Decluttering the mind
Badal Suchak talks about the need for ‘minimalism’ and clarifies that it can happen by living with awareness, without necessarily giving up anything
There is a tradition of decluttering our homes of unwanted old objects and possessions before the festive season or doing spring cleaning annually. It is definitely a good idea and decluttering our spaces and cleaning it up does clear up our minds to a certain extent, as is rightly believed.
Do we ever wonder that living with fewer objects could be just one aspect of decluttering and minimal living? Isn’t our need for collecting ideas, concepts borrowed from reading books, seeking new experiences by travelling, curated eating, and other experiences where we seek sensorial thrill, also, in a way, cluttering our Path? This could be a radical view demanding deeper contemplation. Let us take a look at the multiple facets of the idea of ‘minimalism’
Whether we desire to possess objects or information, books, and experiences, or travel, etc., we are bound. Marketers have understood very well that consumers have shifted focus from seeking objects to experiences and, therefore, they meticulously design experiences to entice and retain customers, getting them addicted to experiences and getting them to shell out more and more money. Customer experiences, online and offline, are designed to be addictive and reinforce the sense of emptiness and belief that getting a certain product or experience will give a sense of fulfilment, which, it unfortunately never does.
We go through a stage where we stop seeking objects and start seeking knowledge. We start collecting books and get an overload of borrowed ideas and concepts. Someone rightly mentioned that there is so much written information in our world that even if we were to simply turn the pages of all the available books, our life may end but we’d not yet have completed turning the pages of all the books. Learning from what others have written does help. However, ultimately, one has to rely on one’s own experiential insights. That is the only authentic knowledge which we can call ours without cluttering our minds with externally borrowed concepts.
I do not intend to paint a pessimistic picture of giving up everything: objects, books, gourmet food, travel, and seeking Truth. Paradoxically, one does not need to give up anything to declutter one’s mind. One can feel light amidst an abundance of objects and experiences as long as the mind is detached and clear. The journey to minimalism begins with one’s mind.
We can learn to balance between ‘maximalism’ and ‘minimalism.’ One isn’t better than the other. Both are essentially concepts and have their own merits and rightful place in one’s life. Someone mentioned light-heartedly: “Get a monk a corporate job, a car, a family, and material things to manage, and he is likely to get stressed out with these.” It is important to be aware of the mindset with which one is letting go. One also comes across genuinely wise and compassionate renunciates who live a deeply meaningful minimalist life for themselves and have the capacity to give the maximum back to the society they are serving. One is awestruck at their high levels of energy with which they tirelessly give of themselves to be of help to the world. They have struck the right balance between ‘minimalism’ and ‘maximalism.’
The past decade saw a counter-trend of ‘maximalism’: Visualising, Emotionalising, and Vocalising with affirmations —‘The Secret’ to fulfilling one’s desires, with a mindset of abundance, is what was lauded. This stream of thought still has a huge fan following and surely provides a profitable market for many businesses.
I am not endorsing either giving up or hoarding things; just inviting one to see the possibility of being able to appreciate all the sensorial experiences/objects and still live with a decluttered mind.
There is no need to give up mindlessly as long as one can live with objects and experiences mindfully. Zen ‘minimalism’ is beautiful as it emerges from a quiet mind. The converse is not sustainable: decluttering space to declutter mind.
‘Tyag na take vairagya vina’—This is a line from a Gujarati song implying: Decluttering or letting go is sustainable only when it stems from a pure mind. I’ve noticed that every year, while doing spring cleaning, one gives away things to declutter; however, gradually, one starts hoarding unnecessary stuff again, over a period of time. This happens because the root of hoarding mentality has not been addressed.
The eternal traveller
Nikhil Inamdar, in one of his articles, speaks of how millennials have been brainwashed by propaganda that only a well-travelled life is worth living. So, they breathlessly travel the world, clicking selfies and getting social media gratification. A new study holds tourism responsible for nearly a tenth of the world’s carbon emissions and of inflicting irreversible environmental damages to several beautiful parts of the world.
Many millennials have been inspired by writers and filmmakers to go out and live their lives completely: “You’ve got only one life. Do what you want. Seek what you want.” Often, this gets misconstrued, leading to hedonistic behaviour. My friend, Sameer Thakkar, once said so beautifully, “They say, ‘Go live your life completely and enjoy it fully,’ but I believe, life lives itself spontaneously. We just have to let it be.”
The teaching of ‘living in the moment’ has been gravely misinterpreted. It can be more rightly understood if we reframe it as being alive to the present moment of one’s life, whether the present moment offers pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral experiences.
Many of us let go of physical possessions and go out seeking spiritual experiences. If one guru cannot fulfil our spiritual ambitions, we hop over to the next one. Instead of shopping for objects, now we begin a ‘spiritual shopping.’ We clutter our path with several tools and techniques of spiritual realisation. Can we simply relax into our authentic self? Can we let go of this and simply be?
Changing the world
Many of us who have had ‘spiritual experiences’ feel excited about it and are keen on sharing and spreading the word, helping others to experience the same and converting them to align to our understanding of the truth. A Western journalist once approached Ramana Maharshi suggesting to him to start doing social service since he was a realised soul. Ramana Maharshi’s famous response to this was, “Self-realisation is the best social service.” He never travelled anywhere and lived his entire life at the feet of the sacred Arunachal mountain, being a blessed inspiration to thousands who approached him. My guru, Morari Bapu, says that his work is not to change people; he simply accepts them as they are. And in this loving acceptance, people flower in their own authentic selves.
Pure observation and awareness
Stating that “Truth is a pathless land,” J Krishnamurti never encouraged anyone to hold on to any ideas or concepts or techniques of meditation. He encouraged his listeners to live completely free of all of this, endorsing pure observation.
Whether one is ‘letting go’ or ‘holding on,’ the important thing is the frame of mind behind the action.
Pleasure and emancipation
Can Bhog and Yog be balanced? Vedic seers spoke of Kaam and Moksha in the same breath. ‘Omkaram bindu samyuktam, nityam dhyanti yoginaha, Kaamadam Mokshadam chaiva, Omkaraya namo namaha’
Most of our gods and goddesses, Krishna in particular, are opulently dressed up in heavy jewellery and silk garments, served fifty-six varieties of food, fragrances, and entertained with the offering of music and dance. Divine beings seek nothing and are offered everything!
One does not require to give up any objects, experiences, reading, traveling, or seeking; one just has to do it with awareness.
One can live beautifully, balancing between ‘maximalism’ and ‘minimalism.’
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