Today I made a list of all that is important to me. I just let my fingers do the talking and typed out anything that came to mind. Some items on my list are people (my family, extended family, friends) and quasi-people (my dog). Other items on my list are activities, such as biking, gardening, reading, attending cultural events, painting, and so forth. Still others are states of being…healthy, centered, cherished, appreciated, engaged and mindful.
I notice that nothing on my list is a possession. Reading The Prosperous Heart by Julia Cameron, I come across a quotation attributed to Montaigne: “A wise man never loses anything if he has himself.”
Maybe I’m drawn to this quote, and came up with my list, because I’m in the middle of downsizing and experiencing the empty-nester phase of my life. My house is on the market. I find my list of possessions, and my interest in them decreasing rapidly. So if I am no longer interested in polished silver (sad to admit, but once this was important to me), what now commands my attention and drives my actions?
At least part of the answer to that question is the principle of ‘enough’….a sense of well-being, of abundance, of excitement about what life has to offer each of us. Each closet I clear out leaves me feeling a little freer, a little more energetic. My life has only changed for the better as I have donated to Goodwill, posted items on TwinCitiesFreeMarket.org, and recycled with a passion.
Julia Cameron lays out five basic tools on the path toward a prosperous heart. The first tool is one about which I’ve written already…Morning Pages. The others are equally compelling.
- Counting…record each and every purchase you make in a small notebook, every day.
- Abstinence…no more borrowing. No more credit cards, borrowing ahead on paychecks, nothing. Car and house payments are OK only if our current income covers the expenses.
- Walking…immersing oneself in the present, for a minimum of 20 minutes, daily.
- Time-Out…a five minute period in which we are to do nothing, other than to rest, to be practiced once in the morning and once at night.
Seeking a prosperous heart
In our consumer-driven culture, in which the media is constantly telling us what possessions we need to be happy, finding our way to a prosperous heart is not for those who are generally satisfied with their lives as-is, thank you very much.
No, seeking a prosperous heart is for those of us whose possessions do not define us…and who are looking for meaning and belonging. This doesn’t rule out having a comfortable lifestyle. I appreciate a roof over my head and good food on the table as much as anyone else. And I admit to a certain fondness for books, fine wine, and expensive purses.
But just suppose that one day, all of our belongings were somehow swept away. Poof. Gone. What would that be like for us? A prosperous heart knows that the truly valuable things in our lives cannot be owned and therefore can never be lost.
Where are you on your prosperous heart journey? What external “things” can you rid yourself of that would actually improve your life? What can you do to get started?