It has been almost 4 years since I began a deep purge of my belongings. A significant life event and the necessity of moving spurred along something I had thought about for a while before it happened. When I was sorting through what would be donated or kept, I repeatedly had the thought, “Why did I acquire this?” While some of the answers brought up great memories, others reminded me of the commercial and consumer culture to which we have grown accustomed. Turning chapters in my life with only half of my belongings was mentally and physically freeing. On a deeper level, I was beginning to understand how the stuff was about my identity.
Perhaps as another chance for the universe to test what I had learned, I inherited a very old home full of things and in a nearly desolate mountain village. I remember just a few months before my mother passed, we had a conversation about her childhood home. She mentioned that maybe she would sell it. I reminded her that her parents always wanted her to have a place of refuge. I was essentially asking her to attach herself to that place for emotional reasons. She didn’t say much more, and I thought about it a lot on my first few long trips to the house to begin the sorting process once again.
As I went through overflowing drawers and closets, I was astonished at how much was there. Again I found myself flooded with memories and sometimes with curiosity about why a seemingly useless item was still there. I quickly became overwhelmed by the process and filled with guilt for having to dispose of my family’s things. The home had been in my family for decades and I needed to do the right thing. All of that stuff was my grandparents’ hard work and surely meant something to them. At one point I sat down on the sofa, burst into tears, and prayed for help.
When I got myself together to make the long drive home, I walked out to my car full of recyclables and donations to find a large grasshopper sitting on the hood. We stayed there for the longest time looking at each other, and I could swear it finally said to me, “Keep moving forward.” I finally went back in the house to double check on things before leaving. When I came back outside, my hopping friend was gone.
In the weeks that followed, I saw many more grasshoppers. In meditation, I sat with the thoughts and emotions that flowed in and out with each passing day. I tried to get some understanding of the stories that had been created around the objects and how I was perpetuating the attachment. I even looked up spirit animals. Finally, I decided to sell the home, and the perfect retired couple appeared to make the transition easier.
Sometimes I do wake up from the strangest dreams and wonder if I did the right thing. Maybe memories never do fade, and maybe they are there to help us along. I frequently return to a quote from Cyndi Lee who said, “Thank you for giving me something to work with on the path.” Everything we experience in life, good or bad, is a useful tool if we allow it. So, I keep moving forward, head to my mat and begin again with gratitude for my practice.