Standing Still: Ways Minimalism creates stillness

“Sitting still is a way of falling in love with the world and everything in it; I’d seldom though of it like that.  Going nowhere as a way of cutting through the noise and finding fresh time and energy to share with others; I’d sometimes moved toward the idea, but it had never come home to me so powerfully as in the example of this man who seemed to have everything, yet found his happiness, his freedom in giving everything up.”  – Pico Iyer in “The Art of Stillness”


When I talk about minimalism, it is easy to express the physical benefits of having an uncluttered space.  It is easy to talk about the time it creates to pursue life’s passions.  Yet, there is one benefit of minimalism that is a bit more difficult to explain and at the core of producing a significant life change. I have come to see it is almost a byproduct of minimalism.  It is stillness.

Have you ever gone in a forest and felt so lost in nature that nothing else could be more relaxing and beautiful?  It is the feeling of complete stillness, often lost in the modern world.  This feeling quiets the world for a minute.  In an age of cell phones, technology, TV, Facebook feeds, commericals, and Youtube, sometimes our minds need a break from all the competing things trying to get our attention.

This feeling can be a great motivation to continue in the journey to minimalism, especially on the days when the clutter feels overwhelming and we’d rather shove it back in a drawer.  I had plenty of those days when I downsized from 3800 square foot home to a town home 1000 square feet smaller with no basement.

In essence, minimalism is about slowing down and really listening to yourself.  For me, this new found calmness came over time, and was a completely unexpected surprise.  I was used to a hectic life as a busy mother, and I believed the feeling of overwhelm and feeling”frazzled’ had to be a common sentiment running though my life.  That is, until I realized I could do with less.  I could make a choice to rid myself of the stuff that controlled my time, and I could want less.  I could live in a smaller house.  I could choose to have less financial stress.   I could truly live a simpler, more intentional life. Yes, there are still those days when I feel completely a mess, when everything seems to be the normal chaos of motherhood and having 3 young kids, yet even those days seem to be a little easier, and not as daunting as before.

For every person this process is different.  You may decide you need less distractions in your environment or you need to desire less external motivators of success.  For another, it may be decluttering their schedule to make time for friends or even, having a small simple room to escape to for meditation.   All of these seemingly unimportant physical changes create peace.  In another sense, box by box, you feel emotions leave your life that no longer have a place.  And by delving further and further into the questions minimalism poses, I’ve discovered a quiet stillness and calm after the storm.

Minimalism opens a sense of renewed energy and calm.  You don’t have to buy anything.  You don’t have to do anything extraordinary other than start to see your external environment differently and begin to change priorities.  It does not happen overnight. I must admit, it takes time.  Bu it doesn’t cost us anything.  Once the peace settles in of an uncluttered home, a simple schedule, and a less chaotic life, you wonder why you had not thought of standing still before.  Honestly, it is something I found in minimalism that I did not really expect.

“The quieter you become the more you hear.” – Ram Dass

Why does minimalism create the opportunity for a more peaceful life?

1.Mental space is created.   By having less, wanting less, and worrying less about consumption, I have found that I want to contribute my time to the world in a meaningful way.  I believe this is because minimalism creates mental space.  By decluttering my life, and realigning my values to live intentionally based on things I believe in, I have found my time is spent more on developing my career and looking for ways to reach out to the world, instead of focusing on external things that did not make me happy.

2.You become more present in the moment.  In a sense, by removing distractions, you lower the noise level of the world.  For example, I can now walk by a store without wanting to buy something and less time is spent managing material things overall.  I have more mental energy to be present with my family because time is not wasted.

3.You seem to have more time.  After I embraced minimalism, I physically was not as exhausted after organizing and cleaning my home.  On a deeper level, I felt freer.  We live in an ultra busy world, at a very fast pace. Sometimes, we just need to slow down and be very intentional about how we spend our time.  I’ve cut my shopping time in half, which has allowed me time for self-reflection.  In turn, I’ve realized things that have contributed to my personal development.  It is like a long game of dominos, with one change making room for another.

4. You can go somewhere beautiful, even while going nowhere.  I am reading “The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere” by Pico Iyer.  The author left his busy life in NYC as a successful writer for Time magazine, to simplify his life and as he explains, “learn how to make those joys less external and ephermeral.”  He spent a year in a small room in Kyoto, Japan, but then discovered that finding himself was less about a destination, and more about an internal shift in his mind influencing his attitudes, and perceptions.  Iyer explains,”The idea behind Nowhere-choosing to sit still long enough to turn inward-is at heart a simple one. . . our solutions our peace of mind-lie within.”

Iyer describes visiting Leonard Cohen, who was living as a monk at Mt. Baldy Zen Center:

Leonard Cohen had come to this Old World redoubt to  make a life-an art-out of stillness.   And he was working on simplifying himself as fiercely as he might on the verses of one of his songs, which he spends more than ten years polishing to perfection. . . Being in this remote place of stillness had nothing to do with piety or purity, he assured me; it was simply the most practical way he’d found of working through confusion and terror that long been his bed follows.”

I believe that life is more peaceful when we realize we don’t need so much to create happiness.  We can have a cup of coffee and a great conversation, and that experience is magnified when there are less distractions.  Sure, life will continue, but there are something to be said about living each moment in joy and reducing the amount of daily anxieties.  For each individual, this process looks different, yet the benefits of the time and space it creates are huge motivations to continue on the journey to living more intentionally.   For in these quiet moments, we often find ourselves.


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