Learning to let go is one of the first steps to living a simpler life. Letting go can mean a number of things. Letting go of physical things is obvious but we also need to know how to let go of our expectations and fixed outcomes to things.
Nothing in nature is uniform. Everything around us is constantly changing and adapting yet we hold on tightly resisting that change.
Letting go is often one of the most difficult things for us to do as humans. Our emotional selves form attachments to people, places and things in an effort to belong to something outside of ourselves.
Holding onto people and things that no longer serve us keeps us in stagnation leaving no room for growth and no room for new people and things to come in.
A tree is the best teacher of letting go. As the leaves fall below, the tree gently morphs into its next evolution. It never holds on tightly. The leaves fall slowly and poetically to the ground playing their role in the beauty of change.
In the spring they will bloom once again with new leaves where the old ones once lived.
Eventually the tree will grow new branches with more new leaves and the cycle continues until 100’s of years later when the tree finally decides it’s tired and chooses to regenerate into the earth. A long happy and gentle cycle of life.
Now imagine that same tree with ivy growing up the side of the trunk.
No one is nearby to cut the ivy back and it continues to spiral its way to the top of the tree. It then begins to climb out onto the limbs and branches blocking the sunlight from the leaves.
This weighs the tree down and the branches begin to droop to the ground giving it a sad and weepy look. The tree slowly begins to fade into the earth feeling depleted and robbed of a life that could have been lived more fully.
Living a full and healthy life like the first tree requires room for growth and expansion in our lives. In order to do this, we must first practice non-attachment.
If we could all practice nonattachment like the tree to its leaves, we could evolve and grow into what we are meant to be with ease.
We can so easily become attached to our thoughts, people, feelings and objects that hold us back from our evolution.
I am of course focused on material attachments here as it applies to most of my clients. In the 11 years that I have worked with people one thing is evident.
Most of us are suffering from material attachments. We simply have too much stuff!
Here are a few interesting facts that may help you rethink the things you are holding onto…
The average American household has 300,000 (The minimalists) items in it! Whoa, that’s a whole lot of stuff and most of it we simply don’t need.
Did you know we wear only 20% of our clothing 80% of the time?! That means there are countless t-shirts, sweaters, jeans etc that never see the light of day, yet we hold onto them “just in case”.
How are the things in your life holding you back? Not sure you have a material attachment issue? Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to find out.
If you can relate to any of these examples you likely suffer from material attachment:
- You gain self-esteem from material possessions (ex. You must be one of the first to have the latest iPhone. Without it you feel a sense of FOMO)
- Having expensive things like designer handbags, stylish houses, and fancy cars help you appear successful and wealthy.
- The thought of losing everything you own scares you and stresses you out.
- You feel like you can’t live without out these luxury items.
- Online shopping sprees and having packages arrive at your house makes you feel rich.
- You often find yourself daydreaming about a bigger house, a nicer car, exotic vacations, the latest and greatest electronics and so on.
There are countless examples, but these should help you determine where you stand.
Pick one dresser drawer to tackle. Take and honest look at that t-shirt drawer and get rid of anything you truly don’t need. You are likely wearing the same 3 t-shirts all the time anyway.
Toss the old college sweatshirt with tattered sleeves and stained necklines. If you want something to commemorate your Alma Matar buy a new sweatshirt and represent well.
Take some time to honor yourself.
Simplifying is a good form of self-care and the rewards outweigh any new purchase you make.