Sufficient Transitions: Recess from Excess (Part 5 of 7)
The phenomenon “Additive Fallacy” is what often happens when we avoid endings. To avoid facing the grief of mourning, the surrendering of what had before, we keep adding to what we have, often with vigor. We believe that if we just keep adding and adding to what we have, that we will end up with something new and avoid the need to make any endings. (from The Way of Transition, William Bridges, 1998)
Taking a “recess from excess” is a particular kind of ending, because in this case, it is by design, by your design, to actively participate in the choosing of what you need and what you don’t. To clean out your closet or the many drawers and underneath places and storage spaces. To face the relationships, and the associations, the sentimentalities and the attachments, to our habit of hoarding. I hoard all kinds of things, like clothes, money, and even relationships.
If we can avoid an ending, we can seemingly avoid the feelings of aloneness and emptiness that are native to a transition’s neutral zone (which is investigated more deeply in Dreaming a New Dream, Part 4 of this blog series). And we fear these feelings so much – largely because of childhood fears of abandonment coming to bear – that we work hard to avoid those endings, and we keep creating, we keep making more, we unknowingly enlist ourselves into one of Scarcity’s three primary myths: More is Better. (Lynne Twist, The Soul of Money, 2003)
Since most of us live and engage in modern society, and since most modern people are not in tune with nature on a regular basis, we forget, on a somatic and psychological level (and spiritual) that those fallow times, the neutral zones of our lives where a brush fire wipes out a meadow or a hillside, that winter itself, is not so much dormant, as a it is a time for renewal. We experience the fact that nothing has happened yet, or the state of pure energy flowing as a chaotic jumble or nothingness. These feelings we often experience while in a neutral zone make us feel a little crazy and out of control. And to deal with those feelings of uncertainty, we go back to gaining, to succeeding, to earning and to doing. (Neutral zone images from The Way of Transition, William Bridges, 1998)
There are times for this doing – for earning, for achieving, for creating and for gaining. It is just that in our culture, at this time, we are excessive about it. “Building wealth” (aka hording) beyond what you need is what defines success and happiness for most individuals in this country, and the global economy is based on More is Better. Our entire existence is organized and orientated around attaining the next best thing, the newest, more improved, bigger and faster. For some of us, we might even see this in our relationships with other people.
How does that feel to you? How do you relate to our culture’s habit of more – newer, better, bigger and faster – is better?
How do you express your wealth?
There are some problems associated with More is Better, namely that most of us do not experience greater happiness as we accumulate more stuff or the bigger houses we need to contain it. After a certain threshold of income and quality of life, money and things have no statistical impact on the degree of pleasure or joy a person experiences. (Though, let it be noted that under a certain level of income, having more or safer/healthier food, heat, space, clothes, education, resources, etc. would make a material difference in a family’s experience of pleasure or joy.)
More is not always better because it has the exponential impact of having to take care of those things – to dust them, to clean, repair, store and use them, and then to eventually replace or get them to Good Will. Having more and more means contending with the reality of that space is finite. I know many families that have to pay to have storage spaces in addition to their homes in order to house all their stuff. It’s an extra expense as well as something to tend to, to track, to take care of. And I am not talking about temporary times of storage. I am talking about the stuff – the valuables – that are not part of our everyday lives. We have a clutter of material things, and many of us have a clutter of acquaintances, relationships, that need tending. Have you ever felt burdened by socializing?
Notice what you are feeling about More is Better, now.
What if Sufficiency was not about giving up anything? For many of us, Sufficiency is not only not sexy, is not only sobering, but it feels like an invitation to self-deprivation. As if to be in Sufficiency you have to give some things up in order for everyone to have enough. I think, in some ways and areas of life, that that might become true, but I am not sure – we will soon find out as the collective conversation continues. For now, though, I invite you to consider that Sufficiency, in many ways, is a slowing down, a noticing of where the mind is attuned to.
Experiment with attuning to what you have already, what is working in your life already, what you know to be true and whole about yourself and the people you love.
When we have less to take care of, we are able to slow down. And in this fast, and ever faster, paced society, the ability and experience of slowing down itself is an asset, (with health benefits according to recent research about stress and relaxation). Some things I thought of that cause me to slow down are having a dog, biking or walking rather than driving, preparing my meals, having a child in my life to care for, doing a yoga practice each day and taking a breath before I respond in a conversation. What are the ways you are already helping yourself to slow down?
Sufficiency invites us not to get rid of stuff but to allow our stuff to be part of our flow, the in and out of our lives. The gifting, the exchanging, the transferring, so that our stuff, our relationships, our ideas and our love can be part of the back and forth rhythm of life.