Simplifying is so complicated.
I used to eagerly await the newest Eastbay catalogue as a kid. I would flip through the pages and circle which items I'd love to have. I would circle sweet t-shirts that said things like "Jesus Saves" and then had Jesus in front of a soccer goal. I was a soccer goalie and also, kids love cheesy punny stuff like that. I also would circle brightly colored Umbro shorts, goalie gloves, warm-ups, and then the best circle of all time came. I circled a beanbag chair that was designed with black and white hexagons to look like a soccer ball. So. Freaking. Cool. My mom told me that I could buy it if I saved up for it. It was $60-something + shipping. I received $3 dollars allowance a week if I made my bed everyday, kept my room clean, did the dish schedule with my brother (alternate set/clear table and wash/dry dishes) and then my special chore was wiping down bathroom mirrors, countertops, and emptying the trashcans. It would take me at least 20 weeks to save up for this seat of glory and I think my mom thought that between my regular bike trips to Arbor Drugs (Now CVS) to buy Wet'n'Wild nail polish, Lip Smackers, and Clearly Canadians that by the time I could save $60 I would have long since forgotten the soccer ball chair.
My mother was wrong. I bought the beanbag chair from the Eastbay catalogue. It smelled of plastic and fabric preservers, it crunched, was stiff, but it was mine. There was this sense of accomplishment and pride that I had purchased this thing and it felt good.
I have absolutely no idea whatever happened to my beanbag chair. It's long gone as are my nail polishes, lip smackers, and my over-priced sparkling beverage from heaven AKA Clearly Canadian. I can't even really say I have any memories in the chair or that it appears in a single picture from my childhood. I assume that my mother disappeared it to Purple Heart as soon as she could and since I mostly wanted it because it was this symbol of status for me as a pre-teen, the second I ordered it, the chair had already fulfilled the only function I ever really intended it to.
Right now I am sitting on a couch while I write this that has been reupholstered three times and existed in my childhood house in the same era as the incredibly not legendary beanbag chair. This couch was a quality purchase. One that was likely well researched and thought out by my practical parents. I can attest to the quality of this couch as it has been with me not only in my childhood home but then in my first apartment, then my second, third, and then finally in my very own home. This couch was probably not purchased for status or so that my parents' friends could come over and see they had a super sweet place to sit that was all their own that they bought with their own money. I love this couch.
I mentioned a book that I was reading in my last post "The New Bohemians Handbook". One thing that I loved from the book was the initial cleaning phase of creating a space that you love. I've heard my friends talk about "The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up" and how you're supposed to hold the things in your house and if they don't bring you joy then you get rid of them. I have never read that book and I get the concept but my toothbrush brings me very little joy. I suppose I enjoy the circular motion of the bristles as they gently remove the tiny sugar sweaters from my teeth after a late night of not feeding my body but feeding my feelings instead. But really, there is so much that is just practical. Anyhow. Back to the book I have read. This book gave me the permission I needed to let go of things that I was holding onto because they cost a certain amount of money, or someone gave it to me, or because there was nothing wrong with it. If I didn't love it then it was in the box and off to Goodwill--I'm not my mother because I chose a different donation site, just to clarify.
Here's the deal though. As soon as I took down things that I didn't love so that I could put out the things that were smooshed together in my bookcase because there had previously been nowhere else to put them, things that actually had meaning, I also started to do the thing I did with the beanbag chair. I wanted a certain look, a certain feel, but I'm not totally sure it was purely for my quality of life and ease of living. I started to buy things to fit this picture. The biggest bullshit? The way I want my space to feel is authentic. Authentically me. I guess in a way it truly is. When people come to my door I should greet them by saying "Welcome! This is the Amazon Prime headquarters of Southeast Grand Rapids--largest and most packed together showroom in all of West Michigan!". Authentically consumer. Authentically bullshit.
Yoga is primarily known for the physical practice. But the physical practice or "Asana" is only one of eight limbs of yoga. The other 7 limbs are barely ever talked about in your typical Western Yoga studio. The eight limbs of yoga are:
Pantanjali described the Eight Limbs of yoga or "Ashtanga" in the Yoga Sutras and they are intended to be a guide to live a purposeful and meaningful life. As I mentioned, we are all pretty familiar with the physical practice or the Asanas. Yoga retailers have become a niche boutique industry of luxury sportswear--selling yoga pants for upwards of $100 a pop. Instagram accounts are a dime a dozen these days with "Yogalebrities" or Yogis with huge followings because of their incredible physique, beautiful poses, incredible scenery, and a picture of an idyllic lifestyle. Yoga has become, in the West, my soccer ball beanbag chair. The Asanas are a way to show strength and ability and the brands show a certain kind of prestige with the price tags that accompany them. It's so easy to get caught up in it. This was totally not the point of this post. I love the yoga world. I love my Lululemon pants; Athleta clothing fits my body in a way that I can't even describe. But to look at the asana, the physical practice only, would be to paint an incomplete picture of Yoga and a Yogic lifestyle.
If you want a straightforward summary of the eight limbs, check out this article from Yoga Journal by clicking this link. I am only really focused on one right now. It's one of the 5 Yamas and it is Aparigraha. Basically, this Yama is focused on non-greed, non-possessiveness, and non-attachment. This Yama for me, it's broken.
I think we all get sucked down the slippery slope of using things to fill voids or to show adequacies or to try and find happiness and joy in life. Every single one of us has heard a million versions of "money doesn't buy happiness" and then there are the counter sayings like "money may not buy happiness, but it buys tacos and that's basically the same thing".
I'm starting up teaching yoga again after a long and lovely maternity leave. I wish I had been so thoughtful to take more of a leave from my day job but I didn't and so back to work I went when my babe was a wee 3-weeks-old. In preparation for returning to my space I've thought about what I want a practice with me as a teacher to feel like, what vibe do I want to bring, what will my students get out of my classes? So, naturally I went to Best Buy and bought a new Bluetooth speaker to play my playlists during class with great clarity. It didn't hurt that the young man that helped me at Best Buy was wearing the very speaker I ended up buying on a carabineer connected to his belt loop. Sweet. I have carabineers, I can totally hook that to my bag and it will easily transport to the studio space. Never mind that I have other, subpar, means to play my music. To be an effective teacher I should have all of the things that make me look legit--like a Bluetooth speaker on a carabineer connected to my yoga pants.
I try really hard not to make hard rules for myself because rules are definitely for breaking, but I have goals and I can make tweaks. The key to any good plan for change is to start with small, manageable goals that are concrete. This is what I want; here are 2-3 things I can start to incorporate into my life to move in that direction. The first step is admitting it. I am not living my life in a way that reflects what I truly believe and value. I am placing emphasis on appearances and seeking joy in things that I believe represent the life I want people to see me living. From here I need a plan.
One of the best things I ever heard was at my best friend's wedding a few years ago. The person that was marrying them gave a piece of advice for deciding when to speak. Before you say something it should fit 3 criteria 1. Is it true? 2. Is it necessary? 3. Is it kind? This has helped me to work on growth in my communication more than anything else I've ever been taught. I am guilty regularly of saying things that are true but not necessary and definitely not kind. But I'm working on it and I try and when I screw-up to admit my fault and truly try harder. I need to apply this to my lifestyle beyond my words.
Is it true to my character? Is it necessary for my life? Is it kind to posses this thing in light of what myself or others might be lacking?
There will be more soccer ball beanbag chairs in my life. I will still regularly order from Amazon Prime. I will also be more intentional. I will stop and take pause when making choices in my life so that what I have or don't have doesn't make me who I am. But what I have is what helps to sustain this life and to continue doing the things I love, truly love. Like, how much I love this couch that has supported my body for 15+ years. And supports my husband and my kids and has seen so many movies and snuggle sessions and spilled food and happy gatherings. This is a good couch.