The Not So Minimalist Takeaways

We’ve got it all covered. We are enough. The only way to go is up and forward.

Minimalism has spread like a good plague, Leo Baubata smiles from the film Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. And it’s amazing to share how much the message is transforming people. I’m grateful for the tons of value that seeped into my life since then.

Here are my takeaways:

  • Minimalism opens the gates to freedom. It’s not only about curating our stuff, it’s getting disentangled from how we’re told we’re supposed to live.
  • The most important things aren’t stuff.
  • Discontent replaced with stuff cannot make the gnawing go away. Neither our pacifiers will.
  • Minimalism is a tool we can use in all areas of our lives. When we pause and ruminate on what’s truly important, we can become a better version of ourselves, doing only the things that bring us joy and growth.
  • Life is too short to be collecting things instead of experiences.
  • Spending less is the best way to have more.
  • The way to convince people is to not convince them. If we change, others may see the benefits and follow along. And even if they don’t, it’s okay. We are allowed to thread our own pace.
  • Digital minimalism is a sound choice. Curating our digital experience gives us the space to maximize communication and learning and take the rest of our time living in the real world. I’m not saying social media is pure evil but it’s worth the try to consume only what adds value to our lives.
  • Life is so much brighter and saner with intentional muscle — with mindfulness.
  • It doesn’t have to be Paris or Greece. We can be at any place and feel happy. Happiness resides in us.
  • Minimalism is simple but not always easy. But it helps when we constantly ask why we’re doing it.
  • Know our whys and we change our lives. Digging intimately to why we’re sticking to a habit, for instance, is often the key to make it worth doing over and over.
  • Minimalism made a lot of people ‘more’. It was a domino effect. You figure out for yourself what’s important to you, you experiment, and you’ll be surprised by how you’re better off with a simple, meaningful life.

 

Specks of Difference

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We are malleable beings — free to tweak, experiment, shift. Sometimes, though, we forget that small things can become game-changers. 

What if it’s simple to make specks of difference?

Who knows what surprise these subtractions or additions can bring into our lives?

These changes don’t have to be grand like losing X amount of weight, switching to ketogenic diet, reading X amount of books, checking 10 or more things off our to-do lists. We only have so much energy to spend in a day.

Instead, we can set our minds free by working on one change at a time.

Look into your daily routine — the small details that make up your empire. What needs a little tweaking? What can be added to amplify your day? What needs to be given up and replaced? These changes, when they add up, can greatly improve our well-being.

Here’s for a start:

  • Wake 10 minutes earlier than usual
  • Bask in the morning light
  • Take a short burst of walk
  • Take a detour to work
  • Smile to a stranger
  • Decline a piece of bread
  • Add a new spice to an old dish
  • Try squats or planking
  • Say thank you more often

Our willpower is surprisingly weak so to make it easier to shift into a habit is to make it convenient. When it’s easier to jump-start the change, it encourages consistency. Wear your gym clothes ahead, do it the same time at the same day, tie the habit with another habit, create an accountability partner, make good calories available so it’s easier to grab. Change your surroundings little by little and you change yourself.

We are ingrained to our habits — more than we realize — so taking comfort in doing the same things is easier, more preferable. As someone who breaks even a good habit, I can say there isn’t a foolproof recipe to stick to the changes we seek for ourselves. The key to make things stick, I realized, is to know intimately what works for us. The only way to figure it out is to experiment ourselves.

To forge a habit is to scrutinize our values. What truly matters to you? If you’re seriously seeking to improve your health, you shoot long term, right? Sure there will be loopholes along the way but it sure helps when we sit with the discomfort and converse with it. Re-examining our reasons for keeping a habit will either break or spear us forward. So we might as well cultivate a great reason. 

Whatever changes we aspire to make, we are only to progress if we work on minute changes at a time and revisit our values often. By doing so, we can take pride on the improvement and novelty we deliberately bring into our lives.

We are lucky to be sentient, luckier even to be malleable! Let’s not forget that small can be big, specks can be fireworks.

 

Changing Your Mind

Disgusting – that’s the impression we get from someone who is challenged to eat a slimy vegetable and swore she’ll never eat it again.

I’ve felt this many times with different people. If my ideals, the standards in my head, aren’t met, then to grow a relationship is pointless. They don’t get me anyway.

I struggle to accept people for who they are – their quirks, excuses, complaints, shortcomings. That doesn’t of course excuse my mistakes. Rather, projecting my ideals and intentions on others has been the problem. I spin justifications in my head of how people should be rather than who they actually are.

I’m confined by how people should act, how they should validate my opinions, and how they should treat me. This notion, I realized, has been shrinking my experience of the world.

To move past my preconceived notions, I realized I have to slowly break my ideals by starting anew – lay fresh eyes on the small details of my life. It’s like tasting bell pepper the third time then coming back surprised for having grown a palette.

Since adopting a beginner’s mind, I never thought that vegetables and spices would anchor the changes that is yet to happen. Ignorance turned into inclination. Ultimately, unless we change our minds – retaste that terrible vegetable, get to know that stranger, or give it another chance to know the people we already met, then interesting discoveries would only come to pass.

If we dare make sense of moments, the fleeting in-betweens of our lives, then we might reveal something magical. We can either let these moments annoy us, bug us down or let the simple inconveniences, irritations, or quirkiness be as they are. 

Growing a palette is about contouring our mental walls, allowing space to shift our mind without a need for a sound reason, and coming back astonished.

Self-Limitations


I was unstoppable in high school –  a zealous hard worker. I’ve always valued time that by the moment I’m home, I automagically plant my butt and do my homework until I’m satisfied. I took pride in the consistency and discipline the daily work instills. 

In 3rd year, though, I plummeted. I lost the will to understand Geometry. Obviously I easily gave up and admitted it wasn’t my thing. Still, I pressed on with academics and extra-curricular activities. I was happy to be excelling in most subjects except those that involved Math.

I carried this notion until college. My grades in Chemistry, Statistics, Physics and Analytical Geometry reflected that preconceived difficulty. Though I passed, I knew I’ve been feeding this deep-seated belief that these subjects require innate brilliance; it’s either I get it or I don’t. Now it makes sense to me why my mind numbs every time I’m questioned with numbers and figures. My evasion and ignorance have been tell-tale signs. Even the basics baffle me. It is stunning how much I’ve limited myself.

To  get past this revelation, I know I have to tap the strength of my young courageous self. If I find Math devouring, maybe having fresh eyes will help. Also, if I work smarter then I can better understand and see the world in HD. Leo Baubata probably said it best: approach life with a beginner’s mind. 

Too often, I realized, I was the one limiting myself. We battle against self-made limitations that to even try seems pointless. We convince ourselves they were the good old days, we are good as we are now. 

But to remain complacent despite our gut’s telling us to break free from the cocoon is self-deprecating. We deter ourselves from possibilities we might otherwise learn from.

Wherever we turn, it will always be our responsibility to improve and have the ample room of forgiveness if we fail. To stretch our abilities is the only way to move forward. If we dare greatly, even in small strides, we can create a momentum that eventually shatters those preconceived beliefs. To allow ourselves to go deeper, mess the equation, do we only know how much we’re capable of. 

Saving Sanity

Whenever my mother recalls, she boasts of days she climbs trees for a snack. Meanwhile, ours has been an unprecedented era where we take loads of stimuli for lunch. It is remarkable how much we’ve shifted and what it actually means for how much we spend our time online and for our dear sanity.

Technology platforms make it a cinch to be entangled and, worse, become enslaved by it. Many are susceptible to social media’s allure (for some obvious reasons) especially when people are oblivious to why they end up lost on hitting buttons. If not with intention and curation, it’s all but a mere distraction. 

Following only 17 people on Twitter – people I admire plus news bits – I still find myself overwhelmed by how much information there is (and there will be in seconds). All bargain for the most important issue of the day. With the overload it feels as though I ought to churn them out at once and expect myself to be full.

Whatever the media, the cesspool of stimuli, its repetitive tone, is every potential to suck our souls if we let it. If we’re being mentally hijacked then it’s clear why it’s critical to cultivate intentional consumption. This is not to demonize social media. I write for reflection as much as it is a reminder for others.

I found that it helps to filter and curate, and develop the habit for it. If we can downsize our physical stuff, we can save ourselves the time and energy by doing the same with our digital lives. If we only consume the materials we deem would improve us, then what we digest can actually make us full.

Perpetual Search

Our lives seem to revolve around searching for happiness. It’s as if the most evasive treasure in front of us – something we can’t posses until we satisfy some heavy terms.

It doesn’t have to be, though, because we can be happy right at this second. 

We can relish on someone else’s smile.

We can be delighted by someone’s candid expression.

We can be uplifted by a friend’s hug.

We can take refuge in a song.

We can feel that surge of energy when someone recognizes our efforts.

We can be blown away by the beauty in front of us and wonder why it has taken so long to see it.

So it’s relatively simple to be happy. It’s a state of mind where we don’t need a logical reason to appreciate simple, tender moments.

What I think fits the most elusive character is meaning. It’s not new that it could take decades or even a lifetime to find it. But that’s sad because our lives are short.

What we do and why  we do it is often perplexing. We think our choices will eventually reveal their purpose and sometimes we’ve waited long enough to dig some meaning and for some reason it still doesn’t pan out.

However the case, meaning is what we make it out to be. We don’t find ourselves – our passion – as we are often told. Instead, we create ourselves through direction.

That direction is attuned to our values. They can be as simple as being there for our friends, our families, taking small steps towards a hobby or inclination, or making small leaps in our career.

To get from point A to B, it helps to write down goals. But, often, to validate out goals is to first examine our values, the core of our direction. If contributing to other people matters to us, then help. If we seek to make art, then create. If we yearn for our voice to be heard, then speak.

Make specks of meaning whatever makes sense to you. Let the nudge in your heart be your direction. Create yourself through the lens of your values.

Running on Sunshine

It has been months since I’ve run outdoors again. The feeling has always been different from the gym’s aura – while the treadmill makes it easier to run, the pavement doubles the effort. The outside paints raw, changing backgrounds. 

It was 4 PM while the office windows begin to toast a summer view.

To my surprise, going out wasn’t that bad at all. Instead, I was welcomed by a breezy, soothing sunshine! It invited me in motion.

Slowly picking up speed, I traversed that road I once ran during a fun run in 2015. I remembered I was entirely oblivious when I won 3rd place, only to realize later that we were a small tribe in a 3-km run. 

Running slowly this time without a finish line in mind was eventful. I had the chance to bathe my eyes in green – the rice fields, tall grasses, coconut trees. It was okay to slow down.

Comfort aside, though, running again in pavement felt like pushing a cumbersome entity to run faster and ditch my physical body. It was difficult to take leaps of speed as I do on a treadmill, but taking short bursts of run followed by periods of rest helped me enjoy it.

The scenery cheered me up – the clear blue sky as it reflected on the rice paddies, the birds enjoying its food and airtime, the people on their bikes embracing the wind, the surge of oxygen that makes us alive. It was a good stretch with an ample of space to breathe and smile.

All it took was diving in.

I’ve been running for two years now. Why does it feel like running for the first time?