“Setting the mind aside is the ultimate in extreme minimalism.” —Richard Paterson
In this era of mass consumerism and chronic overstimulation, people have become more stressed and disconnected from themselves and others than ever before.
As the insane pressures of modern living take an increasingly heavy toll on our health and wellbeing, more and more people are yearning for a slower, simpler, more balanced way of living.
Minimalism has become the new buzzword of our times—that and mindfulness.
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”— Jiddu Krishnamurti.
Getting back to basics through cultivating a minimalist approach to life is one of the most helpful steps you can take to protect yourself from the toxic effects of modern living.
Simplifying, living at your own pace, getting rid of unnecessary ‘stuff’, minimising screen time and making more conscious and intentional lifestyle choices are some of the things you can do to reduce stress in your life.
But emptying your diary and clearing out your cupboards alone, as liberating as they may be, won’t suddenly turn your life into the land of milk and honey.
Even if you were to strip your life and possessions down to the bare minimum, you’d still encounter one significant barrier to your inner peace—your restless mind.
As Mooji said: “You have to be you without ‘you’ and all the noise will stop.”
What does he mean by this? How do you go about being you without ‘you’?
Most minimalists haven’t considered the possibility that, like our other possessions, the mind may also be an ‘object’ that can be set aside.
Let me explain.
Leaving Your Shoes And Your Mind Outside The Door
There’s a particular teacher I like to visit each year when I visit India.
Every day, queues of people come to see him, seeking help and guidance for their difficulties and personal problems.
And, no matter what the issue, there’s a particular exercise he guides people through.
It is so simple and yet the results are always profound.
It goes something along these lines.
He begins by saying:
“I’m happy to help you with your problem but before you come in, there are a few things I’d like to ask you to leave at the door—along with your shoes.
First, let go of any ideas you have about yourself— any concepts about who you are. Set aside all labels such as young or old, male or female, rich or poor—any beliefs that you are this kind of person or that kind of person. Leave them all outside the door. You can pick them up again on your way out.
Now, let go of any beliefs you have about the world or other people. Drop any knowledge you’ve accumulated about how the world is. Leave outside the door all notions of good or bad, true or false, right or wrong. You can pick them all up again when you leave— if you want to.
Now set aside all memories, all thoughts of the past— as if you’ve just been born in this moment and your life is a complete blank.
Who would you be without a personal past?
Lastly, leave all thoughts about the future at the door — all your worries, your plans, your fears, your hopes, your aspirations.
Simply be present in this moment, as you are.
Now let me ask you a couple of questions.
Without all these thoughts, beliefs, concepts and ideas, do ‘you’ still exist? (everyone answers yes).
What remains when all notions of a personal identity are let go of?
How does the you without a ‘you’ feel?
Expansive? Peaceful? Present? Alive?
Is there anything you’ve left outside the door that, if you were to take it back, would enhance your experience of this moment? (Everyone answers no to this one).
And one final question:
Where is your problem now?”
Pretty much everyone answers the last question with: “Oh, I totally forgot about my problem. I forgot why I’d come here.”
Of course, when the meeting is over, people invariably pick up their difficulties again, along with the rest of the items that make up their personal identity.
Maximising Peace In Your Life
It’s so easy to get swept along with the crowd in a mad rush of busy-ness and complexity.
Going to the gym or doing yoga twice a week, though positive steps in the right direction, do little more than help us keep our heads above water.
If you really want to make peace and wellbeing a priority, it’s essential to create a lifestyle that supports it— to live life on your own terms and at your own pace.
But stripping your life down to the bare bones won’t magically turn your life into a bed of roses.
However simple you make your life, you are likely to have another significant barrier to ongoing peace to contend with.
That’s right. Yourself.
Or more specifically, your restless mind.
The truth is, restlessness is the nature of the mind. It will never leave you entirely in peace… or not for long anyway.
But that need not be an issue if you grasp that the mind is also an object—something external to “you’ that can be put down, set aside.
When we speak of ‘me and the world’ as subject and object, we generally perceive the mind and body to be part of ‘me’.
In the Indian spiritual tradition, however, mind and body are seen as objects that exist within the greater me which is pure consciousness, pure awareness.
Perhaps the fullest experience of extreme minimalism is the Buddhist experience of no-mind. There are no problems when we are fully present in the moment.
So, if you’ve already downsized, cut back on your commitments and pared your belongings down to the bare minimum, why not go one step further.
Get rid of yourself. Practice extreme minimalism.
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