15 Wed, 2010 § 3 Comments
I am completely fed up with American-style consumerism. I am tired of constantly being assaulted within our “built environment” by the visual noise of clever marketers. I recognize meaning cannot be bought [yes we can purchase things that make life nice, but not more meaningful]. I pledged years ago to rid myself of one item for every new item I brought home.
Yet, I have still accumulated a lot of stuff.
With the desire to live much more simply & make a pretty drastic life change, Dave & I had been toying with the idea of massively downsizing & seriously purging much of our stuff. Nudged by the 100 Thing Challenge, we dove in, joining this worldwide grass-roots movement in which people are limiting their material possessions. People who were once ‘stuck in stuff’ are empowered to live.
The purpose of Life is to provide Experience. How restricted is our experience if it is overshadowed by all the “stuff” we accumulate? If it is blurred by the mask of “things” that lay claim to our identities? If it is stalled by fear of losing our “possessions”?
I am realizing how simply I can live.
Now, I am trying to shed material effects to free up space for this living.
As I sift through belongings, prioritizing everyday life is an obvious breakthrough.
“How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. ”
~Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
What is consuming my time, energy & focus versus what truly brings me happiness through experience? What may be required to continue pursing these? There are some things to which I am utterly attached.
There are enjoyments & passions that enhance the experience of living. Our “purge” is not about getting rid of it all. It is about breaking free from restrictive consumerism habits, embracing non-attachment & creating space in our lives.
Some things fall easily to the bottom of the list: I can survive without an iPod [not that I am ready to give this up ;)], high heels, lip gloss, crazy kitchen gadgets, etc.; but what about the really meaningful things? How do you throw out keepsakes or flowers from your wedding?
Often, letting go is addictively refreshing: Dave comes back exhilarated after a trip to the dumpster/recycling bin. Other times, it is trying & heart-wrenching — maybe even guilt accompanied — to let go of an item associated with a cherished moment…though you will never use it again…though you often forget it is there. I will set these aside to return to later when I can focus completely on the item & why the attachment exists.
I know I will never use these books again; but every time I see them, I think how sweet my mom is. I remember a visit from her [which always stand out], when she spontaneously bought them for me from the college bookstore. She thought they would help with my writing; she always believed in my writing. It is about her visit, not so much the books.
In these instances, I have turned to a “Memory Journal”, meant for recounting & re-experiencing moments that made items special.
The sage can walk away from his burning possessions & not look back.
~an interpretation from the Tao Te Ching
Not only would we like to reach a state of non-attachment where we do not look back; but, our goal is to not have much to tempt a backward glance.
Minimize. Prioritize. Simplify.
My dream is to become mobile: to be able to pick up & go at will. I often muse of living in a trailer & traveling without hindrance. Yes, 😉 I aspire to becoming “trailer trash” — a gypsy — embracing ultimate simplicity.
Liberated, with only experience driving us forward.
Do you ever feel “stuck in your stuff“?
30 Fri, 2010 § 6 Comments
~Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
There is something austere & beautiful about the sparseness & simplicity of the desert. A stillness exists here unmatched by any place I have yet visited; the life that triumphs the desert’s harshness stands out bold & defiant. I always learn something about myself among this resilience. Sometimes – often – it is something I do not like admitting & deeply wish to change.
We have just begun preparing dinner. There is a welcome, even if only subtle, breeze. The slight relief it has offered from the scorching heat of the day abruptly ceases. Suddenly, a huge opposing gust rages through camp. The one-up digs in for a losing battle as I rush to grab a pole begging to be torn from the dirt. It lifts like a kite…& I watch twenty-two pages of collected yoga practices scatter in every direction. Dave rushes to my aid, & we quickly disassemble the one-up & take chase.
The wind is continuously shifting; just as I have a page in sight & determine its path, it immediately vanishes. I run after them like a child chasing butterflies. Uh, lie. I chase these gems of wisdom & self-discovery…these corridors to fleeting nirvana…with tears lining my eyes & a pitiful whine, “but they make me happy”, being carried off by the wind along with my pages…all the while cursing the wind. What purpose does it even serve anyway? Honestly, amidst my frustration, I could not credit the wind one redeeming act — I had completely forgotten the relief it offered only minutes earlier.
Why the tears? Why over these pages?
Yoga has become a place where I can escape – I can curl into its warmth, stretch into its expansion – my inadequacy does not exist here. Not because I “excel”, but because it is something I have learned – am still learning – to embrace playfully without judgment. But playfully without attachment? Without ownership? Apparently not. Why did I feel I needed these pages to embrace my practice? Was it my own insecurities? Was I letting my sense of inadequacy creep in? A need for identity? While knowledgeable guidance is fundamentally valuable, do I need someone else to define my practice? Do I need to define my practice?
We managed to gather a handful. Of course my favorites were without their mate or still missing completely.
Broken. Defeated. I accepted my losses…bitterly…still clinging to a twinge of naive hope we would see Play Leads the Way [which includes a favorite pose, Lord of the Dance, I hope to master someday] waving frantically from a net of sage the next morning.
Dave & I collected other items the wind had thrown: plates, books, chairs, sunglasses, hats, etc. Eisley insisted on helping scour for chips – we could not keep her away – she was even looking the next day. 😀 Dave finally had to crush them. We took down what didn’t stand a chance against the furry & tethered the rest. We looked at each other through furious, indecisive gusts of wind, smirked & asked “now what?”
We gave in. We could not stop the wind. It had claimed what it would have. So we walked. I teased about my absurd attachment to these papers, we toyed again with the idea of packing up, but instead, we simply walked.
Dave took photos at the overlook as I flowed through a favorite playful practice. We embraced what the moment still offered, enhanced by the charm of the sun setting. The wind was still a rye, but we were enjoying ourselves; & I had let go.
During the walk back to camp, we recovered four more pages, completing all but two sequences [most of which were found by Dave]. His final find that evening? He smiled at me as he read “Play Leads the Way”.
“When we are established in non-attachment, the nature & purpose of existence are understood.”
~The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
By letting go, the entire tone & mood of our evening changed. It is useless to cling — there are very few things we have ultimate control over — yet we have a choice regarding the attitude we embrace. “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me & 90% how I react to it” [Charles R. Swindoll].
Life in the desert is met by some of the harshest obstacles acting against it, yet the cactus does not whine, make excuses, cling to illusions of becoming a fern nor grow bitter. It accepts the moment, uses whatever resources it is given, embraces the freedom of its sparse surroundings & blossoms into what it is meant to be.
Mind your mind; let everything else follow.
As we made our final departure the next morning, Dave asked me to please adjust the side mirror. As I reached out the window for the corner of the mirror, a sheet of white waved from the brush just beyond.