Talk on Minimalism
Hello and thank you for joining me! My name is Whitney and I am starting a new tradition of posting a mini talk like this one once weekly regarding a yoga theme of the week. In this way, we can kick off the week right! My intention with these talks is to help us all begin to live life a little bit more consciously and to even raise the level of our consciousness together. In these talks, I may pull from any number of sources in my life-- I am a Mormon and I love my faith, I was a biology major in college, I am in love with yoga and I own a the Yoga Art Space studio in Albuquerque, NM, I am a woman, I am a wife, I am passionate about bringing creativity into all aspects of life and so I am a painter and a dancer, and most recently, I’ve begun to take my yoga off the ground as I’ve been flying with aerial yoga!
That is a little bit about me. Now before I begin, I’d like to take a moment to mention the sponsor of this week’s talk. This week, I am sponsoring myself, so this talk is brought to you by the Yoga Art Space studio. This mission of Yoga Art Space is to build a healthy, creative, and compassionate community. We understand the healing, empowering, and transformative powers of yoga, meditation, martial arts, and the creative arts. We strive to teach in a way that helps students strengthen the mind-body-spirit connection. We know that as we begin to be filled with light and passion, we invite others to likewise shine more brilliantly. Now if you’d like to be the sponsor one of our weekly talks, I invite you to reach out to me through the website www.YogaArtSpace.com.
Now let’s get onto our theme for this week! This week we are talking about minimalism and how it can be completely life changing to begin to sort through the clutter we have around us. There is a wonderful quote that we’ll be working with this week-- and if you know me, you know I love to bring in quotes into my yoga classes. So this is the quote you’ll be seeing if you come to one of my yoga classes this week. This quote beautifully summarizes the actual task of turning minimalism from a good theory into a sustainable way of life in your house. It really can be a ways of living. This quote is from William Morris and it says, “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is is: Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
Obviously this can apply to more than just your physical house, so whatever space you currently find yourself to be in, whether that is your house, your room, your office, your desk, or even your car, I’d like for you to please take a moment to look around you. We are playing a little I Spy game. I’ll give you about 30 seconds to look around with the goal being to try to search for something around you that you will probably never use again and which you would say doesn’t really enhance the quality of your life in one way or another. (pause)
This is a simple minimalist test just to give you a base note for how you’re doing currently. I don’t want you to feel like a terrible person, but this is just to tell you where you starting spot is. I found several things in my space. There is a holiday craft project that I still haven’t finished, there are books that I may or may not ever read again, there are plants which have shed leaves on the ground that I haven’t gotten around to picking up yet, and I see a poster that hasn’t been hanging for probably 6 months by this point, just propped up against the wall. Now I would definitely not call myself the messiest person ever! But on the other hand, throwing things away has never been the easiest task for me. I think I have this fear that the moment I throw something away, I’ll actually need it for some reason and then I’ll have to waste money buying it again. This following little story will give you somewhat of an idea of how I have traditionally been when it comes to minimalism-- or the lack thereof.
When I was growing up, my dresser was raised and it had about an inch of space where I could keep some small items-- papers, pencils, cute little erasers, bracelets, and many other things. When I didn’t know what to do with junk but I didn’t want to give it away, the item would inevitably make its way under this dresser. I was told to clean my room thoroughly one day because we had special guests coming to our house. So at that time, I decided to go through the trove under the dresser. I went through these items one by one and I could see the value in each and every item. “Maybe I’ll need it one day,” I thought to myself as I began preparing to just put the items back once more. A thought hit me at that point. I asked myself, “If I haven’t used this item for more than a year, what are the chances that I’ll use it in this next year? If I’m not going to use it anytime in the foreseeable future, why am I keeping it?” I knew that it didn’t add beauty or value to my life because it was hidden under a dresser, sitting there taking up space and I would probably never use it! This was one of my first experiences going through things to just throw away what was no longer useful or beautiful to me.
Now one thing I’d like to take a brief note of is that some of the hardest things for me to throw away were things that had been given to me as a gift but which I never found use for. I felt a great amount of guilt when I’m not able to give the item the full value it was meant to provide to me! Now this is a topic for another day to more fully explore, but I wanted to bring it up so that we can remember that there are many reasons why we become attached to the things in our lives.
Now back to that experience in my childhood- I see this tendency as a cycle that has happened to me multiple times in my life. I accumulate things somehow. Some of these things I use and even when it is worn out I have a hard time getting rid of; Other things I never use and I hope to someday so I don’t get rid of them. These things accumulate and fill the space that I have. Sometimes they even overfill the space. This accumulation continues until the point where I get so stressed going into that room that I set aside time to clean and declutter. It stays clean for a while and then slowly the cycle begins again. My attachment to the objects definitely makes it difficult to get rid of stuff each time it gets to that point of the cycle. I feel like I am losing something.
Researchers at Princeton University found that people’s performance at various tasks improved when they were in an organized vs an unorganized room. Too many physical objects in a space compete for your attention and this results in decreased performance and increased stress. (https://unclutterer.com/2011/03/29/scientists-find-physical-clutter-negatively-affects-your-ability-to-focus-process-information/)
We can imagine it in this way: when you first enter a space, your brain has to subconsciously take note of all of the objects in a space. This helps you remember where you left things so that you can make use of the items if needed. This was a useful skill to have back when we were foraging for berries in forests hundreds of years ago. We need to remember where we found the berries so that we could eat and survive. Remembering surroundings and the objects therein could have meant life or death. However, in our spaces now, we have too many objects. When the brain has to do a mental inventory to remind you what is in this room, we lose our attention and we become stressed.
Imagine going into a room where there were only a few objects like a bed, a dresser, and a table and that was it. It would be like heaven for our brains! In fact, that is why hotel rooms may feel like such a relief for us to step into; because all of that extra junk just isn’t there!
Now let’s look at the case of eastern Monks. Most of us have more fingers than the number of total possessions that they can list off. They own a bowl, a double robe (consisting of an upper and a lower robe), a belt, a sewing needle with thread to mend the robes, and a razor to shave the hair of the head. Can you imagine the simplicity of just owning one bowl and that is it. Often times we collect dozens of bowls just so that we don’t have to wash our dishes so frequently!
Needless to say, I think most of us have some steps we can take in the physical realm to clean, organize, and simplify our physical space. Before I finish, though, I’d love to talk about one more point and that is the fact that the physical space around us is just one aspect of who we are, and I’d consider it one of the less significant aspects, at that.
We can bring these same minimalist ideas into our energetic space, into our emotional space, into our thoughts, and into our use of time. I know I tend to have way too many thoughts. That is why I find meditation extremely useful and even necessary-- so that I am not so overwhelmed by all the thoughts I have and so that the space in between the thoughts becomes larger. I can definitely do the same with my use of time. I tend to be one of those types of people who will load as much onto my schedule as possible and I think it is partially because I feel like I am a failure if I don’t try to maximize my use of every second of every day. However, I tend to overwhelm myself so much by doing this that I don’t even want to do any of the things I planned. I love the things I do, but when I overstretch myself, it begins to feel too much like work.
So I hope from this time listening together that we can all clearly see that sometimes less is more. I hope you will take a moment to think of just one aspect of your life to work on, becoming just a little bit more minimalistic this week. And here we remember “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
Thank you so much for listening today. I hope you enjoyed it. I’d love to hear your feedback as we continue to work on these special talks to bring a little bit more light and purpose to your week! If you loved it, please support us by subscribing so that we can continue to bring you fresh content weekly!