Thursday, August 2, 2012

Lightening Up

While I’ve always been a minimalist, a less-is-more type of person, I have truly reached a point where the tug of having, of wanting things (even beautiful things), has lost its pull. I don't dream of possessions. I dream of experiences, of more time, of being with people, of eating yummy food, but not of things themselves.

How to Lose a Lot of Weight in Six Days

I was headed in this direction anyway, but everything reached a zenith after my Mom moved to an assisted-living facility and a few years later my Dad died in the house I grew up in. To get the house ready to sell, my two sisters (with their families in tow) and I had to clean out 44 years worth of accumulated stuff from my parents’ 2,300 square foot, 8-car garage house (photo below). 

In six days we managed to whittle things down to the furniture, some keepsakes, and a few other items of value. We filled three dumpsters, had a two-car-garage-worth of stuff picked up by Salvation Army, gave away more items to a church charity, had a haul to e-waste, a haul to hazardous waste, three cars picked up to be taken to my cousin's for sale, four antique cars put up for sale, and the sorting and tossing of boxes and boxes of personal belongings.

What to Do With All This Stuff

Amidst dealing with all of these possessions, I realized I had not needed or missed any of it. It might as well have been buried in a landfill as in an attic. When I went to visit my Dad’s grave during this clean out and there was simply nothing there but grass, I thought, “All this stuff and nothing goes with you.” And when we took a few items to my Mom that we thought she might want, she simply said upon inspecting each one, “What will I do with it?” or “Where will I put it?” Good questions.

And finally, I had identified about three boxes worth of items that I thought I might want to keep and had them shipped to my house. The minute I saw UPS take them away, I suddenly and secretly hoped that they would be lost. When they did arrive, I let them sit in my condo association package room for nearly two weeks until I started getting polite, but firm emails. I was asking the same questions as my Mom.

Is Your Yoga Practice Making You Heavy?

So, I’m on a personal quest to let go of things—mostly in my house, but also more unexpected places. In my yoga practice, I find that being on the mat can sometimes weigh me down rather than feel joyful. Yoga means “to unite,” “to yoke together,” and all of that’s good, but it can sometimes be a yoke that’s not a tool, but a burden. What’s the stuff we hold on to in yoga?

I suppose it starts with wanting to achieve certain asanas, collecting poses you can do, and the striving to get in to postures that require some kind of super-human strength. Or perhaps feeling like you have to practice every day or else you’ve failed.  Or, expecting every yoga class you teach to be a blissful homerun.  But how does grasping for “things” or certain outcomes serve us?

I love the occasional exhilaration of a handstand or wheel pose (photo above), but there is also the recognition that today a pose is accessible—maybe not tomorrow. Clinging to the achievement of a yoga pose is like the heaviness of carrying around a lot of stuff. It is a weighty burden to ensure a certain outcome or expectation, besides filling up a lot of mental space.

Setting Down the Load

Opening to a daily practice that builds and grows in uncertain ways can lighten the load. Accept what comes, the small daily changes that unlock a closed place, strengthen a weak one, or challenge fears. Perhaps allow your yoga practice to randomly manifest somewhere in your everyday raggedy life. That is the magic of yoga. 

In the end, we’re left with experiences, a few photos, the promise of more connection, more love, being part of something big even if that part is small, and perhaps finding a kind of self-acceptance outside of the “stuff” of life. Let go of some “thing” and unburden yourself. Or, at the very least, clean out a closet.

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