01 October 2010
I’m watching some of my friends undertake major purges right now. The circumstances inspiring their decision to finally dig themselves out from under years and years of accumulated detritus are difficult, but their response is admirable.
One friend recently found himself no longer in relationship with a woman he loves, partly because of his hoarding tendencies and having not dealt with his mail for the past two years. He is finally letting me help him with his backlog of paper, and has moved a large pile of boxes that were hiding a couch and table I never knew were there.
The other friend’s housemate died suddenly, and she discovered just how serious a hoarder the housemate actually was. The process of hiring a dumpster, enlisting her friends’ help, and clearing out the deceased’s belongings so that the room could be rented shed light on her own self-defeating relationship with material objects. She has continued the momentum, begun because of her housemate’s passing, into her own space, clearing out the broken and unwanted items, making room for the life she does want. Every time I see another posting by her on Freecycle, I give a silent cheer: Way to go, girl!
October is a strange, transitional time of year. On the one hand, the farmers market is brimming with a regal abundance and variety of produce. On the other hand, autumn is in the air, auguring the dead of winter. Leaves are turning and dropping, nights are getting colder. I have a Native American friend who says October is the time of loss and that it often intensifies as we near Halloween when, some people believe, the veil between the worlds is at its sheerest.
Culturally, we shun loss, we call it bad and grieve it. But loss and death are an intrinsic part of life’s cycle. The Eleusyinian Mysteries use the story of Persephone – who was abducted by Hades to be his queen and who, because she ate a few pomegranate seeds, must spend part of each year in the Underworld – and the symbolism of grain, which is planted (buried) only to be reborn again each spring – as reminders of life’s death-and-rebirth cycle.
We mourn our losses. But we can also embrace them as an opportunity to make room for change, to create space in our hearts and lives for new blessings and joys. Nothing is permanent; the only constant is change. The more gracefully we learn to recognize that change is as natural as the waxing and waning of the harvest moon, the better off we’ll be. And the more we let go of, the more room we’ll have for something wonderful and new to appear.
Tip of the Month
What really matters to you? And what stands between you and what matters most? Let it go. Beliefs, commitments, objects – if it’s holding you back from what you hold most dear, out it goes. No ifs, ands, or buts – out.
Just remember, you don’t have to do it all at once. Sometimes renting a dumpster is in order. But “slow and steady” can be equally effective. If the job feels too big, do just a little piece each day. Every tiny change you make takes you toward the larger goal of an authentic, meaningful life.
Quotes of the Month
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, compiled by Paul Reps
Barn’s burnt down –
I can see the moon