In a society that places so much emphasis on keeping busy and having more, it can be almost impossible to see the gift of less. Less stuff. Less doing. Less words. Less worries. It wasn’t until I came abroad, until I removed myself from my own self-inflicted rat race, that I began to appreciate a peace of mind that flourishes within rest and relaxation. And just as my yoga practice began to evolve from a sweaty, powerful workout into a delicate, introspective journey – so did every other aspect of my life. I stopped wishing for the weekend and trudging through life with the sole purpose of checking things off my imaginary to do list. I softened where I used to harden, reflected where I would once react, and stopped allowing life to move through me while I remained completely absent from the whole experience. The truth is, the moment I gave myself permission to breathe, pause, and exist in a natural rhythm, was the moment I discovered myself. It was the moment my life began.
Sometimes I find it hard to recognize the girl I used to be. The Natasha who owned a dress for every day of the season and enough shoes to employ a small factory in Asia seems like a distant memory from the woman I know today. Unused knik-naks in every drawer, a serving spoon for each dish of an eight course meal, an expensive convertible, eyelash extensions in twenty-day intervals, weekends in Vegas, and the best make-up money could buy to transform a beautiful face into something unrecognizable. Not so different from the woman who sits here writing, that Natasha just wanted to be happy. However, instead of finding a fulfilment within herself, she spent the majority of her precious magic searching for contentment from the people and things around her; falling victim to a comparing mind and a consistent desire to be and have more.
In looking back, I would never say that this younger me was miserable or unhappy. She worked hard, she played harder, and amongst an undeniable burden from excess, she experienced joy. However, in the process of being honest with myself, I’ve come to recognize that amidst every accomplishment there always remained a deep-seeded feeling of dissatisfaction. An expectation for bigger and better that consumed my thoughts and actions; an unconscious omission of the present through relentless seeking for what was next.
So, here I sit, on a wooden chair out front of my ten dollar-a-night Balinese villa, eating breakfast from a communal plate, wearing the same clothes and mascara I donned yesterday (something I wouldn’t have even considered two years ago). I no longer have a house or car to call my own, no husband to supposedly ‘complete me’, nor a full-time dental job to give me the false sense of security I spent years believing would bring me the most gratification of all. I’m sporting all the same well-worn clothes I left Canada with in 2015 and, still, there remains no passion to possess new ones (a desire that I suppose recedes naturally when one is forced to carry everything they own on their back). Yet somehow, for everything I appear to be lacking, I feel as if I have more. In giving up my old life, I unknowingly gained a richer life with less.
For me, ‘cleaning house’ meant not only purging material objects, but the people and thoughts that were distracting me from what it is that I value the most; what makes me the happiest. I uncomplicated every aspect of my existence, unthreaded attachments that had become woven within the fibres of my being, and revealed the raw, real, imperfect girl that always was. A girl who enjoys everything, and needs nothing. A girl who no longer focusses on what she desires but, instead, feels gratitude for everything she already has.
This isn’t to say that a minimalistic lifestyle is for everybody, nor do I believe it to be a sure-fire recipe for happiness. However, when the all-consuming fear and relentless worry of losing and gaining possessions is lifted from one’s mind, life becomes remarkably simplified. Your things stop stealing from you. Just imagine all the precious energy one can conserve without the need to shop, research, clean, carry, repair, replace, protect, and envy possessions. Eliminate the whirlwind of distraction from excess, and suddenly there is more freedom to live, to experience, to love, and to give. And, in detaching from the stuff we so desperately cling onto for pleasure or memory-sake, we begin to realize that we aren’t (and never will be) what we own. The box of trophies in the basement can go, yet, the memories will not disappear. The sixteen handbags can be donated, yet your self-worth remains the same. It becomes clear that your heart-warming past, future dreams, and earnest ambitions aren’t contained within these objects – they’re contained within you. And it’s enough. It’s all enough. Your house is big enough. Your wage is high enough. Your mattress is firm enough. Your cell phone is new enough. Your face is pretty enough. Your waist is skinny enough. You are enough.
So yes, I’m practicing minimalism. And regardless of what my family may hope, it’s not just a fad or a period that I’m going through. It’s a mindfulness of being that truly saved my life. It’s the intentional promotion of every one of my most sincere values and the removal of each and every thing, person, and thought that distracts me from them. It’s the whole-hearted belief that in living with nothing, I will be taught everything.