Desire is like a tree. An evergreen of sorts, because it thrives year around. Some might call it the tree of life. The trunk grows very broad as does the reach of desire in our lives. And the roots grow very deep, as deep as the desires that have accompanied us from birth. As deep as the wants of our ancestors. Our desires have grown up inside of us, but a tree can not grow forever inside of a man. This towering beauty that we know so well, holds the keys to the spirit of life, but also the gateway to the painful toil that could be our whole existence. This tree is responsible for the revival of life, equally as many times as it is the destruction and erosion of all that is good within a person. The tree is named Desire, and its fruit is both delicious and evil.    

For desire is the root of all things. It is the root of pleasure, pain, and peace. Control over our desires will set us free from the imprisonment of wants, or it will be the dungeon that imprisons for all of our time here on earth. I hear talk about what Minimalism is or is not. The conversation remains focused on aesthetics and literal organizational techniques. Minimalism is being reduced to a word, or a design cue, and sadly nothing more. This unacceptable because of what Minimalism and living Modestly truly is. A secular philosophy that reduces wants, grows appreciation, discards the meaningless, recalibrates focus, and exalts relationships, with each other, and with our natural environment.  

So far this is not what has happened. It should be no surprise what has occurred instead. Seemingly anything that reaches critical mass becomes a marketing trend here in the states, and largely that is what Minimalism has become. When we look to Eastern Minimalism, for many it is viewed through the lens of Shintoism. This gives additional merit and a mental framework that supports the ideas of Minimalism. “Less is more” for example. Leave it to a deceivingly simplistic philosophy to embody the entire essence and overwhelming power of living a minimalistic lifestyle.

Having a clear thought process that underlies the actions of a Minimalist is crucial for successfully living Modestly. I believe the most important aspect for us to focus on, or the root of the tree that is consumption, is our own personal desires. All of us can remove items from our home, or buy less. These are simple actions that anyone can take, and you will feel the immediate benefits of doing so. There is however a more difficult “intangible” side to Minimalism, a Master Class if you will. Mental Minimalism. It’s our mind. We must conquer the mind. I know it sounds silly for some, but it is the truth.

Being a Triathlete, for example, is about having control over one’s mind. Their ability to make the body perform in superhuman ways is a function of a disciplined mind. Raise your right hand in the air right now. Ok, did you do it? Your arm didn’t do that, your brain did. We determine what our actions are before we act. When we determine what our motivations are we decide what our desires are. When we are the masters of our desires, we are the masters of our actions. When we master our actions, we are able to truly take charge of our life. Desire becomes the determinant between a professional surfer and a couch surfer, or between the consumer-driven and the purpose driven. In order to live Modestly, and to achieve a new tier of Minimalism we must learn to recognize and control our desires. By achieving this the possibilities for what we can accomplish and endure as human beings become endless.    

“Every desire degrades us, and renders us slaves to what we desire.”

We will never be able to completely remove desire from our lives.  Ok, maybe if you become a monk? I don’t want to be a monk, I just want to live a happy, simple, modest life. The best life is one that is not predicated on desire. The more that we are able to live our lives free of the tug of our wants, the more confident, happy, and deliberate we will be.

A few years ago I worked at a homeless shelter through the winter.  Many of the “participants” were as you would expect, miserable. But I noticed something there I had never seen before. I met a few people who were outwardly happy.  This struck me as strange because they had literally nothing. No possessions, no socks, no heat, no future. We didn’t even have food every day, how could they find it in themselves to smile?

Thankfulness. That was really all it took to transform that horrible experience and how it was perceived from one person to another. Thankfulness. When we’re filled up with thoughts of thankfulness, there is very little room for desire to live.  Appreciation pays us back a hundredfold. Desire, on the other hand, takes from us. It is a dangerous ancient force inside of us that wants to destroy us. Beware of the fruit that grows on the tree of desire.

Live modestly, and live your best life. – A.C.

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