97: The Lesson of the Mandala

97: The Lesson of the Mandala

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less

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The Lesson of the Mandala

It’s usually quite hard to let go and move on, but once you do, you’ll feel free and realize it was the best decision you’ve ever made.

~Author Unknown

I pushed and shoved then I pushed some more. When did my closet get so full? I looked down at the two shopping bags of clothes purchased on my latest spree. Maybe it was time to admit I had a problem.

Like many women, I always loved to shop. In my teen years, I was what my girlfriends and I affectionately called “a mall rat,” a girl who hung out at the mall every weekend, checking out the current fashions while simultaneously checking out other teenagers of the male persuasion. Fast-forward twenty-five years. After the death of my mother, I once again found pleasure in walking the mall. No longer bound by caregiving responsibilities, I could spend as much time there as I pleased, have a pleasant lunch in the food court and get a bit of exercise in a temperature-controlled environment. It was the perfect activity. And now I even had something I didn’t have as a teenager — credit cards.

Armed with my plastic and fueled by the sugar and caffeine of a tall mocha latte, I could shop for hours, returning home with incredible bargains. I’d hold up a sweater for my husband to see. “Can you believe this was only eight dollars?” I’d proclaim proudly. “And this one,” I’d say while lifting a pair of slacks, “cost only slightly more — and it has a designer label!”

Oh, I was quite the shopper all right. It didn’t matter to me that my sweater drawer overflowed and caused me to annex the extras to a storage container shoved under the bed. Nor did I mind when an excess of accessories was required to be housed in a plastic box atop my dresser. It had been so long since I did anything special for myself, I rationalized. I deserved some new things.

Yet now I was forced to take a closer look at my situation. I poked around my overstuffed closet and pulled out a few of my more recent purchases: a poncho emblazoned with butterflies, two pair of leopard leggings, two blue blazers and several sets of T-shirts in duplicate colors. Clearly, I had gone from a bargain shopper to a shopping warrior whose battle cry was “one if on sale, two if on clearance!”

I slowly pulled a few more articles out of my closet and laid them on the floor in a careful circle, creating a sort of textile mandala. Long ago, when I still had time to read, I recalled reading about the Buddhist monks of Tibet who painstakingly created mandalas, a circular design created with colored sand, only to disassemble them upon their completion, signifying the impermanence of life. The letting go, they feel, is as important as the act of creation itself. It is only through the letting go, they believe, that growth and healing can take place. Yes, nothing is forever, I thought, looking back on my mother’s long illness and her ultimate passing. It was time to let go.

I pulled each piece of clothing out of my closet and sorted them into several piles. Clothing with tags still attached would be returned to the store for a refund. Worn out clothing would go directly into the trash. Anything still in good condition but in a wrong size, style or color for me would be donated to an organization that helped women in need. The remainder would be returned to my closet. After that, I vowed, there would be no more shopping for a long, long time.

This act, which took all of about an hour, was exhilarating and freeing in a way I could have never imagined. Cleaning out my closet and drawers created a domino effect of benefits. Dressing each morning became a much simpler task since it was easier to both find and select outfits in a closet that had room to spare. Housecleaning became less of a chore once I no longer had to move boxes and bags of clothing to accomplish the task. Weekends were much freer, as well, once I wasn’t spending so much time at the mall bargain hunting. No longer did I have to reconcile charge bills, file away receipts and run to the bank to transfer money for department store payments.

Now, with my newfound spare time, I make frequent trips to the library and catch up on my reading. I took up knitting again and committed to making two sweaters a year for a worldwide organization that distributes them to needy children. I renewed old friendships that had been put on hiatus during my caregiving days, and if I want to take a walk I lace up my sneakers and pound the pavement in the fresh air regardless of temperature. My life is varied and full again, all because I let go. It’s true really, I think, what the Tibetan monks say. The real healing comes from the letting go.

~Monica A. Andermann

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