Monday, September 27, 2010

Less is More

I remember being able to move my entire belongings in one car. I remember having 2 plates, 2 bowls, 2 forks, 1 spoon, and 1 pot and pan. I remember mixing my spaghetti in a water pitcher and with a knife because I didn't own a big bowl or a large spoon. I remember using a milk crate as a dining table... (pics below)

My apartment of yesteryear.

Those were happier times. *sigh*

But then something happened. A movement swept through my humble beginnings, mo' money brought mo' problems; The Great Accumulation began. It wasn't long before I had a roommate. It wasn't long at all before Stuff moved into my apartment. And yes, Stuff is in fact a breathing entity! Stuff is like an annoying affectionate pet, a needy child, NO, Stuff is like an excessively needy and clingy adult! How you ask? Well Stuff requires constant attention, we have to make room in our lives and residences for Stuff, we have to clean our Stuff, we worry about Stuff, fret over other people taking our Stuff, Stuff takes our money and gives what back? Nothing! It just leaves the door open for more Stuff to clutter our lives.

So much Stuff! Curse you, Great Accumulation!

Ah, but there's hope. A clear white light shines before me. The Great Accumulation has finally come to a close. I finally see what I've been doing to myself. It's now time for the Great Reduction! My belongings are spilling out and finding hiding places all over my apartment. Unacceptable! I just need to listen to the words of people much wiser than I am.

Buddha said, "The world, indeed, is like a dream and the treasures of the world are an alluring mirage!"

Sri Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (a Hindu sacred text), " should be...established in eternal truth, self-controlled, without any sense of duality or the desire to acquire and hoard." [2:45]

Jesus said, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." [Matthew 19:21]

The proof is in the pudding! If Buddha, Sri Krishna, and Jesus are speaking the same truths, how foolish would I be to not heed their words? There is something to be said for a truth that is echoed in cultures and spiritual traditions around the world. Not dogma about this or that, but a simple idea to help someone live a better, simpler, and more fulfilling life. I want a better and more fulfilling life and I want to evict Stuff! This isn't a situation where I empty out my apartment, eat only with my hands, and return to my milk crate days (I've come to really appreciate my table) but rather one where Stuff realizes that our relationship has changed and I with it. I want Stuff to know, that..., that its nothing that she did but that its me that has changed. I want Stuff to know that the times we had together were great, but her time in my life is closing. *sniff*

Good Bye, Stuff... We'll always have Paris



Monday, September 20, 2010

He Who Laughs Last...

I want to talk about an interaction that the janitor of my building, Keith, and I had today. Before I begin, let me paint a picture of Keith.

Keith is the classic janitor archetype (the good one). He's an older man, somewhere in his late 50s. Has a full set of hair that's fading from the blond of his youth. He's the older guy that has a variety of stories to tell and the longer you know him, the more likely you are to be able to recite them because he never hesitates to retell it. He's the guy who always has something nice to say to people as they pass.

So, Keith and I have a ritual that we participate in almost every Monday thru Friday. I'll get to work and head straight to my office. As I go through emails or try to organize my desk, Keith will inevitably make his way to my door. Depending on how much he's accomplished that morning, he'll either take a seat and relax or stand in the doorway, ready to head on to the next task.

This morning Keith stood in the door, so I knew this would be a shorter ritual. Keith, for all of his good nature, sometimes complains about work. He will say things like, "This janitor business is getting old" or "I think I'll take the rest of the year off," but we know, as does he, that he's not going anywhere. Today, he begins that same dance, "You know what, Chin-man (yeah, that's my nickname), this work is getting old." I reply with something to the effect of we can only take it one day at a time. He says, "You're right about that. But still, I'm thinking of changing it up. I think I'll either retire or die" and immediately starts laughing!

At first I was a taken aback! I mean, who speaks so glibly of their own demise?! And its not like he's resigned to death, quite the contrary. Keith will often come by and we'll talk about our plans for the rest of our lives. I quickly recovered and and we laughed together.

Things like this remind me of how powerful a laugh is and how important it is to do it often. Laughter is the first defense we develop against pain and suffering. Have you ever seen a child fall and get hurt? As they sit there, not quite crying, someone would laugh and the child decides to laugh instead of cry. It's not necessarily that the fall didn't hurt, but the child used laughter to ride through the pain. Now, I don't think Keith believes that he'll keel over anytime soon, but, in my opinion, what we are able to laugh at today, prepares us to laugh tomorrow.

I think of life like an ocean; sometimes calm, sometimes choppy. In this ocean, there are three people trying to keep their heads above water and make it to the other side. One person has no sense of humor, and has to swim across; one person has an ok sense of humor and is equipped with an innertube; the last person has a good sense of humor and is sitting in a boat. In a storm all will feel the turbulence, but the swimmer will quickly find himself overcome, the 2nd will struggle greatly to stay afloat, and though the boat will rock with the waves, the boatman will ride on top. Then, when the water calms, the 1st may swim back to the surface, the 2nd will find his innertube and continue, but the boatman will have stayed afloat, dried off, and moved farther across the ocean.

I hope you've learned something today. Ladies and gentleman, you need to get a boat! ;)


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Not Bound By Time

I want to start this post by saying that I'm very grateful and blessed to be able to see the lessons that life has to teach. I thank God for that. That being said, let me tell you a story.

I have a friend (in reality an old romantic interest) who is bad with remembering what some would consider important dates, i.e. when we got together, birthdays, etc. We had since broken up but ended on good terms. She, in classic form, texted me happy birthday a month before my actual birthday which I thought was hilarious but which embarrassed her.

Time passes and my actual birthday comes and goes with no word from her. I had no expectations of her contacting me, but it would have been nice to have heard from her. Eventually, I learn that she didn't contact me for two-fold reasons: 1) she was too embarrassed about the birthday mix-up and 2) She didn't think I cared whether or not she contacted me.

Last week (and mind you, my birthday was 2 months ago), I received a card from my little brother wishing me happy birthday. Even though this card was VERY late, I was moved by it. As I read the card, the fact that it was 2 months after the fact was irrelevant. I was moved more by the fact that he felt it important to send the card even though he hadn't done it closer to my birthdate. In my opinion that validates the gesture for two reasons: 1. It was a gesture of love that was free from ego (he could have saved the card for next year) 2. he understood that expressions of love are not bound by time.

It's always a good time to tell people you love them, to show love, to be love. Why would you wait to put that positive energy into the world? If you have something on your heart, then you should do it, regardless of time and situation. Show love without expecting a particular outcome, praise or otherwise. Do it because your heart demands it and let it go. Who wouldn't respond to that?