In a lecture given in England in 1896 by the Indian monk, Swami Vivekananda, he said:
“While the West tries to measure how much it is possible for them to possess and to enjoy, the East seems to take the opposite course, and measure how little of material possessions they can do without…” – Swami Vivekananda on ‘Vedanta as a Factor in Civilisation’ (1896)
Having read a lot of his works over the decades, I believe that Swami Vivekananda was alluding more to perhaps an attitude of the heart, than just the physical notion of ‘West’ and ‘East’. As the world has grown more mobile over the past hundred plus years, the intermingling of people’s attitudes towards life and living, and how individuals choose to live their lives, has led to many a transformation. East or West – physical location is no longer an indicator of how each of us choose to live and give.
When I first moved to the USA as a graduate student, I arrived with all my possessions in two suitcases, and maybe a carry-on bag. In the course of living, and growing more ‘prosperous’, the process of ‘accumulation’ has brought me to the point where I have way more ‘things’ in my home than I could ever hope to use or need. This has been brought into perspective during the process of my impending move to a new home in a few weeks. In order to ‘stage’ my current home for sale, we began the process of emptying and decluttering a few months ago. We ended up renting not one, but two storage spaces – both of which are now full of stuff from the current home that we do not need or want to take to the new home. Consider the silliness of this – I am actually paying to store stuff that I will perhaps never ever use – not very ‘life-smart’, am I?!
I call it life-creep. The stuff creeps up on us. We stow the stuff away in little corners, thinking we may need it ‘some day’. After a while, we even lose track of what we really have. So, when we actually need something, say a tool, we find it easier to just go buy it, instead of looking for it. And so it goes. Fourteen years later, we end up with two storage units full of ‘life stuff’. We rationalize our ‘accumulating’ by calling it the ‘price of living’. Or the price of ‘maybe someday I will need it’. A poor return on investment, if you ask me.
All this accumulating isn’t just limited to ‘physical’ objects. In fact, physical objects are relatively easy to ‘give away’ – that is one (albeit ‘low-end’) form of giving. But it’s a good start. A useful one. The entire story of Nachiketa emanates from the ‘nature of giving’. But I digress. We accumulate a lot other stuff too. There are memories, emotions, beliefs, grudges, and yes, even stores of knowledge. A lot of these are much more effective at ‘weighing us down’ than the physical stuff that we accumulate. For example, storehouses of outdated beliefs may be much more efficient at preventing us from discovering our true (lighter) selves – don’t you think?
So, as we look forward to spring and the eventual ‘spring cleaning’, we may want to look a bit beyond the physical ‘giving’ or ‘letting go’. We may want to examine all the other layers of our life, our living – and raise the level of our giving in all areas. We may want to consider giving away with Joy, with a Smile. The season of what we hold on to, even indavertently and subconsciously, may well be past. And when we do give fully, life will be waiting in the wings to exuberantly fill us with new purpose, new color, and a new attitude towards living.
Join me. Let us learn to give to live (with a smile).
Join the #SpiritChat community Sunday, March 5th at 9amET / 2pm GMT / 7:30pm India – we will chat about ‘Living and Giving (with a smile)’. Thank you.