On Mindfulness and Minimalism

If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you may have started to get the feeling that I’m a bit overwhelmed by excess. Over the past 4-5 years, I have grown increasingly less interested in stuff and more interested in living a life of mindful minimalism with quality essentials.

I trace my interest in scaling back to my 2014 summer trip to Europe. Prior to that trip, I was a chronic over-packer. I had had SO many stressful travel experiences as a result of carrying too much stuff. I distinctly remember having a meltdown at Charles De Gaulle because I’d misunderstood the baggage parameters and mistakenly tried to travel with a load that would cost me over 300 euros in fees. Can you imagine crying your brains out in an airport surrounded by completely unsympathetic French people? It was awful. When I planned my return to Europe in 2014, I challenged myself to live the carry-on only life for my entire 5-week, 5-country adventure. This experience was absolutely life-changing and I’ve pretty much done carry-on only for all of my travels since that trip. On a practical level, traveling light allowed to move easily through airports, bus terminals, train stations, etc. It made packing and repacking a breeze. On a psychological level, it made me feel more free, more agile, more apt to adapt – all mindsets that I value when exploring new and unfamiliar places. While my transformed relationship to baggage is one tangible way that I see my attraction to minimalism, it goes far beyond how much I put in my suitcase. More and more, I find myself less interested in acquiring things and more intrigued by the idea of living with less.  

While I would certainly not call myself a minimalist at this point, this idea has shaped my mindfulness practices in critical ways. As I strive to live a more holistically healthy lifestyle, I find what I’m really seeking is security and simplicity. There is a lot of substance in this world but there is also a lot of emptiness. It is not uncommon for us to consume things for the sake of consumption. We rarely stop to ask ourselves if we actually need this thing or what specific purpose this thing serves in our lives. Recently, I’ve been pushing myself to actually think before I purchase things. It’s so easy to get lured onto the website of some trendy brand only to end up with a cart full of things that you were perfectly content not having just moments before. We’ve mastered the art of convincing ourselves that the things we purchase will somehow enhance our lives but the reality is that they rarely do.

Now I have to say, I’m not much of a shopper (outside of groceries). At one point in my life, I was and now it’s just not my thing. In fact, I have come to experience a tinge of anxiety when I actually have to make certain kinds of purchases. This is no shade to those of you who love beauty and fashion. If you see your purchases as legitimate investments in your ability to express yourself and be happy, by all means, cultivate your happiness. But if it is not the case – if you’re buying more and more stuff only to still look in your closet and not be excited about any of the garments that are looking back at you – I would encourage to ask yourself why you keep consuming these things.

So what does living a minimalist lifestyle mean for me? It doesn’t mean only having X amount of belongings or mimicking the modesty of a monk. It means being mindful of the things that I bring into my life and the personal purposes that they serve. It means truly appreciating the material things with which I surround myself on a daily basis. It means working towards a version of security and simplicity that enhances my overall happiness and allows me to thrive.

Be sure to look out for next week’s post for more about my adventures with minimalism (starting with my closet!)!

GWHG



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