Controversial

Non-attachment. Or: Life in a backpack

A while ago I wrote about non-attachment. In fact I got so excited about the topic that I added another post straight after. I guess we can say I got a little bit attached to the whole thing. How I regret that now.

Book store in Calcutta

I want to keep all of them!

You know, it’s really easy to write about things. To make it sound as if you knew what you’re talking about. Ha! Big words, small means. Had I known at the time what was in store for me, I guess I would have kept quiet.

So on Saturday, I’m moving to Australia. Do you remember this game we played when we were kids, trying to think of what we would take with us on a remote island? (Sorry, Aussies… of course remote depends on where you are, right?).

I wish I could see it with as much serenity and composure as my mum does: “Well, you’re just moving from a small island to a bigger one, no?” (Sorry, UK – of course you’re not that tiny…) Or at least with as much calmness as my fiancé does: “Darling, that’s all just stuff.”

Did I mention that  neither of them practises yoga? Sigh. I know it’s all just stuff. But it’s my stuff. My memories. Stuff I’ve spent years collecting, cherishing, books I love, clothes I like… Why the hell was I all these years sweating on my mat, focusing on my drishti, chanting, praying, lighting incense, travelling to India, staying at ashrams, all these hours of pranayama – if I’m not even able to pack a suitcase and move abroad?

In one of my yoga books it said about accumulating possessions that of course we don’t need nearly as much as we think we do, and that even the books we read will stop serving their purpose once we’ve finished reading them and don’t need to be kept. I think it was a very wise Swami saying this, but I can’t recall which one – I must have given the book away.

So that’s one book less. Just about 100 remaining, and that’s after loads of them have already found their way into charity shops. Yeah, don’t tell me about all these great strategies to get rid of things. I’ve read them all, including packing stuff in boxes and if after three months you can’t remember what’s in there – throw away without opening.

The truth is, that I’ve asked myself all these questions about any of the items: Does it serve a purpose? When was the last time I used/wore this? Why did I buy this? Will I need this in the future? Even if the answer is “NO” every single time, I am still attached.

I recently spoke to a friend about this, and she said: “I’m so happy I moved around with my company paying the shipping. I just kept everything. My things make me feel grounded.” That’s it. Feeling grounded. Moving is unsettling enough. Uprooting. If we don’t have our stuff to keep us grounded, what’s going to happen?

English: Old luggage at Arley railway station ...

What would you put in there?

And here we have the root of the problem: It’s easy to define yourself by what you own. Your stuff, your clothes, your furniture, your books. You know how we check out a bookshelf in a stranger’s house to learn a bit about “who they are”? If that’s gone, who are we?

Luckily I have my yoga practice which stays with me no matter where I go. The practice does keep me grounded. It teaches me more to live from my core, and less through external things.

Anyway, before I get all philosophical and start whining again about my blue top which I don’t manage to part with, let me re-read my older posts and maybe roll out the mat and do my practice (before sorting through more stuff, that is). 🙂

What would you take with you to the other side of the world? 

Your very attached

~ Andrea

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Categories: Controversial, Inspiration, Yoga

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24 replies »

  1. When I was coming to Australia and deciding what to bring in my suitcase, my aunt told me everything I needed was inside me. My thoughts, my memories, my feelings…

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  2. I am so glad you came across my post on yoga and “liked” it beacuse it led me to this post at the best possible time. I’m laughting and smiling again. Phewww! Now back to wrestling with, I mean editing my article on my move to simpler living. ; )

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  3. Great Post! Reminds me that I need to let go and clear away some of my old belongs. Books being one of them. Make room for the new…
    Good Luck with your move and I look forward to hearing more about Australia.

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  4. I am struggling with this right now as I am planning to move across Canada… and only bring 2 suitcases! It’s hard work sorting, cleaning, and pack up my apartment… lots of reflection as I go through my stuff. Thanks for these thoughts. Good luck on your adventure! : )

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  5. My beliefs about my religion and my yoga practice fill me with guilt over my material attachments. This post really brought a new light to it. I’m really just in fear… When I dream of running away to California sunshine, I think I would take noting but my Jade yoga mat, a few photographs, and a swimsuit. 🙂
    ~Marissa

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  6. Hope your move to the land down under went well- and that you found your way safe trough your packing and departing ordeal. I think most of us feel like that – aren’t many people who can stay clear of the nesting need. I know I can’t – and I have accepted it by now. I have moved a lot, I live far away from any close family – so I sort of need my things to give me that safe feeling inside out for the times I am not on my mat.
    So embrace and accept in stead – there is nothing wrong with wishing for safety and comfort – moving is not a life and death situation – and come to that – your choices would be different and those are what counts…
    Thanks for the like.
    Good luck with the up coming Aussie summer time…

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  7. Andrea, Bless you on your travels and this new beginning. You don’t have anything to really about. Really, you don’t – because you have what matters most: “Luckily I have my yoga practice which stays with me no matter where I go. The practice does keep me grounded. It teaches me more to live from my core, and less through external things.” In the end, it all goes. What remains is the growth and expansion we’ve earned from letting go. And loving and being loved. So what would I bring? An open heart, a pen and a wish for courage! Keep us posted on this special transition! http://www.racheldardenbennettwonders.com

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  8. Great post! You could pretend you are only going to Oz on a 2 week holiday and just bring enough stuff to cover that length of time. This way you will really appreciate the possessions you are left with and feel totally liberated by the things you have given away. The books are the problem. Could you find a space in someone’s attic so that you haven’t really given them away? Best of luck Down Under and keep writing! Love your blog!

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  9. Awesome post! I tend to feel overwhelmed when faced with too many possessions. I’ve made it a personal goal to narrow down to a set number of essential items as I sort of live a nomadic lifestyle. This post was inspiring, thank you!

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  10. I love your blog!! And I can totally relate to having “stuff”. Personally, I love all my books and I like to share them with friends, but I also like to have them on my bookshelf even if I don’t think I’ll read it again.. what if I wanted to and it’s not there because I got rid of it? Then what?
    In order to simplify our home we got rid of a lot of stuff and it was great but while we went through our house I found item after item that I totally forgot I had and didn’t use but still couldn’t get rid of.. There is just something about some things!!
    We are moving too, not as far as you but to another state and have decided to even rid ourselves of a lot of the furniture we have and start again. I’m not really attached to furniture as much as some other things but we’ve started selling some stuff and let me tell you it’s not as easy as I thought!!
    good luck in your move!!
    Great post!!

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  11. Been there got the T Shirt! We moved from Scotland to Spain 5 years ago and were limited by what we could afford to bring. Giving away books was the worst thing even the ones I knew I would probably never read again. Once settled into a new life though, you soon forget the stuff you left behind. If you are not careful you just start collecting a whole lot of new things! Good luck with the move and your new adventure.

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  12. I had to do similar with my trip away. It was surprising looking at how much stuff I had to put into storage. I agree with aura jade… apart from the hula hoop. I’d add a mobile phone too. Good luck with the trip!

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  13. I had to do similar with my trip away. It was surprising looking at how much stuff I had to put into storage. I agree with aura jade – apart from the hula hoop. I’d add a mobile phone too… Good luck with the trip!

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  14. Amazing post…I am trying to simplify my life, and when I was traveling, I had to get rid of everything that was not essential. When I thought about it, there are actually only a few things that I need, the rest I can easily find along the way. My essentials are clean clothes, contact lenses, toothpaste, soap, my yoga mat, and my hula hoop!!!!! Best of luck in Australia. Its a great place to be.

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  15. Great post. I am selling my house and preparing to move cross-country USA so I know I will have to deal with these issues. Fortunately, I moved a bit in the last few years which has meant Goodwill and the public library has really benefitted from my lack of stability. I once read a book about people quickly evacuating from the wild fires out West. The quote was something like “What would you take? Of course, if you are really brave…you don’t take anything.” At this point in my life I am about downsizing and simplifying and above all realize that all my stuff -however cool and beautiful it may seem to me– isn’t really who I am.

    Yeah, non-attachment is a biggie and the ego loves using it to mess with us!

    Namaste!
    Yoganesha Shiva

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  16. Hang in there! Downsizing is very difficult.

    When I moved out of NYC (and only up to Boston) I donated/gave away 40+ bankers boxes of books. After only two years of working in publishing, I felt connected to so many books and authors that the thought of not having all those book made me panic.

    I wish I had some great spiritual revelation that led me to letting go of those attachments, but it was simply that I was broke and couldn’t afford to take them all with me.

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  17. Andrea, I faced the very same Attachment/Non-Attachment thing this time last year, as we readied for a year’s sabbatical, moving from the US to Mexico. EVERYTHING we wanted to leave behind had to fit in an 18′ X 9′ storage unit. EVERYTHING we wanted to bring with us had to fit in two suitcases and a carry-on. Including the cat.

    You admit you have read all the strategy books, so I won’t repeat them here. But do bring your essential books and the things that you can immediately place around to create a sense of being ‘home’. Look at the climate you are going to, and only pack what you need. Remember, too, that you can ALWAYS get more ‘stuff’, and that many books can be had electronically. But I bet you will learn to love living with less, and that this giant exercise will be a surprising boon. Chances are good you’ll find a yoga community in your new place, too, which will help with a sense of ‘missing things’.

    Oh, and make sure you back-up all your computer files.

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