Minimalism, Buddhism, and the ties between the two

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This past weekend, I came across a new Netflix documentary by The Minimalists, titled Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. I’ve been familiar with the idea of minimalism and The Minimalists for a while now actually, but this documentary made me think a little deeper about the concept and its similarities to Buddhism.

The documentary explains the roots of minimalism and how minimalism forces you to be aware of your surroundings, your actions and your thoughts — much like Buddhism. We’re free to make our own choices and decisions in this world, and we also control what we give power to. Often times, its easy to give power to material things in our everyday life. From skilled marketing, peer pressure and our overall desire for new things, it can get a little tough to fight against those feelings of wanting more and more. The documentary really touches on how we never end up truly happy chasing desires and material items. It’s just a nonstop cycle until something gives, and it’s usually us that breaks.

This same concept is explained in Buddhism via the Four Noble Truths, specifically the Second Truth. It focuses on how cravings and ignorance are the two main causes of a lot of our suffering. We may feel we have a void in our lives and we try to fix that with material desires. The material desires give us a false sense of satisfaction temporarily, and when that feeling runs out, we look for more and more and the cycle continues.

Not only do Buddhism and minimalism both speak about the desire for more, they also speak about the art of letting go. In Buddhism, letting go of certain feelings and desires should not be done hastily or with some sense of aversion. It should be done mindfully. You should try to make yourself aware of why you have those feelings and why the desire is there! Ultimately, we are not our feelings and our desires — they are simply things we experience.

This idea transitions into minimalism seamlessly. Minimalism does not suggest that you throw everything away for the sake of having very little, but it does want you to avoid having endless items for the sake of having endless items. Figure out what brings value to your life. Do you enjoy having a collection of books on a certain topic that you visit? Are you a wine aficionado? We all have things we enjoy, and that’s perfectly fine. Once you realize what brings value to you, that’s love. What you do want to avoid is not being aware of what you bring into your life from a material view. How many times have you had buyer’s remorse after a few purchases? Or how about finding random items in your home you totally forgot you had? You know, things that just take up space.

When we learn to become aware of our actions, desires and feelings, things become so much easier and clearer. The same way that we are not our feelings and desires, we are also not our possessions and items.

The more I read up on minimalism and find new ways to approach it, I’m really pleased to see how much it resembles Buddhism. When explaining minimalism to others, I like to show this quote from one of The Minimalists’ essays online:

Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.

I’ve been an active Buddhist for just about five years now, and that is the same mindset that I’ve carried all this time and continue to carry now. Get rid of the clutter, find and keep what’s valuable and important to you and nurture those things. It’s a daily learning experience that’s so worthwhile in the long run. I challenge you guys to explore Buddhism, minimalism or both! Lets all live clutter free — mentally and physically.