“You say you want to get rid of the noise, but you and the noise go together. You have to be you without ‘you’ and all the noise will stop.” ― Mooji
In these days of unbridled consumerism and chronic overstimulation, people are more stressed out and inwardly disconnected than ever before. As the insane pressures of modern living take an increasingly heavy toll on our health and wellbeing, more and more people yearn for a slower, simpler, more conscious way of living—a return to basics. Adopting a minimalist lifestyle is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from the excesses of modern living. Simplifying, living at your own pace, keeping non-essential ‘stuff’ to a minimum, cutting down on screen time and making conscious lifestyle choices—these are some of the things you can do to minimize stress in your life.
But clearing out your diary and your cupboards, liberating though it may be, won’t suddenly turn your life into a bed of roses. You will still encounter one significant barrier to your inner peace…your own restless mind.
As Mooji said: “You have to be you without ‘you’ and all noise will stop.”
Most minimalists don’t consider that the mind itself may also be something we can let go of. So, how do you go about letting go of yourself? Let me explain.
Leaving yourself at the door
In my time as a monk, people would often come to my teacher with difficulties or personal problems. No matter what the issue, there was a particular guided meditation he would walk people through.
It was so simple and yet the results were always profound.
This is roughly how it went.
He’d begin by saying:
“I’m happy to help you with your problem but, before you come in, there are a few things I’d like you to leave outside the door. First, leave outside any concepts you have about yourself, any thoughts of who you are—any ideas such as young or old, male or female, rich or poor. Leave them all outside the door. You can pick them up again on your way out. Now, leave any concepts, beliefs or knowledge you have about others or about the world. Leave outside the door all notions of good or bad, true or false, right or wrong—any self-critical thoughts, anything you feel embarrassed or ashamed about. You can pick them all up again when you leave… if you want to. Now leave all memories of the past outside the door—as if you had just arrived on earth at this moment and your life is a blank slate. Who would you be without a personal past? Lastly, leave all notions of the future outside the door—all your plans, your fears, your hopes, and aspirations. Simply be present here and now —just as you are. Take a few breaths. Be aware that the present moment is happening.”
“Now let me ask you a few questions. Without all these thoughts, beliefs and concepts, is there still a ‘you’ present? What remains when your personal identity is set aside? How does it feel? Expansive? Peaceful? Joyful? 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 while I remember, I have one last question: What happened to your problem? Pretty much everyone would answer the final question with “Oh, I totally forgot about my problem. I forgot why I’d come here.”
Of course, when the meditation was over, they would invariably pick up their difficulty again, along with the other items that made up their personal identity.
Maximizing peace in our lives
Being swept along with the crowd in a mad rush of complexity and consumerism is a certain recipe for disaster. As Jiddu Krishnamurti said: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
Going to the gym or doing yoga twice a week, though commendable, will at best help you keep your head above water. If you really wish to prioritize peace and wellbeing in your life, it is essential to intentionally 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 in minimalist terms won’t suddenly turn your life into the land of milk and honey. However simple you make your life, you are likely to have one more significant barrier to ongoing peace.
That’s right. Yourself. Or more specifically, your restless mind.
The truth is, the mind is restless by nature and will never leave you entirely in peace. But that need not be an issue. Of the many lessons I learned as a monk, perhaps the most life-changing was seeing that the mind is also an ‘object’ that can be put down, set aside. The fullest experience of minimalism is the experience of no-mind that the Buddhists speak of. So, if you’ve already downsized, reduced your commitments and pared your belongings down to the bare minimum, why not go one step further.
Get rid of yourself. Go fully minimalist.