In late 2002, I began trying to rid myself of a twenty year collection of material acquistions in the form of beautiful furniture, rugs, art, glass work, and books. There were three hundred pairs of carefully purchased shoes, countless jackets, trousers, and ties. My wife's vintage slips and dresses.
My plan in the midst of grief: put everything out on the front lawn, one collection at a time, with a sign that said, free.
People came from all over and took my belongings away. I cried, but weekend after weekend, the stuff went out onto the front lawn. I had a deep need be free from the memories I associated with these tangible manifestations of the love of my life, our life together.
I was down to a bed, a television, a couch, and a rug. I moved to an apartment. I sat and cried off and on for another year. I grieved the loss of our things. I beat myself up emotionally; called myself stupid for giving everything away.
During that second year, there were those whom saw my desire to be separated from my belongings as a pre-suicidal act. They maintained those whom want to divest are wanting to take their own lives. How unfortunate the memes that filter down from the psychiatric community and are incorrectly used by the well meaning. I had one friend whom did not agree with this. She called it the beginning of becoming a Bodhisattva. Her lone voice in the wilderness was not enough and the suggestion I was suicidal found it's way into my mind, my soul. It nested there, a festering wound.
Eventually, I would become convinced suicide was indeed at the root of my psyche. The reality is, I had never thought of taking my own life before then. I did not make an attempt; I took myself to the hospital and asked for help. There was a person in my life whose pressure was unwavering. We rarely had a conversation which did not include his insistance I was damaged beyond repair; that I would be better off dead. He took every opportunity to deride me for my spiritual inclination. I was at the time I met him, desperate for the kind of intellectual approval he could offer, desperate to matter. I allowed myself to be infiltrated by his ideas. By way of good therapy, we no longer communicate, but I do have compassion for him. One does not need to interact with someone to experience that feeling toward them.
Between 2003 and last year, I collected things and got rid of them again. I have done this a few times. Just recently, given the choice to keep my things, or rid myself of them, I chose to keep them. My simple things began to make sense to me. I had exactly what I needed for this stretch of the walk, and I knew the journey was far from over. This is not about poverty, this is about the distraction of the material.
When my spiritual adventure took me onto the path of Buddhism five years ago, I was still deep in the process of grief. I began a sitting practice to calm my mind. That was the only reason. Enlightenment, compassion, nirvana, were of no meaning to me. I didn't have the energy to pursue those things. I had just enough lack of energy to sit down and breathe. It started with a few minutes that turned into an hour, over time. I could sit with my eyes closed for an hour and just breathe. I belong to no organization, my sitting practice learned originally from a man of many years practice in the Vadryana tradition. This has been a lone, internal struggle. I have deep gratitude for the help I have received. Ultimately, the blessing comes from within.
In the last year, I was faced with great obstacles. Among other pressures, the political landscape loomed in front of me. It beckoned, I followed, away from what I knew was true. The excitement, the fervor, the power, all hooked me with a shiny lure. It became a place for my anger, an easy escape from addressing the origin of that feeling. Even arguing against the very idea of politics gave me that temporal satisfaction. Those experiences regarding world events, including an interview I did of a Congressional candidate in Chicago, shocked and awed me to the point of finding myself awakened and on my given path once again.
Spiritual roads are not easy. Far from the stereotype of the new age airy fairy belief junkies, those with determination and surety of direction, can find themselves in treacherous internal landscapes beset by external influence. I was born a Jew. In my thirties, I served for seven years as a lay priest in the Episcopal Church. I lost my faith in the spiritually concave and revealing world of striking loss. The simplification of my soul has been hard earned. The falling down and standing again, the unwillingness to get up at times, the rough, incredibly rocky path I had to trudge in the last year are all part of the best kind of divestiture. The shedding of the manufactured self, the invented person, for the real thing.