Light Watkins: Putting Your Heart-Voice into Action

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August 1, 2023

Light Watkins: Putting Your Heart-Voice into Action

Light Watkins August 1, 2023

What is spiritual minimalism? How do we “declutter” ourselves so we can hear and take action on the voice of our hearts? In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with meditation teacher and author Light Watkins about his new book, Travel Light, and his “inside-out” approach to pushing past your limits to find and fulfill your purpose. 

Tune in for a lively conversation that offers encouragement, inspiration, and practical insight, as Tami and Light discuss meditation as a tool to create space and hear the calling of your heart; taking action on your “why”; curiosity and trust; the heart as our personal GPS; leaving our comfort zones to begin our Hero’s Journey; the universe as your personal trainer; the “scary yes” and recognizing the feeling tone of the heart; the subtle disguises of the ego; the practice of split-testing your inner voices; rewiring your personality for greater alignment with your values; authenticity and service to others; doing less to accomplish more (really!); creating adventure instead of drama; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

Light Watkins has been a meditation and spiritual teacher for more than 20 years. He is the author of The Inner GymBliss More, and Knowing Where to Look and hosts a weekly podcast called The Light Watkins Show. Light became nomadic in 2018 and now travels the world giving talks on happiness, mindfulness, inspiration, and meditation to sold-out audiences. He’s been profiled in TimeVogueForbesPeople, and the New York Times. For more, visit lightwatkins.com.

Author photo © Maria Postigo

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Founded Sounds True in 1985 as a multimedia publishing house with a mission to disseminate spiritual wisdom. She hosts a popular weekly podcast called Insights at the Edge, where she has interviewed many of today's leading teachers. Tami lives with her wife, Julie M. Kramer, and their two spoodles, Rasberry and Bula, in Boulder, Colorado.

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Light Watkins: Putting Your Heart-Voice into Action

What is spiritual minimalism? How do we “declutter” ourselves so we can hear and take action on the voice of our hearts? In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with meditation teacher and author Light Watkins about his new book, Travel Light, and his “inside-out” approach to pushing past your limits to find and fulfill your purpose. 

Tune in for a lively conversation that offers encouragement, inspiration, and practical insight, as Tami and Light discuss meditation as a tool to create space and hear the calling of your heart; taking action on your “why”; curiosity and trust; the heart as our personal GPS; leaving our comfort zones to begin our Hero’s Journey; the universe as your personal trainer; the “scary yes” and recognizing the feeling tone of the heart; the subtle disguises of the ego; the practice of split-testing your inner voices; rewiring your personality for greater alignment with your values; authenticity and service to others; doing less to accomplish more (really!); creating adventure instead of drama; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

Five Dos and Don’ts for the Minimalism-Curious

My recent book Travel Light is a how-to guide for the practice of what I call “Spiritual Minimalism,” which is not to be confused with regular old minimalism.

Long story short, in 2018, I was living in a beautiful two-bedroom apartment in Venice Beach when I felt an inner calling to get rid of everything that didn’t fit inside of my 22-inch carry-on bag. My bag would effectively become my new apartment as I would begin living nomadically around the world.

It took me 30 days’ worth of yard sales and Craigslist posts to get rid of over four decades of furniture, art, photo albums, yearbooks, letters, clothing, knickknacks, winter coats, books, my cars, Vespa, and everything else.

And about six months into my nomadic journey, I realized something: I still had too much stuff. So I got rid of the carry-on bag and downsized into a backpack. And now, five-plus years later, I’m still happily living from a backpack as I continue to hop around the world, from hotels to Airbnbs to friends’ extra bedrooms.

Travel Light is written for those who also feel called to live with less, but you’re not sure where or how to start. Truth be told, there are numerous ways to start, depending on your individual situation.

If this approach intrigues you, I want to share five common mistakes many new minimalists make—and a handful of simple recommendations to get you started on a more mindful, purposeful minimalism journey:

Don’t get rid of too much too fast
Although I completely emptied my entire two-bedroom apartment within 30 days, I had been intentionally prepping to live from a carry-on bag over the previous year by experimenting with taking only what I actually used while on my dozens of work trips. So in 2018, getting rid of my stuff was merely the final step in a long progression of steps.

    My first recommendation is to go slow. Decide what sort of end result you desire, and start experimenting with what it would be like to only use what you envision keeping. Maybe get a storage room and put a handful of items in it each week until you run out of things you don’t use. Otherwise, going too fast could prove to be unsustainable and discouraging.

Don’t make it about the external space
Getting rid of clutter doesn’t resolve deep emotional wounds or past trauma. And some of that could be the root cause of why you engage in retail therapy or why you may cling to stuff you don’t use or wear. And until you start doing deeper work on yourself, you can live in the most minimal-looking setting, but still feel cluttered inside.

    Commit to daily meditation as a means of efficiently releasing stress, and engage in other inner work, such as therapy, journaling, seva (service), and daily gratitude practices to clear away the internal clutter. This is what is meant by Spiritual Minimalism. It’s minimalism practiced from the inside-out.

Don’t treat minimalism as a one-time experience
Minimalism is less of an act, like Spring cleaning, and more of a lifestyle, like getting into shape. It doesn’t end once you get rid of your stuff. Like being in shape, minimalism continues to inform what you do, how you do it, where you go, why, and pretty much every other choice you make in life. In other words, you recognize that every choice you make is either supporting the lifestyle or taking away from the lifestyle.

    Start seeing everything you do (big and small) as an opportunity to reinforce the minimalist mindset, and make choices that support your desired mindset.

Don’t forget to adopt a larger purpose Getting rid of stuff for the sake of looking like a minimalist is ultimately unfulfilling, and it’s recommended to adopt a larger purpose for your minimalism adventure. That way, you will bring more enthusiasm and passion into your minimalism choices. You’re not just getting rid of something for the sake of getting rid of it. It’s going to help you by making space to exercise, create content, or to use as the meditation corner of your home.

    My recommendation is to answer this question: How does becoming a minimalist help you help others? The answer is a clue into your purpose, and just know that there is no wrong answer. Or rather, it’s an ever-evolving answer that will come into greater focus as you begin your journey. All you need for now is a loose idea of your why.

Don’t compare yourself to others
The quickest way to make minimalism a drag is to compare yourself to other, more popular minimalists. It’s certainly good to be informed of best minimalism practices and get tips from minimalist influencers, but their paths or suggestions may not work as well for your situation.

    Be open to blazing your own path into minimalism, and be willing to adjust along the way. If you treat the entire thing as a learning experience, there are no mistakes. And you’ll have a lot more fun along the way.

For more tips and insights on the ways of the Spiritual Minimalist, I invite you to check out Travel Light: Spiritual Minimalism to Live a More Fulfilled Life.

Light Watkins

Keep Trusting

Light Watkins is a spiritual teacher and nomad who travels the world sharing his wisdom on happiness, mindfulness, inspiration, and meditation. He is the author of The Inner Gym and the host of a weekly podcast about hope called At the End of the Tunnel. With Sounds True, Light has written a new book titled Knowing Where to Look: 108 Daily Doses of Inspiration. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Light about the leaps of faith he takes in order to follow his heart. They explore bravery as being rooted in self-loyalty and self-trust rather than fearlessness. Light explains his unique approach to meditation, offers guidance for listeners who may have struggled with meditation in the past, and leads us through a short practice. Finally, Tami and Light discuss the possibility of transmitting inspiration and healing to our future and past selves.

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In a confessional reflection on writing his new book, Becoming Gandhi, acclaimed journalist and bestselling author Perry Garfinkel says, “It was so difficult I almost gave up twice. I thought, ‘I can’t write this book. It’s too big a subject. Who am I to try to become Gandhi?’” Garfinkel persevered, and in this podcast Tami Simon speaks with him about what he discovered along the journey—and how practicing (not perfecting) six universal principles of the Mahatma can transform each one of us. 

Tune in to this highly aspirational yet very down-to-earth conversation on the poignance of the human condition and the elixir of laughter; the Tao of Gandhi; satyagraha, an insistence on and holding firm to the truth; considering “how to Gandhi” a situation you’re faced with; the notion of “good enough”; nonviolence in thought, word, and deed; the connection between words and feelings, and the step-by-step process of personal transformation; simplicity; faith as the driver of our moral compass; celibacy and making love; Gandhi’s life as his message—and making peace with his imperfections; and more.

What does it take to “Be the change you want to see ...

Excerpted from Becoming Gandhi: My Experiment Living the Mahatma’s 6 Moral Truths in Immoral Times by Perry Garfinkel.

Let the Journey Begin

By reading this preface, you have just joined what will hopefully be the experiment of a lifetime that will change both of our lives.

Let me set the ground rules, parameters, frameworks, timelines, caveats, excuses, permissions, and other details that will help you navigate your way—if not to be Gandhi, then to become a person who leads a more ethical, principled, spiritually and morally based, truth-full life.

As you will read in chapter 1, I first thought to undertake this effort more than a decade ago. It took me another twelve years to build up the confidence, belief in my commitment, and, frankly, the funding to actually begin this arduous journey, both inner and outer, including travel to three countries plus my own US. Little did I know how much it would change me, how many miles I would travel, how many inspirational people I would meet, and how many disappointments I would encounter, both in the world and in myself.

I began to take it seriously in the summer of 2019. That was when I started finding and  contacting knowledgeable sources in each country. As a dogged reporter who prides himself in finding the email and phone number for anyone anywhere in the world, that deep dive, which necessarily required a lot of reading and googling, was a relatively easy and very enjoyable and informative exercise. You may also want to research anything additional to what I write here and experiment with your own ways to follow the six principles. I can’t speak for Gandhi, but you have my wholehearted permission and encouragement to think outside the box and off this page.

The Big Goal here was to see if, in the face of a sociocultural climate that appears bereft of moral integrity, one could follow Gandhi’s moral compass, on the one hand, and on the other, to travel to countries where he spent considerable time to see how much had changed in the years since he left them. In other words, did he leave an enduring footprint that others followed or were Gandhi’s tracks swept away and forgotten by time and human nature? In these times of questionable ethical values, of increased violence and rampant lying, I was prepared to admit such evidence might be hard to find. In fact, one too-current example of the failure of the nonviolent movement, which was one of Gandhi’s primary pillars, is occurring as I’m writing this: CNN is reporting that thirty-nine mass shootings have taken place in the United States in the first three weeks of 2023 alone, killing more than sixty people, per the Gun Violence Archives.

I knew the hard part of this goal would be living these principles day in and day out on a personal level. There would be a lot of inner work, mental adjustments, a veritable paradigmatic shift of attitude. I would have to change my mind in the most fundamental ways. Change my habits, modes of thinking, daily actions.

The ground rules were simple: try to rigorously follow the six principles on a daily basis, keeping them in mind through the day, whether hanging out with friends and family, alone in my apartment, or out there in the world. But also to give myself some slack. If I “fell off the wagon,” I would forgive myself quickly and get right back on it. The latter would happen with frequency, as you will read. But I realized very soon that once engaged in this experiment, even when I fell off, there would be no turning back. Once the veil is lifted, it’s hard not to see the world for what it is, and see yourself for who you are, who you are not, and who you aspire to be.

People started wondering how long this experiment would last and asking me when or if I would drop vegetarianism and return to eating meat as soon as it ended. I had planned to dedicate one full year to this project. It expanded to some eighteen months of strict adherence 

to all of the principles, and even some that Gandhi didn’t consider in the course of things. I admit I slacked after that but, as I said, once you know which way the compass is pointing, you can’t completely turn back; you always return to your true north. You find the balance that suits you best, or at least better than before you started.

I frame this journey and this book around the six principles. Some sources list up to eleven Gandhi principles. I chose only six; already you can call me lazy.

Truth. In practice, truth is simply telling the truth, but Gandhi meant it to mean more. He said, “God is Truth,” later changing it to “Truth is God.” He coined the term satyagraha—loosely translated as “insistence on and holding firm to truth”—as a form of nonviolent resistance. I take this on, first focusing on practicing truth in thoughts, words, and actions, with particular attention to lies I tell myself. I look at how society views truth now.

Nonviolence. Although Gandhi was not the originator of nonviolence, he was the first to apply it as a strategy to move the dial in the direction of justice, as a peaceful weapon to protest social wrongdoings. His motto: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Taking it from the political to the personal, I look at how we all act out psychological violence—in passive-aggressive behaviors, in road rage, in clenched jaws, in couched (and not-so-couched) language—that sabotages our best interests. I myself am guilty: I was once a featured guest on The Phil Donahue Show, speaking about my own passive-aggressive behavior in my previous marriage.

Vegetarianism. Vegetarianism is deeply ingrained in Hindu and Jain traditions, the setting in which Gandhi was raised. In his London years as a law student, he embraced it more seriously to not only satisfy the requirements of the body and his religious beliefs but also to save money by not buying expensive meats. His book The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism, along with articles he wrote for the London Vegetarian Society’s publication, became my personal diet book. I was a meat-and-potatoes kind of kid, just like my father. I became a macrobiotic many years ago, had defaulted to meat in recent years, but an Ayurvedic diet I went on last fall convinced me I need to clean up my eating habits. Don’t we all?

Simplicity. Giving up unnecessary spending is the simple maxim Gandhi had in mind, and because this concept flies in the face of conspicuous consumers on spending sprees in shopping malls, it also has ramifications for our gluttonous nature, which thinks that more of anything automatically provides more satisfaction. But Gandhi also had a political motive in his so-called Swadeshi movement: by making their own clothes using a spinning wheel (charkha), Indians would deal an economic blow to the British establishment in India. These days consumers boycott various brands and stores to protest their company policy, a Gandhian spin. The contemporary “voluntary simplicity movement” draws directly from this Gandhian principle. I will closely examine my spending patterns and make budget slashes. Gandhi called it “reducing himself to zero.”

Faith. Gandhi meant belief in a higher power, no matter what religion. He wrote, “Mine is a broad faith which does not oppose Christians . . . not even the most fanatical Mussalman. I refuse to abuse a man for his fanatical deeds, because I try to see them from his point of view.” It’s the ability to see things from the point of view of someone from another faith that tests the faith of mankind. How are we doing with that? Not so good. The majority of wars in the world are religious wars. My challenge will be to find some balance between my practice of Buddhism, the religion of no God, and Judaism, the religion that invented the One God. I will test the boundaries of my acceptance of faiths I don’t believe in.

Celibacy. Called brahmacharya in Hindi, sexual abstinence was a spiritual path to achieving purity, according to Gandhi, who took the vow of chastity at the age of thirty-eight. Some people question whether Gandhi himself actually adhered to this, with stories and allegations he slept next to teenage girls to test his restraint. Celibacy is not for everyone. Is it for me? I will endeavor to find out, keeping copious notes on my fallings in and out. With my luck, the woman of my dreams will walk into my life and fall in love with me. What will I do . . . or, more precisely, not do?

I never intended this book to be categorized in the how-to or self help genre. I think or hope you can help yourself without my telling you how. Nonetheless, as I made my way around the world, around my mind, and finally around this book, I realized it would be helpful to at least sum up each chapter with what I learned, some tips for your (and my own) benefit. I call these end-of-chapter sections “How to Gandhi.”

With these guidelines and to-dos and with no further ado, here we go. Next stop: becoming the change.

Perry Garfinkel is a veteran journalist, editor, frequent speaker, and author of the bestselling Buddha or Bust. He has contributed to many sections of the New York Times since 1986 and has written for National Geographic magazine, AARP The Magazine, the Huffington Post, the LA Times, and others. He has appeared on CNN and CBS This Morning. He is a frequent guest on WCBS-NY radio’s Health & Well-Being Report.

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