ZEN TIP TUESDAY #16
This week for ZTT #16 I’m very happy to welcome our second male contributor to Zen Tip Tuesday – Brendan Lee! Brendan’s story is such an interesting and inspirational one. He went from being an Accountant wanting to be rich in $$’s to Travel Blogger who is richer by minimalism. In a post he wrote that links from this one here today he uses this quote by Jackie French Coller “There are two ways to be rich. One is by acquiring much, the other is by desiring little.” Brendan shares how he gave up alcohol, changed his diet, embraced minimalism, and the peace and freedom that doing these things has brought to him. Enjoy the read, and of course you can learn more about Brendan at his Bio at the end of the post.
If you’re joining us for ZTT Link-Up #014, welcome and I look forward to reading your post!
QUITTING ALCOHOL AND EMBRACING MINIMALISM
I came up with the idea to quit alcohol almost by accident. I’d just had a very long, inebriated night with some new friends in Namibia, arrived home half conscious at 4am. I woke up the next morning exhausted, head aching, dehydrated, a little poorer, a little unhealthier; a feeling that had become too familiar over the years.
I wouldn’t consider myself a heavy drinker. Even during my prime backpacking years, where people literally drink every night, I’d only have one or two heavy nights per week. But it was during these years that the foundation for my no-alcohol journey began. Five years on the road, living out of a backpack, I’d learned to live without a lot of things. One pair of shoes, three tee-shirts, no television, no car, many nights I didn’t even have a bed to sleep on. I slept on floors, couches, often used a tee-shirt as a towel, hitch-hiked, wore second-hand clothes. And I came out the other end not only unscathed, but enlightened. Minimalism almost became like a religion to me. I stopped buying new clothes, new toys, new things. My bank account started to grow. Even when I wasn’t on the road, nothing changed. I continued the simple life. No stuff. No stress. I loved it. It was a world apart from the corporate life I’d lived years earlier.
DOWNSIZING MY DIET AND SWAPPING PARTYING FOR EXERCISE AND SELF CARE
So as I lay on my couch that morning in Namibia, I decided it was time to downsize another aspect of my life – my diet. If I could live without purposeless things, surely I could live without purposeless food too. I started a month-long challenge that day. All processed food was out. All fast food was out. All sugar was out. And of course, all alcohol was out. I went to the supermarket, stocked the fridge with fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and herbs. I bought a blender, drank raw smoothies twice daily, drank herbal teas, ate wild-caught fish and vegetables every night for dinner. Instead of partying, I joined the kickboxing gym and exercised hard every day, prioritised sleep, rest, recovery.
After six weeks I was in the best shape of my life.
WHEN ON TO A GOOD THING
When I returned home to New Zealand that summer, I decided I’d carry on my new diet. I started the year with a juice cleanse. For ten days I gave up all food, fasting on only fresh vegetable juice 3-4 times a day. On New Years Eve, while the country was intoxicating itself en masse, I was with friends at home, drinking a green juice. Not only was it a rewarding mental challenge, my body loved it. I dropped to single digit body fat, cleansed piles of waste from the body. I started to realise, even when it came to food, the answer was less, not more.
By this time I’d now done two months without alcohol. I thought to myself, why only do two months? Why not do a whole year?
So I did.
That year I continued backpacking, sober, through Europe, east and west Africa. A sober backpacker is somewhat of an anomaly. It became not only a mental challenge, but a social challenge too. Travel blesses you with new friends almost daily, but how do you socialise with new friends without drinking? I’d never tried. As it turns out, it’s rather easy. Most people didn’t look at me funny when I told them I was a non-drinker. Rather, they were curious about it, respected it. Most times, it was something interesting for us to talk about.
When my sober year finally ended, it wasn’t a big celebration. I went out for a bowl of noodles, came back to my hostel and got to bed early. But I was happy. I was healthy, rested, clear-headed, stress free. Most of all, peaceful. And I’ve learned those are not trivial things. In fact, they might be the most valuable things to strive for, yet things so many of us are still struggling to find.
My alcohol-free year was an important step for me towards zen, but as you can see, it was only one chapter in a longer journey.
WHAT ZEN IS TO ME
To me, zen is peace. Peace in your mind, peace in your body. And the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is we don’t achieve that peace by adding things to our lives. We achieve it by removing things. Life is not complicated. If it is, it’s only because we’ve made it so. We have money problems because we spend too much, we buy houses with too many bedrooms, we buy new shoes when we already have eight pairs, we have health struggles because we eat too much junk, we watch too much television, we feel down because we spend too much time with negative people. And the thing is, nobody forces us to do these things. We do them to ourselves.
But if we can recognise these things that hold us back – alcohol, junk food, material excess, television, negative friends, video games – we can address them. And we don’t need to do anything special. In fact, we don’t need to do anything at all. Just stop. Don’t drink the alcohol. Don’t eat the junk food. Don’t turn on the television. Don’t buy the new clothes. The answer is literally; do nothing. What could be simpler than that?
ONE STEP AT A TIME – ZEN IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU
However, simple does not mean easy. Giving up is difficult, we need to work at it, every day. But it starts with a single step – it might be alcohol, Netflix, shopping, sugar. But the important thing is that you start. Today, as a backpacking blogger, I earn far less than I did as a corporate accountant. But my bank account has never been healthier, my body has never felt better, I’ve never smiled or laughed more. The amount of space “giving up” has created for amazing things to come into my life has been more than I could’ve wished for. It’s been a long journey, but a beautiful one – start it today and enjoy it. Zen is right in front of you, if you’re ready to find it.
ZTT LINK-UP #014