I recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and then began the arduous task of cleaning up the clutter in my home. Believe me, the clutter was bad. Somewhere between graduate school, doing yet another professional training course, and studying for my licensing exam, I lost the knack of keeping my home (and life) clutter-free. I don’t know what I would have done without my meditation practice, which helped keep me grounded amongst my clutter.
As I was getting rid of the clutter, I realized that, despite having more than enough, I was holding onto things. So why do we hold on? I believe it’s fear: fear that we won’t have enough or we are not enough without those things or ideas. I thought about the abundance that we all have in our lives, and when we hold onto things that no longer serve us — whether it is an old pair of jeans or an outdated idea about who we are — it can keep us stuck. I can tell you firsthand, it feels liberating to face that fear, let go of the stuff, allow my things to find new homes, and free up space in my life to do things that I enjoy doing.
Last Suppers, deprivation and letting go
Through the years I have found that how we approach or handle one aspect of our lives can reflect how we approach other areas of our lives. So if this fear about not having enough or not being enough has you cluttering up your closet, how is affe it affecting the way you eat? For some, this fear of not having enough or not being able to eat this food again results in overeating. This has been referred to as the ‘Last Supper’ way of eating, which you can witness at many buffets. For others, the fear of not being enough just as you are results in depriving oneself — because one believes one needs to be a certain size or look a certain way to be accepted. What if we actually used our hunger and fullness cues, rather than fear, to nourish ourselves? This is one of the principals of mindful eating: slowing down and tuning into our hunger and asking oneself, is this physical or emotional hunger? You have an opportunity to do this each and every time you eat.
In some ways, what we do in psychotherapy is like cleaning out a closet. What if we could clean up those old ideas about ourselves that no longer fit (like an old pair of jeans) and let them go? Working with clients with eating disorders, I often have them examine how they define themselves. Part of recovery is letting go of ideas about oneself that no longer reflect who you really are and seeing that you are so much more than some ideas. When clients have difficulty letting go of the belief that they are not enough, self-compassion can help change their outlook. Understanding that all humans are imperfect and turning towards oneself with kindness when things are difficult can help clients get unstuck and move them forward in their recovery.
An example of the power of letting go
One of the blessings of my work as a yoga teacher, is that sometimes students come up to me after class to share a story. The week after teaching a class with this theme of abundance and being enough, a student, who also is a tennis player, told me about an experience she had with a young worker at a store. The young worker told the yoga student that she loved tennis and learned the sport through a program for disadvantaged youths at Stanford. She said that she was starting to play again and wanted to know where she could buy tennis clothes. After leaving the store, the yoga student realized she had a bag of tennis clothes that she was going to donate to Goodwill. So when she got home she called and offered the tennis clothes to the aspiring tennis player, who was happy and grateful for the clothes. This gesture filled the yoga student’s heart with joy knowing that she helped out someone else.
I encourage you to try it. Give away the things that you are no longer using. It has the potential to make you feel happier, and it may just make some space to do something you enjoy or you’ve been putting off for a long time. You might even let go of some ideas about yourself that no longer serve you — this can feel immensely liberating and can change your outlook on life. Take some time to reflect upon the abundance in your life and have gratitude for the many blessings you have. And remember: you are enough just as you are!