Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up

‘Zen And The Art of Minimalism’ could be an alternate title of this book by Marie Kondo. It is the English translation of the original book written in Japanese.

img_0084-1I am part of the Generation X, and grew up when middle class was really the middle class. We seemed to have just enough to get by and save and be debt-free. We rarely discarded anything, I remember, partly because we didn’t seem to have much to discard, and partly because we could surely ‘use it in future’. Now in the age of consumerism, it is  “hoarding”, and there was an urgent need to unlearn.

That point on space & time graph:

I believe that there are trying times in all our lives that sweep us off our feet and we question everything that we have – people, relationships, things. Looking around in this moment of powerful contemplation and finding meaningless “stuff” about us, we just might have the ‘and-why-do-I-have-all-this-cr@p-anyway’ moment. I did, over a year ago when, quite serendipitously, I found this book. Because it resonated with me so much, I strongly wanted spread the word. It answered for me questions like “how do I create my Happy Place?” literally,  or “how to be happy”.

Fight Club, Minimalism, Quote. We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like. Things you own end up owning you.The book:

With systematic steps to declutter your home, what she calls the Kon-Mari method (from her last and first names), the author writes passionately and in an honest voice. Her principle is to surround oneself with things that spark joy, and discard the rest (as much as possible). She goes a few steps further in asking readers to touch everything and see if you feel good about it, to their express gratitude for their service  (something she is ridiculed for). No wonder this book seems to be a hit or a miss. Yes- there is repetition, and yes-there are suggestions that might seem beyond you. But do not take it literally, if you so disagree; take it with a grain of salt so as to not miss the important underlying principle.

Minimalism

MinimalismBeing idealistic and passionate, I aspire to the ideal of minimalism. In principle, one doesn’t need to have what one doesn’t need to have. More and more, I look for meaning in things and people and relationships- quality, more than quantity. Have less things, but good ones that serve your purpose that you feel happy about. Don’t let the things you own, own you.
Minimalism is not as much about figuring and discarding what you don’t want as it is about diving deep within to find what you really do. Gnothi seauton: Know thyself. Quite simple. And very difficult. When you let go of things, I think, you practice “letting go” in general, a very handy virtue. When I  give up/away things with-out, it frees up energy that sort of comes back to me within. This is highly empowering. Pointing to this truth is the beauty and the value of this book.

In defense of the book:

What is an ideal? Some thing that is perfect- a highest attainable degree of excellence. Are  or can humans be ideal? No-not generally. So, do we need ideals? Yes, absolutely. Because we need something to aim for. Something to go by. I wonder if religion had a similar purpose with its tenets- all point to some basic ideals (and ideally keep out of trouble with the Church and one another- but that is a whole ‘nother complex topic). A particular example that I grew up knowing is of Sri Ram in Indian mythology, called maryada purushottam, the ideal man; though no one could be all like him, the society has Him as the model to aspire to.img_0096

While The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up contains tactical steps and a method to tidying up your stuff, the book is not really about things; it is actually about the ideal of living very consciously and having your home/space as an expression and extension of it… with the things that spark joy. Now what a beautiful, inspiring and life-changing idea that is!

Further Reading: The Minimalists, Becoming Minimalist, Best resources

 Goodreads review.

My Solitude, sunset, the sea

The Daily Post: A Good Match -Photo Challenge. The sunset and the sea is better than a good match for my solitude at the final hours of the day…

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I watch the sunset at the South Padre Islands in 2015. Skyscape # 008


Eyes wide shut under the flying veil of hair

Rumbling ocean reverberates, flushing the day’s wear

Gulls forlorn cawing, split the brined air

Emotions shudder helpless, on a wing ‘n a prayer

Encompassing solitude deepens, skins my soul bare

By the calming sea, ‘n the darkening glare

Of the crimson sunset, I feel so aware…

 

 

The great night of Shiva, tonight.

Tonight is Maha-Shiva-Ratri [maha – great, ratri – night], one of the most important of the all the Hindu festivals. Commonly, Shiva represents one of the three principal deities in the Hindu trinity. But more importantly Shiva represents the formless and the infinite divinity. Tonight marks the celebration of the limitless dimension in oneself by identifying it with the Universal infinite principle of Shiva.

The occasion behooves the mention of Adi Shankara, the young Indian scholar and philosopher from the 8th century AD, who propounded the concept of Advaita or non-dualism (a-non, dvaita-two/dual). Advaita holds that the Creator is not distinct or separate from the Creation; that finite beings born of the Infinite are, therefore, themselves Infinite. So, as a young boy of eight wandering  in search of a guru, Shankara encounters a seer who asks him “who are you?” Shankara responds in these six exalted Sanskrit stanzas that would be known as the Atma Shatakam. Below is a concise and beautiful translation of the sublime verses I took from the acclaimed spiritual classic and one of my favorite books, Autobiography Of A Yogi.

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Atmashatakam by Adi Shankara. (Photo: South Padre Islands Beach. #nofilter)

One of the renditions of Atma Shaktakam (also called Nirvana Shatakam) that I love the best is from the album Sacred Chants of Shiva:

Further reading:

Anger: the monk’s little story

 

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An evening in Rancho Viejo, Texas. The ambience– so dramatic and beautiful. None can beat Nature’s own filter! Just like being in a 3 dimensional painting … #nofilter (Skyscape # 007)

The Little Story: To meditate alone with no interruptions, a monk decided to go to a nearby lake. He took a boat and moored it in the middle of the lake, closed his eyes and began meditating. After a few hours of uninterrupted solitude passed and he was in a deep meditative state, when suddenly, he felt the bump of another boat colliding with his own. His eyes were closed still, but he was agitated, and felt his anger rising.  By the time he opened his eyes, he was about to scream at the boatman who had so carelessly disturbed his meditation. On opening his eyes, however, he was startled to find that it was just another empty boat that probably got untethered and floated to the middle of the lake.

That moment the monk had a profound realization: all the anger was within him; it merely needed the bump of an external object to provoke it out of him. And that moment on, whenever he came across someone who irritated or provoked him to anger, he reminded himself that the other person was merely an empty boat; it is he who has the choice to react independent of the whatever the other person did.

There have been times when I would feel frustrated and hopeless about things and myself, and it gave way to so much anger I didn’t know I was capable of. It is easy when you think you have a wrongdoer in your life to blame. But in absence any villains, one confronts the stark reality of one’s own nature. After the fact, realizing how it was making others feel would kill me. I felt powerless and at mercy of this intensity of the emotion I had no explanation for. Thats when I stumbled upon this story.

It hit me in the head like a brick. Past the cleverness of the story and the intellectual stimulation such stories might give, a space needs to be created for a lot of work to be done on self: take it in, assimilate the knowledge, contemplate on it until it shines back out as wisdom, becoming a part of one’s nature.

I wonder if you can relate to it…

Book Review: Just Kids by Patti Smith

Just Kids by Patti Smith Book ReviewThis book gave me a lot of trouble because I was quite moved by it and so, very much wanted to talk about it, but feared just might spoil it (you will know why*). None of the approaches I took felt right, yet  I could not abandon it. Ergo, this is a simple account of a few themes that ran through the compelling memoir of the poet, singer-songwriter and rock ‘n roll artist, Patti Smith.

Nostalgia. Barely twenty, penniless and unsure, but not without an intense desire to become an artist, Smith steps into New York City, then a petri dish for the counterculture of the 1960’s, with widespread use of recreational drugs, free sexual expression & exploration, psychedelic music, and the Beat generation giving way to the hippie culture. Once past my initial shock over their avant-garde lifestyle (credited entirely to the author’s honest and sober narration), I pictured those times in curious wonderment: the nobodies with the potential to be trailblazers; the weirdos, the drug addicts, the experimentalist; the searchers, the idealists, the artists… Those must have been interesting times!

Patti Smith. Cover of Album 'Horses'
P. Smith. Album cover ‘Horses’. By Robert.

The Chelsea Hotel, where, in a peculiar turn of events, Smith and her friend Robert start living. Known to be a haven for writers, musicians, artists, filmmakers and colorful personalities, famous and yet to be famous, one could trade art could for the room-rent. “The Chelsea was like a doll’s house in The Twilight Zone, with a hundred rooms, each a small universe“, she writes. At this point in the book there are several names mentioned, some known to me, others unknown: Andy WarholJimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Allen Ginsberg and the other Beats,  and a multitude of others that I googled as I encountered, only to get woefully intrigued by their life-stories. Some made it, the rest succumbed to drugs or AIDS, and never lived to see the times they were ahead of.

Patti Smith Robert Mapplethorpe
Patti and Robert

Patti and Robert. What will stay with me is the tender friendship Patti Smith shared with her lover for a while, and best friend forever, Robert Mapplethorpe. It is a beautiful thing to see how they really understood one another, not only as friends but also as artists. “Nobody sees as we do, Patti” Robert would say, and “whenever he said things like that, for a magical space of time, it was if we were the only two people in the world.

Their relationship went through various definitions, but belonged to none. “We were evolving with different needs. I needed to explore beyond myself and Robert needed to search within himself.” With time Robert would discover and accept his homosexuality, and go on to become a famous (albeit controversial) photographer. Smith, a sketch artist and a poet, would finally find her niche and become a musician and the leader of her band ‘The Patti Smith Group’, and start a new life with her husband, Fred. Notwithstanding that, both of them would remain as close friends as they always were.

The last part was heart wrenching and yet there was a sense of innate beauty in its naked truth. Robert gets diagnosed with AIDS. For Patti (and for the reader who is now so invested in their lives), the idea of losing him is extremely unsettling. On his deathbed he wishes that she write their story.

Just Kids is Patti’s a fascinating and poignant tribute to their friendship. *There was something quietly private she tore apart and put out there for the world to read, and it feels like sacrilege to “review” it; one can just relate and respect and carry it in one’s heart. Of course, there is more to the book: Patti’s love for poetry and for poets like Rimbaud and Baudelaire, their times of struggle, their friends and their interesting journey in interesting times. It deserved 5 stars on my Goodreads.

I loved this excerpt from the epilogue ‘A note to the reader’ by the author:

“…There could be many stories I could yet write about Robert, about us. But his is the story I have told you. It is the one he wished me to tell and I have kept my promise. We were Hansel and Gretel and we ventured out into the black forest of the world. There were temptations and witches and demons we never dreamed of and there was the splendor we only partially imagined. No one could speak for these two young people nor tell with any truth of their days and nights together. only Robert and I could tell it. Our story, as he called it. And having gone he left the task to me to tell it to you.

Poem by Smith for Robert- who had the greenest of eyes- for his Memorial:

 Little emerald bird
Wants to fly away
If I cup my hand
Could I make him stay?

Little emerald soul
Little emerald eye
Little emerald soul
Must you say goodbye?

All the things that we pursue
All that we dream
Are composed as nature knew
In a feather green

Little emerald bird
As you light afar
It is true I heard
God is where you are