“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, presented beautifully by Exupery as a negative – ‘less is more’ path; 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, it could be in one’s home, bedroom or just a drawer in one’s cupboard. And, at a subtle level, it could be the thoughts in one’s head.
I have recently discovered the joy of clearing sadhana. What a sadhana it is to clear one’s room/cupboards/drawers on a regular basis. I choose one shelf or drawer, focus on each and every item in it, question the validity of its existence, and then decide whether to eject it unceremoniously, or to leave it there. And, it is quite a surprise to realize 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 its reflection on the outer plane manifesting as sparse, clean surroundings? Or is it the other way around? It’s the chicken and egg story. It really doesn’t matter – clearing clutter could be a reflection of the state of mind one is in currently, 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 as opposed to some years ago when we brought those objects into our lives. So, a new evolving you is getting 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. There are surely 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 is lying there only because you had paid a lot for it, or 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 as well. 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 in a way – just having them around brought back memories of the 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) without you really taking notice of the same. And then one day you realize there are elements lying around that you don’t particularly care about – music cd’s you don’t really listen to, pens you don’t really use, paintings you don’t particularly like but put up on your walls as a dear friend gifted them… and 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, for 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 realize there is nothing to let go for nothing is your own.”