Every once in a while a new spiritual trend emerges. Books, news pieces, memes, and public figures/gurus all emerge to center around this trend (and to capitalize nicely off of it) until the trend dies down much like the newest sneaker that was once all the rage becoming out of season.
Recently, this trend has been minimalism. I am sure you have seen this– people with tiny houses, memes upon stories upon memes of minimalist sayings, and people emerging out of the woodwork who will happily teach you, sell you, or otherwise convince you to give them money so they can too help you become minimalist.
It should go without saying (but unfortunately I have to say this) that thinking critically about something is not the same is thinking that thing is “bad”. We can love something, or even do such things ourselves and have positive results in our lives, and still want to look deeper… still want to look at the patterns of things. For many, unfortunately, thinking critically means that you are negative, upset, or don’t like something. Fortunately most people who read my blogs are beyond such polarities of criticism/negative/dark/bad and positivity/forced cheerfulness/head in the sand/light/good.
That all being said, minimalism is not a bad thing. We all have a lot of stuff (well, most of us do) so the new trend of minimalism is helpful. It can allow for us to look at our lives, look at our individual materialism, and really ask if we need what we own… and to question how much we need to shop and what we in fact need in our lives as material objects.
But there is something artificial about this trend, and about all spiritual trends.
When a trend like this emerges, products and people come forward to be its spokespeople or figureheads. Then “regular” people– anyone from college students to life coaches to professionals begin to teach and sell others things in accordance to this trend. I have no issue for people charging for their time (and am not a new-ager in the illusory thinking that because it is spiritual it should be free because otherwise it is tainted) and very much think that people should charge what they, and their services, are worth. But the selling of these trends is often antithetical to the actual message of the trend.
If we were to look at minimalism, the message is about less. Since this has filtered down to public mass consciousness, this trend has become about less material goods. Less clothing, less space to live in, and so forth. But the true call to minimalism is about less all around. This is a subtle differentiation, but it is important. This will become clearer when the other aspects are discussed more.
Spiritual trends are simply byproducts of the spiritual awakening process that are misunderstood and filtered randomly (or not so randomly) into public consciousness.
When we begin to awaken, we naturally embrace minimalism. We will naturally look around at what is surrounding us and realize that our physical bodies, our physical material belongings are not as important to us as they once were. It is a natural part of the awakening process to slough off our old selves, to let go of the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of ourselves that are blocking who we truly are. Quite simply, it is part of awakening to let go of a wide variety of things, including material belongings, and to become less materialistic in general. It just doesn’t matter as much as it once did, and clearing space in our lives often involves actually physically having a clear space in our house.
But it isn’t yet another thing for us to put on our “to do” lists.
Minimalism in the spiritual awakening process naturally happens. It isn’t something that we need gurus or to be taught about. It is something that arises out of our own realizations and direct experience of looking around and seeing that we have too much stuff, or that we don’t need all that we have. It may actually be a bit unnerving to realize that all of this stuff doesn’t matter, or that the material world has lost significance for us for the most part.
When it naturally arises it naturally happens. When minimalism is presented as a spiritual trend it becomes something that you need to purchase things for, attend classes for, look through catalogues about. It becomes yet another something to do, yet another something that we have to do in our hectic lives full of “to do’s”. It causes us stress to become minimalist because on some level we realize that we can never be the perfect “doer” of this new trend.
More than this, spiritual trends become about spiritual competition. We have all likely seen the person living in the 400 square foot mini-house with their two kids and dog, or stories about throwing out the food in our fridges or having a wardrobe of only five shirts, five pants, and so on. We will never become the “best” minimalist, and the spiritual trend because it is not a natural byproduct of the awakening process and has become commoditized is about competition and who can do it best. When we are not awakening, we are still in the loops of competition with one another (even about something like minimalism) and we will always fail because we will never live up to the minimalist gurus/teachers and magazines who are espousing this new trend. We may, in fact, hate ourselves, because we are unwilling to give up some of our wardrobe or because we like our house the way it is.
We may, in fact, be talking about minimalism and how great it is and how we have purchased items x, y, and z without realizing the irony of the fact that we have purchased items for it and that we are speaking in such a way that we are being spiritually competitive with our friends, our neighbors, and our family. We may in fact go the opposite way and force the issue, creating havoc in our homes because we are blindly and unthinkingly causing discord in our families because we are following the newest spiritual fad.
Spirituality is about direct experience. It is about realizing how to be peaceful and happy, how to feel like we are enough and have enough. It is about aligning ourselves to who we really are and to our higher selves, as well as aligning ourselves in accordance to greater flows of divinity outside of ourselves. Spiritual trends are the opposite of this. They are a spiritual byproduct that has been mangled and misappropriated until it becomes a list of rules and products for mass consumerism. Rather than considering the individual and what would make their lives happy and whole, spiritual trends create illusory spiritual lists, rules, and ways of being that must be abided by if you are truly going to be “spiritual”.
Awakening is freedom. It is realizing what works for us and who we are as individuals. On a more mundane level, it is an individualized decision of what material objects we need in our lives. When we awaken we may decide that we don’t need as much stuff. We may sell, give away, or get rid of much of our material goods. But that is based on an internal guidance and a sort of spiritual compulsion to let go of things that no longer represent who we vitally are as people. And we may choose to keep many of our items… the ones that keep us happy, even if we do not necessarily “need” them. Awakening is not a contest, it is not a set of rules, and it is not a trend. It is realizing who you are and acting from the place of who you are. This may mean letting go of a lot of things, material goods included. It may not.
But minimalism is a natural process when it does happen, and it is a freeing process, not one of illusory rules, competition to see who can become the most minimal, guides/gurus, courses, books and catalogues selling us this trend. It is not something to be excited about and then left the next time the new spiritual trend comes out. What we own is a natural extension of who we are, and it is less stressful generally to have less things. But we may really like some things. And that is okay. Because we are individuals, and we do not need to compare ourselves to others.
Once we rise above group think and collective consciousness we can realize these trends and how they have turned something generally positive (freeing ourselves from the mindset of physical materialism) into yet another thing to do, yet another thing that we will not be as good at as the dude who bought the 400 square foot home, into yet another trend that we will be interested in and that will then fall away as all trends do, leaving ourselves ironically with books, teachings, and the remnants of what we bought when we were engaged in the trend of minimalism.
There are many spiritual trends that come and go… and there are many loops, or repeated behaviors, that remain year after year, decade after decade. There are also many spiritual byproducts in the path to awakening. Minimalism is one… or more correctly, freeing ourselves from many layers, including the physical, often occurs. Psychic abilities are a huge one that is a natural byproduct of the awakening process that we have commoditized and warped to the extent that most people do not even realize that they are part of the spiritual awakening process and naturally happen the more awake we are.
We really love to believe that we can purchase spiritual things (even ironically minimalism) because we have not yet risen out of the understanding that spirituality isn’t something else to do, to jam into our already packed lives. Spiritual understandings and spiritual actions are not intended to be chores and they are not intended to be part of the odd materialistic competition we have with one another (also ironically these people will often espouse oneness while doing this). Spirituality is freedom. It is understanding who we are, and when who we are naturally arises, we do what we need to– physically (materially), emotionally, mentally, and spiritually– without the external world and all of its illusions causing us to participate in a pale glimmer of what actual spiritual processes are.
So consider the world you live in, consider what you want to do with yourselves… what would make you free, happy, and totally who you are. Minimalism or the latest spiritual trend may be perfect for you. But even so, you can follow your own internal directives to how you want to implement it into your life. And it doesn’t need to cause more stress, anger, or confusion in your life. It doesn’t need to create more ways for you to do instead of to be, for you to ignore that internal call… to block that internal call by grasping at more external information, for the latest guru, book, or trend that tells us how we are intended to be spiritual. We can break free from that, and truly learn who we are, and let go of all of the spiritual competitiveness, all of the trends that tell us who we need to be and what we need to do, all of the “to do’s” that we can never accomplish and so are never good enough, and simply be who we are. And act from the place of who we are. Even if that involves keeping those pants you haven’t fit in since 1995.
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