Sunday, December 14, 2014

The zero-thing-challenge

This summer my longtime girl friend moved away. After years of hesitating she finally had the courage to follow her passion and now is doing what she always wanted to do: dance. In Berlin, one of the most creative and vivid cities I have ever been to, she is taking part in a one year program that teaches the essentials of modern dancing and choreography.

Now I am sitting in our formerly shared apartment left with all our belongings she couldn't take with her. I managed to put it all into one room so another roommate could move in. What a mess it was! We have got way to much stuff, especially clothing. When I first tried to bring order all those books, CDs, little framed photos, decoration, souvenirs... it felt like I was losing my mind. How could we possibly have purchased so many things? And I always thought we are rather moderate when it comes to shopping. Whether I'd follow her to Berlin or she'd return after a year - I knew something had to change in our minds. We need to become highly aware of every material thing we let into our lives, or we will be totally overwhelmed by it sooner or later.

About a year ago I first heard about the 100 thing challenge. I was deeply impressed and the idea over time changed my attitude to belongings in general. Often I find myself picking up something - like that old book, that I got for Christmas at age 11, I think - and start wondering whether this helps or limits me. And sometimes I even feel frightened that, 'though a certain object does not serve me in my everyday life, it seems hard to live without it. It immediately reminds me of how - according to Buddha - all suffering is caused by craving. And if I need to have my "best of Deep Purple" CD because it changed my life and got me into playing guitar as a teenager, than that`s graving, isn't it? An idea started to emerge - what if I would give away everything I have? Will I still be me? To be honest, I am sure I will. But I am scared when I think of letting go...

Since I wrote the words above two months ago, many things have evolved. The idea has become a detailed plan: I want to give away everything I own in a kind of lottery and write a book about the experience. You can take part in the lottery by ordering the book in advance online before I actually wrote it. The money earned that way helps me to pay bills during the writing process and gives me some reserve for acquiring things after the experiment. While writing I just want to live with borrowed things from friends.

The hardest part about this is deleting data on my computer before giving it away and disposing my diary. Yesterday I started reading it again. In a way it was as I expected - nice, but not as enjoyable as many other things. But on the flipside, against my anticipation, I did not become melancholic or nostalgic. Instead I learned a lot about the things I knew already back in 2007 and the skills I must have acquired in the meantime. It gave me an uplifting feeling to be so much more further down the path of unfolding my potential.

Here is the thing: I guess I wouldn't have picked up my diary in the next five years at least. Only thinking about letting go made me see its value. But I also see that I can easily live without it. The zero-thing-challenge has started as a project to break bonds to material things and overcome the fear of loss - and turned into a trigger for actually using the stuff I was afraid losing.

Now I feel almost ready to get started. It took me some time to let the idea sink in. As soon as I have put the major outlines of the book together and you can participate in the lottery, I'll let you know.

"Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free."

Jim Morrison

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