How richly important it is to appreciate the ways in which we bring our stories forward into the present of our daily lives. We carry the history of who we are in days, months and years past in the cellular memory throughout our body-mind. These form the narrative of who we believe ourselves to be today. Undoubtedly this ongoing story line shapes the way we negotiate life, helping us to categorize experiences and recognize similarities in new situations as we move into future moments. It forms the basis of learning and supports the foundation of our growth into adulthood and in life.
Yet, while it is essential to our survival as a species, we are prone to add elements to the story, extra details, emotional overtones, alternate endings (or beginnings), hidden meanings or agendas. It sometimes seems as if we judge the original screenplay too simple, begging us to embellish the bare bones to make it more of whatever we want it to be. Another way in which we create a more fuller narrative about who we are is by surrounding ourselves with objects. Each object carried forward becomes a repository for additional aspects of the story of who we are, who we have been, who we will be going forward or who we want to be in the eyes of others.
Object acquisition may seem like a foreign concept since the way we grasp onto things is so much a part of our routine pattern of behavior that it seems beyond normal. It fulfills a need; it’s part of the everyday. Maybe, if we are so inclined, we can, through the practice of mindfulness meditation or yoga, come to see how we become attached to the objects we have. And we might even create an intention to let go of objects not needed any longer or develop a different perspective on the items we keep. This shift requires that we interrupt the connective threads that bind us to these things, changing the way we see or understand the meaning or purpose of an object. In this manner, we might feel that we have taken a few more steps along the path of wisdom.
Or, so it seems, until some great event befalls us where many of the possessions we have are destroyed. Hurricane Sandy has resulted in just such a huge emptying out, all at once, in a manner that felt more like a physical wrenching and breaking apart. And, as much as we hold the sense of what has happened as a mere letting go of objects and not a greater loss, attention must be paid to the personal stories that are woven amongst the wreckage. In the pile of refuse are things that had some meaning for us, and herein lie the narrative of our lives. There may be treasures, utilitarian items, even some that were long ago forgotten in a box, others in the process of being let go, given away or thrown out. Memories of some sort are associated with all of them. In the moments of clearing out these remnants of destruction, we are asked to let go of these parts of our history.
It’s important to realize that we have choices about how we let these objects go. Some carry memories that need to be loved as we release them. Some that deserve acknowledgment of the purpose they served. Some are simply reminders, placeholders of an earlier time – or perhaps not so simple in that they stir emotions as they lie there, tangled in the past and present. I wonder if the biggest choice that faces us is in the understanding that these objects and the history that they represent are not who we really are. It can be okay to let them go, coming back to what’s happening now and the fullness of who we are in this moment.