I have to admit in my first few clicks of the keyboard that I am not a minimalist in the sense that I do not follow a minimalist lifestyle 24/7. Not that I would not want to.
I always had an affinity for anything minimalist from interior design to architecture, art, and philosophy. I also suspect it’s not just me, since it’s probably true that anything minimalistic resonates with our inner deep desire to shed off the mental clutter that we have accumulated throughout our lives and make way for empty spaces and moments of stillness. It reflects our spiritual quest to free ourselves from the illusion of form and matter and embrace our authentic spiritual selves.
A lot of people have managed to piously follow a minimalist lifestyle. They have succeeded in parting away with many of their material possessions and were brave enough to draw a bold line between those things that are essential and those others which are just nice to have, or that they have attached themselves to for no practical reason whatsoever. It’s not easy to fold away three-quarters of your life’s belongings and pedal away with just the bare necessities. I suspect it must feel like that very annoying recurrent dream most people have of suddenly finding themselves in a public place with no clothes on. It’s just your naked selves with your bare necessities (pun unintended) – what a feeling!
The Evolution of Less
People are starting to follow a minimalist lifestyle for a host of different reasons. Some do so because in a general sense it’s the right thing to do. Others do it because they are very environmentally conscious and they do not want to participate anymore in the deterioration of the planet. Some others do it because they are spiritually evolving.
Spiritual evolution can be many things to many people and traditions. I think that there is a lot of consent that it is the moving away from an unconscious, egocentric and unsustainable way of life to a conscious, mindful and sustainable way of living. It is about being aware that identification with material objects, even mental objects such as our past memories, ideologies and cultural beliefs is very inauthentic and ultimately leads to never-ending dissatisfaction, instead of joy and liberation. I’m sure this is a fact which is either explicitly contemplated or implicitly felt by those who make the bold step from a frantic consumptive lifestyle towards a minimal planetary footprint.
I feel that whether we choose to be hard-core minimalists or be evermore conscious to gradually step down our environmental footprint and our psychological dependence on having and possessing, it is ultimately the only way forward for the future – our future.
Living With What Matters
I said that I am not a minimalist in the strict sense of the word, albeit an aspiring one. I started learning to be more of a conscious consumer – buying or using what I really need. Digging a bit deeper, sooner or later one then has to ask the question:
“What do I actually need?“
This might sound obvious but one comes to understand that our perceived needs are very different than our real needs.
A lot of our ‘needs’ are based on social and psychological biases – you might feel you ‘need’ that latest gadget or shopping for those new pair of shoes can be your quick fix for the day.
But coming to terms with your real needs and abandoning those constructed needs is no easy task and requires some personal maturity. On a larger scale it requires a lot of collective maturity as a culture or as the human race. It involves that spiritual evolution I tried to capitulate.
To conclude in theme with a minimalist anecdote, I’ve come more and more to understand that the real minimalist approach to life is not to live a quasi-ascetic life but ultimately to count what really counts in life and subtract the rest. It’s about getting your priorities right.
About the Author
Gilbert Ross is the author of the blog Soul Hiker where he writes about personal development, the path to inner change, mindfulness, and consciousness. Gilbert holds the view that we are on the brink of an unprecedented global shift in technology, culture, and spirituality. He strongly believes that our present time is an opportunity for big positive leaps both personally and collectively.