Maybe it’s the change in seasons or the fact that October means I’m staring down the barrel of an onslaught of new toys come Christmastime, but I’ve had the urge to purge in a major way. It started with cleaning out my closet in an effort to contribute to families during Hurricane Harvey. It moved on to the sly ridding of toys from the kids’ playroom and cleaning out the freezer (no one is going to eat that leftover lentil soup, ever). Now it seems everywhere I look there are items that aren’t immediately useful to me or anyone in this house and I want them gone, like yesterday.
Samples of food and gift items from work? Bye! Spare buttons in the laundry room drawer? See ya! I don’t even know how half of this sh!t got into my house in the first place. There is literally a stack of magazines on my desk that I did not buy, nor did I subscribe to them. Apparently after some online purchase, those internet stalkers decided I could use Magnolia Journal, Better Homes & Gardens, Everyday with Rachel Ray, Sports Illustrated, InStyle, Eating Well, even Training Secrets for your Golden Retriever (new puppy is a lab mix). These magazines are well-intentioned little reminders of things I’m not going to do: set a beautiful, festive table; prepare a thousand pumpkin recipes; make fun crafts to celebrate the season; read any of these helpful and likely interesting articles. Somehow, the burden they represent is much heavier than the actual magazines, so away they go, to the recycle bin.
But what if I need a recipe for Thanksgiving? Or inspiration for the Day of the Dead pumpkin I might carve? One word: Pinterest. It’s an ongoing internal battle that seems trivial as I type this out, but it’s really much bigger.
The more we hold onto things, the more we feel a sense of lack and insecurity.
Aparigraha is one of the Yamas (ethical disciplines) described in Patanjali’s ancient text, The Yoga Sutras. These commandments deserve much more explanation but they are: ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (continence), and aparigraha (non-possessiveness). These rules to live by apply to all individuals, regardless of race, creed, or economic standing.
To be free from hoarding or collecting is what aparigraha is all about. It ties in with asteya (non-stealing) in that one should not take more than what she needs immediately, or take anything she didn’t work for, as it indicates poverty of spirit. How many times have you held onto a material thing “just in case” you might need it someday? It’s ok. We all do it. This hoarding comes from a place of fear that there will not be enough. It comes from subconscious insecurities that show up in your mind as the ego urges you to hang onto that worn out sweater or handwritten card.
Somewhere I have a box of mementos with handwritten notes from loved ones, concert ticket stubs, photos and such. Once in awhile I come across it and toss more items into the recycle bin, and I ask myself why I have held onto these things for so long. These items gave me a sense of who I am… or who I was. They are reminders that someone loved me or memories of good times I’ve had – experiences that I wanted to remember. What would happen if I got rid of the box? Would those loved ones love me less? No. Would I forget having been to that concert? Maybe. But would I be any less “me” than I am now? No. The ego urges us to hold onto things in order to reinforce an identity, and make the egoic mind feel secure.
The problem is, holding onto material things and emotions makes us feel like we have to protect these things and closes us off from letting in new experiences. Ever heard the phrase ‘out with the old, in with the new’? If we can learn to let go of all that old shit that figuratively and literally clogs up our lives and living spaces, we can open up space for abundance to flow.
It’s not just those skinny jeans you think you might one day fit into or the cute preschool work your kid brings home each day (buh-bye!). We hold onto stories that give us an individual identity: religious ideals, political opinions, traumatic life events. Holding onto these stories creates an identity and gives us reasons to close ourselves off. The heartbreak and loss. The meager living conditions. You are not your stories. You are not your ego. You are not your things. More is not necessarily better. The more you have, the more you have to lose… and that fear of loss creates tension. We know that tension does not breed happiness.
When you let go of doubts and insecurities that lead to hoarding of material things and emotions, you are no longer living from a place of “not enough.” You’re secure in the fact that whatever you need will come your way in divine time. You are living from a place of wholeness, where you aren’t attached to any particular thing or outcome for your happiness.
Will I still be a good mom if I don’t save the world map James created at age 4? Yes. And not worrying about saving it clears a little more space in my mind to clearly reflect the love he gives me every day. Like the waters of a still pond, a clear mind reflects the beauty all around. So clear out the garbage and invite in the blessings.
If you let it all go, can you let the love flow?