"Attachment to things drops away by itself when you no longer seek to find yourself in them.” -Eckhart Tolle
Today I can feel the ice in the air and in my fingertips.
The ground is frozen. It's cold enough that our dog Lily whimpers after just a few minutes outside. I let her in. I build a fire in the wood-stove. Shortly, it's blazing, flames licking the logs. It smells comforting, cozy.
I kneel in front of the open flames and feed the fire page after page of my old poetry from a journal I have had for over 20 years. Today feels as good a day as any for a fresh start. I'm 36 and have held on to countless poems that I have written. Today feels as good a day as any to practice non-attachment.
Who needs the words I wrote so long ago? I know I don't. They served their purpose and it is OK to let them go. I have no anxiety, no sadness at letting my words go because I am not those words. They don't define who I am and I don't need them to prove or to define who I once was. And there will be more words. I don't want the burden of these 20 year old poems and I definitely don't want them passed on down through the coming generations, falsely labeled as "precious" simply because Great Grandma Colleen wrote them as a teen-ager.
Letting go is liberating. I grew up in a home in which "letting go" was encouraged. There was a great sense of freedom in that because we were taught that it is OK to let things go. It is safe to let things go. (So many people are never taught this.)
Every gift was given with love but the love was in the giver not in the gift. To this day my mom has never given me a gift without generously allowing me the freedom to do what I want with the gift. She always lets me know "If you can't use it or don't like it, please feel free to pass it on to someone else!" What a generous way to give a gift to someone. Without guilt or obligation. Recognizing that the gift is simply a symbol of love, and not love itself.
However letting go of material objects or choosing to live a simple life with less can feel daunting to people for various reasons.
We often see objects and possessions as extensions of ourselves.
We feel that what we wear or the decorations we display, or the art we hang on our walls defines us and perhaps we fear not knowing how to define ourselves without the things we own. We are bombarded with the idea of creating an image that can be perpetuated and maintained by the things we buy, own or put on our bodies. Maybe if we dig a little bit deeper, this image we strive to maintain could also help to protect the core of who we are by allowing people to make assumptions about us rather than risk genuine questions that require deeper thought and honesty. Rather than revealing who we are, we can hide a lot behind what we wear and the things we surround ourselves with.
We can struggle with letting go of objects because we fear losing parts of ourselves. It is especially easy to feel this in regards to things we have created ourselves. When I burned my old writing, I recognized I am not in my words (especially from 20 years ago). I am confident enough that I have worth even if I let the things from my past go. They don't define me and quite honestly, the fact that I wrote them doesn't make them important. We easily fall into the idea that if we made something it must have great value. I gently suggest the idea that this is not always so.
We often see others in the gifts they have given us.
This is especially true if the item has been handed down in the family perhaps or a gift from a deceased loved one. Sometimes those things are treasured but sometimes they bring with them a heavy sense of obligation. We certainly don't have to let go of these objects if we don't want to and it is fine to keep them but it is also important to realize it is also fine to let them go. When it comes to gifts from friends and family still living, it is possible to accept the love with which the gift was given and then to pass it on. It doesn't mean we love the giver any less. Love isn't found in the gift itself. An item has no worth on its own aside from that which we give it.
We can struggle with letting go of objects because we feel fear about the future, the fear of not having enough of what we need and of scarcity. This can mean we hang onto to clothing for so many years that by the time we take it out of the closet again, it is unusable. Sometimes it may help to consider the needs of others as motivation. What we have too much of or are saving for “the future”, someone else might desperately need right now. There are many other reasons for being reluctant to live with less and letting go of what we have. Personal reasons, cultural reasons, and societal expectations all play a part.
We live in a world that understands the value of a person through the value of what they own.
I choose differently. I choose the joy and the freedom I believe minimalism gives us. My goal with each passing year is not to acquire more but to have less materially.
I choose owning less because I want so much more and possessions distract from that. I don't want to live in a distracted manner and I don't want to dedicate my time and life to collecting or maintaining things but instead to my family, faith, dreams, to travel, growth and experiences. I want to be able to see the beauty in the world and in others and in myself.
And I don't want anything blocking that view.