In Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, two friends Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus give talks about leaving their six-figure corporate careers for more meaningful and simpler lives, both realizing their fulfillment of the “American dream” was in fact making them miserable. They travel around the country hoping to inspire others to find happiness outside of mindless consumption and the needless gratification for the latest thing. On their site, they explain:
Minimalists don’t focus on having less, less, less; rather, we focus on making room for more: more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth, more contribution, more contentment. More freedom. Clearing the clutter from life’s path helps us make that room.
Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things so we can make room for life’s important things—which actually aren’t things at all.
Others in the documentary share their stories about the value of minimalism -how eventually it will lead to a culture of sustainability (the hot topic of today’s economics). The current American culture is one of extreme unsustainability in which things are produced cheaply only to be thrown away for the latest fashion, toy, technology, etc. Advertisements serve to appeal to this addiction compulsion, the dopamine experience of gratifying ourselves with things to feel whole and content.
Millburn and Nicodemus have learned that these things are all just distractions and do not necessarily make us happy in the long term. The question to ask in the process of decluttering one’s life is, “Does it add value to my life?” If not, let it go.
When I look at my own life, I see my own addiction compulsion with accumulating esoteric knowledge and books. I became attached to them like they were extensions of myself. Often, I would hold onto these books even though I no longer resonated with their ideas. They would take up so much space in my old apartment in New York City. In the 10 years I’ve lived there, I had to move five times, each time lugging around more and more heavy boxes of books. Now, my collection has slimmed down considerably. Yet, the process of letting go of my treasure trove of knowledge has not gotten any easier.
Another addiction compulsion was collecting crystals and stones. They are quite useful, beautiful and alive. After experimenting with them, I noticed that I was relying too much on them and would feel anxious if I wasn’t wearing the right stone pendant for the day.
I’ve come to realize that all of these things are really just distractions from the self. The Higher Self. By cutting back our reliance on books, crystals, tarot cards, gurus, or whatever we use to empower ourselves, we can truly concentrate on developing a relationship with our inner self. Through the use of meditation, which requires No-Thing but simply our attention to breath, we can hear that still small voice that has been muted by the volume of outside distractions.
If just a fraction of people turned to No-Thing, imagine the difference it would make in our relationships, community, working and living environments. Truly happy and fulfilled people often inspire others and create more of the same like the two friends and minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who continue to positively influence others with their book Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life.
Ask yourself, “What are you willing to let go? What things? What ideas?” Finding those answers just might lead you to a more fulfilling path.