If you’re anything like me, you generally find that you accumulate things fast, and say, the house or apartment can easily fill up with clutter of all shapes and sizes. Then a periodic-spring clean is needed.
And then, generally, before disposing of things I weigh up their value – not necessarily in monetary terms, but in emotional or spiritual values, what memories are attached to an item, what it means to me etc.
‘Something that is yours forever is never precious.’ Chaim Potok,
We can do this in the physical realm as we look around at physical clutter and surprise ourselves at what we have amassed; we can also do this in the spiritual realm, and see what is weighing us down or holding us back (and on occasions we’ll find that an item straddles both realms, as if there is a real division between them). But, for the sake of this article, I’ve (artificially) used that kind of dichotomy, and talk, separately about the physical and spiritual realm.
Physicality: Eckhart Tolle tells a great story of a women who had cancer and only had a few months to live. On top of all that, she had lost a most expensive diamond ring. I say lost, but she was adamant that her housekeeper had stolen it. It consumed her waking thoughts and ate into the little time she had left.
Eckhart Tolle asked her four simple questions, and these were:
Do you realise that you will soon, perhaps very soon, have to let go of it?
How much time do you need before yo will be willing to let go of it?
Will you become less when you let go of it?
Has ‘who you are’ been diminished by this loss?
As time passed and the woman’s conditioned worsened, she thought about Tolle’s four questions, and thought less about the suspected theft by the housekeeper, and eventually, graciously ‘released’ that item from her mind. She immediately experienced more joy, as she realised that she wasn’t, infact, defined by her possessions!
But, what about us? What physical possessions are cluttering up our space, and holding us back? My encouragement to you and myself is to make a list, look at our environment, to de-clutter ourselves of unnecessary items, and travel light on our sojourn, our pilgrimage as we pass through here. What could you live without?
‘Out of clutter, find simplicity.’ Albert Einstein
Spirituality: But, Tolle’s pertinent and wise questions can also be applied by us to matters of the spirit.
Over the years we may have picked up spiritual ways of working, liturgy, ritual, theology, that were good at the time, but now don’t serve us in a positive way, and may, indeed, be holding us back.
There’s some interesting stories about Jesus after his resurrection that have a common thread running through them, as he visits a group of his friends. One of them, Thomas, doubts and is invited to feel Jesus’s wounds. On another occasion Mary Magdalene is told not to touch. And, yet on another occasion Jesus cooks breakfast for his friends, and presumably touches them in serving up a fish meal. So, what is going on? Touch, do not touch, touch! Are these contradictions as some have suggested?
I love conundrums like this, because it means we have to delve deep and put aside our preconceived ideas, that baggage we unnecessarily carry around, if we want to unearth the truth.
And so, deep spirituality follows, that I believe applies to us all.
‘Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if thou wilt ever dig.’ Marcus Aurelius
Do not…: Quick Latin lesson follows, but please don’t be discouraged. The Latin translation of the words of The Master spok to Mary are ‘noli me tangere’ and are commonly translated as ‘do not touch’. Is this a contradiction (as elsewhere some are invited to touch)? No. No contradiction. But, at present, it’s still a conundrum. I do so love conundrums – they are really learning opportunities, if we pursue them and persist to the end.
Perhaps a better translation of ‘noli me tangere’ is not ‘do not touch’, but ‘do not cling!’. Then, it begins to make sense: touch, do not cling, touch! Logical! Reasonable! Consistent!
Touching is allowed, but clinging isn’t (helpful). Conundrum solved!
We are invited to touch – but do not cling. Whether we’re thinking of physical clutter or spiritual clutter, touching and analysing, reviewing etc is allowed (and is commended as we weigh up its value), but clinging isn’t.
Somethings (and not all) have to go! Spiritually-speaking, what could you live without?
Clinging onto something, as though it is ours and always will be, unchangingly, is unhelpful and inaccurate, and cause heartache.
Note to self and to you: Do not cling. Do not be held back!
And these are wise words to sojourners or pilgrims, such as us, as we pass through here, because we are commended to travel light, and not be weighed down, ‘cumbered with a load of care’, as it is written somewhere.
Travel light, my dear friend, travel light! Do not cling.