What does Minimalism have to do with addiction?

When you start on a journey towards a more organized life, it is okay to start from your home, where an average person spends the most of their lives (if you’re like me, though, it is well above average). And once you stop being crazy about cleaning and organizing, you can have lots of free time. Some people even worry about what to do with their new-found freedom. This is what we need to look out for: we need to make sure that habits overcome addictions.

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I have found that addiction and minimalism are closely related. Once you get rid of worthless stuff (be it actual stuff or not), you start to feel this emptiness. Well you can fill it with anything you want, from writing that story that’s been bugging your head to meet friends and have mindless conversations, to actually wrap yourself up in a good addiction. But good news, because minimalism makes you also mindful of your actions, it may be easier than ever before to kick an addiction.

What happened to me was I realized I had the addiction once the emptiness struck: I was playing ridiculous amounts of video games per day.

Long story short, I’ve been playing on and off for like twenty years. I remember in the 90s, in summer holidays I could play up to 7 hours a day. Outside was boiling hot, I was playing with my sister and cousins most of the time, it was like a favorite pastime activity. Come winter my father used to take the adapter cable to work, and filled with study, I wouldn’t remember games at all.

At university also I was doing pretty great, except summers. In summers, where there was no studies to fill up my mind, I would get carried away by computer games like Sims or Diablo. I would only come out for meals. But that didn’t bother me at all, I was fine with it and didn’t consider it an addiction.

When I started to work in 2010 things took a turn. I now was playing not for fun, but to take the anxiety of the work away. I was doing what people were doing with alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. I would forget about every distressing detail and that is why getting rid of it was not easy. The iPad I bought for reading e-books had become my playmate.

But one day I discovered Leo Gura’s channel on youtube. His videos are, to say the least, life changing.

Basically what Leo says about addictions is that you have to be fine with emptiness, no matter what. And the simplest (although not the easiest) way to do is meditation. Sit down there and do nothing. This is pretty effective and more difficult than it sounds, but every time you have an urge to do no matter what, sit down, think about why you think you need to do it. What if you just sit down and don’t do it?

And on another perspective, I like to think about an older Pelin, say, 90 years old. What would a 90-year-old Pelin give advice to a 27-year-old one? Would she want me to spend 7 hours a day doing an activity that would hinder my progress towards my goals, hurt my back, neck, hands and eyes? She would rather have her find her life purpose as soon as possible and pursue it, right? And enjoy the moment in the mean time. So I try to listen to future Pelin’s advice. It is funny but effective. And I think it can apply to every mild addiction, like shopaholism or food addiction. I agree alcoholism and other severe addictions might be handled professionally.

As you go through junk in your life, it might be a good idea to go through the junk actions, too, and everything from talking to drinking coffee to watching something can be a form of addiction. Looking at our lives from a distance and noticing the actions which benefit us and the ones which seems “fun” on the outside but killing us slowly help a huge deal in living a more purposeful life.

 

 

 

Slow down. Cut down.

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What do you do in a day?

I, for example, on a day I don’t go to work, cook, eat, drink coffee, if not enough tea. While trying to work on a fictional story, my mind says let’s go play this video game. Once in a while I get crafty and the whole house turns into a mess of yarn, fabric and needles. These are only the things I do on my own.

There is also spending time with my loved one, talking to family on the phone, and meeting and calling friends. Other than that, I also have these connections who I never need in my life but just can’t cut contact with.

The days I go to work are catastrophic. Before getting to school, the panic of planning the day, printing out stuff for students and arranging activities bite me up. And when I actually get to school, things to do in the breaktimes are neverending, and ten minutes a breaktime is never ever enough. Ugh, so much to do.

How can a normal person do all this stuff? What happens to their soul if they do all this? How does the body respond to all the chaos?

I have consciously committed to slowing down and do less just like I started to own less. And the first step was curing my addiction to video games (I’ll explain how in a later post). For nearly two months I haven’t played any video games. This is a big success for me as I have been playing video games for as long as 20 years. I think this addiction was my inability to handle the void. I’ve been learning how to handle the void, or emptiness, or doing nothing for these two months. I try to accept everything as they are. This is so powerful. If you can do nothing, you can do anything. Everything becomes so much easier. You can easily eliminate the physical and emotional excess in your life once you master doing nothing. It’s a kind of meditation actually.

Everything happens slowly, but all of a sudden. Everything is as they should be. Slowly, by little steps, but confidently. Being slow, living slowly, but never being lazy. That’s my purpose.

 

Don’t fear the void. Love the void.

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(Monet, Water Lilies)

Doing nothing has an inexplicable impact. If you are doing it consciously, if you just resist the speed of life… If your mind is empty and clear… Wow. There is a big secret to doing nothing and we, as people who live in big cities and in the 21st century, have long forgotten about this secret. Animals remember it. Some enlightened people remember it. Some of us are trying consciously to remember, but sometimes the outer world is so noisy it gets hard to hear the inner scream.

In Zorba the Greek, Kazantzakis wrote that if you only focus on one thing, you could create miracles with that energy. Think about it, on an average day, thousands of thoughts come and go, in Turkish we have the saying “a thousand foxes wander in your mind, and not even one’s tail touches another’s.” If we only had one fox, imagine how big and powerful it would be.

Maybe all rituals, prayers, “aum”s have had this purpose. To focus on one, and to focus on none. To create miracles from that focus. To abandon the outer world, and to turn inward. In a way this is mental minimalism. To declutter your mind. To make room for nothing, to make room for void.

By not being afraid of the void, and loving it.