A little over two months ago, at the crossroads of transitioning from academics (graduating college early) and deciding what to do next with my time, I went to Hawai’i island to live and apprentice with a Japanese artist on an organic farm and meditation center. I saw it not as a retreat or an extended vacation, but as necessary for returning to natural, slower rhythms, being fully present, and coming to terms with the uncertainty of the future. No longer working towards a long-term completion of something tangible (like a degree) left me anxious and in-a-hurry to find something else to “complete,” and I knew that this urgency was unnecessary and wanted to rid myself of it. I intended for this transition period to be grounding, to promote living deliberately and simply in order to set the tone for navigating the lifestyle and jobs (or source of income, as I prefer to use) I would choose to pursue in the months and years following my time in Hawai’i.
I had only one clearcut intention: that whichever source of income I chose would have to cater to the lifestyle I wanted to lead as opposed to having my lifestyle be a mere afterthought of my work limitations (in particular, I was terrified of the conventional nine-to-five and sedentary office swivel chair). I found myself trying to fit the conventional post-graduate paradigm of working a contracted office job when I knew that though such a job would give the illusion of safety and even pride, it would not at all suit my creative interests, work style, or desire to be outdoors for the majority of the day.
Prior to going to the island, I had coincidentally stumbled upon the essays by dynamic duo, the The Minimalists, and found them to uncannily speak to my core values, my fears, and my intentions regarding this transitory phase--the notion of excavating “ephemeral satisfactions” or “life’s excess in favor of the essential” was precisely the reason behind my choice to live on a farm in Hawai’i for a few months. I wanted to locate exactly the lifestyle I found most fulfilling and productive by living with less of the excess and distractions that somehow weasel themselves into our everyday lives--from juggling an overwhelming amount of projects, to an abundance of unnecessary material possessions, to relationships that foster small talk as opposed to growth, to a habitual itch for technology and social media consumption.
In the last couple of months, while I may not have gotten much closer to any concrete decisions regarding the future, I have felt fuller, more intact, and more mindful even in spite of uncertainty. I found that I had been able to feel whole by whittling away most of modern metropolis (namely, Los Angeles) life’s standard commodities, and in turn, have more time and headspace for that which I actually care for. It’s as if the space freed up by less possessions and time spent on scattered distractions was directly translatable into headspace and pockets of clarity.
- In one month, 86 of my meals were primarily comprised of food we grew, harvested, and prepared on our farm. Only four of my meals in the entire month were purchased elsewhere.
- During my entire time in Hawai’i, I purchased no new material possessions. At the same time, I only brought one suitcase with me, which mostly composed of farm/work clothes.
- I left my phone at my bed every time I went to work at the farm, practice yoga, and cook - this meant I was not with my phone for at least 8 hours of the daytime.
All of which meant I was able to be deliberate and heartfelt with my time: to meditate and practice yoga every day, take solo road trips to volcanoes, black sand beaches, and hot springs, increase productivity working on photographs, read and write more, use my phone with more purpose (to contact loved ones, to read digital books, and use Google maps, naturally), but most importantly, focus wholeheartedly at tasks at hand and being present - thinking solely about the dishes when washing dishes, thinking solely about the delicacy of our movements when placing seedlings into the earth, treating each physical act as an opportunity for meditation and a state of thoughtlessness that I now see as essential and sacred. For some reason, this sort of deliberate presence had been drained from my consciousness after years of modern multi-tasking. So, Mahalo, Hawai’i and The Minimalists for restoring presence and for reminding me that our cyclical patterns of thought and worrying make no actual progress - so why not just be?