Mindfulness = Minimalism

If you really think about it, you’d be happy with a lot less. The problem is, you don’t stop to pay attention.

In my last post, I wrote about non-attachment and how wanting and retaining material goods does us no good. In our day-to-day, we tend not to think about this. Or the thought, inspirational quote, or snapshot of a minimalist home space pops into our headspace … and then pops right out.

This is where mindfulness can help us. Another pearl of wisdom from Buddhist philosophy, we can gain much insight from this perspective and tool.

Mindfulness, in the way I practice it, is simply taking a beat and noticing what’s going on, and doing this without judgement. It’s stopping and acknowledging what’s happening but not so much with the analyzing. It’s being here and now. It’s awareness of the present moment. Here’s a simple example of how I first introduced it into my life:

When I worked in an office, and I was wrapped up in a stressful moment, my mind would be racing. You know the thing- a million thoughts seemingly at once. It would cover the full gamut of topics: my plans for the evening, something someone said to me earlier in the day, a thing I needed to remember to do, a cough from a nearby coworker, a memory, the way my shirt was fitting, all the things I needed to accomplish before the end of the day. Oh, and the actual task I was working on. While caught up in the madness of my mind, a little voice inside me, one that I had been cultivating and training, would let out a little squeak: “Dara. Daraaaaaa. Hello, Dara!!!” Then, I would stop. What is going on? Take a deep breath in. Now a slow breath out. Repeat until the mental noise starts to fade. Then, increase my awareness. A quick body scan alerted me to the incredible tension I was holding in my shoulders. I relax my shoulders. Take a couple more breaths. 

I acknowledged that I was having other thoughts that distracted me from presence. I didn’t try to address them individually at the moment. I just put them aside. I had a task to complete. I was at work, sitting in a chair, in my office, looking at a computer. With loosened shoulders and a calmer mind space, I returned to work … mindfully.

Your home, if overburdened with stuff, disorganized, and overwhelming, is a product of a life without much mindfulness. If you stop to be aware of the present moment, you could more easily see things simply for how they are, rather than the stories you weave about them. Or, conversely, not see anything and overlook it all with a label- clutter- and then ignore. 

If, instead, you take a moment to be present with your space and then with each item, determining if it holds purpose in your life, stepping toward minimalism becomes infinitely easier. What is it that you most need, that provides the greatest inspiration, that makes you the most happy? To answer these questions, you must take a moment to pause, to sit in the present moment.

To be clear, being mindful, isn’t thinking. In many ways, it’s the opposite. But I see it as the doorway to productive thinking. I must first be mindful before I can be ready to think most productively and insightfully about what I really want. It is what has made a minimalist lifestyle easy, and not a sacrifice.

When we don’t live in the past and worry senselessly about the future, when we hold ourselves accountable to the present, our possessions quickly wittle down. Post “mindfulness = minimalism” moments, we can double check with our more analytical brain to ensure we are keeping some specific items that are necessary for our future. I mean, this is about being practical. But if we act mindfully, we will find ourselves down the course of minimalism. In that, we find that minimalism isn’t the goal, finding mindfulness is.