Let it go: Minimalism as spiritual practice
Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus have a name for letting go. They call it minimalism, and they’ve taken the concept to new heights of awareness and practice.
Recently, I watched a documentary about these two young men. The film followed them on a tour in which they promoted their first book, Minimalism. I felt as if I had put on a pair of much-needed glasses; it brought my world into sharper focus. Wide-eyed, I sat up and took notice.
The subjects in the film, having freed themselves from unnecessary stuff, seemed to experience freedom that bordered on ecstasy. I wanted that! I set the intention to practice minimalism. These guys define it as keeping what you need, use and love, and unburdening yourself of everything else. They laid down no rules; if your have possessions you love, keep them. Each person’s joy guides the process.
It took me several weeks before I had the courage to begin cleaning out stuff by going through my closet. At the beginning of the process, I felt like I had stepped into quicksand; I experienced fear I didn’t expect. As I lightened my physical load, inner motivation took over. The exuberance I felt provided momentum to tackle my cabinets, drawers, desk, and file cabinet. I’m still in the process, and I find, with each unburdening, I feel freer and more energized to continue.
Like a snake wriggling out of too-tight restrictions, the new skin starts to feel comfortable. I liken the process to a spiritual practice. I’ve listed here five spiritual concepts that have touched me:
Un-attachment. I understand, at a deeper level, how my material possessions do not define me. I am that Awareness which registers the material possessions.
Presence. The psychic weight of the past, represented by my possessions (books, files, knick-knacks, trinkets) has stopped dragging on my consciousness. Eons of information in stuffed file drawers no longer exert a magnetic pull at the edges of my mind, sapping my energy and clouding my work. Clothes from the dark ages no longer drain my energy as they hang abandoned and forlorn in my closet. Unfinished projects, no longer in my sight, have stopped goading me with guilt and luring me away from the present moment. With the weights gone, I am more present to my life NOW.
Listening to inner guidance. In order to make choices about what to keep and what to let go, I must “feel into” what my deepest self tells me is most important.
Letting go. Actually opening my hands and freeing items from my clutches has felt, at times, like small deaths. Each time, though, I experience a resurrection to new freedom.
Freedom. Without my stuff to tie me down, I have more time and energy to live my purpose for being on the planet.
Where will this process lead? What new adventures lay ahead? Without the anchors of stuff I don’t need, it’s possible to soar—psychically, emotionally and spiritually. Joy surprises me; excitement meets me around the next bend.
Yes, I call it soaring!
Dr. Marta is an author and coach of communication and spiritual practice. The film, “Minimalism,” can be seen on Netflix.