One of the stories Daniel likes to recount is about how, when he and I first got together, I didn’t have a bed.
This is true. It was the result of years of interest in asceticism and minimalism, which on the surface sounds virtuous and innocuous, but can take the form of rejection of life.
In those days, when I didn’t have a bed, there were many other reflections of this rejection of the material, of the basic fact of being a human body, of not wanting to fully commit to living fully. I am still constantly having to recalibrate this approach to the material.
(The odd pun, of course, is that I work with the material- material- every day. I built my life around it.)
I try to find the balance: a happy level of consumption of material things, of food, of social activities. Knowing that my personal tendency is always towards restriction and under-indulgence, it’s interesting to see where my comfort levels are stretched.
Many new-agey type writers will talk about flow, about the subjectiveness of reality, and about creating your own reality. Shifting your current energetic reality to align better with the one you want to have.
It works for me, quite well in fact, but it’s tricky to know how to do it. It’s tricky to know what reality you want to have, that will actually make you happy.
For instance: I believed, for a long time, that minimalism and asceticism would make me happy. Why wouldn’t one believe that? It’s the simplistic reading of buddhism. Actually, most spiritual movements have some virtue placed on minimalism. So, if it worked for Buddha and Jesus, why wouldn’t it work for you? Moreover, if a little minimalism is good, a lot must be better. right?
It didn’t work for me. My most “minimal” points- in my early 20s- left me feeling very distant from other people. The rest of the decade was a working through of the same issue, with different approaches.
On to creating the reality. I am newly, very happily, married to Daniel. Strangely enough, we’ve known each other for 13 years, been business partners since 2009, but only started a relationship two years ago. To me, our relationship is a perfect example of not being able to see what is directly in front of you- literally- until your internal reality matches it. It’s not like we had some secret crushes or star-crossed lover syndrome- neither could even see the other as a partner until we were ready.
So what was ready?
Things that work for me:
1. Imagine the thought processes of the person you want to be. But you’ve got to choose the right ideals to build your imagined thoughts around. When I was a teenager, the person I wanted to be was “skinny.” That didn’t actually make me happy! Now I try to choose goals that include happiness.
2. Incorporating symbols of what you want in your life. For instance, want sensuality? Wear nice lingerie and eat croissants. Want to feel good about money? buy some small luxury- pretty stationary, nice pens, amazing cashmere socks. Physical symbols are good. They seem real.
3. Acting how you want to feel. If I wake up feeling slovenly and unattractive, putting effort into my appearance always makes me feel better.
Within two weeks of us starting to date, Daniel insisted that I get a bed. Because he didn’t want to sleep on the floor, because we’re people, and it’s more comfortable. I was irritated by this request at first (“what, you want to change me already?”) but went ahead and got one. It’s a decision I’ve never regretted and I’m thankful everytime I lie down :)
(maybe next time I’ll actually write about abundance, instead of just “not minimalism”!)