Category Archives: Zen Buddhism

Live life like water

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Take a good look at yourself. What do you see?

Would you think that you are a wonder of the universe? If you’re living and breathing, you already are a miracle.

Why would you seek to be anything else? Look up at the sky. Watch how the clouds float contently by. A cloud is happy to be a cloud. The water within it is happy to be in that state, and doesn’t seek to be anything else. When the time comes, that water will naturally turn into rain, flow along rivers, and into trees and dams, doing what water does. It goes with the flow, and is happy to be that way.

As people, you can be as content as water. Imagine the waves at sea. Each wave has a beginning and end, each has a rise and fall, and each is beautiful in its own right. Does a wave feel fear and anxiety? Does it compare itself to other waves? Does it strive to be a better wave?

If it could look into itself, it will see that it is water, just like the wave behind it, and the wave behind that. The entire sea is one. Once it realises this the wave laughs as it goes up, and laughs as it goes down.

Like a wave at sea, things are changing all the time. You are changing all the time. Things will go up, and things will go down. All you can do is laugh and cry. Life doesn’t always work out the way that you want it, but you are already perfect in your own way.

You are already like water. Just flow, be content.

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Zen in a lotus flower

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1. A beautiful lotus flower blooms from a muddy pond. 

2. A gardener who wants to grow flowers must also tend to weeds.

Lotus in Mud | Jessica Dang


These are lessons we can learn about cycles of suffering and happiness in our lives.

1. We usually think of mud and weeds as something to be discarded, dirty, a waste. But looks can be deceiving.

Yes, mud can be ugly. But from it something as beautiful as a lotus flower can grow.

In the same way, suffering gives birth to happiness.

Without suffering, we can’t realise how happy we are, or can be.

If we’re lucky to go through our whole lives without an ounce pain, we would never know how blessed we are.

Far from being a waste, just like how mud is a source of life, suffering is a source of happiness.

2. You are the gardener of your mind and body.

To take care of yourself, you need to pay as much attention to the weeds as you do the flowers. It isn’t enough to indulge yourself in what you know and like, you must work hard to get rid of the poisons and bad habits that creep into your life.

The things that make you unhappy, you need to tend to those weeds too.

Somehow you’ll find a way to put them back into the dirt, and let them become the mud from which your happiness blooms.

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Zen in a toothache

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Kenchō-ji Gardens | Jessica Dang | Minimal Student

What good can come from a mere toothache?

As I have recently experienced, there are a few life lessons to be learned from a small (yet extremely painful) toothache.


A few summers back, when I stayed in Plum Village, the monastary of the famous monk Thich Nhat Hanh, there was one day when he made us imagine that we had woken up in the middle of the night with a very painful toothache.

Since the dentist wouldn’t be open until the morning, most people would be counting down the hours until it could be treated, all the while hoping that the pain would go down, or go away.


We live most of our lives without physical pain like this. Even right now, unless you have a broken arm or leg, or any other major chronic aches or pains, you spend most of your life in relatively good physical health.


At the time, I listened carefully to the lesson, but never did I dream that this scenario would actually happen to me.


About two weeks ago, I woke up one night from a sharp pain in my head. It wasn’t a migrane, as I had thought, but instead the premolar on the left side of my top jaw was throbbing pretty hard. I tried to sleep it off, but the pain didn’t go away. I tried to ignore it, but the pain was so sharp, and constant, that it couldn’t stop thinking about it.


During the last few weeks, I walked, worked, and slept with a winced expression on my face as I tried to put up with this horrible and constant physical pain. I booked an appointment to see a dentist, but the nearest available appointment isn’t for a few weeks yet. In the meantime, I just have to take some painkillers and deal with it.


The good news is that there is a bright side to all of this. Well, at least I searched long and hard for one because I absolutely forbid myself to go through something like this without gaining anything good from it. One day, I remembered Thay’s lesson on learning from my pain.


An important lesson about pain

The experience of having a pain that is strong enough to take over your life, and distract you from doing anything else is not something that can be easily understood until you go through it yourself.


I learned this lesson the hard way, but since doing so, I could imagine that the hard way is one of the only ways to learn it.


I genuninely hope that most people do not experience a pain like that, but the bright side for those who do is that, in the end, you will know how to be so damn grateful for not having any pain.


Kenchō-ji Gardens | Jessica Dang | Minimal Student


Thich Nhat Hanh taught me that sometimes we need some pain in our lives to give us a basis to compare against, so that we may be grateful for what we have right now.


People who never go through any pain don’t know any different, and so may not appreciate what they have as much as somebody who lost their health. If you are lucky enough to gain it back, then you feel like you’re given a second chance to appreciate what you have.


When we are mindful of the good things we have in life, we are aware of how lucky we are, and we feel good about ourselves. In this case, happiness is born from pain. So pain isn’t always a bad thing.


Now, I’m not saying that a toothache really compares to some of the really bad things that can happen to your health. But now that I’ve experienced something as painful as this, I’m reminded that even if there are some difficult things going on in life, at least when I am not in pain, I can be grateful for that.

Zen in a cup of tea

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How easily can a cup of tea be taken for granted?

Before I went to Plum Village, I had no idea that I never knew how to truly enjoy a cup of tea, water or coffee. I used to gulp it down without a second thought.

It’s the same with every breath. We all know how to breathe, we can even do it unconsciously, but what happens when we take a moment to do it intentionally?

What happens if we take the time to drink it all in?

Drink tea and breathe

Every morning, I have a cup of coffee. Every afternoon, a cup of tea. But, for every cup, I don’t take the time to enjoy it, I am too busy doing something else at the same time.

Every moment, I am breathing. But, for every breath, I don’t take the time to appreciate it, I am too occupied by distractions that cause my mind to wander off into the past or future.

However, in reality, everything I need to do, or think about, is in the present moment. Only when I am in the present, does life become real.

No longer is my life just another distraction, another figment, another ghost.

Have you ever meditated on a cup of tea? When you meditate, first, you direct your concentration on an object, like the cup in your hands. Then you sustain and intensify your concentration on it, step by step. You will see things that cannot normally be seen.

For example, did you know that to see the clouds, you do not have to look up at the sky? There is a cloud, right there, in your tea. The water in your cup used to fly high in the sky. It used to run down mountains and along rivers and seas. It has been around the world a million times and back again. Now, it is in your hands, and in the air you are breathing right now. It may not look exactly like a cloud right now, but it is in there, do you see it?

When you realise this, your connection with your tea, your breath, and therefore the rest of the world, becomes deep and meaningful.

To be able to have a cup of tea is a wonder. To be able to breathe is a miracle.

Sip your tea. Take a deep breath. Come back to life.

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Minimalism & The Noble Eightfold Path III – Mental Development

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Greetings everyone! If you follow my twitter you might know that I just spent some time on retreat to Plum Village in France, learning about the teachings of one of my heroes, Thich Nhat Hanh.

I’ve taken away so many great lessons from this trip, and I can’t wait to explore it all with you guys in the coming posts.

In the meantime, here’s the final instalment about the Eightfold Path. In the last two posts, Wisdom and Ethical Conduct, I have talked a lot about the practical applications of each step. With Mental Development, the focus is more about all the work that happens behind the actions.

Right Effort

Having Right Effort means cultivating the self-discipline needed to follow through with the Eightfold path and other teachings of the Buddha.

It’s not always easy to do the right thing. Indeed, in a lot of cases, doing the wrong thing is easier. It’s easier to steal something than to earn it. It’s easier to exploit the weak rather than fight the strong.

However, although doing these things can lead to short term gain, in the long run it cannot last. If you steal you could be caught and punished and if you selfishly continue to exploit those around you, you will be resented or eventually run out of vulnerable things or people to take advantage of. In time, you will become more and more insensitive to your negative impact on others as desire, envy, aggression and perhaps even violence takes over.

Instead, you have to learn to encourage your positive mental states, such as honesty, benevolence and kindness. As long as you put in the Right Effort to be compassionate towards others, your practice of the other steps such as Right Speech, Action and Livelihood will be fuelled by your positive energy.

The practice can be broken down into four steps which can be basically summarised as:

1. To prevent the arising of unarisen unwholesome states. In other words, try not let yourself get angry or hurt so easily. You have full control over these emotions, it is not others that upset you, it is you who allows them to.

2. To abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen. If you do find yourself getting angry, it is best not to act immediately. Instead, take a moment to breathe, and you’ll find that a lot of your anger will dissipate quickly. Your mind will become clearer and you can make better judgements about how to handle the situation instead of making it worse.

3. To arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen. The third step is to intentionally be compassionate towards others. Smile and complement people, even strangers. Give generously to others, whether it is your material resources, time or effort.

4. To maintain and perfect wholesome states already arisen. Avoid lying as much as you can. Either keep promises, or don’t make ones you can’t fulfil. Be patient and forgiving. Listen deeply to your family and friends and love them unconditionally.


Right Mindfulness

Right Mindfulness is simply the ability to see the world clearly as it is. We should try to clear our minds of delusion and judgement, because they lead to discrimination which inevitably leads to hurting others.

We may only be half conscious of it, but we spend a lot of mental energy categorising, interpreting and distorting things. We fail to recognise the importance of some issues or blow others out of proportion.

When our view is being obscured we don’t see the other side’s perspective. We don’t realise that there must be a reason why people do or think in certain ways, if it is not ‘our way’ it doesn’t mean it’s the ‘wrong way’.

Right Mindfulness enables us to be aware of ourselves and the world around us. It doesn’t stop or make us do anything, instead it is just the non-judging acknowledgement of our thoughts and actions. When we know we are doing something hurtful or helpful, Right Intention and Right Effort will guide us to stop or continue our actions.

Practising Right Mindfulness builds a mind of tranquillity and equanimity. You will find yourself much more emotionally stable and with a much better ability to remain composed under tension or stress.

The best way to practice is simply just to sit down in silence and close or half close your eyes. Once you stop moving your body and stop being distracted by information going into your eyes and ears, you can think more clearly about things the things that are on your mind.

Right Mindfulness (combined with Right Concentration) leads to insight. With clarity of conciousness, almost anything can happen. You may find a solution to a problem or make an important observation about a relationship, your past actions or realise that things aren’t as bad as you had thought. If you sit regularly and patiently, you will experience the miracle of mindfulness. 


Right Concentration

Right Concentration is developing the ability to direct all of your mental energy towards a single object and maintain that focus for a period of time.

In the context of the Eightfold Path, it means concentrating on wholesome thoughts and actions such as those under Ethical Conduct – Right Speech, Action and Livelihood.

It might be very difficult at the beginning to maintain focus and not be distracted by all the things going on around us. But what most people don’t know is that concentration is a skill, just like tennis – nobody is naturally born already amazing at it, they have to learn the techniques and practice consistently.

The best way to learn is, again, to practice meditation. I cannot emphasize how important this is. You don’t have to go on retreats, the Dalai Lama himself says you don’t have to be vegetarian, but meditation is an essential component to Buddhist practice. Even if you do not wish to be Buddhist or a Buddhist practitioner, meditation (like eating healthily or taking up yoga) is immeasurably beneficial to everyone.

One way of practising Right Concentration is to try, for 20 minutes, in whatever you are doing, to pour your entire concentration into doing it. Immerse yourself. Don’t stop until you are done with the task at hand or 20 minutes are up. Try to ignore or postpone any distractions until you have finished. If you can do this, try it again for an hour, a day or even a week.

You will find that you are able to complete the task not only more quickly, but with better quality. Each person has enormous amounts of concentration within them, which also means each person has huge potential to achieve great things. Unfortunately, it gets spread out and diluted as we allow things to distract us from our goals.

Concentration is a powerful tool. Being present and focussed is the difference between being a participant of life and being and merely being an observer.


It’s taken me a little while to write these posts, partly because I was busy preparing for my travels but partly because although the Eightfold path is a simple concept, it is complex in it’s teachings.

There’s so much to say (believe me, I read a lot of literature before writing these posts) but the most important point of all is not just reading about the theory but the actual practice of the path itself.

These posts have been an introduction, a guideline, a gift from me to you. However, it’s up to you now to choose where to go from here. Remember the saying?

“Imagine what you could achieve if you put your mind to it”.

Now, you don’t have to imagine. May the Eightfold path lead the way!


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Minimalism & The Noble Eightfold Path II – Ethical Conduct

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The next stage of our journey along the Noble Eightfold Path is understanding how Ethical Conduct affects every single aspect of our lives.

By conducting Right Speech, Action and Livelihood to the best of our abilities, we can move closer towards an enlightened body, heart and mind.

You don’t have to be Buddhist to follow these principles. As you read on, you will see that that these concepts, and indeed Buddhism itself, is a way of life that emphasizes growing and practice.

It’s not about overhauling your life completely, rather, it’s about doing our best to make small changes, and choosing the right decisions as you encounter them. You don’t have to do everything at once, even a small attempt at any of them will improve your life, and the lives of others around you.

Right Speech

Unlike our actions, because we cannot always see the potential effects straight away, we sometimes forget how powerful words can be. They can move people to laugh or cry, make someone fall in love or into an enemy, they can create friendship, war, art, memories, arguments, admiration, motivation or inspiration.

The Buddha points out four different types of wrong speech which actually can be much more common in our lives than we like to admit:

1.  False speech refers to the telling of lies to others. We should not speak deceitfully to exaggerate our worth or convince people of something that is not true.

Perhaps sometimes telling very small lies for the sake of peace is acceptable when your intention is in the best interest of somebody else, not your own. However, while it may be difficult to eliminate lies completely, we should strive to remain genuine and honest as much as we can. That way, people will come trust us, and believe in the things we say. Nobody would choose to confide in or take advice from a liar.

2. Slanderous speech. We should not use words maliciously against others. Some things are just not our business, so it is a waste of our time to gossip about them. As good people, we shouldn’t talk about people behind their backs, and in return, people won’t talk about you behind yours.

Slanderous speech does nothing but divide people and create enemies.

3. Harsh words. It might take some practice, but even if we are angry, we should try to remain civil and calm as much as we can. Resorting to insults that offend or hurt others will never make the situation better.

Similarly, putting the blame on ourselves or others for something that happened in the past cannot reverse it.

We should also try to take all criticism constructively, even if the intention of the person wasn’t so. There is always something you can learn from others. And when we are trying to give feedback, we shouldn’t just point out everything they did wrong but include praise for the things they did right.

4. Idle chatter. We should always try to speak with purpose, depth and good timing. Using speech only when we have something useful or interesting for the other person to hear and knowing when to remain silent is a sign of wisdom.

A lot of people are uncomfortable with silence, but actually if you are truly close to someone, or if you are confident in yourself, there’s no need to impress people with small talk to ‘prove that you’re not boring’.

In the end, the things that you don’t say are just as important as the things you do say.


Right Action

It’s not always easy to do the right thing all the time. However, as much as we can, we should try to:

1. Abstain from doing harm towards others intentionally or delinquently. This includes any sort of violence or action that may hurt other people or prevent them from having basic human rights such as food or water, freedom and equal love.

We should refrain from taking life, including, as much as we can, the lives of animals. You don’t have to be vegetarian, but you should respect that an animal has literally given it’s life for you to eat. Even insects are sentiment beings and as much as it is practical, we should try to spare their lives.

We should act kindly and compassionately towards everyone we meet, and try to make their day better for happening to cross our path.

2. Abstain from taking what is not given. This means refraining from stealing and fraud. We should respect the belongings of others and we should try to repay our debts to the people we owe and not take advantage of those who are in a position of less power than us.

If you manage to do this, the next stage is attaining contentment, which means being satisfied with what you already have, without feeling that you have to keep collecting more stuff, especially via unscrupulous means.

Finally, the highest goal is developing a perpetual sense of generosity – using or giving away one’s own wealth and possessions in order to better the lives others. You don’t have to live in a hut, but if you are content with what you have, then you will realise that most things that people desire, such as a sports car or huge house are not really needs but wants. A true practitioner would not waste their resources on such superfluousness and instead they would do what they can to help those in actual need.

3. Abstain from sexual misconduct. Although this mostly refers to relationships with our partners, we can also include any sort of loving relationship, such as friendship or family bonds. People should be honest and faithful to each other, care for them and be prepared to put their interests above their own.

Even if we only want what’s best for the people we love, we cannot change them by shouting about minimalism or Buddhism or any other way of life we believe is better. We must show them. When they see how happy and content we are, they may wish to change, and only then should we guide them.


Right Livelihood

Wealth is not evil. It’s how people obtain it or what people decide to do with it that makes it ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and even these labels can sometimes fall into grey areas.

In general, wealth should be gained legally and peacefully. In other words, we should try not to harm other beings in pursuit of it. Therefore, we should avoid:

1. Dealing in weapons or anything malicious that could potentially be used to exploit others. We should not knowingly be involved with violence or trickery.

2. Dealing with living beings in a harmful manner such raising animals for slaughter or being involved in  the slave trade or prostitution. If it is within our power, we should try to reduce the suffering of workers, especially those who are exposed to dangerous or over-laborious conditions.

3. Working in meat production and butchery. If this is not possible, we should at least try to discourage the slaughtering of animals by not eating meat excessively. Check out this TED talk.

4. Selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs. Again, it might be a lot to ask for to completely stay away from alcohol or cigarettes, for example, but at least we should stay away from being involved in potentially very dangerous, illegal or addictive drugs or substances that are bad for people’s mental or physiological health and draw people in against their will.

Finally, we should try to stay away from jobs or activities that would violate the principles of Right Speech and Right Action.


When you think that minimalism is all about asking “what is necessary?”, it’s easy to see how it relates to Ethical Conduct – don’t lie or show off about the things you own, do what is right and be content with what you have.

There was so much to cover here, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. It may take a while to master all of these, indeed, it may even take a lifetime, but remember, there is no goal, what truly counts is doing your best with all your heart.


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These three principles act as a bridge towards the next stage, Mental Development, which I will talk about in the next post. In the meantime, due to popular request, I will start posting book recommendations on Twitter!

Minimalism & The Noble Eightfold Path I – Attaining Wisdom

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So here we are on the first part of our journey along the Noble Eightfold Path, laid out by the Buddha to guide us away from ignorance and suffering. In this first part, we will look at wisdom, what it means and how to attain it by practising Right View and Right Intention.


What is wisdom exactly? Some would say it is like knowledge, but that wouldn’t be the complete meaning of real wisdom. There are plenty of people who are book smart, or have a lot of general knowledge or can make obscure cultural references, which are all very well, but true wisdom is a different kind of knowledge that you can only gain from experience.

Unlike knowledge, wisdom is not a clear cut goal that you can reach by passing an exam. The real tests come from being able to overcome the obstacles that life throws at you.

Being wise simply means knowing how to be. What to say or not say, what to do or not do and how to be true to yourself and do well unto others.

Wisdom is the accumulation of humbling experiences that come from keeping an open mind and freely admitting when you are wrong. Wise people are not proud. They have plenty of dignity, but they are not proud in the way that most people are. They don’t need their egos boosting and they don’t feel the need to have recognition for every little thing they do. Zen teachers always tell their students, “If you think you are already wise, then you are not“.



Right View

To become wise, firstly you have to obtain a little perspective on things. Right View is being able to see things for what they really are. This means having the insight to see what truly matters, and what does not. It means realising that everything is impermanent and that the world around us is in a constant state of flux.

Stuff breaks, gets stolen or lost. People change their minds. Time moves on. If we insist on trying to keep things the same forever or if we hold on to an ideal or memory, one day when it will inevitably be gone, we will be unhappy. Instead, so we should enjoy these things while we can but we should also recognize that nothing lasts forever, so we shouldn’t become upset when it is gone.

In minimalism, having the Right View is the first step in the right direction. You have to see things for what they’re really worth – which is usually nothing really at all, just a bit of money here and there doesn’t make something actually valuable.

You have to realise that being happy is the most important thing in life, and simply possessing a bunch of stuff or qualifications won’t make you happy, so what’s the point in worrying about it all so much? The same goes for relationships that aren’t working or goals you’re holding onto just to impress other people with. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone, yet we spend our whole lives striving to win points in life as if it’s one big game.

Having the Right View shapes all of our other intentions and actions, so it is vital that people put their priorities straight. What are you working towards? What do you really want to do? What matters to you?

Right Intention

Can you imagine what kind of world it would be if more people intended to leave things in a better state after they came than before they arrived? Every act of kindness, no matter how small, adds up. Just a smile or some kind words can improve someone’s day or week, or even save a life. You can make a difference. This is what minimalism is all about – resisting the pull of selfish desire for the greater good of ourselves and for others.

If people just took a moment to breathe before they spoke or acted, then there would be much less anger and violence in the world. Holding a grudge or desire for revenge against somebody else is like holding a hot rock – painful and burdening, and yet people feel like this every single day.

Extending our compassion for people who annoy us doesn’t mean we understand why they’re doing something, it means that we understand that they are only human, they make mistakes but they’re just doing their best to be happy.

Every interaction we have with the Earth and other people should be with the intention of goodwill – to make the world a better place. If you want to make your mark on the world, let it be a positive one.

Commit to this with your whole heart, and you will attract like-minded, kind and gracious people into your life. Everything slots into place if you have the right attitude, and true intentions.


People who are truly wise can see things from a higher perspective. They know when to listen and when to speak. And they know when to act and when to let things go. But most importantly, they know how to be happy.


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Minimalism & The Noble Eightfold Path

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Buddhism is one of those things, like travel and culture, that you can read all the books you want about it (believe me I have read many) but the only way you really learn is through practical experience.

Buddhism is not so much a religion, but a philosophy – a way of living. There are many precepts and concepts and theories and scriptures, but essentially the real beauty of Buddhism shows itself when you try to apply what you have learned from pages in a book to your daily routines, interactions, relationships, work and outlook.

Trying to explain Buddhism to other people is a very difficult task. There are many people who are closed minded, hold prejudices against religion, don’t know anything at all, make judgements too quickly, or worst yet, they think they already know it all.

But nobody is really right or wrong and certainly nobody knows everything. Even during my research for this post, I have learned new things, and I have already been practising for a few years now. So I shall start at the beginning, with what the 8 Fold Path is, and over the next few posts I’ll explain more about each of the principles and how you can constructively apply them to your (minimalist) life.

The Noble Eightfold Path

The Eightfold Path is a pragmatic guideline which was taught by the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama himself to show people how they can develop their ethical and moral conduct, gain wisdom and eventually liberate themselves from suffering.

If you look at the Dharma wheel, it has eight spokes, which represent the eight aspects of the path. They all begin with ‘Right ____’ to show that there is some way to act and think in every situation that would reduce suffering towards ourselves and others.

They are not ordered steps that you follow until you’ve ‘mastered’ one before moving onto the next, instead, they are all deeply interrelated and good practice involves being mindful of all of them at the same time, as much as you can.

The Four Noble Truths lays out that the origin of suffering is attachment, and that the way to release oneself from suffering is to follow a path that leads away from all of the delusions of what is and isn’t real and truly important. 

So even though there is no set order, since the general direction of the path leads away from ignorance, some of the principles are easier to start with than others. The most common way the principles are divided is into Wisdom, Ethical Conduct, and Mental Development:

When you begin to apply this new way of thinking into your life, there is every chance that you will make mistakes. Or, bad things might happen and people will wear on your patience. These are the times when you and your practice will be tested. But if you take them as opportunities to learn from, through a trial and error, in the end you will gain a much deeper understanding of yourself and the way the world works – which coincidentally, is something close to enlightenment.

What has the Eightfold Path have to do with minimalism? As it turns out, everything. In the next post, I will talk about how to attain (at least a little) wisdom, with the Right View and Right Intention. Then, I’ll move onto the other principles under Ethical Conduct, which will be about acting considerately towards others, and Mental Development which is about cultivating a strong state of mind, free from illusions.

In the meantime, here are some posts that you might find helpful:

The Eightfold Path is exactly what it says – a path, what you learn on the journey is so much more important than the destination. If you are patient and persistent with your practice, trust me, eventually you will find your way.


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Embrace Life’s Flow

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“Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it”. ~Lao Tzu

If only we could be more like water – strong, life-giving and beautiful. It trickles and surges, ebbs and swirls, here and there, following the natural course of life without attachment or resistance. Even when it appears to be quite still, it is not stagnant but peaceful and content. And it is always always flowing.

There are some weeks you’re busy, some weeks you’re bored. Sometimes you feel like working out, other times you feel like pigging out. Some days a friend or loved one can do no wrong, other days everything they do irks you. You can have an absolute favorite movie, song, food dish, book or hobby, but a few months later its being overplayed or you tire of it. One moment the sun is shining, the next it is raining.

People are fickle, states are constantly changing, old things break, new things are invented. Things don’t simply move in just one direction – they can go backwards, forwards, left or right, up or down, and even in complete cycles. If we try to force things we cannot control to be one way or another, or if we insist on being at one extreme or another, then eventually we will lose our balance. This is okay sometimes too, but if we look for it, there is always a middle way.

There is too much energy in the world for things to ever truly be still. It’s exactly these fluctuations and transitions that we experience every day that makes things exciting, keeps us on our toes and reminds us – if we remain mindful of it – that we are alive.

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When you let go of… words

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Since starting Minimal Student almost three years ago now, I have never taken more than a few weeks off at a time, but after coming back to England and settling in my own place, and no longer travelling as much as I used to, I felt that my writing had run out of steam. In January, I took a hiatus so that I could rearrange my thoughts and priorities, and hopefully come back a better writer.

To achieve this, I took the rather unusual approach of learning how to reflect about myself – without using any words at all.

Words are concrete, specific and tangible, but in reality, our emotions and feelings are not. I realise now that it is very difficult to convey even a fraction of who and what we are and how we feel in words – most people can only speak or write well enough to reveal the tip of the iceberg of themselves. And even if we could, we can never guarantee that others would understand. Humans are complex and irrational creatures, many of our actions are self-justified, illogical, unreasonable, or simply make no sense to others but ourselves.

So I decided to go back to the beginning, scrap all I knew about writing and start again. I emptied my cup. I turned off the computer, and sat my ass down on a pillow for a few moments each day. It wasn’t easy at first, I helplessly watched my mind jump around like an agitated squirrel trapped in a cage. But eventually I learned to embrace my energetic mind, and to observe myself without attachment or judgement – I learned to let go.

My break from writing taught me that there’s a lot to be said for putting down the pen and just being. Without words, there are no expectations, preconceptions, nothing to show or prove to anybody else, no gray areas and nothing to hide behind.

After a few months, my journey led here – back to writing again. But this time, it is clear that my style has evolved into a way of expressing myself that I feel touches something much deeper within. With practice, I hope I can continue to grow enough to be able to make sense of topics that are very difficult to explain, but too important to ignore.

It’s an ambitious task, but I like to think of it as a challenge.

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