Minimalism of mind

Image: Nikolas Behrendt

Minimalism is often seen in purely physical terms. It’s tied to ‘stuff’. Physical stuff. And getting rid of a lot of it.

Aaaaand, it is. But the getting-rid-of-the stuff is only an effect of a deeper cause. Shedding the stuff is a byproduct of first shedding the erroneous thoughts that lead to the purchasing of the stuff.

Minimalism begins in the mind.

Ready for a divine dichotomy?

Spiritual growth as all about removing, not adding, things to the mind. We don’t have anything to learn. Only to unlearn. So we can remember our true nature.

(Does this stuff make your head hurt too?…)

This is the minimalism that interests me. I want to chuck out the objects in my mind that block the connection with my greater good. I want to set fire to the thought-forms that keep me enslaved to my ego and to the effects of this world.

Yes, absolutely, get rid of your old magazines, clothes, furniture, Tupperware, and VHS tapes (you still have those?). But until you notice and release the erroneous thoughts that unconsciously cling to the material world for worth and meaning, I’m afraid they’ll end up back in your shopping cart.[embed][/embed]

Don’t give up, surrender

Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

When we ‘give up’, it’s usually done out of frustration or defeat. We wanted the thing and we didn’t get it.

We lose...

Surrender, however, has some subtle differences (maybe not on the battlefield, but as a spiritual/emotional connotation of the words).

When we surrender, we’re making an intentionally conscious choice to let the thing go and walk away.

You can tell the difference between giving up and surrendering by the emotional resonance inside you after you do it…

After we give up, we feel wounded. We shrink. Our shoulders constrict. We feel bruised and beaten. This thing happened against our will. We feel we’re not enough. And the thing we gave up on either remains an idol to be won at some point in the future or we end up hating/resenting it (neither of which are healthy options).

After we surrender, however, a weight is lifted off of our shoulders. We can breathe again. We experience a simplicity that’s empowering and freeing. We’ve created room for something new to emerge. And we can look back at the thing surrendered with a calm, loving gaze. No attachment to it. No aversion to it. Complete release. Moving on.

Giving up feels like defeat. It lingers heavy on the soul. Surrender leaves us feeling more alive than ever.

Although I don’t really ever recommend giving up, surrendering is something we could all do a lot more of.


You are not a slave

Image: Kyle Ryan

A large number of ancient Egyptians were slaves. If you were an ancient Egyptian slave, you were likely a bricklayer. Day after day, you’d do one thing:

Stack. Bricks.

Sabbath emerged from a revelation that humans are not slaves. That this was just a story we’d accepted from an oppressive regime.

We were reminded that we are essentially free at our core. This was a subversive, paradigm-shifting notion that entered the zeitgeist at the time.

Sabbath isn’t about genuflecting or bowing to some oppressive God in the clouds commanding us to do so. Sabbath is a way to respect the indwelling God that needs nothing but the realization of itself from us.

Sabbath is a way of reminding yourself that you’re not a slave to the #hustle.

Try picking a day to respect this part of yourself. See how hard it is (yes, it can seem impossible for us who are always plugged in). But not many things are so important in today’s age of uncertainty as this.

I think you’ll find that, once you make it through the initial neurosis of doing nothing, you’ll find your center. That warm, calm, self-assure presence that realizes its own innate wellbeing and peace.

And you’ll take that with you through your workweek where you’ll notice a stillness behind the inertia that is the grind of daily life. In this center, you’ll find your shared nature with the Divine…


Jonas writes microsermons and meditations here in Higher Thoughts on the daily. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.

Intentionally preoccupied

Image: Maarten van den Heuvel

I have good news.

Behind your surface thinking is an infinite intelligence that heals broken bones, creates insight that can solve any problem, pumps your heart, and makes you remember to pick up butter when you’re at the store.

But now for the bad news (you knew this was coming, right?)…

We’ve intentionally preoccupied ourselves from hearing it most of the time.

Quick question for ya here…

When do you permit time to connect to the quietude of Source?

Sitting in the waiting room at the dentist. 
Driving home from work. 
Watching your kid play on the playground.

These are all gifts from life that allow us the space — if even for a few moments — to quiet our minds and just… be.

To process what needs to be processed. 
To recognize what needs to be recognized. 
To release what needs to be released.

But we fill it on a screen consuming bad news, other people’s drama, and comparing our life to that perfect photo on Instagram.

We move through life with no idea that a majority of our time is spent tapping into an extremely limited part of our creative capacity.

Instead of connecting with fresh thinking, spontaneous insight, and creative infinitude, we settle with thought patterns that have been keeping us small since we were eleven years old. We assume we know all we need to know and just have to manage to get by under the limitations we’ve set for ourselves.

Or is that just me? 
Okay, glad you’re with me there.

So, first of all, just look…

Look at how intentionally preoccupied you might be. 
Notice how insane this is.

Then, if you feel the urge to do so, allow yourself to use the spaces from life to connect with the Source within. The wellspring of new thought underneath all the small ones that make you nervous, fearful, and stuck.

What’s that beeping in your pocket?
Or is that mine?

Jonas writes shortish preachments and meditations here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.

Analog time

Image: Annie Spratt

I was proud of myself. Last night, I finished all my work here on the internets in time and went to pick Rory up from preschool. I walked in the classroom and… didn’t see Rory.

A slight feeling of panic was followed by the warm welcome of the teacher, “Her grandma picked her up,” she said with a confused smile.

Damn… I totally forgot. My mother-in-law had planned on picking Rory up and taking her and her cousin to a movie. As I face-palmed myself and walked out into the parking lot, I thought…

Cool… I have another hour or so.

Immediately, my thoughts went to the computer. If you’re like me, the computer is an extension of your fingers. When your hands aren’t busy, they just gravitate toward something digital. A keyboard. A phone. Whatever glowing screen of choice is your poison — you know what I mean.

For some reason, I took notice of this urge. When things are knee-jerk like this, they cause concern. When they become automatic and unexamined, eventually I start to take notice.

I put my foot down this time…
Nope. Not gonna do it, damnit. It’s analog time.

Analog time. I only had an hour. Sure, I could have read some bookmarked Medium posts, checked Facebook (again), edited some of my posts — a plethora of options were for the choosing.

But if we never cut ourselves off, we’ll never turn off.

We who spend our livelihoods on digital have to do this. We have to set some limits for analog time.

Get out of your head — out of the cloud — and back in your body and the world around you.

Get back into your life. Fix the fence. Hand-wash some dishes. Read a physical book. Throw on a record (yes, a real record). Talk to someone. In person. Hand-grind some coffee and drink it outside on the porch, looking at the sky. Whatever suits your fancy — you know what to do.

Analog time, friends. I know it’s an overplayed theme these days, but it’s that way for a reason.

Our souls are screaming for it, as a culture. 
It’s time we listen.

P.S. For the price of a taco a month, you can have access to exclusive goodies here on Higher Thoughts. Learn more here.

[Jonas Ellison is a spiritual writer, teacher, practitioner, and an interfaith minister-in-training. He helps people transform their lives through applied spirituality while documenting his journey along the way. To subscribe via email to his updates and exclusive content, click here.]

Coming around to this whole minimalism thing

Image: Imani Clovis

Don’t get me wrong. I mean, I’ve always seen the value in it. I’ve always thought it was cool and admirable — at one time I even was a regular contributor to an amazing minimalist blog, No Sidebar (which you should totally check out) a few times.

But then, I backed out. I was kinda like… meh. It’s okay. I can dabble in minimalism. But it’s not really for me. Really, it’s not you, minimalism, it’s me. I’m not young, single, and in the position to live out of my suitcase. If you saw the inside of my house, you’d get itchy.

Plus, to be honest, minimalism always rang of austerity — like begrudgingly living well under one’s means.

I wanted to aim for some complexity. Some toys. Big stuff. And with a child, messes and clutter are just part of the deal. I thought there’s no way I could really live like that.

But something shifted lately. I’ve been giving minimalism a huge second chance and am loving it more than ever.

It’s true. Less is more — less crap, less weight, less noise — leads to more of the stuff that matters. I finally saw the light…

Minimalism isn’t austerity. It’s making room for the abundance of the meaningful things in life.

I haven’t gone whole-hog yet. But I donated a bunch of my daughter’s toys that she never really touched as well as a huge pile of my clothes. And I’m eyeing the garage pretty intently.

I’m doing it. I’m drinking the minimalist Kool-Aid. And I really like it. I feel lighter already. Kind of like taking the sand bags off the hot air ballon. One at a time. Probably be writing about this more in the coming days.

HT to Brian Gardner and the crew.

[Jonas Ellison is a spiritual writer, teacher, practitioner, and an interfaith minister-in-training. He helps people transform their lives through applied spirituality while documenting his journey along the way. To subscribe to his weekly-ish updates and exclusive content, click here.]

The free stuff, please

Image: adrian

I grew up in a ‘financially-challenged’ household. The feeling of want was a very real, nervous, rot-gut urge from those around me and it wore off on me from a young age.

I used to want really expensive stuff... When our house was foreclosed on, it anchored in the yearning for a huge house someday. When our car broke down and I had to walk two miles with my mom to the store in the middle of summer until we could afford to get it fixed, it secured in me a strong desire to drive a damn Ferrari someday. When we weren’t sure how to put food on the table, out of that grew the urge to have a bottomless bank account someday.

All of these desires were fear-based, survival-driven, knee-jerk reactions to threatening stimuli. Looking back, it makes sense I had them. I don’t fault myself for it. I’m just thankful I now see them for what they were. Because there was a day I didn’t.

I once worshipped at the feet of these things. They became my false idols — a mistaken stand-in for what really matters.

In fact, I’m thankful I never got them, especially being in the state of longing and grasping that I was in, because I know that it would have taken me longer to see, as I do today, that the best things in life are the free things. They cost nothing because we already have them.

Now, when I say free things, I’m not talking about the free appetizers at Costco (although they are awesome). I’m talking about the divinely gifted aspects of our being — joy, generosity, forgiveness, plentitude, fulfillment, creative expression, emotional attunement, love, courage, acceptance, and peace. These are the things in life that matter.

The best things in life — our divine gifts from birth — are truly free: Namely joy, generosity, forgiveness, passion, creative expression, love, courage, and acceptance.

These are the things that you and I can access right now, no matter how many overdraft fees we’ve racked up after our holiday shopping melee. These are the things that, if realized and activated, lead to a life of the living.

And all other things shall be added unto us.

[Jonas Ellison is a spiritual writer, teacher, practitioner, and an interfaith minister-in-training. He helps people transform their lives through applied spirituality while documenting his journey along the way. To subscribe to his weekly-ish updates and exclusive content, click here.]