Have you ever had this experience, dear reader, where you are asking questions of God, the universe or yourself and then you come across a book that answers your questions?
I love it when that happens!
My last post about Finding A New Normal was really 3 posts or thoughts in one and I rushed to get them out of my head and they all jumbled together. So, sorry if it was confusing.
I was thinking of how it is that we often come to times when we have to find a new normal after crisis or change. But I was also thinking about When Did Shopping Become Entertainment? And also How To Adjust to the Minimalist Lifestyle or What Happens After You Throw It All Out.
Basically, I’m struggling with this pinching, awkward place between having thrown it all out and taking selfies on the Appalachian Trail.
As I was looking for the kid’s book “Madeline” by Bemelmans on Amazon, I was offered a suggestion of a book called “The Sabbath” by Abraham Joshua Heschel. Had to be providential, don’t you think? I felt it and so I bought it. I haven’t finished the book yet because it’s a book that you have to soak in. I have to take it in small, bite sized pieces and let it roll around in my soul for a while.
But I wanted to see if I could possibly get out in words what I’m discovering. Please bear with me. There’s a tiny, yet giant aspect to minimalism that I’m trying to describe.
Minimalism & Space
Attempting to live as a minimalist is really a big change. It’s counter-cultural. Even though it might be a trendy thing right now (or maybe on the wane) you really have to push against prevailing culture to practice it.
But there’s a part of me that loves to “stick it to the man” and so I can get on the bandwagon, say with fist in the air, “Yeah! I’m not going to let the consumer driven world tell me what I must have and how I should live and what I should value.” So, the first part of living minimally – reducing the amount of possessions I own – was not very traumatic. As I’ve said before, I’m at a place in my life where it’s not so difficult and actually somewhat natural to downsize. I’m not saying it was a breeze, it was a LOT of work, but it was doable.
So, I’ve minimized my possessions and organized and taken control of what’s in my house.
But reducing the amount of possessions you own is just a part of minimalism. The purpose of reducing possessions is so you can regain time lost in the acquiring, upkeep and cleaning of possessions. And as I was trying to express in my last post, there is this time that I now have that I’m free to use doing things I said I wanted to do – but for the life of me I can’t remember what those things were, haha!
Minimalism & Time
It truly has helped save me time and stress as I expressed in my post Minimalist Wardrobe – It Really Works and How Minimalism Saves Me Time. I’ll tell you, if I stopped there, at just minimizing my possessions, it would be well worth it.
But I really must readjust my use of time.
If I just relax, I find that I go back to my old patterns of behavior which is using my time to shop and acquire things!
I live in suburbia and going shopping is the thing to do. Why brew my own coffee when I can pop over to Starbucks in 5 minutes? And even if I do decide to brew my own coffee at home, don’t I need a better coffee maker? Let me do a little research and look at Amazon, but I might just go to Target because then I can have it in the next 30 minutes instead of having to wait 2 days for Prime delivery. And the cycle goes on and on.
So, what I’m saying here is that I need to find a new way of living life that has less to do with things and more to do with being.
And that’s what the book, “Sabbath” is addressing.
The Goal Is Not To Have But To Be
In the book, of course, the author is talking about the Sabbath. And if you know anything about the weekly Jewish holiday, it’s all about stopping the work, the striving and practicing rest.
And I think in essence, that’s what people are trying to find within minimalism. They’re trying to find some sort of rest and peace.
Our possessions, the pressure to shop and acquire keep us busy and restless. Minimalism brings a sense of rest to our lives, outwardly. But that rest is short lived if we don’t find rest and peace in our souls.
There has to be a shift, a counter-cultural way of thinking, that goes deeper than the mere possessing or not possessing “things.”
Heschel says: “There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to BE, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord. Life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space, becomes our soul concern.”
He continues, “What we plead against is man’s unconditional surrender to space, his enslavement to things. We must not forget that it is not a thing that lends significance to a moment; it is the moment that lends significance to things.”
Heschel says that Jewish holidays teach us to be attached to sacred events, not things. He asks, “What was the first holy object in the history of the world? Was it a mountain? Was it an altar?” No, it was a day. “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.”
“Sanctity of time came first, the sanctity of man came second and the sanctity of space last.”
Isn’t that what minimalism is trying to achieve? Minimalism is trying to reorder our priorities that have gotten out of whack.
So, if I listen to Heschel, I need to value moments of real time. I need to value the people I love. Then, last, value my space and possessions.
As I take a sip of my green smoothie that I’m drinking as I type this, I close my eyes and savor the flavors and ask that it nourish my body. I’m thankful that I can sit here and write to you, dear reader. I look outside to the trees in my backyard and I am grateful for my life and breath and health. I can feel that this is a sacred moment.
Is this what life is like after you throw everything out?
I might like it.