In a world where doorsteps are lined with Amazon boxes both sealed and discarded and mailboxes are so stuffed they can hardly be closed, Sadhu, 58, lives a life that’s virtually waste-free.
The Miami resident was born in Haiti and originally named Daniel before changing his name at age 26.
Although his spirit certainly embodies his chosen name — which means any holy person in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism — so does the choice itself, as Sadhu believes in fully embodying and taking ownership of who you truly are.
“All of our lives people have been trying to tell us who we are — from our parents to our teachers, to our friends — but we never take time to realize who we are,” Sadhu says.
Although he’s always been innately curious and close to the Earth, Sadhu’s transition into minimalism began more than 20 years ago and eventually evolved into the life he lives today, in which he tries to buy as few possessions as possible.
He doesn’t buy new clothes, and the only reason he’s wearing shoes on this particular day is because it’s relatively cold in Miami (but he says he’d “much rather be barefoot than advertise Nike or Puma”).
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Sadhu starts his days early, usually around 5 a.m., when he takes his dog for an hour-long walk in Morningside Park. Between exploring and meditating, Sadhu spends a few hours cleaning at a local motel, where he makes enough cash to support himself and his pup. He doesn’t drink or do drugs and believes strongly in balance and appreciating the world around you — never looking for what’s not there, but rather making use of what already is.
Sadhu collects coconuts from trees or the bay and uses the coconut oil for his hair and skin; he finds stray seashells and makes jewelry; he picks up feathers and decorates his hair.
“I am a collector of things that other people feel like there’s no use for,” he says.
Sadhu and his dog. Courtesy of Martina Tuaty
Back in August, during one of Sadhu’s habitual park strolls, he caught the eye of local photographer, Martina Tuaty, 26, who couldn’t help but admire his energy and sense of self. What started as brief, fleeting encounters marked by platitudes turned into regular walks and adventures where the two would share stories and have long, sprawling conversations about life, art and spirituality.
“In the beginning, it was just minor conversations like, ‘Hey, how are you doing?'” Martina says. “But then I got his phone number, and we would start to actually plan to meet up, and instead of me just trying to search for him, I’d be like, ‘Where are you right now?'”
Sadhu is expressive, effortlessly insightful and outgoing with a lighthearted sense of humor, but he says it’s actually his friendship with Martina that helps him express himself.
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“She’s the only one who makes me talk,” he laughs. “I started talking less and less, for a good while, until I met Martina.”
The two have formed an unparalleled bond, often collaborating on art and photography — however, their friendship goes beyond anything tangible.
“As a photographer, I’m always interested in meeting new people and hearing stories, but once we really started connecting, I was like, ‘This is going to go way beyond me and my photography or anything that we’re going to make together,'” Martina says.
However, there is one tangible thing that Sadhu believes in and lives by: art.
Since striking up a friendship with Martina, she has given him access to her backyard whenever he wants and set up canvases and art supplies for him to use at his leisure.
His art is mesmerizing: It both commands attention and ignites a sense of stillness — it’s profoundly comforting. When we spoke, he had just painted a holy saint that he says heals others through human connection.
Sadhu and his most recent piece of art. Courtesy of Martina Tuaty
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Although Sadhu has always lived simplistically, it has more recently been particularly difficult to afford housing; he hasn’t had indoor shelter in about a year. As Miami’s affordable housing crisis worsens, Sadhu has struggled to get by in the same way he did when he first moved to the city 20 years ago.
When Sadhu first moved to the Sunshine State, he was able to afford rent, work various jobs and support the minimalist lifestyle he wanted. However, gentrification and rising home prices — along with Miami’s growing wage gap — have made it difficult for people like Sadhu to find a balance between sustainable, simple living and shelter.
Sadhu, who has been an artist for more than two decades, has only had access to paint again since his friendship with Martina started, as both supplies and space to paint were not within reach in his daily life. After witnessing how art has contributed to Sadhu’s happiness, Martina created a fundraiser to offer additional support for his work and help him access basic necessities.
Martina and Sadhu credit each other with changing the other’s life for the better. When I ask how the friendship has impacted them, they laugh contagiously: “She understands me,” Sadhu says; “He’s taught me so much about friendship,” Martina shares.
Their bond demonstrates the good that comes from extending kindness and showing genuine interest in a stranger’s life, and as Sadhu and Martina will tell you, they’re so very grateful to have found one another.
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