Did you know that the primary definition of purging — before involving your bowels or getting rid of stuff — is this:
a : to clear of guilt
b : to free from moral or ceremonial defilement (Merriam-Webster)
I’m often not very good at self-care. The one thing I am good at, though, is purging. The fact that I move my family from continent to continent every three or so years helps reduce our clutter frequently to two suitcases each. Even in between, I need purging. That is my self-care.
Let’s have a look at purging and what it means for us as beings. It doesn’t matter if you believe in God, Allah, the Marshmallow Man or nothing at all. Whatever it is, let’s call it your Truth. Bear with me here (purge your judgment, as it were) and let the meaning of it do its work:
A big part of a number of indigenous rituals (for example, the South American yahé, ayuahasca or santo daime rituals) require purging in preparation for the spiritual experience. You cannot open your mind to the Gods if it’s cluttered with material residue. Get it out and you’ll receive what truly matters.
Remember the ten commandments? I think it’s the third that says: ‘Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.’ Ok, I’m sure there are tons of studies and debates out there as to what this actually means, but here’s what I offer:
Think of your Truth as a source of light. The kind of light you cannot turn on and off. No LCD. The light that shines forever, more brilliant and beautiful than anything else. This light is always there and nothing will ever dim it. Ever. The light that is pure love.
You may think you are sad, depressed, angry, unloved, lonely, surrounded by darkness. You may see conflict, stress, disease, violence, death all around you. The world seems to be full of it. You may not believe there is such a thing as this light. But it is there. Always.
How do you find it? Purge!
All this material and emotional clutter is like clouds hiding your light from you. The more you hoard, the darker your world becomes. The more difficult is becomes for you to find your Truth.
Let’s start our purging by looking at the material stuff.
Have you ever seen a messie’s home? I have. The problem at some point goes beyond the amount of things you’ll find in their places. What becomes a real problem are the dust and the dirt. These places are filthy. It’s impossible to clean a room that contains ten sacks of clothes, piles of books, old newspapers, cat food, chocolate boxes, tin soldiers, plastic items, dead plants and an infinite number of unidentifiable other things. Messies’ places are a health hazard.
Of course, our homes are not like that. At least in terms of scale. But think about it: the clothes you wear frequently are, I suspect, regularly cleaned, neat and fit you well. The dishes you use frequently are cleaned after use. The toys your kids play with may even be broken, but they’re cleaned often enough not to cause health issues. However, there is all the stuff that is stored somewhere, because it looked so good on the shelf or had such excellent reviews on Amazon or were given by your mother or that you may desperately need when Kingdom comes. That stuff takes away a lot of space and it gathers dust. If you lived here in Kampala, where I live, it would acquire a layer of red dust. In the Amazon, where I lived before, it would quickly mold and be home to an interesting array of critters. In Europe or the U.S. it may just get dusty. In any case, it is not healthy. It takes away and pollutes the air you need to breathe.
Throw it out. Donate it when it’s still good. Give it all away! Trust me, it’s one of the most rewarding things to do. Feel the joy. Feel the relief. Breathe! See how much lighter your room or house has become! Feel how this light, this air, this space caress you and invite you to breathe and grow and simply feel good. That’s purging!
Now, what about emotional purging? Guess what, same dust, same darkness, same health issues. If not more. Many of us may have neat material homes, but most of us are serious messies when it comes to our mental home.
Don’t worry about the good thoughts. Love does not take space. Love does not take anything at all. Love creates. What we need to be concerned with are all the many negative thoughts, worries, fears, and resentments we harbor. They grab our space, the darken our light, the drain our energy. That is all they do. They have no use. They are not helpful. And they are usually connected with a relationship. Either with ourselves or someone else.
A relationship we truly cherish, we engage in and live frequently doesn’t acquire dust. A stain here and there is easily seen and removed. But how many relationships do we have that we do not cherish? We may avoid them or maybe we feel we can’t. But the stains are not removed, the little conflicts, misunderstandings and resentments become some serious dust. Dust that takes away the air we need to breathe. Sometimes we can take one of these relationships and clean it up. Talk things out, address the conflicts, find the beauty in it again.
Sometimes we need to purge. No need to resent and reject the person. Just be kind to ourselves and the other and accept that the communication does not benefit either one of us. That it hurts, in fact. Letting go can be the greatest act of love, let’s give it. Appreciate the beauty they have given you when the time was there.
What if this person is our parent, our child; what if that person is us? Purge. Not the relationship. Go back to Merriam-Webster: purge the guilt. I dare say that all relationships gone wrong can be traced back to guilt. We don’t only feel guilty when we fail to meet someone’s (including our own) expectations. We also feel guilty when someone else fails to meet ours. Because, whether consciously or unconsciously, deep down we know that we hurt the other person when we set expectations they cannot meet. Deep down we know that we refuse to see their true being when we cover it up with what we want them to be.
Purge the guilt. Purge the expectations. It’s hard. Maybe you need someone to help you. If that is the case, get help. It’s worth it. It is worth everything you have.
Purge the past. It has no meaning. It has no existence of its own. It only exists in your head, an interpretation of something gone that even changes every time you remember it. You don’t need it. The lessons you have learned (if you have learned any!) have become the awareness that you have NOW. The skills you have learned are with you NOW. The knowledge you have acquired is yours NOW. Let the past go. You don’t need it. Really, you don’t. Let it go and make room for the present.
Start small. Take two minutes every day to be present. Look around you. You can start with this exercise after purging your material stuff. Look around you as if it was the first time you see your place. Feel the air, the space you have created. Breathe the air. Hear the sounds. Listen to the silence beneath the sounds. And realize the space you thus create is infinite.
Purge, my friend, and you’ll gain the universe.