- in my meditation garden -
Now that the weather is cooling down out here in the desert, I am devoting myself to a number of tasks that I put off doing during the hot days of summer. Yesterday I decided to tackle “cleaning out the garage” and I was immediately reminded of our move out to the desert a few years ago.
Over the course of our life together, my wife and I had accumulated an awful lot of “stuff.” Our rather large home in Los Angeles had plenty of storage stage space, a basement and a garage - all filled with the boxes and bundles containing the things of our life. When it came time to move out to a much smaller home here in the desert, we had to get rid of many of our things – our closets were overflowing with memorabilia (I don’t think we ever threw away even one of the papers our kids wrote while they were in school and we still had all their old drawings). There were also boxes of kitchen stuff that we hadn’t used in years and would almost certainly never use again, boxes of old plaques and pictures, old clothes, furniture, old books.
I couldn’t believe that we had accumulated and were still so attached to so many things and while we moved some of those things with us to the desert, we also gave most of it away (or in some case threw it away).
At first it was indeed difficult to do all this downsizing - after all something of our past was now vanishing, a vivid reminder that life doesn’t last forever. And yet, at the same time this experience was also very liberating for me, it gave me a sense of making room for a fresh start.
Yesterday as I looked at my garage, so full of so many newly acquired boxes of “stuff”( I hardly have room to park the car), I suddenly realized that I hadn’t yet learned the lesson about “acquiring too much stuff.” How was it possible that we had manage to once again acquire so much over a relatively short period of time? Obviously those things weren’t all that important to us or they wouldn’t have been relegated to storage in a garage.
It was a good “wake up call” for me to re-learn the important lesson that downsizing is indeed a spiritual discipline.
Throughout our lives we all acquire and accumulate all sorts of baggage - boxes full of our possessions, boxes full of our ideas, our plans, our ambitions, our glib certainties stored away carefully in our minds, boxes of anxieties and fears stored up in our spirits. We can either live with all the accumulated clutter or “let go of it,” and it is only when we are able to downsize, to “let it go,” that new and fresh possibilities present themselves.
The longer we cling to all the baggage the more we protect ourselves against the wonder of the fresh revelation available to us all in each and every moment of every single day.
Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, puts it this way:
Letting go gives us freedom,
And freedom is the only condition for happiness.
If, in our heart we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety ambition or possessions,
we cannot be free.
Yesterday as I looked at the heaps of all the new stuff I had piled up and packed away, I was also reminded of a wisdom saying often attributed to the Buddha:
In the end these things matter most.
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?
It’s funny how boxes of accumulated “junk” can teach a spiritual lesson about the importance of letting it all go.