Lightening the Load and Freeing the Spirit

August 6

If you, like me have moved house recently the term “minimalism” may appeal to you. The longer we live in one place the more we accumulate stuff, because “it’s quaint, cute, beautiful”, or because it’s such a bargain that I had to buy it, or because it looks like something that I might need some day. I don’t even like down-hill skiing but I am still holding onto skis and ski boots in case I might go with the grand kids one day. With the writing of this post I have been pruning my files of some really good studies that I led 15 years ago, which I kept just in case I will want to use them again. (I never use something that old because it’s not where I’m at today).

There is a sense of freedom that comes with letting go of stuff.

I am learning that it is not just things that I cling to. Far more elusive and more impactful in my life and relationships are my attachments to my self-deceptions. These egoic (ego-ic) attachments are powerful and tenacious. They are addictions, whether to a substance or to habits such as gossip or worry. Even more sneaky are our attachments to mental constructs. We tenaciously hold on to a self image even when it is an unhealthy image! The Buddha said egoic attachments are the source of all suffering.

Spiritual minimalism, that is practices of non-attachment, is the only way to receive freedom. Buddhist meditation is about letting go of attachments. The 12-step program is life-saving because it recognizes both the powerlessness of strong attachments and the freedom that comes in surrendering to a higher power.

Attachments are part of the human condition. We can derive hope in knowing that others have experienced and do experience the same attachments/ addictions and they have found and find healing. Learning non-attachment is part of growing older and wiser.

We are also attached to a particular way of seeing God.  Most of us make god in our own images.

This is important because when I become the reference for what is “right”, and what is “normal” and what is “god” then those who are like me and who agree with me are in “my camp” with my tribal god, and those who are not, are “others”.  We can readily see the connection between “othering” and the slave trade, the Holocaust, Canada’s World War 1 and 2 Internment Camps and the Indian Act that spawned the infamous residential schools. Who are we “othering” today?

Minimalism in a spiritual sense, is learning to let our images of god be absorbed into the greater Mystery of the Benevolent Spirit who makes the sun to shine on all of creation.

Letting go of images of god is specifically the intention of contemplative prayer of the Christian tradition. Christian meditation uses reflection on images and imagination in prayer. Contemplation is the Christian form of prayer that is most like Buddhist meditation in practice. Both practices are about being awake to the present moment, letting go of anxieties, fears, anger, distractions, preferences, ideas, thoughts, judgements etc. This article will help readers understand the long-standing tradition of contemplative prayer and how it is practiced.

On Buddhist meditation:

On Internment Camps in Canada during the World Wars: