Friday, November 4, 2011

Less paddling, but a little more Zen.

16 years ago I went through a very difficult - for me - divorce. Shortly thereafter I first read about Feng Shui which in short governs the placement of items in your surroundings and their effect on you by influencing your Chi (or Qi, if you prefer). I studied Feng Shui and ended up using it to make some major changes in my life. In retrospect, my early learning's of Feng Shui cast me upon a path towards Buddhism, though it was still a few years off.

One of the first things I learned in my studies of Feng Shui was to de-clutter my surroundings. So one night I came home to my little west village apartment in lower Manhattan and set to it. I used massive contractor grade garbage bags and took 16 of them down to the street to be recycled, thrown away or donated. I followed a simple rule, if I thought I might need it, I threw it away. I only kept things I knew I would need. I sold furniture, a record collection, most of my stereo. I gave away a lot of things too.

It was liberating. Truly liberating. The first thing I noticed was that if I couldn't find something there were only a few places to look. Also, my small apartment now seemed much bigger. In our extremely materialistic world, people took great pleasure in giving me a hard time. I laughed along with them as I knew I was happier. I was literally having the last laugh.

What brought this to my attention recently was that I have lately been feeling like there are a number of things 'I want'. I have a couple of different jobs, and one of them would really benefit from an iPad. I have another new source of income pending, that down the road would benefit from a high end HD camcorder.  I literally feel a bit of guilt that I 'want' these things.

The past several weeks I have run across a number of really interesting web sites. This one is about a couple that moved into a 'micro house'. I have been following the micro house movement for years and would love to be living in one, but alas my wife's book collection alone would fill it. This one is about the 333 project which I could do easily as I don't really have a dress code anywhere I work. This guy reduced all of his possessions to 100 items! Adding even more of a challenge to my theory of 'if you might need it'. This blog is written by a much more serious Buddhist than myself, and I love this post about suffering, and ironically he wrote this post about not taking it so seriously!

All of these amazing sites reminded me of how strict I had formerly been. So I am going to do a bit of a purge of the things in my life, so I can remember that liberated feeling. It will also help my desk be a bit more uncluttered. I would like this more current effort to translate into my digital life. Do I really need that file, or this photo? Won't my computer run better with more free space on its hard drive? Will my digital life mirror my non-digital life as giving a liberated feeling once the de-cluttering is done.

All of this hearkens back to early lessons in kayaking. We talked about Bruce Lee and Jeet Kune Do. Less movement, nothing extraneous. Keep it simple. All relates back to a simplicity of movement in our kayaks. I prefer the cross bow rudder to the bow rudder because there is less movement involved. Is there any reason that these concepts can't be applied to every aspect of our lives? Do we have to be defined by our possessions, or can we define ourselves with our actions. Do I really need three paddles? the third of which was the first one I ever bought made of plastic and aluminum?

I will continue to think about ways to simplify my life and my surroundings, and when the time is right or the need is imperative I will probably obtain the additional things I 'need', but in the mean time I won't beat myself up for wanting them. Does anyone need a paddle?


  1. Your post has inspired me to do some decluttering of my own. Having lived in five different places in this past decade I've accumulated way too much stuff. Right now most of my belongings from my last move two years ago are still packed in boxes and stored in the basement. Time to purge!

  2. Cathrine, glad this spike to you. I am a big fan of "if I haven't used/worn it in a year I don't need it. So generally twice a year I will go through clothes and donate what I haven't used. I would imagIne what you find in those boxes will be like Christmas, but if you open boxes and your not amazed you probably don't need it. Let me know how it goes and if you fin anything amazing

  3. Your posting is very timely for me, PO. I'm just reading "Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui" by Karen Kingston. You make SO much sense. Thanks for weighing in on a process that is so important in "freeing" us. Duncan.

  4. Duncan and Joan

    I hope your Feng Shui experience is as wonderful as mine was. Good luck and keep me posted.