By Inge Scott
A cluttered home reflects a cluttered mind.
I participated in a group yard sale at the condominium complex I live in. After a lot of procrastinating, I finally cleaned out my closets and garage, determined to simplify my life. It seems that a lot of articles I’ve been reading lately have to do with living a simpler life and that is something I am striving for.
Even Feng Shui says to get rid of all that excess crap, so the qi can flow freely.
As I sat and waited for customers to buy the things I no longer wanted, I read an essay on the Buddhist idea of impermanence. I thought about the things I was selling and how at one time, they seemed important to me, but now they sat on a table waiting to become important to someone else.
A few minutes later, a woman came up interested in buying all my small, ceramic flower pots. I had rescued them last fall from the dumpster, thinking I would find plants for them, but instead they sat empty in my garage. “How much for all of the pots?” We agreed on a price and I began wrapping each one in newspaper, pulling the paper from a large bag underneath the table. I put them into a box and carried it to her car. She drove away and I sat down to continue reading.
That’s when I noticed my glasses were missing.
I stood up and looked around the table. No glasses. I looked around the chair I was sitting in. No glasses. I took the bag from under the table and pulled out the newspaper. No glasses. I retraced my steps to where the woman’s car was parked. No glasses. They were nowhere, but actually that’s not true; they were somewhere, just not where they were supposed to be.
Could they have fallen into the box of pots? I couldn’t remember if I had them in my hand when I stood up to help the woman. I must have though, because they weren’t on the chair beside the magazine I had been reading.
If I had been living in the present moment, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.
Just as I was about to get upset over losing them, I remembered about impermanence. Here was a perfect example. I had the glasses before the woman came and now I don’t. I won’t get them back. That pair is gone forever. I buy another pair; they were only cheap reading glasses from the drugstore but they won’t be the same.
I couldn’t go back to reading the magazine because I couldn’t see the print, so I focused on being present. It was useless to get upset over something I couldn’t control. That thought brought me to the Buddhist concept of attachment.
Getting upset over losing the glasses was a form of suffering, caused by attaching myself to something that was never actually mine in the first place; impermanence.
Every single thing I own is only borrowed because someday it will wear out, be replaced or like today, lost. I too am impermanent and so are my loved ones. All of us, the glasses, the flower pots and everything I see, will be gone someday. It’s the cycle of life and death, although nothing is completely gone. Thich Naht Hahn wrote that when we die, we aren’t really dead, we just change form.
We become part of the earth. We are part of the clouds. We are the rain.
I seemed to be going on quite a tangent. It was just a pair of reading glasses. No one died or anything. It was noon, time for me to pack up what was left. There were other things I had planned for the day—buying glasses was added to my to-do list. I sorted out the things that would go to the neighborhood thrift shop from the things I might like to keep. Maybe that Santa bear would be displayed on the sofa this Christmas after all; he sure is cute. That’s why I bought him a few years ago, to sit on the sofa to make the house more festive. I hadn’t planned keeping him in a box all that time. I was happy no one bought him.
The boxes went back to the garage. The things going to the thrift shop will be taken there. Santa bear sits in my closet waiting for Christmastime. I sat down to eat lunch I noticed I was wearing only two bracelets—I know I left the house wearing three.
Dang you impermanence!
Inge “Ingebird” Scott is a self-described, middle-aged, non-conformist bohemian chick, exploring her spiritual side. The teaching she resonates most with is Buddhist Philosophy, although she practices other forms of spirituality as well. She decided to take her spiritual practice seriously after surviving cancer. She practices yoga, loves animals and is vegan. Read more at her blog.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak