After my sophomore year of college I decided it was time for a change, and I took off exploring around the country. I traveled around for a bit, but I soon settled as a volunteer at a meditation center in Georgia.  For a year I lived off a backpack full of clothes and the essentials provided by the center. As you may be able to tell, my sweats had a bit of a rough time, due to odd jobs of landscaping and construction. After the end of the year I had made a few mistakes and picked up a few tricks.. In this article I am going to share a few of them with you:

<—–Me on the left with another mediator. About eight months into my bare essentials volunteering.

  1. Clothes: Grab your nicest clothes and declare them special occasion clothes.  I made the mistake of wearing everything anywhere, and my clothes looked awful. Also, It’s super easy to stop by a thrift store and pick up a new shirt and pants for 2 or 3 dollars.
  2. Hairstyle: I would recommend keeping your hair short with a pair of clippers. My favorite cut was an easy 3 all the way around. You can get a little more complex if you have a willing friend.
  3. Facial Hair: Take out those trusty clippers again. My favorite routine involved trimming down my beard to stubble weekly and letting it grow out. Not only does it look manly, but it’s easy as pie.
  4. Hair & Body Wash: Just go at everything with some Dr. Bronners. It’s inexpensive, it smells great and you don’t have to worry about any crazy chemicals. Wash your feet!
  5. Nails: Please clip your toes and fingers clipped and clean.
  6.  Deodorant: I actually never wore deodorant. Before you get all worrisome, I was eating a super clean vegetarian diet.  Diet seems to have a big effect on body odor, so follow this advice with caution.

For those of you thinking, well I’m a hippy I don’t need to look/smell good, think again. No matter what culture you are in, appearance will always be important. I know this is a hard thing to grasp for some. I was always rebellious against spending time or money on my appearance, yet I always seemed to fall for the cute well groomed girls. Funny how that works.  Appearance gives hints to your mental health and living situation at a moment’s glance, so it is and always will have its place in society.

In this article I will give a brief introduction to a meditation called Vipassana, as taught by S.N. Goenka.

I stumbled upon Vipassana meditation almost two years ago, and I haven’t stopped meditating since. Vipassana is a rather intense and strict procedure, requiring all new students to participate in a 10-day silent retreat. This makes it difficult for many people to even get started, however, this time frame is set up to make sure all students grasp a basic understanding of the technique before leaving to meditate on their own. Yes that’s right, I said a basic understanding. Vipassana meditation is a lifelong path of self-control, even the most advanced meditators are still learning and improving in their old age.

So let’s recap, this meditation course is long, difficult, silent and requires a lifetime of patience. Why would anyone want to take part in it? Well the answer is pretty simple. The benefits you receive from one course are dramatic and life changing.  Within the course you will experience a glimpse of separation between your mind and the sensation of your body. This separation, initially lasts only a moment or two, but creates a profound wisdom almost instantaneously. This wisdom is then lost almost as soon as it was found, but leaves a lasting presence that is hard to put your finger on.

It’s a little challenging to grasp this concept at first, so let me explain further.  Growing up I think almost everyone experiences a first crush. This crush is usually pretty extreme and illogical, but those warm butterfly feelings you get from it makes everything seem just right. Eventually a time comes of separation and the feelings are almost unbearable. You become heartbroken. Intense feelings of anger and sadness overwhelm you. You retreat to a state of selfishness as all your thoughts turn to your own pain and misery. This one experience will stay embedded with you for the rest of your life, slightly modifying your previous behavior towards selfishness and mistrust.

Vipassana meditation mimics this experience in many ways. This difference is how your mind relates to your emotion. In the first example your mind creates a strong connection with pain, and this pain feeds a self-centered outlook. In Vipassana, you create a separation of mind and emotion, rather than a connection. As you go through the meditation procedure you feel emotions like anger and sadness, but they lose the personal aspect. Rather than your pain, it starts to more closely resemble a neutral brain signal.  You experience fundamentally that mind and emotion are two separate entities not one. Your self-centeredness retreats, and intense feelings of compassion towards others arise. One moment of separation will slightly modify your behavior for the rest of your life. As you repeat this process over and over, the impact of the experience greatens, until one day you find that you just can’t stop smiling. You start to deal with your life challenges in a positive way, and tasks seem to become effortless and fun.

To learn more visit the Vipassana Website.

A huge pet-peeve of mine is when people have all of their phone apps rearranged, unorganized and not categorized. Another great tip for being a better minimalist is to make sure your phone is not as much of a distraction as your computer. This can be fairly difficult but if you have an organized phone with only essential apps that you need to go about your life, you’ll be fine. Here are some suggestions on creating a phone with a minimal purpose.

Here are some don’ts: 

  • Don’t ever use up all of the pages of apps that your phone allows! There is never a need for all of those and if you stick with just a few pages, your life will be simpler already and your phone will be more minimal.
  • Don’t rearrange too much… It’s great to change your apps around and the look of your phone from the static default placement it comes with out of the box but if you get too carried away, you’ll leave your mind asking questions as to why you have your game apps are on your homescreen in a folder called “stuff.”
  • Don’t have more than one app that does the same thing! This sometimes happens to the best of us, but pick the app you favor most and stick with it.
  • Don’t make tons and tons of folders to keep your apps in! Many of my friends do this, thinking that it will ultimately make their phones less of a distraction and seem neat, but it does not. It is only another step that you have to go through that will take up time in your valuable day.

Here are some do’s:

  • I’m not sure if Android has an option for this but for iPhone users: Do create folders with a general name of the apps that are inside. i.e. Utilities, Games, Social Networks, News, etc.
  • Do change up the layout of your phone intelligently! What is mean by this is that having a phone that fits your specific needs is great. The standard layout that all smartphones come with these days is not necessarily the perfect fit for you. Just remember to be simple.
  • Do layout your phone in a way so it is not cramped and you will be able to access things quickly and easily if you’re on the go.
  • Lastly, make sure the apps you use most are on your homepage! Although it may not seem like an important task, this will make things much easier for you and your life.

Congrats! You’re phone is now organized to fit you and you’re one step closer to becoming a minimalist.

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