In a couple of days, six days to be exact, I will be celebrating my Hindu New Year called Diwali. Those of you who follow my blog have read prior posts on Diwali and it being significant about celebrating the inner light within us. It is a New Year filled with light and celebrating light. We make way for the new by getting rid of the old. Today, I write not about the significance of this tradition, but more so a particular ritual that has been passed down from centuries that is associated with this festival. A month or so before the holiday arrives; homes begin preparing through the process of what we call “Diwali Safai,” or Diwali Cleaning. There is a story about Lord Ram, the King of Ayodhya who was banished in exile for 14 years and after 14 years, the kingdom is preparing for his return to his city. They prepare by cleaning their homes, their streets, their shops, and adorning it by making it look beautiful and filling the streets with lamps and lights. So we too begin this process of cleaning – I have to say that growing up as a child, this is the one thing that has stuck with me no matter how much I try to let go of it – I clean – the draws, go through my old stuff, windows, whatever it is that I normally don’t get to clean on a regular basis, we spend time cleaning. There is an inner significance with the cleaning – we are getting rid of the clutter. Clutter in our heads, clutter in our minds, hearts and clutter in our homes. By taking a physical stock/inventory of getting rid of things that we do not need anymore, we are involving ourselves in a symbolic process of letting go. On a metaphoric level, to let go can take a lifetime – whatever it is we need to let go of – so this actual ritual of beginning with our material possessions is actually quite practical, because we are beginning with baby steps – we begin with our practical stuff – the stuff that we collect. And think of how much we collect.
It is very difficult to let go of things – things that we may accumulate because of memories, because of sentiment, because of habit – the same way it is very difficult to let go of situations, control, people and issues. These go hand in hand. When we let go of our material things, we begin the process of purification – we begin the process of being okay with having less and it makes it easier to deal with the clutter in our mind, in our hearts.
I look forward to this ritual every year because it really is time to take stock of what I need, what I don’t need, what my habits are, and how to move forward. There is something about space – empty space – it is freeing. The energy is clear. Think of going into a room that is overcrowded with stuff – what does your body feel like, do you feel stifled, do you feel overwhelmed, do you not know where to start. That on many levels is an indication of our minds – the state of our minds – where we feel overwhelmed and need to fill that void so by accumulating things and collecting things we fill that void. I have personally seen the difference when I clear an area of my house – the energy feels different, the space feels lighter, I feel lighter. Because I have experienced it, and I like how I feel, it is something I want to continue to do. I want to be free of clutter. I want to simplify. I want to have more of an inviting space in my home. I want to have more an emptiness in my mind and be free of clutter in my head.
And so I have over the years made this not an annual event but according to season. Every season, I begin the ritual of going through the clutter- of cleaning – of making space for newness and getting rid of the old. I do this with my son – help him look at his stuff that he collects so as he gets older, the purchases he makes for himself are based on need not greed . The rule is if you want something new, you have to clear out the old and make room for the new. Go through your books –why do you need all these books? Go through your clothes – what do you actually wear? Go through your toys – what is really important to you? And by doing that we begin to learn to live simply. I realized that this year my cleaning for Diwali was not that overwhelming because I have been doing this on a continuous basis –I did not leave it all for one year to look at –through the act of breaking it into seasons – I am in doing an internal check in within myself to clear out the clutter. To clear out the clutter – emotional, physical, mental, whatever it may be so that I can be emptied totally and be present. And to take it back to this festival – to be present means to celebrate this holiday with all the qualities it symbolizes – love, beauty, happiness, forgiveness, truth, and prosperity. Because in the end, it is these qualities that we are seeking to fill ourselves with - rather than the possessions.
There are some great prompts to help with decluttering:
I make room for ____________________________
I wish to create a space that _________________________
I let go of ________________________________________