. We can see them with mindfulness and just watch them with curiosity. We can remind ourselves that we only need two pieces of bread, and return to our normal programming. We can make choices not based on urges but on our bigger intentions. And I think we can find happiness in very little, because the happiness comes not from fulfilling our urges but realizing there’s good in us and in every moment of our lives.