A Purge For The Soul: Detaching From The Material World…

A Purge For The Soul: Detaching From The Material World

We are so attached to things as Lunar New Year approaches I feel behooved to implore you to detach from what no longer serves you. In essence, purge.

So often we go through life collecting small items and what service do they provide? I am reminded of the William Morris quotation, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Why do we buy such unnecessary items? That which collects dust or is never touched months after purchase? Is it simply because we find the comfort we lack in ourselves in tchotchkes? Or is it more that we seek solace in all the wrong things?

We detach from the present moments to snap a picture or buy a memento to symbolize our adventure. And when the mind attempts to recall the memory we cannot see it clearly. We were never truly in it. I know a picture is worth a thousand words, millions if you captured the right angle, and family photos are the better ones, the faces of those we can no longer kiss on the cheek. The grain of things encapsulated that maybe no longer exist- the towers now ashes now a graveyard replaced by something new.

Shiny and new to take away the gray pain, the listless life. Have we really grown bored with our own heartbeats? Think of a toddler on Christmas or a birthday, dozens of gifts and in a week they will be buried and forgotten. I don’t remember the toys I had, I more so remember the colored pencils and the stuffed dog I brought everywhere. The red tricycle. The Christmases spent with great-grandparents and uncles and aunts. Saltwater taffy. Smiling faces. Plucking away at a piano and an organ and playing hopscotch. I was lucky enough to probably have a great many things under the tree from year to year but it wasn’t what was there that I remember it was who. And who is no longer there now. You see I am detaching worth from things and remembering the people who made those things worth having, how they loved to watch me create and ride down the street.

The things I own are few, the memories they hold are many.

Books I reread every year, like a passport stamped a hundred times over with underlined passages and dog eared creases. Albums like voicemails of dear friends I replay just to hear them tell me I will be okay. A deck of tarot cards and crystals because my Sunday morning church is practicing how to be one with myself, to spread my roots, a deeper connection to the universe. Playbills and ticket stubs and artwork. Family photographs in a box and letters. Journals; my memoirs, my hopes and fears, exaltations and pain. I’ve curated my belongings to fit me. If you were to traipse around my four walls you would know who I am.

Our whole life is our art, our heart. Our belongings, the things we choose to keep, tell the world who we are.

Who are you when all of the things are gone?

I think this is the point of new years and new moons and new beginnings. To better understand who we are. Take away what you think you have and look inside to what you actually hold.

It’s tragic and perhaps in bad form to think about catastrophes such as fires. Yet think about a time when time is running out and you can only bring what you can carry, what would you carry out?

My greatest heartache would be to watch my books burn. The margin notes and underlined paragraphs that tell you who I was at the time.

Yet the only thing I could think to bring is a necklace worn by my grandmother and a box of photos. Everything is replaceable. New lines to be highlighted, new reasons to write in the margins.

When the world burns down and you are lucky to be left standing, you will have a heart full of memories. A memory is the thing to hold on to. Even if they hurt. Even if they start to fade.

Objects are not valuable on their own, they hold only what we want them to. They will not make you feel better. They will not prove your worth to someone who believed you worthless.

In Feng Shui energy needs room to flow. Open the windows, take the barricades from your heart. Light the sage and clear your surroundings. Purge those old attachments holding you back. Sweep the dust from the things you thought you needed. All you need is you. You are enough. Repeat it like a mantra until the cocoon falls loose.


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Alise Versella

Alise Versella is the author of Five Foot Voice, Onion Heart, and A Few Wild Stanzas. She is a contributing…

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