Madhur's Blog

Introduction

Last year, I announced a shift to a sustainable + ethical wardrobe on my blog. Even during the very earliest stages of this journey, I distinctly remember being clear on the fact that there would be nothing sustainable about abandoning my fast fashion clothes for sustainable + ethical options. I realized that the only true way to offset the damage of a piece of clothing I owned that wasn’t manufactured in a sustainable + ethical manner, was to consume it like that.

With this realization, I decided to not go on a shopping spree with ethical + sustainable brands. Instead, I decided to commit to a no-spend pledge for the first six months of 2018. The intent was to go through all the items in my wardrobe in the hope of building a better and deeper understanding of what I enjoyed wearing and what I didn’t.

Minimizing my Wardrobe

When I began the process, I remember feeling absolutely overwhelmed with the number of pieces in my wardrobe. I remember looking at my wardrobe and feeling completely uninspired. I had heaps of clothes. Quite a few of these I had owned for several years but many were new additions. Old or new, I was surprised to find so many pieces that I simply hadn't been wearing frequently enough. I distinctly remember opening my wardrobe and feeling what I eventually heard people online describe as “decision fatigue.”

Gradually, I was able to overcome this state by simply dividing my clothes into frequently worn vs non-frequently worn items. This was a great starting point because it helped me clearly identify the problem areas. Once this division was made, I decided to give the clothes I hadn’t been wearing frequently a fair chance. I decided to wear them a few more times to see if I had a valid reason for not wearing these items frequently enough.

When I did this, especially with some of the old clothes, I was so surprised to find that I totally enjoyed wearing these items and there was no logical reason behind why I wasn’t wearing them. Most of them still fit me. Most of them were still intact. I realized that how they looked mattered very little to me. I realized that what mattered more was the story behind them (in terms of the memories I had created while wearing them.) As I’ve said several times before, the clothes that we wear all have a story behind them. This story can be about how they were made or how they were worn. Fast-fashion encourages neglect of both. It systematically creates a disconnect between the people who made our clothes and us. This disconnect is further intensified because of the sheer number of clothes we own. Personally, when I got in touch with the story behind most of my clothes, I felt inspired to wear them, making new and creative pairings. That said, there were some clothes that simply didn’t fit me or even after giving a fair chance, I didn’t feel compelled to wear. Most of these were all let go in mindful and responsible ways (more on that in a future post.)

Six Months

As you might remember from the start of this post, I only intended to commit to a six month no-spend pledge. That said, when I completed six months, I felt a strong motivation to continue through the remainder of the year. This was mainly influenced by a strong urge to keep building on this deeper understanding of what I owned. I felt like I had only begun on this path and enjoyed the whole process of gradually getting in touch with pieces I my wardrobe and getting creative with them.

As much progress as I had made, there were still many pieces in my wardrobe that I hadn't worn in novel and creative ways. There were also many pieces in my wardrobe, that I hadn't invested time into, to go through the stories behind how they were made and the memories I had created while wearing them. Both these processes had felt cathartic and transformative and I felt a strong yearning to keep going.

Exceptions

Post the six-month mark, I did make two exceptions. The first one was a second-hand Levi’s 501 that I stumbled across for less than $5 while traveling. I have a thing for vintage Levi’s and since there aren’t many second-hand stores in India that I am aware of, I decided to indulge myself.

The second exception was in the form of the clothes that I purchased for one of my closest friend’s wedding. This was unavoidable mainly because at that time none of my existing wedding wear fit me and since this was a once in a lifetime event, I felt I could make the exception.

The Road Ahead

With the new year around the corner, I have given a considerable amount of thought on how I want to progress having completed a whole year of no-spend. One of the things I realized, is that I grew to enjoy not buying anything new. Having gotten a chance to both thrift and swap, I find myself primarily inclining towards these two methods of acquiring clothes in 2019.

The challenge remains that both these methods aren't as mainstream as I'd wish them to be. Additionally, both the methods do not guarantee that I will find exactly what I might be looking for. So, although I will resume buying new clothes again in 2019, there’s going to be a slight twist. I have decided to put a limit or cap on the number of new clothes I can buy, so that the whole activity does not go overboard. I have settled on a number and in 2019 I will only be buying 12 new pieces. You read that right, 12 pieces for the entire year. One for each month (though I will allow myself to buy more than one in a single month, so long as I am on track for 12 for the entire year.)

As I look at 2019, I want “buying new” clothes to be my last resort. I will first attempt to get creative with what I already own. If that doesn’t work I will wait till I have an opportunity to visit a second-hand store. If I don’t get that opportunity, I will wait till there’s a swap happening. If I am failed by all of these, I will make a note of what I desire, the specific colour, the fit, everything. And then do a thorough research and buy from a brand that meets these needs and is also ethical + sustainable. I am hoping that this approach enables me to consume fashion in the most strategic and mindful manner in 2019.

#sustainablefashion #minimalism #outfits

Identity Crisis and Identity Asset

I began 2018 with a sudden realisation of the identity crisis that had been brewing latently for most of my early and mid-twenties. I realised, that was disillusioned about my day-job. That I was unsure about which of my passions I should pursue. I owned so many things but kept yearning for more, and most importantly, I realised that my strongest relationships were a constant source of negativity.

Luckily, as the months have passed, I have been able to use minimalism to navigate through this identity crisis. Minimizing my circle enabled me to have a deeper understanding of what I seek from relationships and work on manifesting these attributes in them. Minimizing my finances and what I owned made me realize how privileged I am. It enabled me to squeeze out every ounce of value and beauty from what I already owned rather than feeding this notion that I needed anything more. These efforts created space, space that I was able to channelize towards the work I do. I narrowed my focus to tasks I enjoyed doing at my day-job and slowly distanced myself from what I didn't. I set clear boundaries at my day job so that I would have more time to dedicate to passions I had lost touch with, like blogging and making music. If I could summarize these changes in a few words, I'd say “I had been chipping away, transforming my identity crisis into identity asset.”

Deeper Exploration of Identity

After months of persistent chipping away transforming my identity crisis into identity asset, I found myself in a conversation with someone that led to an epiphany. At some point during the conversation, I was thrown the proverbial “there is no you” idiom. This was very conflicting for me to hear, after having spent most of the year working excruciatingly hard build an understanding and consequently nurturing my individual identity. After our call ended, as I sat in my living room staring at one of my houseplants, ruminating and questioning the conversation I had just had, I had a sudden epiphany. I frantically reached out for a piece of paper and wrote the following down -

“The leaves on this plant behind me aren't separate from the plant itself. A leaf might see another and think it’s separate or that it’s higher or lower. In rudimentary states of consciousness, the leaf identifies with itself. It perceives its position as on top or bottom and this stems from its belief of being separate from the rest. This isn’t unreal. This isn’t unauthentic. It is reality perceived in separateness. It is finite identity.

In infinite consciousness, the leaf knows that it isn’t just the leaf but the whole damn plant. And the position it perceives is no longer perceived out of separation but rather from wholeness. It identifies not with itself but as the sum of all that is. And in an instant, nothing turns to everything. Finite identity turns into infinite identity in the blink of an eye.”

Individual Identity Begets Collective Identity

Individual identity begets collective identity. Any identification with the collective cannot come without a prior identification with the individual. Have spent the past few weeks drowning in gratitude and amazement at the progress I've been able to make at with my individual identity.

#mindfulness #thoughtleadership

For as long as I remember, my birthday has caused me severe anxiety. At the core of this anxiety is a disdain for sudden attention from several people who I barely know (or who barely know me) and the lack of attention from people I’ve loved and lost with whom I treasured spending my birthday. With this in mind, I was stoked to be in a new country (Thailand) all by myself and although during the initial two days I had made several new friends at my hostel and spent a lot of time exploring the city with them, I had decided that on my last day (which happened to be my 29th birthday) I was going to explore what was left on my list on my own.

After visiting the Wat Pho temple and the Grand Palace on the morning of my birthday, I was left with just enough time to visit one more place before I left for the airport and it obviously had to be The Jim Thompson House. I say obviously, because back home, well before I arrived in Thailand, while reading about things to do in Bangkok, I was most intrigued by The Jim Thompson House. Luckily, I made it there by 1pm and was assigned a spot in the 1:10pm guided tour (I've read of others having to wait longer.) While I waited for the guided tour to begin, I was strolling around the property and had already started feeling a wave of emotion stirring up inside me caused by the beauty of this place and an inexplicable sense of familiarity.

Moments into the guided tour, the sense of familiarity started to get overwhelming and I was almost drowning in it. As our guide began to narrate his story, it felt like I knew it already (although it was the first time I was hearing it.) I felt this strong sense of having been in this property before. All of this only intensified as we left the courtyard of the house and entered the actual property (where photography is prohibited.) As our guide showed the first of many artifacts collected by Jim Thompson, my sense of familiarity crossed its tipping point. I noticed a palpable sign of this – tears running silently across my face. In that moment, I didn’t try and stop it, I didn’t think about or analyze it. I didn’t worry about what the guide or the other members of the tour might be thinking. I simply accepted it. I accepted it so seamlessly, because in that moment, I felt an absolute sense of harmony with myself and everything around me. I felt no need to try and understand what I was feeling but an urgent sense of wanting to completely immerse myself into it. To embrace it, to let it take over me, and that is exactly what happened.

After I returned home, I’ve had time to reflect on what happened and look at it from a cognitive perspective. This has led to clarity that what I experienced was no coincidence and had been a long time in the making. You see, like most people in their late 20s, the past few months (or years) of my life have been about self-discovery and growth. I have made tremendous progress when it comes to uncovering the sort of life I want to live. Progress toward knowing what makes me happy and what gives me a sense of purpose. I can only describe this phase as peeling away layers and layers of false identity so as to eventually reach my most authentic self. Each time I peeled a layer, I discovered something new about myself. Whether it was the fact that I want to spend my life in deep communion with nature. Or that I want to live it slowly – so as to notice the beauty in every tiny moment. A life that isn't spent chasing an infinite list of things but collecting and nurturing only what I truly need, value, and love.

In retrospect, I know that all that peeling away was leading to a specific moment. Years of peeling away seamlessly coincided with me visiting The Jim Thompson House in a cosmically special way. Had I visited  a year ago, I wouldn't have felt what I did. Heck, had I visited a couple of months ago, I wouldn't have felt it. It necessitated every last layer to have been peeled. Such that, the house and his story would serve as nothing but a mirror. A visual manifestation of the life I knew I had been peeling away at but one I hadn't ever seen put together so vividly. I couldn't (and wisely chose not to) understand what I was feeling then. But now, it is clear as day. As I stood there, peeled away to my core, I was ready. Ready to receive revelations of the life I had been dreaming of – put together for me to see.

#travel.

As the smoke settles, I breath slowly, taking in the fresh breath of air that now engulfs me within it. It is hard to imagine that only a couple of days back I was drowning in an overwhelming pool of anxiety caused by too much noise around me and not being able to narrow down on where it was coming from and how to stop it. 

What can one do in such a situation? How does one deal with something they can't control that is taking over them? How does one deal with something that is not just external to them but is also very difficult to place a finger on? Sure, you could try and make sense of it, you could introspect, you could try and analyze the situation so that you are able to identify the source of it all. But sometimes it doesn't work. 

There is only one thing we can do in such a situation – we can practice resilience and humility. Like grass fighting the wind, we must humbly acknowledge and accept the fact that what we are facing is unknown, unseen, and bigger than us. At the same time, we must be rooted enough to resiliently hold our ground no matter how strong the wind gets, till the very end.

In life, we will encounter situations greater than us, situations we cannot control, situations we can barely make sense of. We cannot change such situations but we can change how we react (or not) to them and how they impact us. In such cases, reacting is futile because it has literally no impact on the situation. It doesn't make it better but it most certainly can add to the anxiety. Instead, we can focus our energy on harnessing and consequently sustaining our inner-peace and not letting the situation impact our groundedness - to be like grass fighting the wind.

#mindfulness #thoughtleadership

We tend to look at life as an anticipation of better things or a look back at the past and at what went wrong. This at some level creates discontent in our heart and mind about the present moment, making it seem like it isn't enough. We feed the idea that life would be better only if we made more money, or if we had more meaningful relationships, or if we had more time. Alternatively, we look back and think – because this happened to me, I will never be good enough. But the reality could not be further and all it takes to bring about a change in how we look at things is a moment to pause. 

A pause can come in many shapes and forms, but my personal favorite way to pause and practice being present in the moment, is to take a minute out from whatever I am doing and stop to notice the sky above me. Whenever I do this, I find myself instantly calmed by the beauty & magnitude of the world around me and humbled by my own smallness. My problems seem insignificant (thereby unshackling me from negativity from either my past or anticipated troubles) and the world seems infinitely beautiful with endless possibilities.

Looking up at the sky, has become for me, the single most effective action to practice being present in the moment. At the end of this activity, which hardly takes a minute, I find myself immensely inspired, calmer, less anxious, and most importantly, I find myself unburdened from the past or the future, for a brief minute or so, everything around me, is enough. 

What are your thoughts? How do you practice being present in the moment? 

#thoughtleadership #mindfulness

Back in July, just a couple of months into rebranding my blog, I stopped blogging. It seemed like a sudden and spontaneous decision to many, but in reality it was a deliberately thought over hiatus with the aim of finding harmony within some of the contradictions that had emerged between the style section of my blog and the other sections like “mindful living” and “lifestyle + culture.“ Whereas the latter sections were consistent with my values and beliefs, the posts in the style section, weren't, on multiple counts. 

I've tried to adopt the “less is more” philosophy with my belongings, with the people around me, and with the things I involve myself in. While I have even been advocating the “less is more” ideal on other sections of my blog, everything about the style section was about more. More posts, more outfits, more brands, more everything. 

Where minimalism attempts to help people distinguish between needs and wants, the fashion/style industry thrives on blurring the line between want and need. Somehow the industry has us believing that we need new clothes every season (it doesn’t help that there are now 52 micro seasons.) Minimalism isn't just about having less though, it is also about using what you do have to the fullest, with the goal of deriving the maximum value out of each one of your belongings, and not discarding them until you absolutely have to, which makes the whole ecosystem of producing these more sustainable. Again, the fashion industry is built on the opposite model, where what you buy is only good until the next fashion show. If all of this wasn't bad enough, the clothes you keep cycling through are made in some of the most unfavorable working conditions, so that you get the product at a price point you can't refuse. 

I’ve spent the past few weeks introspecting and soul searching, hoping to find a way out of these contradictions. The more time I spent the clearer it became that I’d have to make a conscious shift towards sustainable and ethical style. It’s not going to be easy, but I want all my outfit posts to eventually be sustainable and ethically manufactured. Since access to ethically manufactured clothes in India is really limited, I will be taking a phased approach to this shift. I would have loved for it to be a radical shift where everything I’m wearing in my posts is ethically manufactured and sustainable, but this would result in another contradiction (buying a bunch of new ethically manufactured clothes wouldn’t be so sustainable now would it?)

Needless to say, since the “Garb” section within style is focused on other people, the focus of those posts will be on the distinctiveness and individuality of their outfit (but sustainable and ethically manufactured outfits get brownie points!)

#sustainablefashion #minimalism

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