There is a Buddhist saying which, roughly translated, says: “If your rice bowl is already full, the universe can’t fill it.” The phrase is applicable to a host of areas in our lives, and today I will explore a few of them. The rhythm of life is first fill, then empty. We inhale and then exhale. The tide comes in and then goes back out. A womb is filled, then emptied. Acquire, then release.
Every once in a while (but not too infrequently – perhaps once a year), go through your closets, your pantry, your attic, and identify things you aren’t using, and are unlikely to in the future. How many shirts, sweaters, shoes, and coats that you haven’t worn in years are taking up space? How many cans of beans or tomatoes? Bundle them up and donate them to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or Out of the Closet (if you live in CA).
What’s the benefit of a periodic, thorough inventory-taking/housecleaning? Reducing clutter allows you to better appreciate the things you do truly cherish. A shelf crammed with knick-knacks, an overstocked refrigerator, or a bulging closet makes it harder for any particular items to stand out. Just yesterday I opened my closet and started going through my long sleeved shirts in preparation for fall, realizing that some of my favorites had been swallowed up in the array of dozens of other shirts, most of which I haven’t worn in at least a couple of years. A hoarder usually can’t find, many of the things collected over the years. Let your favorite items shine!
Another benefit of a regular inventory reduction is the good feeling you generally gets after completing it. It helps you realize how much you have, and identifying items to donate allows you to feel the sense of abundance and satisfaction that comes with charitable acts.
“Make new friends and keep the old, one is silver the other is gold” was the phrase on the Girl Scout cookie boxes my Mom used to buy us when I was a kid. Lovely advice, but as we get older it becomes impossible to just keep adding new friends – there just isn’t enough time in our schedules to accommodate everybody, and as we mature our preferences change and friends who may have been perfect for us 10 years ago are no longer on the same page. Look at the friendships in your life and identify the ones that are truly meaningful. They’re the ones you should invest in, allowing the others to recede in their importance and the time devoted to maintaining them.
Overscheduling can begin at a very early age these days (I visited a couple last weekend whose 3-year-old was already taking hip-hop, ballet, and soccer lessons!) A day filled with scheduled activities can be the sign of an active, stimulating life, but for many of my clients, particularly those with a tendency towards depression, it’s a defense against dreaded alone time. Additionally, having a full calendar can give one a sense of control, but it also makes it very difficult for a new, surprising, and possibly delightful activity to sneak in.
One of the most fundamental aspects of the work I do with my clients is to help them set goals: personal, professional, social, But a rigid adherence to the pursuit of goals without periodic reexamination is an invitation to dissatisfaction down the road.
Allow the flexibility in your life planning to accommodate the spoonfuls of rice that the universe periodically will send your way.