Going through all the boxes was like revisiting my past lives. Each object seemed to embody the spirit of another me, and although they triggered faint memories, it felt as if I was rummaging through someone else’s stuff. I found a whole box full of kitchen supplies and happily snatched up some old linens and books. But for every item I wanted to bring home I found ten I wanted to throw away. How is it that I could have accumulated this much crap?
Surrounded by piles and piles of beloved objects-turned-junk, I thought about the yogic practice of aparigraha, on non-hoarding, which, up until this point, I had never fully understood. But as I sat there surrounded by all of the stuff I was now desperate to get rid of, I realized that every object had at one time held meaning. The objects remained even after their meaning had changed.
I decided to have a stoop sale. Whatever didn’t sell would go to GoodWill. We hung signs up all over my neighborhood, bribing people with homemade cookies (“Oatmeal Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies available ONLY to those who BUY”)! I hoped my homemade cookies would turn shoppers into a buyers.
The science of baking is totally lost on me, so the task of perfecting the ratio of flour/sugar/baking powder/eggs was daunting to say the least. I decided the only way to figure it out was to try. Luckily, I had many willing taste testers! With a little tweaking, the feedback was unanimous: the cookies are delicious!
Oatmeal Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies
-2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
-1 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 1/2 cups flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 cup oats
-1 cup chocolate chips
-1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugars. Add the eggs and vanilla. Slowly add the dry ingredients, only until just combined. Finally, stir in the oats, chocolate chips, and walnuts. Spoon about a tablespoon of dough into your hands, allowing the heat of your palms to form the dough into a presentably round shape. Place them on a cookie sheet and gently flatten the tops with your fingers. Sprinkle each one with a bit of Maldon sea salt. Bake for 20-25 minutes on the upper rack of your oven, or until the bottoms are golden brown. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.
If I measure success by my personal growth and spiritual development, the stoop sale was a huge success! Practicing Sutra 2.39 (aparigraha, or non-hoarding) has helped me to reframe my relationship with my belongings. Here’s what I’ve learned: We do not need all of our stuff. Moreover, we cannot find our Self in all of our stuff. We are not our cars, or our shoes, or our furniture. No amount of shoes will help us walk our path. (As an aside, no one bought any of my shoes, so I donated them all to Goodwill. Someone is now walking around in a killer pair of Barbara Bui flats.) What was once a prized possession is later left collecting dust in some storage unit. It makes me think that non-hoarding is not simply the practice of letting go—of saying goodbye at the end of a long relationship with our forgotten things. Aparigraha can be practiced before buying that special something you feel will fill the gaping hole in your sense of wholeness. It is the skill of knowing that the answers do not abide in the external, but rather deep inside.