The Art Of Living By Leo Babauta


Today I wanted to share a post written by Leo Babauta of called My Pursuit of the Art of Living. This is one of my favorite things I read this past year and it resonates with me on so many levels. I too believe that life itself is an art form and also try to practice (also imperfectly) many of the things he lists below.

Thanks Leo for continuing to be an inspiration to me.


For many years I simply lived, and got by.

But in the last few years, after learning a bit about habits and mindfulness and simplicity and love, I have changed my approach to living.

Now I see living as an art form, to be studied and played with and practiced and mastered. Of course, few ever master the art of living, and I don’t know if I ever will. Probably not.

But I can pursue this art. I can appreciate it when others do it well. I can learn about it, through experiments and observation and introspection.

My pursuit of the art of living is only just beginning, but I thought I’d share a bit about this pursuit with you, my good friends.


The journey begins with a single step, a wise man said, and for me that first step is simple:

Admit I don’t know.

Learning begins by emptying your cup, so that you can fill it with what you find. Emptying your cup means getting rid of pre-set opinions.

I don’t know what the art of living is, but I am curious.

And so the path is one of open hands, of curiosity and finding out.

And it’s one of bare feet, of being open and naked, willing to be exposed to life and chaos.

It’s about clear seeing, mindfulness turned to seeing reality as it is, without trying to make things rosy or conform to the story you tell yourself.

Clear seeing, naked, open hands, curious without knowing. That’s the path that I’ve found, so far.


With clear seeing, I start to see why I (and others) suffer, why we stress and get mad at each other and want more and more.

And now I can start to apply the art of living to my days.

Here’s what I practice with, imperfectly:

  • Compassion. Instead of being angry or frustrated, I find the pain in others, and open my heart to them. This includes compassion for myself.

  • Gratitude. Life is filled with wonder, and the people around me as well. I try to open myself to that wonder, and be grateful it’s there, instead of complaining.

  • Joyfear. Joy is an awesome thing to have, but joyfear is present in the powerful moments in life where joy and fear mix, where we’re taking chances and doing something outside of our comfort zone that both excites us and makes us face the possibility of failure. I now embrace these moments rather than avoiding them.

  • Not avoiding discomfort or uncertainty. When we avoid discomfort, we are limited by our comfort zone, and new learning and new ventures become impossible. When we avoid uncertainty, we only stick to what we know. But we can purposely become good at discomfort and uncertainty, by practicing in small bite-sized chunks, over and over.

  • Staying with the moment, even when it’s hard. This is the hardest of all. “Living in the moment” sounds wonderful, but actually staying with the present moment isn’t ever easy. Try it: with your eyes open, sit still and stay with the sights and sounds around you for 1 minute, without your mind wandering away from them. If you don’t notice your mind wandering, either you’re an experienced mindfulness practitioner, or you didn’t notice when your mind wandered.

  • Relationships are everything. Getting what we want, having things our way, having control, being right … these things matter nothing compared to relationships. Imagine being in your death bed at the age of 80 … will your sense of being right and in control comfort you when you have no good relationships, no one who has loved you? Put relationships first.

  • Not holding on to expectations & judgments. Expectations and judgments prevent me from enjoying what I have, from enjoying the simple presence of someone else in my life. I practice with noticing these expectations and judgments, and practice with holding them loosely, letting them go.

  • Letting go. This is the art of living in two words: letting go. It’s letting go of judgments, expectations, wanting to be right, wanting to control, fear of discomfort, fear of uncertainty, fear of failure, fear of boredom, comparing myself to others, wanting distraction, being irritated, complaining. It’s noticing when I’m holding these, and letting go. Loosening my heart’s grip on any of these, and letting go. And then letting go again. And again.

And so the art of living is a practice, one that doesn’t end, that doesn’t have a mastery level. It’s a constant letting go, a constant picking up again, and then letting go again. And falling, and getting up without beating myself up.

The art of living is the art of getting back up.

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15 thoughts

  1. Joyce Doenges says…

    Beautiful post, and for me, very timely. thank you!

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  2. Rosa M. Neno D.O. says…

    Very beautiful, very wise words. May be hard to do some of them, but well worth the effort.
    Thank you!

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  3. Ange says…

    Here it is already Christmas Eve and even though I've done so much, there are still things that need to get done. I have been struggling with not falling into the "It's all too hard". This morning when I read this post, Leo quote has become a mantra for the day. "The art of living is the art of getting back up". Thanks. Now I'm not freaking out about all that needs to get done. I'm moving on. Every time I starts to moan I just get back up and do one more thing. Thanks. I can feel a calmer Christmas on its way.

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  4. Melanie says…

    I really needed to read this right now- Beautiful. Merry Christmas, Ali.

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  5. Karen says…

    Thank you for sharing this. It is something to take in and make our own, as best we can. Have a joyous Christmas!

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  6. Cheryl SD says…

    Beautiful! Thank you for sharing. Merry Christmas to you and your family Ali!

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  7. Izzy says…

    I just wanted to thank you for your blog. It has been a source of self-evaluation, inspiration and warmth. I pray for you when things look dark and revel when the tide has turned. The art of living is truly just getting back up.

    May you and your beloved family have a very Merry Christmas.

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  8. Sally Stevenson says…

    Thank you as always Ali...These are just the words I was looking for for my struggling, talented 18 year old daughter...frustrated with taking that step forward out if her comfort zone...Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family. Peace and love for your year ahead.

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  9. Rosslyn Weigelt says…

    Great reflection piece. Making time to dwell on each one. Love the photo with the quote. Is that an Oregon lighthouse? We used to live close to Coquille River Lighthouse, a favorite spot.

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  10. Fanny says…

    Thank you for sharing Ali! I will include this into my december daily for this year!

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  11. Carrie says…


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  12. Song says…

    WOW - After reading this I've found my word for 2014. Thank you for sharing.

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  13. Jeanne Ann says…

    Thank you so much for this post!

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  14. Verbena says…

    Leo's posts are always incredible. I find myself sharing them often with friends and family.

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  15. jenn shurkus says…

    wow ali. very powerful post- got me thinking about how i am living my life

    thank you :)

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