Couple of years back, my way of celebrating was shopping, my way of de-stressing was shopping, my way of getting energised was also shopping and my way of letting go also seemed incomplete without acquiring something to fill in the void. I don’t think I ever stopped to think “why”? What added to the frenzied mall hopping was the ritual of meeting friends at malls. This continued till life presented me with situations which gave me an opportunity to be of value to my precious father who fell seriously ill.
Soon mall visits were swapped with hospital visits. Visiting a hospital can be an extremely humbling experience – at a mental level, one gets in touch with ones’ own mortality and what it is that means the most to us. Sometimes, a tough phase can bring with it a personal growth spurt – or that is how I view the last 2 years of my life during which I have visited hospitals instead of malls. I feel it accelerated the growth I was trying to look for. I hardly had time to acquire new stuff during this phase and I realized that it didn’t make me feel as if I was missing anything. It made me wonder why my pattern of acquiring stuff earlier was devoid of attention?
I think the question had the answer wrapped up in it – it is easy to get distracted in a mall if one is unclear about what it is that one truly wants. Physical minimalism and mental minimalism seemed so closely intertwined.
What came next was a seemingly unrelated coincidence – I was invited to talk to a lovely bunch of 9 year olds about “Feeling More Satisfied with Life” and one of the ways I shared with them was Giving. At the end of the session, I gave them a 30 Day Giving Challenge where each day, they had to give something – either something they own, or their time, attention or appreciation.
I felt it would be unfair if I did not put myself on a similar challenge and so I teamed up with my 5 year old and we decided to give something every single day. The next 30 days were very rewarding. Each day we would think of what we could give – some days we would go through our cupboards to see which clothes we could give away, which shoes, which toys, some days it was food, some days it was time – 30 days later I was convinced that I needed much lesser in the house and that with careful thought, we could get creative and give away more. Things we had outgrown physically and emotionally (things I had kept in cupboards on the pretext of being emotionally attached to them). Our de-cluttered home had more space, less distraction and more space for good energy to flow. I felt I had more mental space.
The process of giving away, made me question if I really needed all of what I had acquired and in parallel, I began to question my thoughts, emotions, old memories – these didn’t need to be given away but maybe “purged away” because most of them weren’t serving me in anyway.
I got initiated into physical minimalism by chance, but I am grateful because it triggered in me, something more profound – mental minimalism. I often wondered what it would be to get rid of the chaotic chatter in the mind which is often not related to the present. I am beginning to realize that it feels really good. Focusing on just a 4 or 5 point agenda in life which may comprise of nurturing deep relationships with those who have embraced me with my idiosyncrasies, learning and sharing what I am passionate about, creating physical and mental well-being and exploring the world and minds of interesting people in this world 🙂
So far, to me mental minimalism is like a skill that I am working on – so that attention is easy to regulate and I can focus on stuff I want my attention on while I disengage from stuff that consumes mental energy. Tools helping me so far are journaling, asking myself questions like:
What will make me feel that I used my life meaningfully – when I look back after a decade?
What are the most meaningful relationships in my life?
In what ways can my gifts create value?
Which healthy habits do I want to inculcate?
What practices can I invoke when I get out of alignment and the chattering resurfaces 🙂
Would love to hear your tips on cultivating physical and mental minimalism- if the concept interests you too !