A few weeks ago, I had the honor of babysitting my friends’ two year old twins, Penelope and Phillipe. As toddlers, those two are nothing but bundles of love, joy, laughter, passion, and grabby need. In the six hours they were over, I cut up about ten thousand pounds of fruit and vegetables, changed seven diapers (Penelope is taking after her dear Auntie Amber in how often she uses the facilities), watched my thirteen year old reconfirm their decision to not have children, and broke up several small spats over various items the twins deemed theirs.
In all honesty, I had a blast: my youngest child turned eight (!!!) last month, and having the twins over for an afternoon and evening gave me a lovely nostalgia trip to the time in my life where I had two under two, both in diapers.
I somehow forgot about the “MINE!!!!” shrieks. If you have children, or are around small children, you’re well acquainted with the “MINE!!!!” shrieks. If not, I’ll briefly enlighten you. “MINE!!!!” shrieks are often heard in the company of small children, primarily toddlers who are learning boundaries and what’s up in the world. Pretty much, if a toddler sees something, it becomes their’s. If they put it down to go investigate something else, and you pick it up, even if it’s the squeaky moose plushie your one eyed rescue dog Pekoe loves to sleep with, said toddler is going to shriek, much like a banshee, “MINE!!!!” It doesn’t matter if it really is theirs or not; if they see it, you can just go ahead and accept that they’re going to want it, and if they can’t have it, they’re going to make sure that people in the next state over hear about it.
Which is a lovely segue into this week’s spiritual sadhana: Aparigraha, non-possessiveness.
Like most people, I’ve accumulated a great deal of crap in my life. When my father passed four years ago, like most children of a parent who dies, I was left with the job of cleaning out my father’s house. Which had about fifty years worth of my father’s belongings in it. I’m fairly certain he kept every single card he was sent or given in the years he lived as an adult. There was a large quantity of paperwork, photos, momentoes, school records and awards my brother and I had accumulated, a stack of thirty copies of the newspaper my first piece of published writing appeared in (which brought me to tears), more books than I could begin to count, National Geographic magazines, Reader’s Digest, and about one hundred and fifty (I shit you not) bars of soap from various hotels.
At the end of the process of cleaning out his house, a bulk of what my father accumulated, things he never used, was taken away by a 1-800-GOT-JUNK. He wasn’t a hoarder, because everything was neatly contained (with exception to his recipe box, but hey, you need that sucker totally filled and haphazard). Yet, for all those material things he had accumulated, none of them went with him when he passed away.
It inspired me to take the time every six months to go through everything I own and either donate it, give it to a friend who can use it, throw it away if it’s no longer functioning, set it aside to be decided on later, or sell it. Back in my early twenties, everything I owned could be put into 4 large Rubbermaid bins and two suitcases. With the purchase of a home and three kids though, you start collecting stuff. With a larger income, you stop really weighing if you truly need something, or if it’s an impulse buy.
But going through my items every six months or so has kept me honest about if I truly need something, or if it’s something that’s useful, or something I’m holding onto because I can’t bear to part with it. What I learned from cleaning out my father’s house was that much as I wanted to hold onto him, he was gone and the items in his house? They were just items. Holding onto them when they served no purpose in my life was harmful. Holding onto something because it did serve a purpose was beneficial (ie: the gorgeous wooden console record player I kept has a radio, and I’m one of those who still purchases records to play; that item served a purpose).
In life, how often do we hold onto that which no longer serves us, whether it’s a broken mug, a job that brings us nothing but grief, a relationship that’s long overdue to end. How often do we hold onto clothing that not only does not fit us size wise, but is no longer a representation of who we are as an individual?
Everything we have in this life is borrowed; we have to give it back at the end, even our breath. At the end of our lives, we take nothing with us. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
On our mats, we’re instructed to exhale, releasing that which doesn’t serve us. We’re asked to let go of what might be weighing on us before we begin our practice. One of my favorite instructors at my primary studio often reminds us that one day, we have to give back all the postures we learn. They do not belong to us, we just experience them until it’s time to let them go.
In the practice of aparigraha this week, I’ll be starting my household purge a few months early. That which no longer serves me will go onto a place where it can serves others. On my mat, I’ll accept the postures as them come, whether it’s the most basic version or the most advanced version, let go of any expectations I have coming to my mat each practice and let go of any negative thoughts that come with the postures.
Much love Dear Reader,