Category Archives: Zen Buddhism

The secret to minimalist travel

Having spent a few weeks trying to settle down in a completely foreign country, I’m often asked, “Do you miss home?“.

The answer isn’t a simple yes or no.

Yes, I miss my family and my home, but that doesn’t mean I want to go back right now. I care about them a more than they know, but  I would much rather be where I am now. Even though everyday presents small challenges and leaps out of my comfort zone, I manage to learn something new about the world each and every time.

And one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that even though I’m on the other side of the world, perhaps I’m not really away from home at all.

the secret to minimalist travel

Before I moved, I wrote a post about how to pack a minimalist suitcase. Carrying less is only one part of what minimalist travel really means. You can pack as light as you want, but you won’t be satisfied if you don’t have the second ingredient too.

The secret to true minimalist travel is having portable peace of mind.

What does this mean? In short, it means having the ability to take ‘home’ wherever you go.

If you can take your peace of mind with you, you will be content wherever you are. You can go anywhere and you won’t have to worry about being homesick if your home is always with you. Imagine if there was a way you could pack it up and carry it everywhere, without it weighing a thing…

redefining home

What does the word ‘home’ mean to you? For most people, it’s

  • the place they keep their stuff
  • the place they grew up/made good memories
  • where they ‘live’

If you take these three things and think about them carefully one by one, perhaps it’s not so hard to believe that you can make your home ‘portable’.

1. “It’s where I keep my stuff”. If you take your stuff with you, then your home is no longer where you keep your stuff! If you go travelling often, it might be the place you use as storage. If that’s the case, any safe place will do as storage space! When I first moved to university, I left a few things at home that I didn’t need. Because I had all of the things I did need in my dorm, it felt more like home than the one I left behind.

2. “It’s where I grew up”. When people get nostalgic, they’re not really thinking about the particular thing, it’s for the memory of it. A piece of clothing, an old toy or even a building isn’t what is making you happy, it’s all of the happy times you’ve associated with it. Memories are stored in your head, so if you really think about it, you don’t actually need the thing to be with you forever. You can move from place to place, and create new memories which will be just as good, or even better, even after you’ve moved away. Of course it will be a little sad if you never saw the place you grew up again, but not getting too attached to things that don’t last anyway, is the key to moving on. Even though it may be nice to revisit memories once in a while, dwelling on the past isn’t something you should do forever.

3. “It’s where I live”. By ‘live’ I mean where one eats, drinks, sleeps and relaxes in general. If you move to a new place, this is now where you will ‘live’, so who cares where it is? Wherever you eat and sleep is where you are, so a part of what ‘home’ means is you. You are your home.

My biggest aspiration in life is to be able to see the world and experience new and different ways of thinking. For me, I feel that my ‘home’ will always be a safe place I can go back to, where I can find my bearings if I get lost and where I can ground myself and think carefully when I don’t know where I want to go next. For me, ‘home’ is a place beyond an arrangement of bricks.

Home is special, it’s mine and it’ll always be with me.

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So what if I’m only human?

 

Credit: First Light

  • When people realize they’ve made a mistake, they say ‘I’m only human’.
  • When people feel like they can’t achieve any more, they say “I’m only human”.
  • When people feel like they’ve lost control of themselves, they say “I’m only human”.

But what do those words actually mean? That ‘being human’ is some kind of weakness? That it is a disadvantage?

What if there wasn’t anything “only” about being human?

Realizing that you’ve made a mistake means that you have the ability of self-awareness. Not a lot of creatures are capable of such a simple act that we take for granted. Animals can be disciplined or tamed, but they can’t learn from their mistakes like we can, and plants don’t know or care if they’re growing in somebody’s way. They just do whatever their instincts tell them. Self awareness is an invaluable tool so that we can learn from our mistakes and know how to do it right next time.

As humans we have the ability to push ourselves beyond what we are capable of right now. We have the power of imagination, and the power of dreams to fuel us. Who knew a hundred years ago that you would be able to grab almost any piece of information in the world by just waving your fingers? Where you put limitations today, might not be there tomorrow.

Bruce Lee  is one of my greatest heroes. Not only did he push his body to almost superhuman levels, he changed many lives with his philosophical teachings. He said,

If you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality and into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.

We shouldn’t underestimate ourselves. I just finished reading The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins and if there’s one thing I learnt is that humans are unique in that we can override our genetic programming that tells us to constantly eat, sleep and breed. We don’t have to be lazy, greedy or aggressive. Instead, we spend our time and energy doing greater things like educating ourselves, getting really fit and helping others.

And why should we help others? Because we’re lucky enough to have a conscience – an inner sense of what is right and wrong. We are capable of following a morality system that reduces suffering and increases happiness. We have the ability to control our desires and emotions so that some people don’t have to eat like dogs whilst others live like kings.

So on that note, yes being human is fantastic, but it doesn’t give us the right to lord it over other people or creatures. This wasn’t an arrogant horn tooting about how great we are. Humans have done incredibly stupid and harmful things throughout history. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. But for every warlord there was a saint. For every act of cruelty, there is an act of kindness. Yes, we do make mistakes, but we can achieve great things too, because we’re human after all.

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Attachment, defined.

In many of my posts, I talk about not getting attached to things, because it makes it harder to let go. In my last post, I talked about trying to not get too attached to people and places, because it makes it harder when you inevitably have to say goodbye (or do you?).

But you can’t go through life not making friends or going places just because you don’t want to get hurt.

In response to my last post Debbie V said

Reading your post made me wonder if minimalism can be sometimes related to a person’s avoidance of emotional attachments to people. Just a thought. Holding on some things from the past – memories, friendships, even those mementos of very important events – is important to my sanity. These things sustain me in the rough times of the present. There’s a balance.

Thank you Debbie for your comment, I really appreciate it! I’ve wanted to clarify this point for a long time.

attachment, defined.

Attachment to something means:

  • you depend on having it to be happy
  • you never want to let it go because you think it will make you less happy

The problem with attachment is that you are depending of something outside of yourself to be happy. But we all know that nothing lasts forever. Things can break, get stolen, be misplaced, lost in a house fire, become redundant and a hundred other things. People can move on, drift away, change, fall out of love, get in an accident, move house and more. So your happiness is only temporary if you rely on them for it.

If you want to achieve stable happiness, you need to find it in yourself, not in things or other people.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have deep and lasting relationships, it just means you don’t depend on them to be happy.

For example, imagine a couple A. You have probably witnessed something like this before. They meet, they get together and ‘fall in love’. They spend all their time together. They think they’re really happy and they can’t stand to be apart.

But, after a while, they start to notice things about the other person that irks them. Eventually, they get into fights and break up. They’re used to spending all their time together, so they’re really unhappy because they’re alone. They can’t stand it, so they get back together. But all of the issues that caused them to break up in the first place come back, and they break up again. The cycle continues because they can’t stand the unhappiness that comes with being together, but they can’t stand the unhappiness that comes from being alone. They depend too much on having the other. It’s a downward spiral.

This is a typical example of an emotional dependency (attachment) to one’s partner. I know this doesn’t happen to everyone, but I know that in my experience, it does happen.

Now imagine couple B:

A couple ‘fall in love’. They spend a lot of time together, but they also spend some time apart. They miss the other person when they’re away, but they find their own life that is separate from their partner’s. They share things, and depend on the other person, but not all the time. They are independent, strong people together and on their own. They support each other and don’t hold the other back for selfish reasons. They’re not needy, suspicious or joined at the hip. Instead they’re honest, trusting, and strong. Because of this, their relationship is deep and fulfilling.

Should something bad happen to the other person, of course they would be devastated, just like anyone else. But they know that the other person would want them to find a way to move on, instead of losing their ‘life’ too.

They don’t agree on everything, and it’s not always easy for them either. But they keep an open mind, they’re willing to compromise and contribute equally to the relationship. They’ll probably live a long and happy life.

Couples A and B illustrate the difference between a relationship made of attachment and a truly loving relationship.

Yes, a part of minimalism is about avoiding attachments. But it’s not about avoiding emotions. You don’t have to be scared of meeting new people, making friends, or finding partners. If another person makes you happy, let them.

If keeping mementos from a holiday makes you happy, then keep them. Minimalists aren’t trying to avoid things because we don’t want to get emotionally attached, we try to avoid the things that can lower our happiness.

Where we can help it, I believe we can greatly contribute to our own happiness by finding it within ourselves and taking it wherever we go, instead of having to drag around another person or piles of junk with us, because let’s face it, they’re pretty heavy.

I’m really interested to know what you guys think about this topic. Let me know in the comments!

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How to revive the lost art of sitting still

During this academic year, I noticed that more and more I felt like I had to be doing something productive at every waking moment, otherwise I would be ‘wasting time’. I became impatient, and gained bad habits like looking at flashcards whilst walking and murmuring lists to myself whilst cycling (kinda like a crazy person, huh?).

As people, we have been trained to believe that doing something is always better than doing nothing, like mindlessly flipping through a hundred channels is better than doing nothing…better than sitting still.

When did it become a bad thing to sit down and do nothing every now and again? When it became ‘lazy’ to do so? But the thing is, sitting down only looks lazy, because you’re not physically moving. But if you stop moving on the outside, you will be able to see that inside your mind there’s a storm going on.

how to reclaim your mind

After a few weeks out of practice, I forgot just how fascinating the process can be. This is usually how I go about it.

Find a quiet place, sit down in a comfortable position for you and close your eyes. Notice how your mind instantly turns on and flips through thought after thought in an attempt to occupy itself. Memories, regrets, expectations, stories, worries… the mind will make anything up in order to not be still.

Why is that? Why is the mind afraid of being empty?

Just observe it without doing anything, no judging, no telling yourself off. After a while, your mind will calm down a little. If you’re finding it difficult, Eckhart Tolle (author of The Power of Now) recommends watching your mind for the next thought to pop up like a cat watching a mouse hole. Or, take a few deep breaths and concentrate on inhaling and exhaling slowly. This will help you focus on being present in the moment.

A lot of people that try meditation for the first time get very frustrated at not being able to clear their mind. They get angry at themselves or say things like ‘mediation doesn’t work’. I think a lot of the time this is because they realise just how little control they have over their own minds, which scares them. But that’s ok, because it scared me too, I mean, if you can’t control your own thoughts, what else can’t you control? But the point of meditation is not necessarily to devoid your mind of any thought, but to simply be aware of the thoughts that do come. When you see yourself drifting off, just breathe deeply and gently steer your mind back to centre.

If you actually try it, you’ll see why I like to call sitting still and art. It looks easy, (it’s just sitting down after all, right?) but it requires learning, skill and practice. It can be a bit difficult if you’ve never done it before, but it can also be a very enlightening experience. You’ll learn a lot about the way your mind works and about yourself – the kind of things you think about all the time, the things make you worried and anxious, and the things that make you smile.

It’s the most minimal of activities, you don’t need any money or equipment, just a little time, patience and a place to sit.

Go on, try it today.

Photo credit : rivieramaya26

Birthday

Last night, I stayed up until past midnight, meditating. I wanted to be fully aware and mindful when the clock struck twelve because today, is my birthday.

I don’t know what it is about birthdays, but lately I’ve can’t help but feel melancholic whenever I think about them. Not that I’m old, far from it, but every year it is a reminder of the things I haven’t done and how time is ticking on.

There’s so much I want to accomplish, and when I count them, I realise that I probably don’t have enough years of my life to do them all. But I’m reminded by an extract from one of my a work by Lucius Seneca – ‘On the Shortness of Life’:

“It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested”.

I find writings like this quite lifting, and one of my favorites of all time is an essay written by Edmund N. Carpenter, age 17, in June 1938. He was a graduate of Harvard who would go on to win the Bronze Star for his service in World War II and to a civilian career as an attorney. He died on Dec. 19, 2008 at age 87 and is survived by six children and 15 grandchildren. It’s pretty long, if you don’t have time to read it, I definitely recommend clipping it for later and then skipping to the bottom. But I think he pretty much sums up what I want my entire life to be about.

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It may seem very strange to the reader that one of my tender age should already be thinking about that inevitable end to which even the paths of glory lead. However, this essay is not really concerned with death, but rather with life, my future life. I have set down here the things which I, at this age, believe essential to happiness and complete enjoyment of life. Some of them will doubtless seem very odd to the reader; others will perhaps be completely in accord with his own wishes. At any rate, they compose a synopsis of the things which I sincerely desire to have done before I leave this world and pass on to the life hereafter or to oblivion.

Before I die I want to know that I have done something truly great, that I have accomplished some glorious achievement the credit for which belongs solely to me. I do not aspire to become as famous as a Napoleon and conquer many nations; but I do want, almost above all else, to feel that I have been an addition to this world of ours. I should like the world, or at least my native land, to be proud of me and to sit up and take notice when my name is pronounced and say, “There is a man who has done a great thing.” I do not want to have passed through life as just another speck of humanity, just another cog in a tremendous machine. I want to be something greater, far greater than that. My desire is not so much for immortality as for distinction while I am alive. When I leave this world, I want to know that my life has not been in vain, but that I have, in the course of my existence, done something of which I am rightfully very proud.

Before I die I want to know that during my life I have brought great happiness to others. Friendship, we all agree, is one of the best things in the world, and I want to have many friends. But I could never die fully contented unless I knew that those with whom I had been intimate had gained real happiness from their friendship with me. Moreover, I feel there is a really sincere pleasure to be found in pleasing others, a kind of pleasure that can not be gained from anything else. We all want much happiness in our lives, and giving it to others is one of the surest ways to achieve it for ourselves.

Before I die I want to have visited a large portion of the globe and to have actually lived with several foreign races in their own environment. By traveling in countries other than my own I hope to broaden and improve my outlook on life so that I can get a deeper, and more complete satisfaction from living. By mixing the weighty philosophy of China with the hard practicalism of America, I hope to make my life fuller. By blending the rigid discipline of Germany with the great liberty in our own nation I hope to more completely enjoy my years on this earth. These are but two examples of the many things which I expect to achieve by traveling and thus have a greater appreciation of life.

Before I die there is another great desire I must fulfill, and that is to have felt a truly great love. At my young age I know that love, other than some filial affection, is probably far beyond my ken. Yet, young as I may be, I believe I have had enough inkling of the subject to know that he who has not loved has not really lived. Nor will I feel my life is complete until I have actually experienced that burning flame and know that I am at last in love, truly in love. I want to feel that my whole heart and soul are set on one girl whom I wish to be a perfect angel in my eyes. I want to feel a love that will far surpass any other emotion that I have ever felt. I know that when I am at last really in love then I will start living a different, better life, filled with new pleasures that I never knew existed.

Before I die I want to feel a great sorrow. This, perhaps, of all my wishes will seem the strangest to the reader. Yet, is it unusual that I should wish to have had a complete life? I want to have lived fully, and certainly sorrow is a part of life. It is my belief that, as in the case of love, no man has lived until he has felt sorrow. It molds us and teaches us that there is a far deeper significance to life than might be supposed if one passed through this world forever happy and carefree. Moreover, once the pangs of sorrow have slackened, for I do not believe it to be a permanent emotion, its dregs often leave us a better knowledge of this world of ours and a better understanding of humanity. Yes, strange as it may seem, I really want to feel a great sorrow.

With this last wish I complete the synopsis of the things I want to do before I die. Irrational as they may seem to the reader, nevertheless they comprise a sincere summary of what I truthfully now believe to be the things most essential to a fully satisfactory and happy life. As I stand here on the threshold of my future, these are the things which to me seem the most valuable. Perhaps in fifty years I will think that they are extremely silly. Perhaps I will wonder, for instance, why I did not include a wish for continued happiness. Yet, right now, I do not desire my life to be a bed of roses. I want it to be something much more than that. I want it to be a truly great adventure, never dull, always exciting and engrossing; not sickly sweet, yet not unhappy. And I believe it will be all I wish if I do these things before I die.

As for death itself, I do not believe that it will be such a disagreeable thing providing my life has been successful. I have always considered life and death as two cups of wine. Of the first cup, containing the wine of life, we can learn a little from literature and from those who have drunk it, but only a little. In order to get the full flavor we must drink deeply of it for ourselves. I believe that after I have quaffed the cup containing the wine of life, emptied it to its last dregs, then I will not fear to turn to that other cup, the one whose contents can be designated only by X, an unknown, and a thing about which we can gain no knowledge at all until we drink for ourselves. Will it be sweet, or sour, or tasteless? Who can tell? Surely none of us like to think of death as the end of everything. Yet is it? That is a question that for all of us will one day be answered when we, having witnessed the drama of life, come to the final curtain. Probably we will all regret to leave this world, yet I believe that after I have drained the first cup, and have possibly grown a bit weary of its flavor, I will then turn not unwillingly to the second cup and to the new and thrilling experience of exploring the unknown.

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If I didn’t write down my thoughts, I think my head would explode. I’m so lucky to have readers like you to share my ideas with. Minimal Student has helped me grow into the kind of person I want to be. Not that I’m there yet, wherever there may be, but like at said at the beginning of MS, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the adventure. I would be so happy if you can find even just a few of the future posts to come on MS inspiring, helpful, motivating, useful, poignant or memorable.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. Since it’s my birthday, I would be elated if you could share Minimal Student by hitting the share button or emailing a link to a friend. Thank you.

Zen and the Art of Minimalism – Part 2: Mastering the Art

In part 1, I discussed Minimalism and Zen Philosophy. This is part 2 of 2 of ‘Zen and the Art of Minimalism’ where I explore the connection between minimalism and art.

What does the word ‘art’ really mean? People can spend years answering this question. Quite obviously, it doesn’t purely mean paintings and sculptures. The first result of the definition of ‘art’ on dictionary.com is:

art

/ɑrt/ Pronunciation [ahrt] –noun

The quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

Here, art is defined as a type of ‘expression‘, which can be interpreted as ‘transferring one’s thoughts and emotions into the material world’. Minimalists believe in the virtues of not having more than what is needed, and therefore ‘expresses’ this attitude by not hoarding material things. At first glance, a minimalist home looks bare, cold and neglected, but a closer look reveals that every item is touched with the minimalist’s love for it’s indispensable value.

What’s more, a lot of people think minimalism is synonymous with depravity. These people are confusing minimalism with frugality. Not all minimalists are frugal, and some invest quite a bit of money on higher quality and longer lasting possessions, which can be simple, but very beautiful. Each item is chosen with intention and care, just like how an artist chooses colours and carefully mixes them together, so that they all work in harmony with each other.

On a superficial level, there is little doubt that minimalism has a lot to do with aesthetics. Getting rid of stuff, means that there is less clutter and  more space, which in my view, is more aesthetically pleasing. For me, there’s nothing more beautiful than empty space, clear surfaces and simple design.

And just like most pieces of art, minimalism is all about what is essential. The really exquisite pieces aren’t tainted with superfluous flourishes or ostentatious garnishes. Each line, carve or brush stoke is done intentionally because each one has a direction, meaning and purpose.

When you eliminate the excess, you’re left with what has more than ordinary significance. Having only a few things that you know you can’t live without means that you are bound to cherish them more than if you had a house full of clutter. Minimalists may look like they don’t care for clothes, gadgets or books because they own so few, but we do care. Everything we own matters to us in some way, otherwise we wouldn’t still have it.

An elegant painting begins with a blank canvas. Each brush stroke is precious, building up, around and intertwining with each other to create an exquisite masterpiece.

A magnificent sculpture begins with a lump of rock. The artist chips away the excess stone to reveal the statue waiting inside to show itself.

But art isn’t just paintings and sculptures.

It could take a short time, or it could take a lifetime. But your home, or your life, is like a large rock or a white canvas waiting for you to express your own unique brand of  art on it.

The art of minimalism, that is.

I’d love to hear your opinions. Do you think there is a relationship between minimalism and art? How do you like to think of minimalism? Please comment below!

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Zen and the Art of Minimalism – Part 1: Zen Philosophy

Image Credit Drue Kataoka

There are a great many articles, ebooks and blogs about how exactly to be more minimalist – how to step by step, get rid of stuff. But, I thought it would be interesting to break it down and explore the background of minimalism and what, if anything, it has to do with Zen philosophy.

No matter how small it may be, few people can deny that there is a ‘wave’ of minimalism happening right now. It has become such a big part of my life now that I wondered where minimalism came from.  From what I had gathered, for some, it was born out of necessity, they wanted to travel, get out of debt or move house, and therefore found it on their own. For others, they discovered it from admiring the lifestyle of the many great blogs written by some very talented writers or successful people. For me, it was a combination of these, plus some good books which eventually persuaded me to change my lifestyle to a different way of living that brings me happiness.

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where minimalism originates. Some would say, as would I, that minimalism has some of it’s roots in Buddhism. Now, I don’t declare to be a Buddhist expert, but I do believe in a great deal of Buddhist principles, such as the importance of:

  • Letting go of attachment
  • Reducing suffering and increasing happiness
  • Mindfulness and focus
  • Kindness and compassion

A traditional Buddhist, such as a monk, lives an extremely minimalist lifestyle because their belief in these principles flow into their everyday life. According to Buddhist beliefs, everything is impermanent – everything is always changing. To (over)simplify it, Buddhists believe that attachment – the clinging onto objects – is what causes suffering because nothing will last forever. Think about your favourite mug. It is special to you because you have made an emotional attachment to it. But what happens if you break or lose the mug? The natural response is to be upset or angry, thereby causing suffering for yourself because of your attachment to it.

So, taking each of the above principles, I like to think minimalism can be connected to:

  • Letting go of attachment – to our possessions, because they don’t define who we are. Everything we own will one day be lost, stolen, broken, donated, outdated, sold or thrown away.
  • Our happiness – because it’s not derived from the things we own and our suffering shouldn’t be defined by the things we do not own.
  • Mindfulness – being aware of the consequences of consumerism and materialism and always wanting more and more. Also, being mindful of our choices, such as the thing we do buy. Focus – on what is important and essential to our lives.
  • Kindness and compassion – spending less time taking care of our things, or working in order to gain more, and instead using that time more wisely to develop our relationship with others or using the money to help those in need.

I don’t claim to be wise or experienced. I’m learning something new every single day. I’m just gathering from my own experiences and what I’ve learnt and am learning from others. In this case, I genuinely believe in the Buddhist way of thinking. So, for me, whenever I speak of minimalism, a little bit of Buddhism is always on the back of my mind.

However, you don’t have to be Buddhist if you want to live a minimalist lifestyle. This is just one way of thinking about it.

Another way to think about it is practically – reasons that one can apply to make their lives better today, so that they can:

  • get out of debt (or not get into it)
  • travel lightly
  • move house easily
  • have more free time
  • have fewer but more valuable things
  • have more space
  • be more productive
  • be greener
  • save up
  • spend less time cleaning
  • lose weight (minimalist eating)
  • accomplish more

All of these things are perfectly valid reasons for minimalism too, and I personally value many of these as I’m a) a poor student, b) not living at home (therefore moving around a lot) and c) about to travel abroad.

For some, it doesn’t matter so much where minimalism comes from, but what we can achieve out of it. You could say that the above reasons are not only the reasons for minimalism, but they are also the achievements themselves.

Or, as I have done, you can take a mixed approach that incorporates all of these reasons to become more minimalist and use them for motivation when you’re tempted to buy or keep something you don’t necessarily need.

Bringing it back to (Zen) Buddhism, I don’t have any hard statistics but from my experience, people who are interested in minimalism are so because they have taken on a selfless and more compassionate attitude when it comes to material things. To make a (potentially inaccurate) sweeping judgement, I think minimalists tend to be more aware, that their resources are better spent on other activities rather than the pursuit of material gain. And, in a spiritual sense, of the need for a higher, more genuine and longer lasting happiness.

This is part one of two of ‘Zen and the Art of Minimalism’. Next post, I’ll talk about what minimalism has to do with art.

I’d love to hear your opinions. Do you think there is a relationship between minimalism and Zen? How do you like to think of minimalism? Please comment below!

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Why You Love The Things You Love

Last month, it snowed. A lot. This photo was the view outside my dorm. It had been piling up for a few days, and got pretty deep. One morning, I was rushing to university when I very nearly fell flat on my face. Thankfully I saved my dignity by doing an ungracious twirl with about the skill of a ballerina with two left feet. Luckily, I was with a friend to laugh it off with.

Just a few minutes before I had been complaining about how sick of the snow I had become. That’s when I realised.

The good things in life, the things we love and enjoy, we cherish them because they don’t come around very often.

Even the little things that pass us by everyday without us noticing.

We play in the snow like kids and have snowball fights because the roads and gardens are only covered in a beautiful white blanket of snow once a year, if that.

We feel a bit superhuman when we manage to pass a green light, or reach the crossing just when the green man shows, only because most of the time it is red.

We bathe in the sun, have picnics and go for walks in the summer because it’s hot, and because it’s not summer all year around.

We can’t help smiling when our favourite song comes on the radio, because most of the time they’re playing something else.

We laugh when someone tells a good joke, because it’s hard to find a good one you haven’t heard before.

We love weekends, because they come less often than weekdays.

We love our mother’s cooking because there is only one place you can have it, at home.

We love our friends and partners because there is nobody else in the world quite like them.

How often do we forget to celebrate these tiny victories?

We can’t have our favourite dessert all day everyday because then it wouldn’t be our favourite any more. We love the things we love, because we don’t have them very much or often. That’s what makes them special.

Minimalism is about having fewer things – so we can cherish each and every one of them. Appreciate their usefulness, design, durability, versatility and value.

Did something happen to you today that made you smile?

Inspired by 1000 Awesome things blog

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Measuring Time

For about a year, I worked in a cinema and my pay was exactly £5 per hour. Soon, over a couple of weeks, I started to develop the habit of measuring time in hours – and then translating that into money.

If I ever received money, I would rejoice at how many hours I would have had to work for it.

If I ever bought anything, I would lament at how many hours I had spent working for it.

Now, I don’t have a job any more, and I’ve recently realised that I’m counting much less. Or rather, I’m measuring time differently.

Instead of spending time, I’ve started to think of it as investing time. I’ve started to think about wasted  time as how much time I could have invested in something. The list never ends. I could invest time in:

– getting fitter

– learning something new

– writing

– developing a skill

– doing something for a good cause

– reading a biography

– meditating

It makes me want to invest all of my time doing something that would benefit me in the long run, instead of spending it on things that I would forget about in a week’s time (like watching TV).

So whenever I am doing something, I should always ask myself am I spending, or investing?

Greatness and Impermanence

Colleges and universities are full of examples of people wanting to make it. They want their names to be written down in history. They want to be remembered for the great things they wrote, the great things they discovered or the great things they built.

Just take a look around you at the names of the buildings and libraries. They were paid for by people who wanted their names to be remembered long after they are gone.

But, as great as they were, did they realise that nothing can ever be remembered forever? That everything in life is impermanent and constantly changing?

Nothing really belongs to us. Our favourite pair of shoes are only in our possessions, until they become worn or lost. Our bikes and cars are only ours until they are stolen, sold or passed on. Even our names are not really ours because they are just labels attached to our physical bodies – which will eventually be gone too.

And yet, some people dedicate their whole lives to financial or intellectual greatness, at what cost? So that a few generations of people will remember them. But what will happen when those people forget? Was your life wasted?

There isn’t an answer or solution to impermanence. After all, everything is impermanent except for impermanence itself. So, what can you do?

You can be the best that you can be, now. Live life to your full potential, discover and write great things, cultivate amazing relationships, help people, be inspired, inspire others and don’t worry about after. Just think about what you can do to make life better for people today, and do it.

If you live a good life, other people will know it, and maybe they’ll write it down, but the most important thing is that you did your best, and that is something nobody can take away from you.