Category Archives: Minimalist Meditations

Minimalist Meditations — July to September

by Jessica Dang
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The latest posts on Minimalist Meditations from July to September:

“If only we could find strength and stability within ourselves, instead of relying on our belongings, other people, or things we can’t control, perhaps we’d be much happier people.”
— Invaluable practices for everyday life: Minimalist Meditations on Equanimity 

“Minimalism isn’t just about decluttering, it’s about learning to lower your materialistic expectations in life and being more grateful for the things you do have.”
— How to be happy now: Minimalist Meditations on Expectations

“Most things worth doing are hard, and hard things need your whole heart in it to do right.”
— What stops us from really living? Minimalist Meditations on Distractions

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Minimalist Meditations — May and June

by Jessica Dang
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The latest posts on Minimalist Meditations from May and June:

Minimalism isn’t just about having less stuff. That’s only the beginning.
—Why we get rid of things: Minimalist Meditations on Opportunity

I was 300 metres away when it happened.
—Staying strong: Minimalist Meditations on Tragedy

We all need to find our own definitions for success, discover our own self worth, and learn how to balance all the forces that pull us in different directions.
—If I were a sin: Minimalist Meditations on Greed

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Minimalist Meditations — March and April

by Jessica Dang
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The latest posts on Minimalist Meditations from March and April:

How do you keep going when things get difficult? If you don’t have a good answer, you won’t last long.”
—Find your reason: Minimalist Meditations on Why

“You can own 1,000 or 10,000 things, so long as everything contributes to your life in a meaningful way.
—Debunking the biggest minimalism myth: Minimalist Meditations on Quality

“There are two ways to be rich—to get everything you want, or to want everything you have.
—There is such thing as a get rich quick scheme: Minimalist Meditations on Money

“Your net worth is not your self worth. Your bank balance has little do with what your true value is, or how rich you really are.
—When money costs too much: Minimalist Meditations on Wealth

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Minimalist Meditations — January and February

by Jessica Dang
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In case you missed the announcement, I have moved on from monthly articles on Minimal Student to weekly updates on my new blog Minimalist Meditations.

Here are the first few posts from January and February:

First post—Welcome

“Minimalism is more of a philosophy than just a lifestyle choice. It is a way of thinking that questions the way most of us are raised”
Minimalist Meditations on Meaning

“It’s a minimalist gift that keeps on giving”
Minimalist Meditations on Kindness

“To be comfortable with living with less, you have to believe that there will always be more.”
Minimalist Meditations on Abundance

“Minimalism is a discipline. It doesn’t come naturally to most people. But if it was easy, everyone would be happy. Happiness takes a lot of work.”
Minimalist Meditations on Discipline

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Minimal Student is graduating

by Jessica Dang
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I started this blog seven years ago at the beginning of my minimalist journey.

It was 2009. I discovered a lifestyle movement that talked about the joy of having less. I learned about how being obsessed with buying and owning material possessions is a recipe for an unhappy life, and it resonated with me. I began to write about it.

At first, I was mainly concerned with stuff and how to get rid of it. I wrote about decluttering and one bag living. It suited my nomadic lifestyle at the time when I was living, working, and exploring several different cities and countries.

Eventually I returned to the UK. I was approaching my mid-20’s, and everyone around me was settling down. I moved into my own apartment with the single suitcase I had been living out of.

I got a corporate job and it was everything I ever wanted—or at least, I thought I wanted. I was paid well and got promoted, but the environment was so tough I began to change as a person. I struggled to find balance. I started buying more things to make up for the creeping unhappiness I felt doing a job which I realised, deep down, was ultimately meaningless. It took a long time, but in the end I found the courage to quit. I ended up starting my own business which gave me the freedom to do what I wanted. I took back control of my own life.

At every stage of my life, my perspective on things shifted. The more I experienced, the more convinced I was that many of the conventional ideas we’re supposed to follow—such as working in a soul sucking job in order to pay your bills and buy stuff until you’re either 65 or dead—didn’t really stand up to scrutiny.

In turn, the direction of Minimal Student has followed me on my quest, moving on from ‘how to declutter’ articles to ones about the tougher questions—what is important in life? What does success really mean? How can I be happy?

I still have more I want to share with the world that isn’t just limited to young people or students. By trying to keep things relevant to the blog name, some of the articles I’ve written have been held back from being able to reach a wider audience. As my readers have grown, the blog has to as well. The Minimal Student community is made of readers of all ages, and from all walks of life. I want to reach out to them too.

So I have decided to start afresh. Don’t worry, Minimal Student isn’t finished. I will always be a student of life and will continue to study what it means to live. However, I will be doing so under a new blog, Minimalist Meditations (www.minimalistmeditations.com) which I am working on expanding the ideas for my book that I’m hoping to finish and publish this year.

To make the transition easier, Minimal Student with continue to exist for a little while, before all of the links will redirect to the new blog URL. All of Minimal Student’s social media will also be renamed.

The good news is that I will be writing a lot more often, and you can keep up with new posts I write and publish by subscribing via RSS or email, or following me on Twitter or Facebook.

I don’t claim to have all of the answers, and in no way have I reached ‘the end’, but I can reflect on what I’ve learned in the past several years and what I, no doubt, will learn in the future. Feel free to join me at Minimalist Meditations on this path towards finding a life of happiness.

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Minimalist Meditations — On Control

by Jessica Dang
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control

Minimalism is often misunderstood. On the surface, it looks like it’s just about decluttering your house, but that’s not what it’s all about.

Yes, having fewer things can improve your life. That’s not the end of the story. A minimalist lifestyle is not just about having fewer things, it’s about having more control in your life.

Think about it. What’s the point in having less? The answer is to have more of what you want—time, good relationships, freedom to be able to afford and choose to do what you want.

There is so much more to minimalism than getting rid of stuff. A minimalist lifestyle is a statement to yourself, and those around you, that you care less about what people think of you, and more about living the life you want.

5 ways minimalism helps you gain control

…of your choices:

Everyday, people let TV shows and advertisements manipulate them. They let marketing romance them into thinking they need the latest gadget, or that having expensive shoes makes them accomplished as people. They’re not really choosing what they want from life, they’re being told.

Minimalists aren’t so easily tricked. We know that in the long run, material things don’t make us happy. We choose what matters to us, and we choose to spend our time and effort on things that are meaningful. We make our own choices.

…of your time:

When people care too much about what society thinks of their job/house/car, they work too hard to prove their worth. Almost everything they do is in the name of appearing successful. Deep down, they know it’s not really worth sticking to a job they hate for the best 40 years of their life, but they do it anyway because what’s the alternative? To not have fancy stuff to show off with?

Minimalists have a sense of self-worth that is unrelated to how much we earn or own. We don’t let TV, neighbours, or society tell us what to do/have/aim for/live for to be successful. We already feel successful because we get to choose what we want to do with our lives. We have more to give. We don’t waste time on pointless things.

…of your finances:

How many people are living paycheck to paycheck not because they aren’t earning enough, but because they’re spending too much? In my last corporate job, almost everybody around me moaned about being ‘broke’ all the time when they were earning more than 80% of people in the country. It was sad. What were these people spending their money on? Expensive suits, branded perfume, overpriced drinks, phone contracts, dry cleaning their expensive suits… you name it, they spent money on it.

A minimalist’s resources are spent on better things than material gain. It doesn’t matter how much we earn, we buy only what we need. We respond to things that have value and tune out things that aren’t—whether it’s meaningful experiences via travelling, giving to those in need, or having the financial freedom to just work less.

…of your happiness:

People get sad or angry when they don’t get what they want. And if they do get it, it’s not long before they wan’t something else. It’s a constant cycle of desire for more that never leads to being happy.

Minimalists take control of their own happiness by appreciating what they have. We may strive for more out of life (minimalism doesn’t mean settling for less than we deserve), but at the same time we know that we’re lucky to be where we are today. Our happiness is in our own hands.

…of your legacy:

I quit my corporate job because the work was totally meaningless. I probably would have made more of an impact doing something like making YouTube videos or banging my head against the table. Will your life’s work matter in the end?

What you leave behind is up to you. Minimalism is about taking charge of your life, and your legacy. You can choose to care less about what others want, and more about living how you want. You don’t have to make a big impact on the world. Even if you just made one person’s life better, or one garden patch, as long as you lived life to the full, you will leave a good legacy.

It’s impossible to control everything. You can’t decide where the road leads, but you can decide which roads to take.

Direction causes destination. Where you’re headed now is where you’ll end up, unless you take control, and steer yourself towards where, or who, you want to be.

So in the last moments of your life, you can answer truthfully: Did you forge your own path or let others dictate it for you?

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Minimalist Meditations — On Giving

by Jessica Dang
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What is the ‘endgame’ for minimalism?

To live a happy life, of course. To be free of distraction, to be able to do what you want without caring what other people think.

Yes, all of these are important. For me though, minimalism is ultimately about giving.

Yes, I can live a happy life. And I do. But it isn’t enough to only be happy by myself. If I want to leave the world a better place than before I entered it, I have to help other people improve their lives.

Imagine if everyone you met left your company in a better condition than before. You would have good friends, and good relationships. People will remember you as the worthy person you are. Not only would you be happy, but they would be too, even if it was just for a while.

You don’t have to be entirely selfless. You don’t have to give away all of your fortune, or your free time. There are a thousand ways to help people, and minimalism helps you find the right way. Your own way.

For me, giving means doing what little I can for others right now, but also working hard on my business, so that one day I will have so much more to give.

There are so many people in the world who have nothing. Instead of spending all your money/time/effort on buying more and more expensive things, you can help people have something.

A minimalist lifestyle also helps Mother Nature. She gives, and most people take, take, take, without thinking about how much we are really hurting ourselves.

The path isn’t easy, but the direction is clear. No matter how you do it, or how little, giving is what minimalism is all about.

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Minimalist Meditations – who’s counting?

Most people don’t believe that ‘Big Brother’ really exists. Sure there’s security cameras in a few public places, but there’s not a lot of people that believe that there’s somebody keeping track of them 24/7.

Until it’s time to eat a buffet.

Then they go crazy. They eat and eat and eat, trying to get their ‘money’s worth’… as if there is somebody keeping tally if they get what they paid for.

But there isn’t. There is nobody to judge you.

This is the principle of sunk costs. When you’ve already paid for something, and there’s no way you can get it back, then the best you can do is try not to make things worse.

So if you’ve already paid, for example, $15 for an all-you-can-eat buffet, you can either eat about $15-25 worth of food, or stuff yourself with junk until you’re about to burst. Either way, you’re still going to be paying the same amount of cash and the register when you leave… except that you’ll also pay the price for a stomachache later on or in the long term, you’ll pay the price in your weight or health.

There are so many examples in real life of people ‘trying to get my money’s worth’ but end up paying in other ways.  Think about the principle of sunk costs in these scenarios:

  • Business people push on with projects that aren’t working because they’ve already invested a significant sum of money.
  • People refuse to change their minds about certain things because they’ve already spent a lot of their lives believing things are one way and not the other.
  • Toxic relationships are held onto because those involved have already put in a lot of time and emotion into the relationship and don’t want it to be for nothing.
  • People who live in houses with fixed utility bills use way more gas/electricity/water. They waste environmental resources because there is no incentive to use less.
  • Junk is stored in people’s garages etc. because the owners don’t want to sell it knowing they won’t get back what they paid for it.

Humans don’t like to ‘waste’ things they’ve worked hard to obtain (mostly money) and they don’t like to admit they’re wrong. Of course this doesn’t mean that we should simply throw money away by paying for things and not using them, but we should remember that hanging onto sunk costs is rather irrational behavior – usually trying not to ‘waste money’ uses up more resources, or as economists like to call it ‘throwing good money after bad’.

Resources that have been irrecoverably spent shouldn’t influence your future decisions on what you do with it.

As minimalists, we should keep the idea of sunk costs in mind. When you hang onto things you’ve already paid for, you’re still paying for it in some way – whether it’s cash/time to maintain it or to store it (by needing to rent a bigger house).

If you don’t need it, and you can’t return it, just get rid of it now. Give it to someone who needs it or sell it, even if you don’t get back the price you paid for it. Nobody is going to knock on your door and exclaim that they will pay you RRP for it, so just sell it for whatever somebody will pay. Something is better than nothing (or minus cash!). Plus, the benefits you get from peace of mind from getting rid of clutter and knowing you’re not wasting even more precious resources should be enough of a reward.

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A complete guide to minimalist writing

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart
~ William Wordsworth

This post is for all of my fellow writers out there – aspiring bloggers, authors, journalists, poets, playwrights. Even if you don’t call yourself any of these things, this post is still relevant to you because almost everybody writes something or should be creating or doing something with this wonderful thing we call language.

I’ve been riding a roller-coaster of writer’s block/flow over the past few months and have tried almost everything and anything (legal) to get back on track. Everyday, I like to sit by myself in a few moments silence in meditation. But my main problem is that as soon as I slow down for a few minutes, my mind gets fired up about things to write. However, when it come to actually sitting down and writing, I get the first few sentences down and then… I’m stuck.

“What’s next? Does this make sense? Should I write about that?”

As with most things I’m not particularly good at (like karaoke) I adore to do write anyway. I probably even find it more ‘meditative’ than actual meditation because there’s something about it that gets all of my thoughts ordered and my mind cleared up in a different way than practising Zazen does. Part of the reason why I’m minimalist is so that I have more time to travel, explore and write.  Being a ‘minimalist’ doesn’t mean that I do everything in smaller quantities, as long as I keep only the essentials, even posts like this can be as long as I like.

I’m no professional at writing, but some of the things I’ve learned from just simply sitting down and getting words out has amazed me. I’ve learned so much about myself just by answering prompts, or just digging into my mind and writing 750words on it. Other times, I just open up wordpress, stare at the blank box for a few minutes with my fingers hovering over the keys, and before I know it, I’m writing a post about writing ;). If you love to write as well, but find yourself without motivation or time or generally unsatisfied, hopefully this guide will help you get started.

a guide to minimalist writing

Why ‘minimalist’? I don’t know how other people create, but for me, writing is almost all or nothing. If I’m writing to publish, I don’t do a half-ass job about it. And if it’s a journal entry, I don’t hold anything back. I’m quite passionate about it, just like I am about my minimalist approach to life. And once again, I found that using a few minimalist principles, I was able to get my writing back on track.

Here, I’m not going to distinguish what you’re writing about, or go into how you do it – such as the pros and cons of handwriting or typing. It’s up for you to decide what you feel is best and no way is ‘wrong’ or ‘right’. What matters is that you simply just write.

1. Find solitude.

Language… has created the word ‘loneliness’  to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.
~ Paul Tillich

When you are alone, you realize things that you can never see if there are other people around to distract you. When there is nobody to please and no expectations, and you have a pen and paper or laptop or whatever your weapon of choice, you can write something, anything, without giving a crap about:

  • who will read it
  • grammar or spelling
  • what it’s all about

It’s extremely liberating to have the freedom to just be yourself. Finding the time to be alone is the first and foremost step towards writing a lot and writing well.

2. Create first.

Anything that creates a spark is going to start, potentially, a big brush fire.
~ Victor Hill

One you’ve found a little bit of peace and quiet, the next step is to simply create first. Don’t worry about how that sentence sounds or if you’ve used the same word twice. Don’t worry about if it’s too long or short or childish or difficult. It doesn’t matter how you should start or end. Just put those damn words on the page and worry about editing it later, nobody is going to read your draft, so why care?

At least once you have a draft you can cut and sculpt it later on, but without it… I mean, Michelangelo didn’t carve his statues out of thin air. The reason why this works is because as much as we like to think that we can multi-task… we can’t. If you’re thinking what to write and how to write what you want at the same time, you’ll end up with almost nothing.

So if you think you’re stuck in a rut, it’s because you’re already criticizing your ideas before you’ve put them down (“I can’t write about that/I think x person has already written about that/Hm, that doesn’t sound good enough“). Ignore your critical side and let your creative side roam free.

3. Pour your heart out.

There’s nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.
~ Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith

Even if they don’t intend to, a lot of the time people write as if somebody will read it one day. It could depend what you’re writing – whether it’s a journal you’ll lock away or a blog post that you plan to publish. They’re scared that someone will think worse of them, so they hold back. But for me, either way, I pour my heart into what I write. True, I may be selective about what I write (you guys probably aren’t interested in what I had for breakfast) but for every blog post, I don’t hold back my conviction.

When I write a blog post, I pour all everything I have into it. I’m here, right now, writing. There’s nothing else I do except using words to create, convey and communicate. There’s nothing left but to do it to the best of my ability. In that moment, writing and breathing is all I do.

If you haven’t already, I implore you to try my sanity saviour 750 words (I’m going to keep pushing because it’s worth it). Pour your worries and hopes and thoughts out once in a while, your heart will appreciate it.dc

4. Don’t wait for motivation.

Unfortunately, (or rather quite luckily) the ‘perfect’ time to do something is often when you’re already doing it and there’s no turning back.

People often use an excuse like ‘I don’t have the motivation today to do x‘ which is sadly usually followed up by ‘…I’ll do it tomorrow‘. When you think you’re out of motivation, you have two options. You can a) quit or b) can push on without it. Quitting achieves nothing, so if you’re okay with that then fine. But if you’re not satisfied with having written nothing, well then you do have some motivation after all! So if it’s there, use it!

And if you need more, entice it to come out. How? Hunt down some awesome inspiration. Go read some great blogs or read that book you love again, then come back and start over. You’ll find yourself wanting to emulate the writers you admire, or at least knowing that it’s possible that anybody can create something amazing.

If that doesn’t work, don’t give up just because you ‘don’t feel like it’. Sit still for a few minutes and try to clear your mind of distractions, what’s on your ‘to do’ list and so on.

Search deep inside for the writer within you, what does he/she want to say?

5. +3 Geek.

If you’re really desperate, you can totally geek it up by using various software to help. The best kind are plain and simple – no fancy fonts, borders or backgrounds. Just you, the page, and good sweet words. Sometimes a word counter forces you to write at least a certain amount, or some kind of calendar to make sure you’re writing as many days as you can. Apart from 750/NaNoWriMo, you can alternatively try completely disconnecting from the internet, and for that there’s Darkroom, Write or Die, and even trusty old notepad. Once you’ve eliminated social distractions and opened up a writing program, you’ll have no choice left but to write or give up. It’s all or nothing from here.

Now stop reading, and write something! (Start by leaving a comment!)

And if you enjoyed this post, help me out by tweeting it up!

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Minimalist Meditations – technology

Technology is two-sided. On the one hand, technology has connected us – our ideas, messages and our personalities can all communicated from anywhere in the world to anyone we want. On the other hand, it has provided us with so much information to process – status updates, tweets, news, email, blogs, podcasts, phone calls and text messages that we’ve become overloaded and our attention divided into a million pieces.

technology vs minimalism?

Is technology non-minimalistic? It depends on what you think minimalism means. If, to you, it means forgoing technology altogether, then I guess it’s non-minimalist. But for me, minimalism is about making my life easier – whatever gives me more time to focus and to accomplish the things I want to do.

Minimalism doesn’t mean you should live like a hermit, you don’t have to ban technology from your life. In fact, technology can actually help you, and it’s part of the reason why minimalists exist today. Here are just a few of the minimalist things technology can help you with:

1. Carry less. A few weeks ago, I received a comment about the fact that I own an iPhone. It’s an old 3G model. Is it minimalist? Well, here are a few things I don’t have to carry around with me because I have it:

  • Dictionary – because a book of 159,000 words would be very heavy indeed.
  • Grammar reference book and Kanji  reference book – searching is also much easier than the index of a printed book.
  • Novel – I love to read, especially on the bus/train, but I hate carrying and ruining books in my bag.
  • Scrap notepad – I would lose all those pieces of paper if I had to physically look after the amount of notes I take.
  • Flashcards – because learning a language is a pain without them
  • Gaming device – I used to carry my DS with me, but now I don’t have to.
  • Calculator/currency converter – of you’ve ever spent time in a foreign country, you’ll know how invaluable it is to be able to see how much something costs in your home currency.
  • Clock/Alarm clock – this one is for my bedroom. I can’t sleep when I can hear ticking and I like to wake up to nice music rather than a ringing sound when I wake up.

2. Learn. I use my laptop almost everyday to learn something new – don’t underestimate what you can achieve. In fact, I learned how to play the guitar via the internet. On top of that, I use it to do research for class, learn languages, listen to podcasts, watch TED and other great videos,  among many other useful things.

3. Less clutter. On my external hard drive so I can store all my photos of my family, friends and times in Japan. During the summer, I went through a complete purge of all of the paper that I owned. I scanned what I needed and recycled the rest. So one little box replaces my photo albums, DVD and CD stacks and piles and piles of paper.

4. The environment. The Amazon Kindle and other ebook readers greatly reduce the need for paperback books. It’s up to your personal opinion which is more ‘comfortable’ to read, but anyone must admit that ebook readers are better for the environment and save a ton of space. Also, I buy a lot of my music digitally now, so I’m not adding to CD production and waste. On that note though, I recommend you read The Story of Stuff’s newest video – designed for the dump.

5. Connect. Thanks to technology, I can talk to my family (almost) face to face on the other side of the world – that’s something I definitely don’t take for granted. I can also write this blog and readers can write to me. My early days of minimalism were fuelled by reading the words of my minimalist heroes – something I would never have found without technology.

consumerism

Minimalism isn’t a complete rejection of consumerism. We are all consumers in some way, even if it’s just only groceries and clothes we need to cover our backs. Owning a few gadgets doesn’t make you a greedy consumer.

As long as you don’t get caught up with desiring the latest gadgets as soon as they come out, even when the current generation works perfectly fine, and you don’t rely on your gadgets to boost your ego because you can afford it and others can’t, then you’re not being that kind of consumer.

Just like the washing machine did for women in the 50’s and 60’s, you’re simply using it to your advantage to improve your own quality of life.

disconnection

So, owning gadgets doesn’t necessarily mean you are not a minimalist –  in fact, it helps you be more minimalist, in terms of the amount of physical things you own. But the word ‘technology’ can also mean being connected to the internet.

I used to think I needed internet with me everywhere I walked. That’s why I got an iPhone in the first place. But in Japan, my iPhone cannot make calls and it doesn’t have internet everywhere. I realize now that I never really needed the constant connection, I just thought I did.

Facebook messages, emails and tweets seem like they need your immediate attention, but how many times have you been actually required to reply immediately? Sometimes, you’ve just got to take a break from the internet. A few months ago, Gwen Bell took what she called a ‘digital sabbatical‘. I’ve become a massive fan of the idea, so here are some of my favourite posts on the topic:

I highly recommend trying it, it works.

Minimalist Mediations is a on-going series giving you the 101 on different aspects of minimalism. If you have any topic suggestions, let me know in the comments below or find me on Twitter!