Quarter life crisis, the GYPSY curse or the millennial meltdown, call it whatever, everyone around seems to be going through some of it. We’re a generation raised to believe – “Less is less” and we ought to keep wanting for more. Our work should not just satisfy, but stimulate, not just help the world, but leave an impact to the world, not just feed the family, but feed the soul. It’s a tall frigging order, but dammit we are thirsty!
As you are reading this article, probably on your cellphone or laptop or an IPad, I assume you have food on your table, enough clothing, a cozy shelter, and other basic necessities in your life. You might also have a family, people who care about you. You are (mostly) comfortable, without any extreme immediate needs.
P.S.- No, a bottle of Jägermeister isn’t an immediate need. Grrhh!
And yet you feel empty, isn’t it? Everyone around seems to be dissatisfied, yearning for more, looking for more comfort, more love, more knowledge, more possessions, more food, more entertainment, more validation. We all do it without even realizing. In this rat race of hoarding, we forget to embody the idea that we already have enough.
We, as humans have the tendency to cling to the objects that fulfill our needs. We try to make our lover love us and our employer need us. We hoard a lot of material possessions. This very attitude makes us slaves to those people and objects. You don’t really need so much to feel happy and satisfied, do you? What you really need is you. (A bit of chocolate to get by won’t hurt, either.)
Studies show that people who lose their limbs or are paralyzed are not any less happy than others on average. Conjoined twins almost unanimously refuse surgical operations to separate their bodies from one another to remain sharing the special relationship they’ve developed with each other.
Our psyche has a profound way of conspiring to get our needs met with whatever resources it’s given.
There is a stone water basin outside of the famous Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto, with four characters that read: “ware tada shiru taru.” This is a Zen saying that can be translated to – “All you need, you already have.” I feel the idea of minimalism couldn’t be defined better than this.
Learning to embrace minimalism
The mindset of “having enough” is easier said than done. So, how do you bring it in practice? What actions will help you embody the sense of having enough? Let’s have a look:
- Gratefulness– This is one of the most under-rated virtues. We tend to take a lot of things for granted that are easily available to us. Be grateful and learn to appreciate your loved ones, the food you eat, your job and all those priceless moments you spend with friends and family. The day you genuinely start feeling grateful for everything around instead of complaining, you’ll never feel dissatisfied again.
P.S.- While appreciating is cool, being creepy isn’t. So please don’t randomly slide into someone’s DMs in case you’re planning to.
- Respect. Gratefulness, appreciation and respect are all interconnected. If we are grateful towards something or someone, we tend to treat them with respect. In the Zen tradition, bowing to others and even to their meditation cushion is a deep part of practice. You need to start respecting people you cross paths with, your work, your family, your friends and your very existence in this world. Bringing this in practice will help you value your existing possessions without yearning for more.
- Self-love – The more you love yourself, the more you’ll focus on your inner peace and harmony instead of worldly possessions. Self-love will also help you form a deeper and more meaningful relationship with others. Unlike what you read in those glossy magazines, “Self love” is much beyond bubble baths and red wines. It’s your mindset to feel happy and “enough” with what you are and have regardless of what societal norms speak. So, start practicing “self-love” right away and you’ll no longer depend on external factors to make you happy.
Rituals to Embody Minimalism
With our insane schedules and daily grind (Without maids in lockdown), it’s not an easy task to feel grateful and happy all day. You may consider forming little rituals to help you remember the same:
- As soon as you wake up in the morning, say a little prayer of gratitude for everything you have in your life. (of course without looking at your cellphones).
- Maintain a “Thank you” journal and scribble a paragraph in it at the end of each day. (Try to go beyond the obvious ones like ice-creams, the big bang theory etc.)
- When you meet someone, be kind, empathetic and treat them with respect.
- When you sit down for a meal, say a little prayer of gratitude for everyone who made it possible (farmers, cooks, transporters, vendors, etc.).
- Before you start a new activity (a work task, a workout, a meeting), pause and reflect on your intention for this activity. Is it focused on helping others? If yes, you are on the right track.
- When you finish an activity, show respect to your environment and equipment by mindfully cleaning and replacing them, instead of rushing to the next activity.
There are many such rituals, of course, but the ones mentioned are great to start with.
Consider asking yourself, before you buy anything, whether you really need it. Ask yourself, when you interact with others, what are you showing them? Respect and appreciation or?. Also, ask yourself if you really need a Voot subscription when you already have Amazon prime and Netflix. Well, okay! You can ignore the last one. (We are guilty of that too)
You need to ask yourself, throughout your day, whether you have all you need. Most probably you’ll find that you do, and by appreciating that fact more often, you will see what a profound miracle that is.
Once you understand that you have everything you need, you’d stop searching for the rainbows and unicorns that don’t exist — and have never existed. (Hope, the Western Mythology team isn’t reading this!)
So, embrace your life and stop and smell the roses once in a while. (Oh wait! – with your masks on, please.)