Headspace…

There is a term often used in Buddhism called “mind monkey” which attempts to describe times of unsettled, restless or uncontrollable states of conscious awareness; those periods of self-generating noises and voices inside one’s own head which are difficult to turn off.

I only came across this phrase last week which my seventy five year old yoga teacher very accurately described monkey mind as those subconscious thoughts which surface and compete for primary attention during times when we least want them to; as we drift off to sleep or in this case the fifteen minutes of meditation time at the end of the session. 

She gave the very clear and accurate advice on how to clear our “headspace” as she called it, a technique which would act as a sort of mind enema.

Last weekend, I attended a philosophy / yoga talk with her eighty five year old husband entitled “Awaken Your Healing Potential”, the pair of them are a true inspiration to others and an incredible advertisement for yoga (and he himself is recovering from a broken back using only yoga breathing techniques for pain relief rather than the prescribed morphine tablets from his doctor).

After sharing some of his decades of accrued wisdom, he instructed us to take in a full breath (a breath which represented an action in the physical realm). As we approached full lung capacity, he asked us to focus our thoughts on the “headspace” between the brows (the location of the pineal gland / third eye) and try to activate a connection with the meta-physical realm / universal prana field (also the location of the higher mind). Our instruction was to hold the breath and stay in that state for as long as we could before becoming aware of the physical realm once again by breathing out and channeling the tapped-in energy to areas of the body which required any healing attention. 

This action was to be repeated until we reached a state of pure relaxation and deep meditation, and as a bi-product the total annihilation and expulsion of the monkey mind.

I have been doing yoga on and off for the last four years yet this simple explanation and exact instruction gave me the instant ability to find a place hitherto unreachable within the space of a few minutes. I have connected with the prana field on many occasions previously through kundalini reiki but found the practice too strong for me, literally riding the lightning and wreaking havoc on my tinnitus. This approach was different, a calmer and more effective approach for inner peace and well-being.

As I am not working away at the moment, some focus has rightly turned to getting my house in order (physically and mentally) and part of that was to tackle the attic space. I had grand designs last year to build a “meditation loft” but decided in my infinite wisdom to erect a outside bar and seating area.

So I sat down and discussed my plans with the wife and she stated that the attic was currently a metaphorical and physical representation of my “headspace” in that it too  was loaded with junk making things that much more difficult to gain access to when required (trying not to take it too personally of course).

Whilst agreeing with her completely, there was one word that stood out immediately; headspace. Not only had my yoga teacher and husband mentioned this on separate occasions recently, not only had I downloaded the Headspace mindfulness / meditation app recently, but here was my wife giving me yet another subliminal message to go create that yoga suite upstairs and once I had finished it, to use the space to connect with my inner self and beyond and cleanse the system.

If minimalism has taught me one thing over the past few weeks it’s be ruthless. Pulling down the ladder and peering over the ledge revealed the truly mammoth task that lied ahead. Bin bags, boxes, books, board games and everything else beginning with the letter B (plus every other letter in the alphabet) was looking at me head on as if to say “I dare you to take me to the tip”.

Mindful that if I threw any of the wife’s stuff away without having her explicit permission beforehand would end up with me sleeping on the dogs blanket for a few nights, I was nevertheless very successful in my first cleansing exercise, and with the resulting twelve bags full of crap safely ensconced in the local recycling centre, I can once again see the exposed floor beams and fiberglass insulation goading me to cover them immediately with floor panels, laminate, Persian rugs and zabutons…

Minimalism for Children…

I see the value in living with less. Everything I now own (with the exception of family items like TV’s etc) can be found in my triple wardrobe. All clothes, shoes, bags and gizmos can fit inside a solitary piece of IKEA furniture and I like it.

However, if you took a side swipe to the right and my wife’s wardrobe, chest of drawers, bedside table and under the bed space, that revealed a very different picture.

She came home from work a few weeks ago to see her bedroom rather tidy and rather roomy. My bedside table was missing. My chest of drawers was missing. All of the items previously on top of wardrobes were missing. She smiled and I knew in that split second that without explaining to her anything about minimalism, I had a fair to medium chance of persuading her to do likewise, and likewise (albeit to a lesser extent) she did.

I took a further side swipe to the further right and opened my daughters bedroom door on Monday morning which revealed (to me at least) total and utter chaos. As I have been travelling around our “little blue dot” for the last seven months, I have accrued a lot of annual leave so for the next two months I will not have to work any Monday mornings or Friday afternoons.

My goal over the coming eight weeks is to minimalise the house, decluttering and touching up the paintwork as I go.

As with all miniature princesses, my daughter has accrued a lot of stuff of the course of her nine year existence and previous attempts to cull teddies and dollies have been met with a river of infants tears.

So this time, I tried a different approach. She came home from school on Monday and I beckoned her into the office / dining room and sat her down. I asked her what she thought of my new bedroom and she said she liked it a lot. I then got out my scrap pad and pen and drew the following:

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This was my attempt at minimalism for children. Kid A (nice reference for all you Radiohead fans out there) was unhappy, she only had one toy in the world and could only have so much fun with a single item, but she loved that toy more than any “thing” in the world, 100% in fact.

Kid B had a larger number of toys than Kid A and was happy, although she did not play with everything at all times, she did play with them all from time to time and loves them all, 75% each in fact (with “Blanky” still firmly rooted at 100%).

Kid C had way too much, box upon box of dusty dolls, tired teddies and very bored board games. She only played with half of the stuff and didn’t really need all of the things she had, so she only really played with and loved a smaller amount, 50% in fact.

So after explaining all of this to her, I turned to look at her and her eyes were filling up, chin quivering. She said that I was going to throw all of her toys away so that she would become Kid A. Not so I said, all I was trying to say was lets go upstairs and see if she was Kid B or Kid C (and in truth she was at that point somewhere in the middle).

So we spent the next couple of hours evaluating the love for each toy and whether it could either go in the bin or to the charity shop.

After what seemed like an eternity and three bin bags later, I moved my old chest of drawers into her room (replacing her untidy toy box bookshelf) and placed all of the loved items in each drawer, the room looking tidy and minimalist.

We then proceeded back downstairs and I asked her where she was on the minimalism for children chart and she said she was happy and she was Kid B…