What is this thing about ‘having stuff’? Is it a bit to do with Hegel’s idea that a person has a natural existence partly within himself and partly of such a kind that he is related to it as to an external world. So by virtue of owning and having things we are partly building our existence in relation to our possessions?
Do we want our possessions to do our talking for us? Does what we have validate us? Why does it have to? What is so particularly human about the way we want things? Should we worry about when our possessions and the getting of them starts to control us and get in the way of our moving forward?
One of the Mahavratas (great vows) in the Yoga Sutra is the principle of Aparigraha – non-possession, that no-one possesses anything. It doesn’t deny the existence of the concept of possession, rather it promotes the idea of only taking what one needs from the world. Andrew Hyde personifies the modern idea of getting rid of stuff: “When we were growing up didn’t we all have the goal of a huge house full of things? I found a far greater quality of life by rejecting things as a gauge of success”.
Our lives are led by a consumer based notion of happiness. Having stuff makes us feel better, bigger, more successful, grander….or at least that is a widely held belief. For some people it works, but alarm bells should ring when amassing stuff begins to be the purpose of our lives. Aparigraha is the idea of not desiring or taking more than we need from the world, and as humans we find it difficult to do this, as we are socially conditioned to do otherwise. And the more we accumulate the more time and energy we have to spend on looking after all that stuff, and the more anxious we become about hanging on to it.
This is not to suggest that we should all indulge in a mass ditching of everything we own and running off to discover ourselves in the horizon. What we do need to do is be mindful of how we spend our time and energy and what we get out of having all that stuff. If we are constantly harried by concerns over possessions, perhaps that energy could be better nurtured by streamlining or simplifying what we have in our lives. And we can extend this to what beliefs and values we hold, and even to the people we have around us. Fewer possessions require less maintenance, damaging relationships sap energy and personal resources, limiting beliefs prevent growth and consume us with anxiety.
So a simple thought – ask yourself what you gain from holding on to the stuff you have, from holding on to the ideas and beliefs you have about yourself, from holding on to relationships that do not serve you well. What would you miss out on if you let go of some this? What doors would it open for you, what would it free you to do? How might you grow if you release your grip a bit? Don’t be governed by your stuff, take an objective view of what you need and what you really want and have a go at letting some of the unnecessary stuff go.
If this all seems a bit scary, and you could do with some hand holding to help you let go, we’ll hold your hand and let it go when you are ready.
“I realise there’s something incredibly honest about trees in winter, how they’re experts at letting things go.”