By Gautam Sachdeva
‘Perfection is not when nothing more can be added, but when nothing more can be taken away.”
– Antoine de St. Exupery
A sculptor would well understand the words above; a peeling off of the various layers that get accumulated, in order to reach the core. The same principle could also be applied to one’s environment. At the macro level, it is already happening. With human evolution and technological advancements, objects have started getting smaller – much more fits into a lesser space than before. The video cassette has made way for the DVD, the audio CD for the MP3, the music system for the iPOD, the old TV for the swanky flat screen one, the list goes on…
At the micro level, one could do it in one’s home, bedroom, or just a drawer in one’s cupboard. And, at a subtle level, one could work on the thoughts in one’s head.
I have recently discovered the joy of clearing sadhana. What a sadhana it is to clear one’sroom/cupboards/drawers on a regular basis. I choose one shelf or drawer, focus on each item, question the validity of its existence, and then decide whether to eject it unceremoniously, or to leave it there. It is quite a surprise to realise there is so much one truly doesn’t need, simply because one has not used/worn it for a long period of time. But, of course, the wily ego gets defensive and thinks of innumerable excuses to hoard, keep and simply not let go of what are perceived as prized possessions, till it is overcome by reason, logic, and, finally, detachment. After the first battle is won, and one such possession is dispensed with (especially if it is valuable), the successive ones become easier and quicker victories.
What comes first? A de-cluttering of the mind, and then sparse, clean surroundings? Or is it the other way around? It really doesn’t matter – clearing clutter could be the reflection of a pristine state of mind, or it could be the path to an uncluttered mind. As above, so below; as within, so without. The end result is the same – the fewer the objects in consciousness, the more the space… the fewer the forms, the more the formless. Look out for people whose homes have clean, zen-like interiors. They are the ones you want as your friends.
By constantly giving away what we don’t need, we provide space for new ‘objects’ to come into our lives. Objects which have real meaning; not something that has crept in like an unwanted guest.
And what’s more, these new objects more accurately represent who we are today than those we bought a few years ago. So, a new evolving you gets reflected in your surroundings when you take out the old and bring in the new.
Take a fresh look at those 20 shirts in your cupboard. Surely there are some you like more than others? Some you are more comfortable in because they are more ‘you’? Don’t keep what you don’t really like, but retain only because you had paid a lot for it, or because someone had gifted it to you. Give it away to your building watchman and make his day! And, how many watches do you actually have? How many do you really need to see the time? Gift them away to your relatives, and they’ll remember you forever. You can’t take all these possessions with you when you drop your mortal coils, and remain as a mere thought in people’s minds as proof of your earthly incarnation. So you might as well exist as a memory that brings a smile to someone’s face when they remember you for what you gave them.
I started doing the same with books. Keeping only the ones which truly impacted me and I knew I would like to get back to at some point in time, while gifting the others to libraries (letting go of my Robert Ludlums wasn’t easy – just having them around brought back memories of my growing up years, when I would glance at them once in a year or so on my bookshelf). The next on my list is my altar. And I start to ask myself, “Do I really need those six Ganeshas?” I am reminded of what Nisargadatta Maharaj said when he was asked what he would do if Shiva and Vishnu came and stood in front of him. He promptly replied, “I would tell them to leave immediately! For I am not interested in what comes, as it will go sooner or later. I am only interested in the eternal.”
An important point is to practice clearing sadhana on a regular basis, as things have a way of creeping into your life (room, cupboard, drawers) unobtrusively. And then one day you realise there are elements lying around that you don’t particularly care about – music CDs you don’t listen to, pens you don’t use, paintings you don’t particularly like, but put up on your walls because a dear friend gifted them… the list goes on.
On the subtle level, clearing the clutter in your head is letting go of your judgements and criticisms of others – mindless mental meanderings of your mind. After all, your opinion of the other is something you have gifted yourself, it is not what the other has given you! It is letting go of all ‘what-ifs’ and its innumerable projections into the future, or regrets about the past. Or, letting go of repetitive thought patterns that go round and round like mice on a wheel. So go on, start clearing the drawers of your mind one at a time. It might take longer than you imagine, for there might be a herd of elephants entangled in the cobwebs of your mind to get rid of.
And finally, Nisargadatta Maharaj said what could be considered the last word on the subject, “The first step in spirituality is to let go; but the real step is to realise there is nothing to let go, for nothing is your own.”
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