Having lost my bag on a recent trip to Japan, it became obvious to me how much I rely on my ability to plan and then the opportunity to put that plan into place. I had packed clothes that I felt would be appropriate for the various activities and then found myself with nothing. Clothes could be purchased but with the difference in size between the average Japanese woman and me it was going to be a stretch. I found this quite discombobulating and reflected on my attachment to being comfortable with my stuff.

When things don’t go as planned is always a great time to reflect on what is important and what has ‘charge’ in a particular situation. I am not clothing conscious but I do like to feel comfortable, this wasn’t about that. This was ‘my stuff’ that had gone missing. I have been through a period of simplification and had shed a number of my possessions, so I have been contemplating the idea of letting go.  This reaction appeared to be about travelling and taking stuff with me to feel more at home in a strange place. My adult equivalent of a baby blanket. So what happens when it is not available?

For the past few days I have done without a high level ability to communicate, read signs and generally make myself understood. Life is reduced to the basics and that is enough. I think this feeling of enoughness is an interesting idea. Is it possible to be ‘full’ without being encumbered? I visited a Buddhist shrine in Nagoya and there was enough and no more. The tea ceremony, the design of the teahouse, the gardens designed for contemplation were all enough with nothing extra that wasn’t absolutely required. There was extreme beauty in this, a carving out of space for contemplation, which is seen as a luxury now in western society. So the luxury is in time, space and peace not in the trappings. When my stuff arrived, there was a requirement for me to ‘spend’ time unpacking, ironing and deciding what to wear. Previous to this I had not needed to use my time in such a way and could reflect, read, and rest unencumbered. This is the tension – what do we need to sustain us? Things or time?

I think that balancing these two requirements will become more and more important in the future as the cost of living increases, but we know we need to ‘buy’ more time to reflect and act in order to support ourselves and make wise decisions as the complexity around us increases.

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