Find Your Pulse Again

February 1, 2014 3:00 pm

Minimalism; a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.

With the pages of 2014 still shiny, thin and crisp, minimalism reminds me of how the new year can be good. A new year is not always for setting resolutions that we sooner or later turn into a wooden bat to violently swing at our own heads for failing at yet again; but for taking a quiet moment out to redefine what we would like our lives to stand for. This doesn’t necessarily have to be all the time; but a moment in between running out of the door for the bus, or gulping caffeine by the bucket-load could be the time to discover what we would like our lives to represent.

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Unfortunately, days are less like the definitive building blocks they momentarily become during the first few days of a new year, but sooner or later become a slide. They merge into one slippery ride, with not enough distinguishing moments to mark one from the next.

We are rarely aware that nearly everything we do is a choice. More so, we are often unaware of what motivates our daily choices. Nowadays, we are told that we cannot do without Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp and FlipFlop, (although the last one may have been added for unnecessary comedic effect!). We blindly accept that it is simply a part of our lives, unaware that we can restrain from such devices and consciously spend time doing something else.

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I interpreted Minimalism as a cutting down on what features in our lives. This means us seizing what has voluntarily seeped into our lives and posed as necessities, and pushing it out again. This could mean paring down our thoughts, to cutting out the more tangible: clothes, toiletries, friends, TV shows. It can be both a mental and physical detox, and when we are done, could leave us with the empowering revelation that we can indeed build our lives back up like Lego.

All of this ‘stuff’ has led many of us to lead clogged and heavy lives, which results in the odd breakdown every now and then, before we stand up stoically, Xena Warrior Princess style, and repeat the same maddening routine all over again, collecting more ‘stuff’ along the way.

When we eat too much, we feel sick and make a solemn vow we won’t touch food again. When we talk too much, our words become meaningless. Although, this might just be aimed at people who favour squeezing out a few extra words over breath these days! If we socialize too much we seek silence, and if we are left in solace, we seek companionship. From this, surely it could be forgiveable to deduce that perhaps balance really is important? That to have less of something, means to enjoy it that bit more when it finally arrives, or when we allow ourselves to have some?

We have all fallen victim to bringing on the things we are told will enhance our lives. Rather than giving ourselves the time to determine what these things might be for ourselves, something that, heaven forbid, another 900 million people are not also using.

For many years now, ideologies have been so indoctrinated into our psyche that it has become incredibly difficult to designate where the world stops and you begin. Unfortunately, many people are a consumer product of their environment, with a ‘Made On Earth’ tattoo etched into the back of their necks. Like leeches, these ideals cling to us unremittingly, but are all the more disgusting because we think we actually want them.

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Minimalism may well be a prerequisite for boredom at first.  In an age where the antidote to this is a click or a tap away, we may well find ourselves staring at our fingers in confusion, wondering what their function was exactly before it got involved in a strictly monogamous relationship with a keyboard.

We could start off by applying Minimalism to just one aspect of our lives: speaking. It may sound simple enough, but I genuinely believe that allowing a pause between the speaker finishing and you starting; with you stopping to think about each response; possesses this odd power to alter how you comprehend the world.

We tend to operate in instinctive mode – we live in a fast world; we respond accordingly. People tend to somersault midway into another person’s conversation or, like a diver with their back bent and bottom stuck out. They rub their hands together ready to take the plunge; which in this context translates to it being their turn in the conversation. We’re always ready, on the edge – tap, tap, tapping away.

By creating space in our lives, we begin to see things that were always there, always beautiful, but rarely noticed. I enter this part of the article with more trepidation. Before I even mention the concept of simply enjoying a glass of orange juice, noticing the colours in your garden, and appreciating that one white blouse instead of the previous twenty; I am well aware that there will undoubtedly be cries of, ‘smell your own orange juice, you flower-hippy-toting-jungle-lover, I’ve got bills to pay.’

Such a response would not even be unnecessary. What we have here is a fine line between heightened awareness, and reality; a youthful sense of buoyancy and optimism, and constant, cold, unvarnished half-truths.

To live our lives with such intensity would soon prove exhausting, and so is not something I am even advocating that we do all the time. As mentioned, deadlines need to be met, work needs to be done. Nonetheless, what we could make a little time to do it every now and then: standing in a bus queue, waiting at the doctor’s office once a week, fortnight, or month. It would be more than we did before.

Every now and then, look at a painting. Look at it until your eyes are sore from trying to decipher all that there is to it.

Read a poem. Drink it all in until you feel every emotion woven into each line.

Look at someone’s face. Study it, until you see nothing but beauty.

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Our breathing is often shallow. Living in this world of endless distraction, it has got to the point that I have forgotten how to see a sentence through to the end, or press mute on adverts, to swallow my food before I’m shovelling the next mouthful in, to not reach for the second piece of cake, or to live a full life at all.

By not rushing all the time, we can begin to savour the good things. Often, a hand we longed to hold, that kiss we waited to have, the dinner we cooked and invested in, the wardrobe we cleaned out, will mean that bit more due to a process of care and patience. Such a way of living will require persistence and dedication to begin with, but it will start to feel natural, given time.

To unknowingly take in everything that other people create is to become unaware of the power your own energy can have over other people. If you strip back enough; eventually you will be able to feel a pulse beating at its own rhythm. So step back, cut down, drain out, and seep away all of the excess fluid in your life. Start pouring choice into your days, and redefine what it truly means to be alive.

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