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minimalism, sustainability, mindfulness

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I’m including a recipe here this time as a break from the usual content on the site. I use mindfulness regularly when I am doing different tasks and lately the garden has been a rather inhospitable place with storm Ciara and the subsequent cold weather that has followed in it’s wake. As a result I’ve turned my mindfulness exercises onto cooking and crafting items. This is one of my favourite recipes I’ve spent a while working on, slowly altering the ingredients until I have arrived at something that works for me. As ever, you should take my recipe and make it your own. Find out what works for you and change the quantities until it becomes your recipe. Write it down, and then distribute it to others. Consider it to be a part of your own mindfulness practice.

Note: Almost any biscuits will work for the cheesecake base if they do not go soggy when liquids are added to them. This is why digestives are often used. Rich tea biscuits do go soggy in liquids, and so they would not be a good choice. The main issue with digestives is that they contain a high amount of saturated fat per biscuit, which is 8% (according to the food label on classic McVittie’s Digestives) of your daily allowance. That’s really high! If you want to make your cheesecake healthier, try using different biscuits instead, such as the excellent Misura Biscotti Integrali, with only 1% of your daily saturated fat per biscuit!

Ingredients

300g blueberries 1 tsp vanilla extract 40g maple or agave syrup 250g firm tofu 1/3 tsp stevia 1 vegi-gel or agar powder sachet 2 bananas 60g sunflower spread 20 crushed biscuits (digestives work best)

Method

Prepare the biscuit base in a 20cm springform pan by melting the sunflower spread and pouring over crushed biscuits. Chill in the fridge overnight. The next day, slice the bananas and place them uniformly over the prepared base. In a food processor, combine the first five ingredients and blend them until they are smooth. Prepare the gelatin according to package instructions in 50g of water, making enough to set 650g of liquid. Thoroughly blend the gelatin into the blueberry mixture. Pour into the prepared springform. Chill the cheesecake for at least 24 hours to allow the gelatin to set, and for the tofu to absorb the flavours of the other ingredients. Serve with banana slices for garnish and whipped cream or a drizzle of agave/honey if desired.


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A peace lily (spathiphyllum bellini) in bloom.

I write a lot about living life intentionally. Your personal surroundings should be as intentional as you live rest of your life. For me, that means plants. Lots of them. Plants are an attractive feature to any home, and unlike ornamentation they have several practical purposes:

For one, They clean the air. My peace lily (spathiphyllum wallisii) is a good remover of harmful airborne particles. NASA found this out during tests conducted in 1989 for possible future cultivation in space. The tests were conducted in sealed chambers and the peace lily successfully removed high quantities of benzene, trichlorethylene and formaldehyde from the air. [1]

They help to reduce stress. Speaking from experience, I’ve found that I’m a lot happier sitting at my desk at home when there are plants in view. My peace lily sits in a pot next to me, and I’ve many other plants in view on windowsills throughout the house. Unlike a designer vase or a sculpture, they look attractive without breaking the bank.

My sokan style Buddhist pine (podocarpus macrophyllus) at home on a south-facing windowsill, along with a gynura aurantiaca, ceropegia woodii and red aglaonema.

They’re an opportunity for mindfulness. Bonsai have long been an integral part of zen meditation. Not just as something to meditate while observing, but also using the act of pruning, watering and training the branches as a form of mindfulness practice. By concentrating on a peaceful task it helps to ground our thoughts in the present moment, rather than letting our minds drift onto something we’ve been worrying about. It doesn’t have to be bonsai trees either since gardening creates an enjoyable pastime. Whether it’s on a small balcony or in a huge country garden, it can be very rewarding, especially when plants we grow do so much for our physical and mental well-being. Most of my meditation practice in gardening can be traced to the book Gardening for Mindfulness by Holly Farrell [2]. It encourages us to consider how plants engage all of our senses through their pleasant appearance, the texture of the leaves, their smell, the sounds they make as they rustle on a windy day, and ultimately how we can taste some of them by adding them to different dishes. This sensory monopolisation proves to be entirely positive, unlike some other diversions (such as technology) that often have negative effects on our moods and energy levels.

The moral of this post? Buy a plant, give it a name, put it on your desk, talk to it, and help it to grow. There’s nothing more rewarding than caring for a life, especially when it gives you so much in return. It’s like having a child, except plants won’t answer back with snarky remarks!

References

1. Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement, By Dr B.C. Wolverton et al, 1989

2. Gardening for Mindfulness, by Holly Farrell, 2017


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Note: I’m not one for recommending people download or buy just anything. If I make a recommendation on this blog it is because I truly believe it will add value to your life in some positive way. That said, please do consider if such a thing is suitable for you and make a mindful informed choice regarding its suitability!

As I’ve said many times before, I believe in lifelong learning. I try to learn something new every single day. Unfortunately I have found it increasingly difficult to find small snippets of information from reliable sources through web searches. Websites often send you around the houses, and the articles aren’t even original, having been copied from somewhere else entirely. Instead of spending half my life fact-checking what I’m reading, I’ve taken to using an app on my phone called Blinkist.

It’s a novel concept: They take the essence of an entire book and squeeze it into several short text and audio clips called ‘blinks’. They really are quite short, lasting only a few minutes. You could read or listen to the entire series about a book within half an hour, or pace yourself and spread it out throughout your week. I mostly listen to the audio versions because the narration is so emotive and really conveys the meaning well. Some of the blinks are even read by the original author of the book, just as you might expect to find with a regular audiobook!

The library they have is extensive (over 3,000 entries) and grows each month; including books on personal development, psychology, history and science to name just a few topics. All the books are non-fiction, so it is better for those who want to spend their time learning rather than listening to a good story. After all, who would want to cut up a novel into blinks? It would ruin the flow of the story!

Speaking of the full books…. At first I was concerned that the authors, by offering their books as blinks might be talking prospective customers out of buying from them, but this didn’t happen with me anyway. I found that their blinks whet my appetite just enough to know I was interested in finding out more of what the author had to say, and so I went on Amazon and bought the Kindle versions of the book to read in more detail. It’s very clever and a great way to learn if a book matches your interests beyond the blurb on the back cover.

If you’re looking for specific blinks to read I heartily recommend (if you don’t have time to read the full books) those on minimalism by The Minimalists, Cal Newport and Leo Babauta. When you’re done with those, why not try We Are All Weird by Seth Godin and Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon. Both of them have been fascinating to listen to and they beat listening to or reading the news on the morning commute. Why constantly depress yourself with the world’s current events when you can learn something new, and arrive at work positive and energised for the day ahead!

You can download Blinkist for the iPhone here.

You can download Blinkist for Android here.

It’s important to note that there is one negative aspect of Blinkist, and that is their subscription model is slightly misleading. The monthly subscription is £9.99 per month, or £5.00 if you pay a yearly fee of £59.99. The upgrade page displays the £5.00 a month in very large letters, and then that the purchaser will be paying £59.99 for the entire year in very small writing beneath that. There is no actual £5.00 per month subscription so it's slightly sneaky. It’s just worth noticing so you aren’t caught out with an unexpected charge of £59.99 for the whole year. You can click “View All Plans” to find a £9.99 one, which is better for the first month if you want to see if you find it interesting enough to subscribe for an entire year.


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Note: This is an opinion piece, written without reference to other sources. Please treat it as such.

“You needn't settle for a mediocre life just because the people around you did.” ― Joshua Fields Millburn, Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life

I was told in school how my life would turn out. It was a method our teachers used to control us and make us conform by impressing how important it was to pay attention in class. You’ll go to school, then university, get a job, a car, a house, settle down, and have children. After a while, I heard this sequence so much that it became the anticipated outcome. Just as long as I stuck to the rules, my life would be blissfully dull.

So I created a list of things I needed to live a happy life:

Things

  • A good school record
  • A university degree
  • A job
  • A car
  • A house

People

  • A partner
  • Some children

It seems (through my personal observation) there are many people out there with all those things who are still searching for something more. Perhaps those things don’t make us as happy as we think they do, and we don’t realise it until we have everything and still feel empty. People are obviously the part of the list that is most important, because we’re a social species, but we need more than just other people to find fulfilment in our own lives. After all, we need to feel useful, as though our life has a purpose, and that we’re contributing to the whole somehow.

Unfortunately my life didn’t fit into the above list. Reality shattered my expectations, and it affected my mental and physical health as a result. I was bullied in school, so I switched to another one and my grades suffered because it had limited resources. Finally I ended up at university at the age of 29. I completed my degree at age 34, and I’ve been looking for work ever since….

I’m sure the list works out for some people. They have managed to live their lives without questioning the plan society has for them. Perhaps it aligns with their wishes, or perhaps they were made to think that through repetition, as I was. Perhaps they simply haven’t had their expectations shattered just yet….

One example of my breaking from the mold was when I told my mother I didn’t want children, which goes against the natural and socially acceptable convention in most societies. She looked wounded because she wouldn’t get any grand-children. My feelings regarding children are based upon the state of our planet and the degradation of our society in the United Kingdom, but even though it makes sense from a logical perspective, to go against the wishes of our families can be jarring for them, and difficult to rationalise away with facts. I also considered the pressure this might make my sister feel, since if my mother was to have any grand-kids it now rested with her.

The point I am making is that my life has been 'unsuccessful' when considering the meaning most of us place on the word. I haven’t a full-time job, I don’t drive a car, I don’t have my name on the deed to a house, and I don’t want any kids of my own. My life as it has been, however, is anything but mediocre. It has been exciting, terrifying and crazy, and all at the same time. My life is a twisted dissonance of different events all somehow squished into my 35 years. I’ve managed to live that way without having been on a holiday in 15 years, or any other of those coveted possessions on the list until fairly recently when I graduated with my BA in Photography.

“Reject the basic assumptions of civilization, especially the importance of material possessions,” ― Joshua Fields Millburn, Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists

Somewhere along the way we drink the Kool-aid of material wealth as a sign of success. However, success is entirely based on the assumption we’re all playing with the same goal in mind. When you change the meaning of success, you change the rules of the game. Minimalism is one such way of changing the rules and taking back control of our definition of what it means to be alive.

So how do you measure success? Chances are that most people will look at my traditional list above and say “If I achieve that, I’ll have had a pretty good life.”

I’m not saying education isn’t important. I believe in lifelong learning of skills: learning skills makes me feel useful, capable, and ultimately, happy. But there are quite a lot of material possessions linked with each one of these items, from buying a laptop for school to furniture for a house. Is that linked to your measurement of your own success too? Are these possessions an outward sign of how you show others how successful you are?

Minimalism is partially about ridding oneself of the outward signs of success. It requires us to be content with our own individual definition of what constitutes a meaningful existence without advertising it to the world through what we own. Ultimately any purchase made as a statement of wealth is devoid of meaning to it’s owner because it serves no practical purpose. It’s just an extra item on the mantel to dust each week and wastes time. It was bought for the benefit of others.

Example: Did the last smart phone you bought offer functionality beyond the previous one that you actually used? Perhaps you bought it because you felt you needed to be seen to have the latest gadget. After all, you don’t want to be seen to be out-of-touch in this fast-paced world. Unfortunately it means you bought it for the benefit of others rather than for yourself. If you bought a new phone after a year, it would not have offered a substantial upgrade over the previous model, and you paid a hefty sum of money at the same time. Our drive to conform to the collective is exploited again here at the expense of our financial well-being.

One thing I have noticed in moving from the poorer area where I lived for over twenty years to a much more affluent one within the last 5 is that the truly monetarily rich people are so comfortable with the balances in their bank account that they don’t need to flaunt their wealth. They often drive the oldest and most beaten-up cars instead of constantly recycling nearly-new ones or leasing them for a hefty premium. There is something we can all learn here, and that is we don’t need possessions to tell us who we are. We need to consider that possessions are a sign of our insecurity. If you can feel secure without them, then you’re free from society’s cycle of forced mediocrity.


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I’m not usually one for New Year’s Resolutions. If self-improvement is worth doing, it’s worth beginning now instead of later. Having said that, inspiration struck me last night about a way I could improve my life and it happens to fall of New Year’s eve, so here it is:

  • I’ve decided to organise my calendar.

It may seem like something very small in many ways, but it could possibly have a substantial impact on my life. If there is one thing we’re aware of as humans, it’s that our time is at a premium. Until I decided to map out my timetable in front of me I didn’t realise exactly how much I had to do, and how much free time I have every day to get everything done. As it turns out, there isn’t much time at all, and I don’t even have a full-time job other than my current work writing for mnml.news.

The way I’ve managed my schedule is that everything is broken down into half hour blocks. I’ve read that some highly successful people (which I usually use as a euphemism for rich and aimless) block out their schedules in increments of five minutes [1], but I’m not that crazy, and there are other ways to be productive, such as focusing on intentional living, which I’ll be sure to cover at some point in the future. I also don’t want to schedule my cups of tea and my bowel movements. That sounds like the script from a bad episode of The Big Bang Theory.

What I have done though is break up my work with personal activities in-between (which I can do since I don’t work 9-5) with exercise, going for walks, and meals. I’ve even generously scheduled some free time where I can fit whatever else isn’t in the schedule into that block of two whole hours in the evening.

Some minimalists such as the ever-awesome Matt D'Avella suggest that due to “melatonin fog”, aka sleepiness, we shouldn’t be scheduling anything gruelling very early in the mornings or late in the evening, and our best work is usually created in the mornings once we’re tanked up (on breakfast) and ready to go [2]. It’s pretty good advice for the majority of people and I’ll be following his advice and scheduling most of the more brain-intensive work for after breakfast (and coffee, even though I drink decaf, shh don’t tell my body).

This is just an initial post. I’ll be adding updates and adjusting my schedule as time goes on. I may find that the schedule isn’t working well for me and I can’t stick with it. Only time will tell and even if I fail I’ll ensure to properly pick through my decisions and document them so you can at least see what not to do instead. Wish me luck!


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References:

  1. Successful people are adopting the concept of 'microscheduling,' which involves breaking your day into 5 to 7 minute slots and even planning cups of tea, by Rachel Hosie, 2019
  2. My Morning Routine, by Matt D’Avella, 2019

#newyear #experiment #organisation #calendar

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No Self, No Problem is a new (2019) book by Dr Chris Niebauer, a cognitive neuropsychologist from the USA who specialises in analysing the hemispherical differences between the left and right sides of our brains and how they process input from our senses.

The book looks at Buddhist teachings regarding the western concept of the ‘self’ and postulates that they are correct based upon science’s inability to locate our sense of self in the brain. Buddhism has been teaching these concepts for thousands of years, and it seems that our science is only just beginning to see how right they are.

What does this mean?

In a nutshell, it means that the ego, the ‘me’ that we in the western world consider as the pilot of our bodies, and who we refer to when we talk about ourselves to others, fundamentally doesn’t physically exist in our brains. In the book, Niebauer carefully walks us through cases and cites evidence from numerous tests dating all the way back to early split-brain patients who had invasive brain surgery in the 1960s to help reduce epileptic seizures. Some of the results of these tests were bizarre, and fascinating, and well worth reading about if you have the time.[1] [2]

It may sound strange, but consider this: When we are trying to decide what to order from a menu and ask ourselves “what do I want?” in our mind, who are we talking to?

How does this help us?

The author argues that human belief in the self perpetuates our mental suffering, and we should mindfully re-frame our thoughts with this new concept, to provide ourselves with a happier life. The book goes in-depth into the role the left hemisphere of our brain plays in making assumptions about our environments when we don’t have all the facts: a useful survival trait. Unfortunately it is also one of the main reasons we suffer so much. Just think about the last time you thought someone had snubbed you in the corridor because they didn’t say ‘Good morning’ and how that made you feel for the rest of the day. Why do we assume the worst? Perhaps they were merely busy or didn’t see us.

If you’re looking for a light read on your commute to work, this certainly isn’t a good choice and you’ll quickly find yourself sinking into this wordy-but-accessible volume. It’s written in high-school level vocabulary, but the concepts are rather involved. If you have some time and you’re willing to get stuck into re-reading some paragraphs to fully absorb the information the author is imparting, then climb aboard. My personal favourite part of the book covers our preoccupation with ‘thinking about thinking’, and reminds us that humans process much sensory information every day and place it into different categories. As the author says:

“To think is to think categorically, and there is no way around this.” – Dr. Chris Niebauer

Niebauer points out that categorisation allows us to see patterns, and groups of patterns become our held system of beliefs. Since many of these contain assumptions, any incorrect information could lead to our suffering, especially if the ego concept is threatened in some way. Were we to rid ourselves of the concept completely, when someone decided to attack us verbally, it would merely wash over us because we would consider it to be anger without a directed target to wound.

Opinion: My opinion is that categorisation facilitates both good and bad thinking. For example: It may cause a person to place someone into a category that allows them to be racist, which is obviously a negative trait. However, it also allows us the positive trait of creativity. If we couple our ability to judge and categorise what we see with the left-brain’s ability to fill in the gaps, we can use what we know to ‘make stuff up’. That could lead us to generate new works of art and sublime musical compositions. As ever, there always seems to be a trade-off between the yin and the yang, the light and the dark, and one quite possibly couldn’t exist without the other, from a neurological point of view, and quite possibly a philosophical one as well.

The book also covers:

  • How to tap into the power of using the right brain
  • The role the right brain plays in intuition
  • How yoga and meditation help to reduce left brain chatter

My recommendation

I highly recommend this book. It has helped me personally to catch thoughts that are negative assumptions before they escalate. I now remind myself that without all the facts in my possession my interpretation of a situation is a negative assessment designed to prepare me should the worst happen. Although the book is too complex for most, I believe the concepts written in No Self, No Problem should be taught to children in schools to help children learn coping mechanisms for our increasingly hectic daily lives.

Lastly, when you consider buying a book, please think about the trees used to make the paper. If you have a Kindle, please consider buying an electronic copy instead. They’re often usually cheaper too.

Buy the book from Amazon here.

References

1: The Split Brain in Man, by Michael S. Gazzaniga, 1967 2: Consciousness, personal identity and the divided brain, by Roger Sperry, 1984


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#book #bookreview #psychology #buddhism #meditation #mindfulness

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For those people living outside the UK who may not know, The Royal Mail, our national postal service, is a private company. It has been for a few years now. Unfortunately this means as a commercial entity they’ve opted to begin delivering un-addressed junk mail with the standard letters in our morning post.

Since the number of letters that land on our mats each day has dropped, you mightn’t have noticed. It's important to remember that junk mail is made from paper, and printing in volume creates an enormous amount of waste. If you’re anything like me, you probably bin it all. On principal I won’t read it because I don’t think I should ever be sent marketing in such an environmentally unfriendly way. I also don’t like the idea of having advertising forced into my home without my consent! I should be able to choose if I want it, and thankfully, you can, thanks to a little-known form and five minutes of your time.

For those of you who like me want to stem the tide of paper waste here is how you opt-out:

The Royal Mail service that delivers all this junk is called “Door to Door”. According to their website It reaches over 29 million households. Think of all that wood pulp and the chemicals used to make inks being wasted!

Unfortunately the Royal Mail have made it difficult to opt-out, because they simply don’t want it to happen. There isn’t a simple form, and we need to print out (more paper wastage) a PDF form, fill it in, and send it via Freepost to stop the junk mail. You can download the form by clicking here.

Note: It takes about six weeks before the service begins and the junk mail stops. Opting-out also only last two years, so it might be useful to set a reminder for two years’ time on your phone to renew. All you have to do is print another form.

To further reduce the wastage, you could encourage neighbours on your street to opt-out as well. Mass un-subscription is the best way to tackle the problem. I’m certainly going to encourage our neighbours to do the same!

Naturally this only stops junk mail delivered by the Royal Mail, not all junk mail. If you want to stop hand-delivered junk mail, you’ll need to place a sticker on your letterbox, although they can look a little unsightly and unfriendly. Another method is to use the Mailing Preference Service (MPS), although again that only stops junk mail from providers that read the MPS lists and honour your decision.

Now go for a pleasant walk and post that form!


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#environmentalism #junk #royalmail #wastage #declutter

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If you don’t have the time or dedication to throw everything in your house out in one go, or you’d prefer not to sleep on a bed in the middle of an empty room, I’d suggest my method for ridding yourself of clutter. Select a single item of furniture to clean out each day, or perhaps even per week. It’s a less intense way of thoughtfully (mindfully) disposing of your things. Today it is the turn of my nemesis: the infamous bathroom cabinet.

What a mess!

Is this a familiar sight? Filled with items of unwanted or expired medication, products we tried – then decided we didn’t like, but can’t bear to throw out because that would be wasteful? Well, this is what my bathroom cabinet looks like today. I’m in the same boat as you. But today is the day that changes. It’s time to clean out that medicine cabinet! I will not be hiding things away behind doors any longer. Minimalism isn’t just an aesthetic choice after all, it’s a way of reducing the stuff in our lives to make room for meaningful experiences. It isn’t a pleasant experience to dread opening a cupboard and then rooting around inside to find that one item you were after in a sea of superfluous crap. It’s a waste of time, and the longer we leave it, the more time it takes us to clear up.

Yes, I am aware there are three tubes of toothpaste in my cupboard, and yes, all of them have been opened. I can’t quite remember why. I also can’t for the life of me remember why I have sticky fly traps in there too, but it was possibly to hide them away and make my bathroom appear outwardly tidy.

The easiest thing for us to throw away is the expired medication, so I can say goodbye to the cold and flu medicine from last year, and also my expired asthma inhaler. This has the added bonus of reminding me that I need to order another one, and should I have an asthma attack in the future I’ll be sure to thank past me for cleaning out my cupboard for me!

Other things we might want to finally consider throwing out are those opened items we don’t want anymore but aren’t empty. Consider: The only difference between throwing them out now and in six months’ time is that time will have passed. If there is no difference, and a cleaner cabinet would reduce our stress and make opening that cabinet more of a pleasure than a chore, why not do it now?

It somehow all came out colour coordinated. That’s a total fluke – I assure you.

I counted everything before I threw it out and I originally had 30 items in there. The cabinet will menace me no-more!

So now I have:

  • The facility to brush my teeth (toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash)
  • Skincare products (x3)
  • One bottle of cologne
  • Shaving supplies (razor, shaving cream, spare blades)
  • a comb
  • Topical pain relief cream
  • Natural deodorant

Total: 14 items

I moved:

  • My penknife, which shouldn't have been in there in the first place

I rid myself of:

  • A lot of expired meds
  • A type of deodorant I never used
  • Hair products
  • Excess tubes of toothpaste
  • Extra shaving supplies (again superfluous)

I threw away: 15 items

And that's just about all I need day-to-day. You may need more, or you may need less. I have special skincare requirements so you might not need a cleanser, scrub and moisturizer like I do. That truly is a need, since I don't want to end up with eczema and look like I have sunburn, even in winter.

Now would be a good point to mention sustainability. Much of the items in this cupboard are mainstream products and they are not sustainable over the long-term. There is some deodorant in there made from salt, and a natural warming muscle pain reliever made with capsicum pepper, both of which work well for me but that is just about all there is currently. This is an issue I will need to address in a future post as these items are used up. When I have found planet-friendly alternatives and replaced them all I will try this again. It’s also a good way for all of you to check up on me to ensure I’m sticking to my minimalist ethic. If I’ve filled my cupboard again I’ll know I’ve been a naughty boy, and you will too.

#declutter #minimalism #mess #minimising

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For the majority of us, the election result changes very little. Unfortunately those who will encounter the greatest adversity are often marginalised people such as the homeless, a problem that has always existed, and would continue to exist for some time regardless of the recent outcome.

It is important to keep in mind that the result doesn’t change who we are or for what we stand.

As for me, it would have been beneficial had a Labour government come to power. The main setback I have been facing for the past several years is that my benefits for having autism, an “incurable” lifelong condition, were stopped by what I regard as unfair capability assessments that border on discriminatory. This effectively reduced my income to zero. That little fact remains as unchanged today as it was three years ago. Even a labour government would not have effected a change to that little fact very rapidly despite their promises. When one party is elected into office slowly undoes the ‘progress’ of the others over time. The system is one of opposing forces that eventually strikes a balance when another goes too far in their pursuit of policies following their ideals. Eventually the current government will be blamed for the ‘mess’ we are in (whatever that may be), and another party will come to power. Then they will be blamed for the same when a utopia fails to emerge. An endless cycle. It’s hardly surprising.

At this moment I exist on the kindness of others and their donations of time and money that allow me to survive in this world. I am eternally grateful to them. I am proof that such kindness exists. I wouldn’t be here writing this blog entry otherwise.

Regardless of the current state of our country, in the home where I live the visitors can still expect my freshly baked banana bread. The garden is open to everyone to stop in when they need to relax. If you want to utilise my computer to surf the web or play games, you still can. It could be argued that more change and positive progress is made in my home on the small scale than the government ever achieves over the same amount of time.

I still meditate every day and practice my yoga to ease tension. My home is a model of sharing and socialism. If you surround yourself with sharing and caring environmentalists, that is the world you inhabit. I very rarely encounter these conservative right-wing people in my everyday life. I avoid them because they seem extreme in my eyes, and they likely avoid me, probably for what they perceive to be the same reason.

The election had another positive outcome for me. Those placards encouraging people to vote outside homes showed me that there are a lot of people who share my ideals. There are a lot more potential friends in my village than I had originally thought.

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Two stems of Oxalis Triangularis, better known as the Purple False Shamrock.

I decided that I would create a social media presence to let people know this website is online and ready to accept visitors. It sounds simple doesn’t it? Come one, come all to the new mnml.news site. Well it would have been if I hadn’t chosen Instagram as one of the networks to advertise the fact. If you didn’t know already (and if you don’t, you’re probably a much better minimalist than I) it primarily uses images with text as a caption.

Unfortunately, when I decided to take a nice simple photograph of one of my potted plants (I’m a keen gardener) in a style blatantly stolen/copied/as a homage to The Minimalists, I fell right back into maximalism. I immediately thought: “What do I need to get to take this picture?”.

I have a pretty good camera, and a phone, so I can physically take an image, but a minimal image needs a big white background or a light tent or some other fancy piece of equipment, right? I was already shopping through the ideas in my mind. The feeling of excitement from window shopping, or in my case, pre-window shopping is palpable. That white background I suddenly decided I wanted was now at the forefront of my mind.

When I finally caught myself I was shocked by how easily I had become distracted. Why did I need a white background? All the walls in my house are white. I already had everything I needed to take the photograph for this essay. In the end I altered the colours to a two tone orange and purple to further push these demons out of my head, and individualise the image a little more.

Quite simply: my brain was craving that little jolt of endorphins built into each of us when we ‘treat’ ourselves to something new. It’s time for me to admit, I’m addicted to newness. Our brains seem wired that way. I’m living my life moving constantly from one new thing to the next, quickly tiring of the last great new thing I bought. What’s worse, it’s getting more and more difficult to feel excited about new things. That little jolt becomes more and more difficult to trigger, requiring a more extravagant purchase each time.

Do you remember when something as simple as a balloon on a stick made you happy as a child?

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