This morning, John and I were exchanging e-mails. I asked him to pick me up later to run errands since I had to stay home for a while to wash dishes and take out the trash. He said, “Trash to take out. That’s the story of my life.”
My response: “Taking out trash is the story of everyone’s life.”
Yes, it is. We spend the first thirty – or more – years of our lives accumulating “stuff.” Then, we spend the rest of our lives clearing it all out. Not just material possessions, either, but also concepts, ideas, opinions, rituals and emotional ruts. Do we really need all this “stuff?” What good does it do for us? Or for others who have to deal with us?
Often, we throw out one set of furniture, ideas or opinions only to discover a short while later that we’ve taken on new ones. Why does this happen? Essentially, it happens because we fear the emptiness that lives hidden behind all our physical and mental stuff.
A friend of mine – a very spiritual yoga practitioner – recently confessed that she hoards clothing. Nothing fancy. Just cotton dresses, pants and tops. Certain items were given to her as gifts and so, have sentimental value. Many articles of clothing are stashed in her dresser waiting to be worn again “someday.” She knows this is silly and part of her realizes she needs to let go – and yet she can’t. She is genuinely perplexed by this.
We all do the same thing, if not with clothing, then with something else.
Plus, once my friend takes the next step and clears out the unnecessary clothing, she will eventually find other things that need to go. This is completely normal. If we can turn this process into a game, an adventure, then it ceases to cause us suffering.
In my own life, whenever I succeed in getting rid of anything – whether it’s clothing, stacks of paper piled on the floor, or religious dogmas that no longer serve my soul – I feel a sense of lightness, peace, and even joy.
The journey of life is a continual process of letting go. This is for our growth. Hoarding leads to suffocation and inertia. Taking out the trash brings cleanliness, freshness and expansion into our lives. That which we fear – the emptiness behind the stuff – is actually full of peace, potential and new life.