The first ten years of my career I was listening to others talk: As a former “news junkie,” breaking news and the latest trends dominated the majority of my attention. The most popular story would dictate my thoughts. And I’d often get swept into the vicious cycle of news and negativity.
Like a sugar craving, the news never “stopped” until I learned to stop consuming. And guilty pleasures don’t make it easy: We create meaning and form our existence based on our wandering senses. We acquire more friends and followers. Consuming more. And never feeling like we’re enough.
I focused on external validation and outsourced my soul to “fit in.”
I worked a job to pay for my rent. And lived on the hamster wheel of working grueling hours only to spend every cent.
“When the mind is guided by the wandering senses, then it carries away one’s understanding, as does the wind a ship on the water,” warns the Bhagavad Gita.
I was a material girl in an ego-driven world, craving meaning and purpose. So when I stumbled on a concept called minimalism, it immediately appealed to me because of its inherent opposition to my life. As someone who enjoys challenging my habits, I started to apply minimalism directly to my life. It wasn’t an easy journey but I lived to tell the story.
Here are the five incredible benefits of minimalism:
1. A deep state of peace
Before my minimalist obsession, my perpetual state of anxiety forced me into extreme athleticism. I trained and ran 26.2 miles in the Marine Corps marathon. When excess running didn’t soothe my soul, I sought alternative measures. Even though I could easily run long distances with no problems, I had to continuously run further and harder to get my anxiety to disappear. It wasn’t until I found yoga and meditation fourteen years ago that I learned how to find a deep state of peace.
Through my yoga practice, I achieved sense withdrawal, known as pratyahara. Finally, I could discern my quiet, focused voice from the noisy, loud chatter of the outside world. Instead of focusing on where I was never good enough (or never running far enough), I sought solace by merely showing up on my mat.
It didn’t matter if I merely laid in child’s pose and breathed. I slowly learned how to be ok with a quiet mind. I applied the principle of pratyahara not just on the yoga mat but in the real world too. By withdrawing from my desires, I was more easily able to let go of possessions. I learned how to love myself without “things.” And the minimalistic approach to my life came full circle with a focus on simplicity.
Instead of “keeping up” with the latest fashion trends or water cooler talk, I focused on “waking up” to the best version of me.
I invited the possibility that I was enough without anyone’s approval. I surrendered to the notion that I didn’t have to have “everything figured out” because when do we ever honestly have everything figured out, anyway? Slowly, doubts and fears started to subside.
By turning down the decibels of the outside world, I could finally hear my own voice. I thought more clearly. I breathed deeper. I felt ease and joy in my company.
Going cold turkey to reduce my possessions was challenging. When I got rid of items, I felt a need to purchase something to replace it. Instead of running to the nearest store or online shop, I began to collect my “stuff” digitally on Pinterest. Stocking up on virtual Prada’s minus the price tag facilitated simplicity.
I stopped spending time shopping in a mall (which is an empath’s worst nightmare, anyway). And started to explore fringe topics only found in books and documentaries. The upshot to this new habit was that I saved money; many of the books and documentaries were a lot less expensive than my designer handbag obsession, anyway.
3. Fewer things
I didn’t know the word for it at the time, but “conspicuous consumption” ruled my life.
Conspicuous consumption is the purchasing of luxuries on a lavish scale in an attempt to enhance one’s prestige. I’d buy the latest Louis Vuitton to prove my comfortable existence. I cared deeply about the superficial world. And my default setting was to show it off.
It sounds like a paradox. When you know who you are, you’ll have a lot of “things” to prove to everyone that you exude a particular type of personality. If you’re an extrovert, you may drive a red car. If you love wine, you may subscribe to a wine club where you can show off your wine knowledge. It’s a human desire innate to communicate our essence to others.
We’re incentivized to present ourselves a certain way to suit others and if we don’t have the “right” car or bottle of wine or designer handbag, we feel a lack. And we fill this lack by purchasing things that we don’t need to impress people we don’t like.
While I love wine and won’t judge you if you drive a red car or have a basic purse, I no longer feel the need to buy things to prove myself to others. Even though I still appreciate designer luxury, I’m now happiest when I pursue self-knowledge and spiritual wisdom. I can more easily tap into a state of flow which leads to improved well-being.
4. Improved Well-Being
Before my minimalism obsession, I was surrounded by so much “stuff” yet miserable. I’d binge drink and stay out late to distract myself from the fact that I wasn’t happy. Even though running many miles and shopping reinforced positivity (or so I thought at the time), my life was an emotional rollercoaster because I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin.
My life became more joyful with more experiences and fewer things.
But even as an entrepreneur, I’m not immune to falling into the trap of more. The sound is turned all of the way up with the extreme focus on “hustle” and ego-driven metrics. Since quitting my shopping addiction (and every other addiction I’ve had), I’ve learned how to tune into my deep, inner world and tune out the shallow, outside influences.
My minimalist mindset has allowed me to pierce through an otherwise mechanical existence. Today I regularly tap into a state of awe. I surf in the ocean and surround myself with dolphins and sea lions on a daily basis. Anytime I feel a “lack” in myself, I’ll watch the sunset and practice gratitude for how far I’ve come.
My life isn’t always an emotional utopia. But I’m frequently in alignment with who I am today and focused on who I want to become.
5. Enhanced Creativity
This next phase of our humanity shifts from merely showing off into slowing down.
As we become more mindful, it’s up to us how we can mold our lives into a tool for positive, meaningful change—not in a way that’s fake or forced, but rather in a way that feeds our souls through collaboration and connection.
When we listen, explore, and fully embrace opportunities that are in alignment with our true selves, we can evolve towards a deeper, richer experience of life.
Since eliminating everything that no longer works, my soul feels unfettered. And my heart is free. I now only take on projects that are aligned with who I am today. This approach to life has guided me to write a book, launch a podcast, run a business, and become a yoga teacher.
These aren’t items on my to-do list. Instead, they feel like ta-dah’s; I’m guided by intuition and life is filled with magic.
Listening to our internal voice should not be taboo. But it takes courage to say yes to less – not in a way that’s fake or forced, but rather in a way that allows our humanity to pierce through the mechanics of our programmed lives.
Whether we experience a more mindful state of existence through yoga or meditation, let’s turn down the noise. Let’s create a society where silence is welcome. Maybe then, we can learn to cultivate equanimity, so that we can listen to what others have to say.