Toward a Minimalism of the Mind

boronda ridge, big sur

One of my favorite places to clear my mind: Boronda Ridge in Big Sur


Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment. […] every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.
— Viktor E. Frankl

Much of what materializes in the physical world begins in the mind. The same goes for minimalism. More than just getting rid of things and minimizing what you own, a minimalism of the mind not only allows for true transformation from bulky habits but it also creates a sense of peace and clarity. Minimalism begins in thought, reaches through intent, surfaces in language, and actualizes in action.

Man is fully responsible for his nature and his choices” — Jean-Paul Sartre
Choose your responsibilities carefully. This does not mean to be lazy or to rely on others for things, but instead to simply choose your responsibilities and to choose them carefully. Even within the realm of children and mortgage and debt and what ever else may be a part of your life, minimalism is still possible. As with everything, relativity is a given, as no two lives are the same; therefore minimalism for one person may look completely different than minimalism for another person. This brings about the stark distinction between the mental and the physical; what matters is not your experiences, but what you choose to do with your experiences.

Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” — George Lucas
When your mind starts to become more balanced, less self-centered, and clearer, your wants will decrease as will your possessions. You start to recognize that the incessant need to buy immediate pleasures is a flimsy foundation for happiness, and you instead work to cultivate the basis of your thoughts. Take time to know yourself and your focus will become sharper.

A rose is a rose is a rose.” — Gertrude Stein
In this focused state, you will begin to see things as they are, at their essence–free from emotional embellishments, assumptions, presumptions, and expectations. When all is said and done, it is what it is and nothing more. Everything you, for example, feel and think about a rose will come from your experience of a rose–its vibrant scent, maternal colors, romantic mood, all come from memories, emotions, intent, and expectations. Remove all of these complex human underpinnings and a simple, moodless, pure things remains: a rose. It is in this singular and naked state where I believe minimalism is rooted. Connotations and denotations devoid, you can then start building a simple life. You will find that you want and expect less of the rose, you will want and expect less of others, and moreover you will want and expect less of yourself as you release the reigns of the past and the future, and curb your expectations as well as the emotions you have attached to them. This transformation takes place when you allow things to be, without judging them as good or bad.

Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Clutter is not reduced to physical matter but extends to another plane of mental pile and static. An alienating focus and concern mainly with one’s own wants and desires, as well as a grasp too tightly on the past and projections too deeply into the future harbor this mental pile and static. Taking time to focus not only our selves and the people to whom we regularly link ourselves is important because it is too easy to become wrapped up in our personal lives, failing to recognize and validate the people with whom we share each moment. Similarly, fearing to let go of our attachments to the past and the future act as clutter. Shifting our perspective in order to be content with the present moment is a necessary skill to learn, and a skill that will allow you to no longer be a victim of the things that happen in your life, but instead to de-clutter your mind of unnecessary emotion and to take ownership of your experiences, acting not with judgment but with calm, balance, simplicity, and clarity–a true minimalism of the mind.

– Virginia

4 thoughts on “Toward a Minimalism of the Mind

  1. I enjoyed this post because I’m on the same page in my approach to both life and wilderness.

    I like how you put this: “Clutter is not reduced to physical matter but extends to another plane of mental pile and static. An alienating focus and concern mainly with one’s own wants and desires, as well as a grasp too tightly on the past and projections too deeply into the future harbor this mental pile and static.”

    A related quote is: ““If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” -Lao Tzu

    Regarding “your focus determines your reality,” I like to phrase it as, “Perception is not reality, but it is your reality. To change your reality, change your perception.”

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