If you've been reading my blog for a long time, you may have noticed that I have some common traits with adrenalin junkies. I've climbed cranes and towers, jumped freight trains, bungie jumped, ridden a motorcycle etc.
I think that these activities, some more than others, are valuable. I remember climbing "the most dangerous trail in the world" in China and thinking hard about how I was literally one step away from death I was standing, without any safety equipment, on an eight inch wide board nailed into the side of a mountain. One step and that would be it.
In facing death so closely you gain an appreciation for life. You think about how fragile it is and how lucky you are to have it. There's a difference, though, between appreciating those sorts of experiences and needing them.
There are enough holes in my claim to being a minimalist that I think the label is up for debate, but a lot of the philosophy appeals to me and has been integrated into my own life. One of my favorite parts of it is the quest to require as little as possible. I have a lot of things I like in my life, but I could also be good without any of them.
When we think of minimalism, we rarely think about the emotional aspect. Maybe it's more important, though, as you carry that baggage throughout your entire life.
In the same way I strive to need almost no possessions, I also want my emotional needs to be minimal.
What does that look like? I think a simple test is to think of how long you could remain in solitary confinement and be okay. I think I could last there indefinitely and, in fact, there's some appeal to the idea. Apparently people go nuts, so maybe I'm wrong (if anyone is in the prison industry and can arrange a test, seriously please let me know).
A more realistic test might be to think about how long you could be left with just your work. Only hard things. No TV or desserts or alcohol or drugs or gossip or any other sort of stimulation. If you were left in a small room with just what you need for work, for how long could you be satisfied?
Sometimes I feel like I could go indefinitely, though not always. To me it's more of an ideal than an actual goal. In the same way I want to be a perfect person but know I can't ever succeed, I want to require no mental stimulation but know that I'll always seek out a little bit.
Meditation is good training for this. So is just cold-turkey removing your favorite stimulating activities and dealing with whatever arises in your mind.
Like so many other things in life, excitement and stimulation can be very positive forces in life, but once you require them you've crossed to the other side and are rolling down the hill instead of sitting on top.
Once you achieve some level of emotional minimalism (mental minimalism really sounds like a euphemism for stupidity), you find a different sort of satisfaction from it than you get from more stimulating times. You'll appreciate both for what they do for you. For me, spending a week at home eating the same food every day, drinking tea, and doing work, is a great week. I feel energized and satisfied with the progress I make.
Any time you examine yourself and realize that you have a dependency, question what it is that makes you need that thing. Does every human need it? If not, what makes you different? Would your life be better if you didn't require it? What does it take to get there?
Photo is a leaf and some seaweed from the island
Hey Tynan! Have you considered going back to complete the 10 day Vipassana retreat? That sounds nicer to me than doing solitary in a prison! lol
"I think I could last there indefinitely and, in fact, there's some appeal to the idea." Maybe give this a read, since this guy spent over 40 years in solitary. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/16/how-albert-woodfox-survived-solitary
Have you looked into Vipassanā? It's a thing where you go live for 10 days without talking to anyone (although there are other people around). You can read about it here: https://www.dhamma.org/en/about/vipassana
Minimalism has been on my mind for a few reasons recently. First, I bought a motorcycle. If minimalism were a religion, I'd probably be excommunicated for having more motorized vehicles than I have pairs of socks (RV, motorcycle, folding scooter, and electric skateboard vs. two pairs of socks). Second, I had a long conversation with Leo Babauta about minimalism, which brought it from the background of my life to a concept actually examined and discussed. And last, Erica twittered a video about minimalism that's clearly a parody, but makes some valid points along the way.
I sat at a poker table for a few hours tonight and got the coldest run of cards I've had since I can remember. I didn't lose a lot, I just sat there and folded everything. All that time that I WASN'T spending outfoxing my opponents and pulling down monster pots was spent thinking about why I became a minimalist, why I've stayed a minimalist, and what the point of it all is.
I became a minimalist on a lark, which, for better or worse, is why I do a lot of things. I bought an RV, thinking I'd take road trips in it, and from that point on I never slept in my condo again, and I started selling everything. Momentum kept pushing me, and before I knew it I didn't own anything that didn't fit in my 28 liter backpack.
This is the best reason I have ever come up with for meditation.
I have never meditated. Tried it once, last year, for a few weeks. It didn’t stick.
In my book, I talked about how nearly everyone is addicted to validation.
Being validated by others. It’s an addiction far worse than any drug or alcohol or anything like that. Not to your physical health, but it’s what’s stopping you from growing up.