Recently I have been reviewing what to do, having spent many years doing it all, or rather trying to do it all. I feel now I have come to the state in life when I need to edit things out. This kind of editing has involved giving away of things I am not using; not going to events/shows/talks; editing out facebook and other social media contacts; getting out of mailing lists and also deciding what to do with work goals.
The Konmari method of cleaning out spaces uses the idea of throwing out anything that is not ‘sparking joy’. William Morris suggested that everything in our house should be useful or beautiful (or both).
The author, Scott Sonenshein, says that the Konmari method is ‘not just about what we do to our physical space. It’s about what we do to our mental space. Once we break that dependence that having more equals more happiness and more success” and apply the “spark joy” filter, we “can recognize what is most meaningful and important to us because it doesn’t get lost in clutter.’
However, it has taken me a long time (decades) to see what sort of rest of my life I want to lead. So he says, ‘Deciding which projects to pursue may be more challenging for individuals beginning a new career, as they have yet to develop a strong sense of the work and environments they prefer. However, just as the KonMari Method is structured so individuals can “calibrate before getting to sentimental items”, people may need time in their professional lives to gain a better sense of what “sparks joy” for them.’
Using the method by William Morris, one can decide if the project is not useful or creating something beautiful it is time to let go of it. After all, we live short lives and in that time, we do not leave something behind that is beautiful or useful (and even both), then there is nothing to remember us by. That leaving gift need not be a physical thing- it can be advice or love you give to another person. For example, my Uncle did not leave me anything but his love and advice (which I use all the time). He lives on in my life and also in my children’s lives as I recount things he used to say or do with me.
Worth watching this 12 minute funny TED Talk (assuming you are not offended by the language!)
‘Just do it’ is the phrase used by a well known sports brand but I am using it in a different way. I am using to mean a determination to be happy- to be just happy. I was recently watching a programme about advertising and how advertising creates a gap between yourself, the reality and the image presented (the illusion). We try to buy stuff to try to close this gap. Often we get ourselves into trouble of various sorts, such as financial difficulties or unhealthy mental states. In particular women are more prone to compare themselves to others and make themselves unhappy. So many of the ‘happiness or beauty products’ are aimed at women because it creates a compulsive and everlasting consumer.
I have also been cleaning my house, using the ‘Konmari method‘ which is basically a method of editing your stuff (keeping only stuff that ‘sparks joy’) and keeping them tidily. Out of my dark cupboards, hidden for years, have come out piles of self help books, mountains of clothes, cosmetics, and many things I bought for ‘just in case’ occasions. Looking at them and adding up the costs of buying them, not using them and now having to dispose of them in a responsible way, is costing me more time and money. Why oh why did I buy these things? Perhaps I could have saved some money to pay off the mortgage, perhaps saved some time looking after myself instead of shopping for that perfect thing that would make me happy? Perhaps. Anyway, the feeling was first of disgust at myself and then forgiveness. Perhaps, it was convoluted path I took to get here and some people don’t get here easily. So I have decided not to buy anything more unless it really nourishes my life, not to watch any thing that doesn’t inspire me to do good and not to feel bad about the past. I decided, I am happy as I am- that is it. No more reading about happiness or perfection- I doing it, I am already happy and perfect as I am.
Love is in the air, especially today. But what is love really? A test of love is longevity. There are many who say they are in love- but a few months or years later, it is gone. That is not love. Love stands the test of time and age- if we can love someone’s wrinkles that is true love. True love is about loving someone’s warts and wrinkles. That could be anyone from your granny to your partner. Love is about giving some time to another person.
After watching this, as an architect who has suffered from stroke, it reinforced my desire never to miss a single opportunity to express gratitude, help others and be happy in every way that I can.
Christmas is approaching and it is a time of giving. But we need to make sure that what we give is the thing that the receiver needs and is of value to them, not to us. Often we buy things we like and present it to someone. So it is best to learn about the person first and then find a gift they need. It may surprise us that at times they don’t want any ‘thing’ at all- what they want is company, assurance, love, time, friendship- not a ‘thing’.
As Nichiren advised us, we must be careful in giving, “If a person’s throat is dry, what he needs is water; he has no use for bows and arrows, weapons and sticks. If a person is naked, he wants a suit of clothes but has no need for water. From one or two examples you can guess the principle that applies in general.”
Something to lighten up the very heavy weeks recently. An award winning 5 minute film from Mumbai about three Mumbaikars (yes, that is what they are called!)
1. A woman who gets people to pay her for what she could have done herself- what if all businesses could follow this model?
2. A woman who gets joy from what she is doing because she loves her work.
3. A man who learns that city life can help him overcome a childhood trauma and social stigma.
This week has been of immense sadness- from the pain of the deaths of so many strangers that have touched our lives. From the nearly 500 people killed in the Gaza and Israel conflict to the nearly 300 Malaysian airlines passengers shot above rebel held Ukraine. The anger, pain and fear of families have been palpable, even in cyberspace. People are shocked at the use of weapons that can kill so many so quickly and used with such impunity to reduce a person to just a ‘body’. Those that fly regularly, families that go on holiday with their children and even those who live in war and conflict zones are beyond disbelief at what weapons can do. We all like peace and security and all the cries from ordinary people this week have echoed that. Yet the powers that be, go on- confident that weapons can always solve problems.
I have been struggling to make any sense of what is happening. I thought world wars were over a long time ago and that my children (and grandchildren) would only face climate change as a major threat to their existence, not wars. But now I see that I was so wrong. I see sadly that we cannot live with each other and we cannot live on our planet, fighting over small bits of land. These poppies come up in my garden every year. They give me hope. As a Buddhist, I can only hope like these poppies, the lives of the 700 and more people whose natural lives have been cut short, will arise again as messengers of peace and love. That finally sense will return. That our future is without weapons. That future will be love for each other. If you have been affected by the events of this week, do comment to let me know how you feel!
Couples who do things together, stay together! It is important to have shared goals. Although you may not do absolutely everything together, as long as your main and most important goals match, then you will be working together and loving your time together.
I saw this lovely example recently at a pottery workshop. A couple who had met with their shared love of pottery, decided to make these bowls together for their wedding. The idea is that these bowls will be used to decorate the table and then each guest can take them away as a memento of their shared joy in this marriage. I am sure this marriage is made to last! Congratulations to this happy and wonderful couple who incidentally I don’t know and have never met but already I feel the joy of their wedding and their lives.
I could not believe my eyes when I saw this advertisement near my home. Having seen ‘beauty queens’ and models of all colours and races, I could not believe that a market for such ‘skin lightening’ creams existed. But, yes, obviously there is a market and demand for this cream in the 21st century, when women with little self love and even lesser self esteem depend on how ‘light’ their skins are in order to feel more attractive. Some women even blame society for lightening their skins and do not take responsibility for their actions-
Ladies, learn to love yourselves and your skin. We are the children of the universe of different colours and shades- each one of us is beautiful just as we are!
Research has revealed again and again that buying things does not make us happy. On the other hand, buying ‘experiences’ can make us really happy. So for example, buying a piano might give you a great buzz and bring you attention from friends but playing that piano will give a greater and more lasting happiness. But the key is that you need love playing on a piano, otherwise nothing about the piano will give you happiness. It will simply fill you with sadness each time you look at it, and it may even become something you can’t wait to get rid of.
According to an article in the Psychologist, ‘[the]… key to happiness is ‘identity expression’… i.e. Does a particular purchase express your personality and values? If it does, you are likely to feel happier.’ The author of the article says that a friend once said, “Happiness is being able to express who I am.” So in other words, learn to know yourself thoroughly and then only give time and money to those things that enhance yourself.
Arian Huffington, the founder of Huffington Post, says that the key to happiness is knowing your limits. This is another way of saying that the key to happiness is knowing ourselves fully (including our limits). I used to think that running myself ragged, helping others would bring me happiness. Fortunately I came across a Buddhist principle called Jigyo Keta which means happiness for ourselves and others, i.e. not one or the other other but both. When we can respect ourselves truly, we can respect others truly. Happiness just for ourselves is selfish and a ‘small goal’ while happiness that is just for other is martyrdom and sometimes not even wanted by the receiver. Would you like to receive money from a street beggar? I bet not. But if you had some spare change, you could give that to the beggar. So the key to happiness is knowing ourselves and then giving to others what we can give best. A rich man can give away money, a musician can play for others and so on. This is the contributive and balanced life.
Don’t run yourself ragged- always keep some spare change for your soul!