minimalism | 11.16.17

“Love people and use things, because the opposite never works”

– The Minimalists: Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus 

I have found that there is a sort of stigma surrounding the word and lifestyle of minimalism. People hear “minimalism” and typically respond with a big eye roll and a “Okay, we get it, you don’t want things” while imagining an apartment with a single chair and a mattress on the ground maybe. While that could be defined as minimalism, for me it’s something else entirely.

My interpretation of the concept of minimalism is pretty simple. Live with more intention. That’s the most watered-down, basic foundation I have for it. I definitely do agree with the whole opposition of materialism (to a degree). This year I’ve donated probably a good 80% of my belongings and I still feel like I own too much stuff. Owning things isn’t inherently bad, though. That’s where a lot of confusion stems from, I think. In my opinion, you don’t have to strip everything down to the absolute bare minimum just to survive. Just simplify things. Get rid of the clutter. Of all of the things that you’re holding onto for “one day” or for “just in case”. It’s still hard for me, but I’m trying to keep only the things that genuinely bring value to my life. Whether it’s literally something functional – like a my desk or my laptop, or if it’s something that might bring me joy – a hobby-item, for example. I feel like I have been explaining why I feel this way more often lately – mostly to family who have been asking what gifts I might want since the holidays are coming up.

Aside from just the material goods side of minimalism, I believe that it also means minimizing and simplifying your mental state. I don’t think I really worded that quite right, but what I’m trying to say is that there is so much that goes on in our minds that I think everyone needs to just quiet it down every once and a while to reflect. Just take a minute to calm all those thoughts. To not worry about what’s coming up in the future or what happened in the past – all we have is this moment right now. Try to not get too occupied with other things. I’ve found that the Minimalists have a lot of messages that echo many ideas of various spiritual teachers and philosophers that I have been learning about lately – Anthony De Mello, Eckhart Tolle, Don Miguel Ruiz, Alan Watts… These concepts are found everywhere – that’s got to mean something, right?

The documentary Minimalism (it’s streaming on Netflix!) was the first thing that I watched that sparked my interest in a change in lifestyle. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. There is so much that I could ramble on about because everything is connected and everything that I have learned so far is so intriguing. Don’t worry, I won’t talk your ears off. I’ll leave you all with this little post for today, though – I’m sure I’ll touch on this topic again in more depth in the future. Look into some of these peoples’ teachings – let me know your thoughts!

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enlighten | 10.22.17

Today’s Daily Prompt is a pretty fitting one for where I’m at in my life now. The word “enlighten” has come to mean something different to me over these last few months. Out of curiosity, I searched Merriam-Webster for the dictionary definition of the word.

Enlighten \in-ˈlīt-niŋ, -ˈlī-tᵊn-iŋ, en-\
transitive verb

1. archaic: illuminate
2a. to furnish knowledge to: to instruct
2b. to give spiritual insight to
In the past, to enlighten simply meant to me to come to a realization about something; to have light shed upon something that was once dark. That still holds true, of course, but now my understanding is less two-dimensional. It now correlates more to the final definition given by Merriam-Webster. However, now my sense of the word is more difficult to verbalize in as concise of a way as the dictionary definition explains it. “Enlightenment” is used so broadly in so many contexts that it can’t really be pinned down to mean one specific thing. To become enlightened is more than just “Oh, I now understand the thing that once was unclear to me” and then moving on from there. It is a personal, complex, unique and spiritual experience.
For me, enlightenment goes hand in hand with awakening, becoming more conscious and living more intentionally. It goes with making the effort to learn as much as I can from people who have already made this journey; taking bits of their experiences as inspiration to create my own. Anthony De Mello, Eckhart Tolle, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, don Miguel Ruiz, Sam Harris and so many more. They have all adopted practices of enlightenment in one way or another in their lives and have been a huge inspiration to myself and countless others. Whether explicitly spiritual or not, the ideas and stories that they share provide the tools needed to take control of your life. Learning who you are, unprogramming yourself from society’s rules and living a more meaningful life. That’s what it means to me and that is what I strive to achieve.
Every day I try to read more of their writings or about the concepts mentioned in them, I try to write or listen to podcasts and watch documentaries. I try to incorporate these things into my daily life so that I can continue to learn, to change and to become more enlightened. I keep a running list on my blog here of things that have inspired me and been of value to me. So these are some of the things that came to mind when prompted to think about and write on the word “enlighten”. What does the word mean to you?

via Daily Prompt: Enlighten

fighting the good fight | 10.20.17

One thing that I’ve heard a lot over the years is how I – and others – are “battling” depression, “beating” depression. I guess that’s true. As hard as it gets sometimes, I’m going to keep fighting it and keep moving forward. If nothing else, it’s all I’ve done these past few years. I don’t like those phrases though because they insinuate that depression is something that must be defeated before one can live their life. That there’s something inherently wrong and needs to be fixed. Well, surprise everyone – I haven’t been fixed, I haven’t been cured but I’m still able to find happiness in life. I’m finding peace.

IMG_6455.jpg
Beale Street, Memphis, TN

One of my new favorite artists and Instagrammers is Bunny Michael. They create “Higher Self Memes” that are posted daily. As they said in an interview with Posture Magazine, “the Higher Self memes are messages of self-love and expressions of how we can all treat ourselves better, that we are more powerful than we even realize.” One of the first ones that was shown to me was this:

bunny michael meme
@bunnymichael

I love their memes because they’re funny and relatable and so, so very spot on. I feel like the spiritual path, personal growth, recovering from living with mental illness… All of those go hand in hand. It’s never as easy as it seems. It sounds like growing spiritually would be a journey filled with rainbows and butterflies, but more likely it will be a stormy one. Even though I’m learning and growing, and I feel like I’m moving in the right direction, this journey is by no means an easy one. I still struggle, I stumble, I fall. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and it can be painful. I have wanted to give up more than anything. But you know what? I know that it is worth it. Becoming more of a spiritual person, more enlightened, more aware isn’t just a trend or hobby, or a cool, hip thing that the kids do these days. It’s more than that. It’s a change in lifestyle that requires effort throughout your lifetime. It’s something that brings change, compassion, understanding and consciousness into your life and into the world.

People always say that it’s harder to break a bad habit. I always thought that would refer to biting your nails or picking your nose. Bad habits are easy to pick up and often go unnoticed until they’ve become an integral part of our daily lives, so much so that they’re hard to just let go. For example, I’ve spent my whole life being told certain things and being led to believe these false ideas about myself and my life. I wasn’t happy and I developed a negative way of thinking and of being. I used to be in such a bad place and I would go through these cycles, trying my hardest to develop good habits and practice self care and then falling back to square one. I tried everything. Nothing seemed to work. I honestly don’t remember how I got to where I am now, but I think that’s part of it. I wasn’t feeding into the negative as much. I didn’t actively participate in the defeatist attitude I had acquired. I didn’t always focus on it and let myself stew over all the negativity floating around inside me. Gradually, I was able to naturally pull myself out of that hole. Just by being. Existing. Becoming aware of all of this makes it a bit easier to move forward. That being said, it’s still hard as hell but I’m trying to understand more in order to find peace.

Since being back in Maryland, I’ve run into more than a few challenges and roadblocks but I’ve always found my way back on track. I really am trying to make a more conscious effort to do right by me and to do the things that will help me to continue on this journey. I signed up for a bunch of courses on Udemy that I am very eager to dive into. I’m teaching myself about photography. I’m reading more – right now I’ve picked up The Way to Love by Anthony De Mello again, as well as The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. I highly recommend both of these books to anyone and everyone. They’re such easy reads but are so eye-opening and powerful. I’m trying to get outside into nature more, too. Doing the little things that I know will aid me in increasing my physical, mental and emotional well-being. A couple of steps forward, a couple back, but I’m still trying and I’m still fighting. A lot of the things I write about are lessons that I have learned and am trying to put into practice into my own life. I am by no means an expert. I have to work really hard every day to unlearn everything that I have been programmed to accept and to reteach myself how to be.

What kinds of things do you do that help you get out of a funk? Or that you feel helps you grow and move forward? Or even just things that you do that make you happy, that you’re passionate about? I would love to hear about them!

attachment | 07.31.17

Forked River, NJ

Only five days into the trip and it feels like we’ve gone on a month’s worth of adventures. Every experience is new and unknown, spontaneous and exciting. Between car camping in Walmart parking lots and pitching a tent in Middle-of-Nowhere, USA, MTV Cribs would be loving our glamorous living arrangements. My family and I took Bryant on a boat for his first time and we got to swim in the Atlantic Ocean off of the New Jersey shore. We climbed the Ledges Overlook and Brandywine Falls in Ohio and we enjoyed a beautiful sunny day at the beach in Indiana (weird, I know).

Ledges Overlook, Cuyahoga Valley, OH

There has been one thing that has been a bit difficult to adjust to – not seeing friends and family every day. I’ve never really left home like this before and it’s hard to not have the same kind of interactions with people as I would back home. It’s not quite a homesick feeling for being in Maryland so much as a homesick feeling for the people there. I’m beginning to learn and understand the concept of attachment and how the relationships I have with myself and with other people are changing.

Brandywine Falls, Cuyahoga Valley, OH

Co-dependency is not good in any kind relationship. I’ve noticed that it is often driven by a fear of loss or of rejection. Depending on someone isn’t inherently bad, but like anything there has to be a balance. I will no longer allow my happiness to be dictated solely by another person or thing. My happiness is paramount. There is nothing selfish about putting yourself first. Like I said before (and like I will probably say a thousand times again) – balance is key. There is a median between an unhealthy, interdependent relationship and being entirely self-reliant and sovereign without allowing for meaningful relationships to develop. It became pretty simple once I realized that I don’t need anyone. I do enjoy the time I have with loved ones and I embrace every moment I have with them. It isn’t “I can’t live without you, I need you” so much as it is “I am aware that I don’t need you in order for me to live fully and happily, but I choose to spend and to enjoy my time I get with you”. Even though this idea is pretty simple, that doesn’t mean that it is easy. Now that I have a better understanding, though, I feel more confident and that feeling is helping me through a lot of the feelings of separation and distance with my friends. They are all with me in spirit no matter where I am, even if it’s 3 thousand miles away.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

I hope that I am able to better develop my self-confidence and independence so I can keep enjoying this trip to the fullest extent. Meanwhile… onto Iowa!