I love minimalism. I once bought five books on it in one go. (That sounds like a joke. I wish it was. No idea, until I’d read the first one, of the sad irony.)
The idea of simplicity, of doing with less, of creating space in our living environment is beginning to take hold of the world. It makes so much sense. Stuff we don’t need, stuff we trip over, stuff that blocks our way – it all takes up time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere.
A movement is now gathering pace which creates the same effect in the ultimate of living spaces: the mind.
When we see that our entire experience is created by thought in the moment, we realise (TA DA!!!) that the only thing that ever stands between us and life is our thinking in that moment. And the more we realise this, the more we fall out of that circular, going-nowhere stuck thinking and the more we can access the fresh, new, helpful thought that is there waiting for us.
What more incentive is there for a bit of minimalism?
Like Marie Kondo, holding up a possession to see if ‘it sparks joy’, we can hold up the stuff that we thought was real, that we thought was out there in the world as a fixed thing for us to react to or comply with or to beat ourselves up with. The beliefs of who we are and who other people are. The ideas about what we can and can’t do. The confusions about how to live and who to love. The ideas about what it takes to be worthy, successful, valued. The ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’.
When we hold all this up and own it as our own thinking then we have a choice. Perhaps not the keep, throw away or recycle choice. Something more like ‘Is this loving?’ or ‘Is this in the way?’ or ‘What is actually real here?’
In a workshop, Mara Gleason talked about being with a client and mentally saying ‘Next… next… next… next…’ to each unhelpful thought until her mind quietened down and she could properly connect.
All that stuff that was jamming up our mental cupboards can be put in the boot of the car and taken to the dump.
And an enormous space is created.
Then what happens in that Space? In a talk I gave recently, a wonderful woman started crying. “It’s frightening” she said “If I’m not who I thought I was, if I’m not all those beliefs then who am I?”
I had a similar conversation with a client. “I’ve used ‘shoulds’ all my life to motivate me” she said. “If I don’t have that then I’m worried I’ll just sit around doing nothing.”
Space. You might expect that letting go of all that compulsive obstructive rumination would leave us with an emptiness or dullness. Floating around without direction on a yoga cushion. If I’m not who I thought I was, am I nothing? If I don’t have to do anything, will I do nothing? If I don’t believe the thoughts that are fixing me and the world in place, will I disappear from life altogether?
Well, hold onto your hat because that is the exact opposite of what actually happens.
Because, when we thin out our personal thinking by giving it less and less priority, we fling open the giant doors to the roaring intensity of everything else. So if you are embarking on some New Year mental minimalism, prepare for the rich, diverse, hugeness of the life that awaits. Here are some of the things that I’ve seen come tumbling in:
NEW STUFF. The hobbies, jobs and opportunities we had written off because… “I’m not musical…” “I’m no good at public speaking…” “I don’t dance…” “I’m shy…” “I don’t like being on my own…” “I don’t travel well…” “I’m not sporty…” When all of those beliefs are seen through as nothing more than a thought in the moment, then whatever occurs to us to do in the moment is up for grabs. There are literally no limits. The extraordinary diversity of nature is there in us, expressing itself in a way that is unique, personal and specific.
OLD STUFF IN NEW WAYS. As our minds are less bogged down, we have clearer access to everything we have ever done, known and experienced if it is relevant and useful to us in the moment. Something we learned in that bizarre or boring job we did years ago might suddenly be remembered at exactly the right time. We make connections with what we used to do. We put things together in new ways. As we do so we get a sense of that magnificent organising force that connects us to the moon and the seasons and the cycle of day and night.
NEW PEOPLE. All that new stuff we are doing because it makes sense to us right now will bring along with it a stream of loving, supportive, fascinating people. We are having so much fun doing what we are doing, we are so in love with our world that other people can’t help wanting to get involved too.
OLD PEOPLE. As our old sense of self with all its limits and sensitivities starts dissolving, all those people we had got offended by, who we thought were too important or too busy for us, who we had written out of our lives for one reason or another can come back. When we don’t need to protect an idea of who we are, we can connect with everyone. They are all there for us. We are surrounded by love, by people who want to help us, see us flourish because that is exactly what we want for them.
CRAZY EMOTIONS. Get ready for this one. When we believed that the world could make us feel a certain way, we had to protect ourselves from whatever we believed could cause us upset, fear, jealousy, anger. Now we know it is all a thought in the moment, there is no shield or armour. The whole kaleidoscopic rainbow of feeling is coming our way. Rage, terror, ecstasy, passion. All of it is safe to experience (albeit in a eye-popping roller coaster sort of way) in this new expanse of life.
FUN. TIME. ENERGY. LOVE. It is extraordinary the weight we lug around with us in the form of stuck, heavy, limiting personal thought and it is extraordinary what is unleashed as we see it for what it is. More fun. More time for everything. More energy to do what our wisdom suggests we do. And so much love.
We realise that we are not creating the space, we are the space. We are the immense ballroom for life to dance on. The empty field for life’s festival. The grand stage for the ultimate production. We can watch it all, enjoy it all, be fascinated by it all, knowing we are it all.
Minimalism. Maximalism. New Year. No You. New You.