Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Kristoffer Carter of This Epic Life.
I’ve spent the last 18 months in radical introspection. Notice my choice of the word “radical.” I’ll get to that in a minute.
Last January I committed to an at-home course of study in Kriya Yoga, an ancient science of Self-Realization through meditation. The following month, I was accepted into an immersion program led by Jonathan Fields called The Good Life Project.
The sheer volume of time I needed to spend either in reflection, direct practice, or masterminding with others was staggering. I can see now how I’ll look back at this year as pivotal, and profound. It rewired my approach to life.
Themes would emerge in the daily dance between study, reflection, and application. The Big Three that I continue to practice are 1) Mindfulness, 2) Sobriety, and 3) Minimalism.
All 3 are interconnected. Someday when this site releases its minimalist Greatest Hits package, I picture Track 3 being Clutter Busting Routines For Any Family. This simple “Where do we even begin?!” roadmap arrived via so many channels I couldn’t avoid it. My wife printed it. Facebook friends shared it, and talked about it constantly. Like any advice we really (really) should heed, the drum beat got louder until it rattled me awake.
Practicing, and now pursuing minimalism became another way of “waking up.” I file minimalism as “mindful consuming” or “sobriety from stuff.”
While we’re on the waking up tip, I really had no plans to retire at the pinnacle of my long, and distinguished drinking career. The meditation forced me to. It squeezed it out. Sobriety, as my wonderful teacher and friend Susan Piver defines it, is simply: “Pared down. Sharp eyed. Awake.”
It took me another 6 months of no drinks to realize sobriety isn’t some lame alternative to enjoying beers… it was its own Virtue! In our society, that tiny truth is buried beneath billions spent on beer marketing, or our long fight back from the oppression of prohibition.
Truths should be simple, and well-lit: like the radical notion of owning less stuff.
I began wondering how many opportunities or avenues for improvement had been squeezed out by Too Much: too much stuff, too many distractions, too many beers, or too many grains of minutiae filling every conceivable gap.
My life leading up to the radical introspection felt clogged, and overly complex. I had become the Black Spidey to Joshua Becker’s Peter Parker. I was Becoming Maximalist.
I couldn’t just be a husband and Father. I had to crash every hard drive with the Big Data of my kids growing up in HD. I couldn’t just be a musician. I needed to lug my 1-man looping rig around the country with 3 instruments. More was more. At work, I couldn’t stomach the idea of wearing only 1 hat, so I’d rock 6. Jogging become marathoning, meditating became Kriya practice, and meanwhile my career as a regional sales director was barely staying on the tracks.
I needed more open space to create the life I envisioned. The day this hit me was the day I stopped rationalizing my need for more. I’ll take better. I’ll take enough. I’ll take seeing the miracle of my circumstances.
I’ll take pared-down, sharp-eyed, and awake.
Minimalism and sobriety began working in tandem, while mindfulness became a lens that magnified a realm of new possibilities. I made it my mission to fill every garbage can (#7 Clutter Busting Routine). Our yard sales would rival area flea markets. I’d drive my wife insane with the “does Ellie really need THIS unicorn hoodie?” cross-examinations.
As with any worthwhile practice, I’ve only begun. My office would freak out the average mnmlst, however my designs for the new space would make this community proud. I am committed to the practice, and have started seeing progress.
Here are 5 Observations of this Recovering Maximalist.
1. When you pare down your life to its primary, sacred essentials, much of the stuff you need to support it naturally falls away. I refer to my sacred life ingredients as “non-negotiables.” These include my soul-practice, vitality, family, art, and work. None of these things should require a ton of gear. (OK, still need tips on the 3-kids thing!) When you’re committed to the practice of expanding capability of your non-negotiables, it becomes less about gear and more about leveraging your time through Right Action. We all know that less stuff = more time.
2. As my inner cup fills, my outer does as well. Meditation has filled so many gaps of longing, envy, or comparison. God forbid our house burned down, but just give me my people. Meditation would process the ordeal, and re-manifest anything else we truly needed.
3. Sobriety & Minimalism are an opportunity to see what matters in its proper light.
4. All our habits can be rewired. We can tune out the marketers, and their Illusions of Scarcity.
5. Abundance arrives in infinite forms, but it’s up to us to assign value. Over and over we learn that it’s only our people, relationships, and some wide-open spaces that create The Good Life. Jonathan Fields sums this up beautifully in his Good Life Creed: “Presence, not presents.”