The Serenity of Downsizing: Minimalism and its Parallels to Mindfulness

The world is filled with things and objects, but so are our minds with thoughts, ideas, fears, hopes, anticipations, etc. The idea of mindfulness itself is based on a concept of being more aware of the present moment and its content, without allowing our thinking processes to pull us in this never ending circle of mind activity. The mind has its ways of occupying our whole experience of life. Our identity and self are hijacked by our mind and we identify with our thoughts and feelings. Thoughts can be intelligent, beautiful and helpful, but most likely they are repetitive and worrisome, or focused on the past. In the worst case, they can threaten the self and become self-destructive. By creating a space between the observer – our consciousnesses and the content of the consciousnesses, the mind expends itself and the thoughts become less loud and are no longer the center of our experience.

The “emptiness” of the mind has its own expression in the outside world of the minimalism as a way of life: owing less things, needing less for productive life and dispelling the myth of success which was usually seen through owning a lot of material possessions, luxury and high social status. Minimalism has its roots in visual arts, architecture and interior design in the 1960s and 1970s. Japanese tradition and zen concepts of simplicity had significantly influenced the movement as well. The minimalism of the 21st century is mostly embraced by the young people who are the most avid users of attention-dividing devices and gadgets. This makes perfect sense. We desperately need this empty space in our lives, in order to alleviate the ever-growing anxiety of the busy life style, be more productive and experience life more profoundly.

In the modern world bombarded with stimulation to our senses, it makes perfect sense why so many people find comfort in less things and possessions. By decluttering our minds and our living space we cannot protect ourselves from the unpleasant experiences and the “dirt” of the world, but we can create a space of serenity for ourselves, our own zen gardens.

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