“To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.” —Buddha
Back in March I set myself a goal to not buy any new things for a year. Inspired by Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man, I vowed that as No Impact Woman I’d clear out all the junk I didn’t need anymore, in preparation for moving a new apartment, and most importantly NOT replace it with more junk. There was a notable list of things I could still buy—namely food, but also luxuries like self-care/hygiene products, certain intimate clothing (underwear, socks, tights), etc. Of course, things that were pre-owned, or made of recycled/sustainable materials, were okay to purchase, and indeed the point of the exercise—to not perpetuate our endless material supply chain.
I wasn’t really concerned for my own self-discipline, but rather my main fear in undertaking this task was what I would do when gift-giving season came around. That time has come, and as I stare at the small, hugely inadequate pile of gifts in the corner of my bedroom I’m definitely on the verge of a new-things breakdown. There are certain people in my life for whom the idea of owning used things is blasphemy, or whose tastes don’t align with anything I could make or acquire from my usual spots. There’s also the time factor, as despite my best intentions to “make time for the holidays” this year, I’ve yet again put off this more personal project, one that fills my well of self-love even as I share freely from it, for work.
Eleven days remain until Christmas, a deadline that would have caused me to have a complete panic attack a few years ago. But sitting here writing this, I am awash with a sense of calm, a knowing it will all be okay. Because in the nine months of (mostly) not buying new things, I’ve been forced to reckon with and truly accept the present. I have what I have right here, right now, and that is more than enough. This revelation came about not because of the ridiculous number of boxes I recently packed and unpacked, filled with some legitimate needs, some legitimate pleasures, and some legitimate junk. But rather from shifting the amount of time and energy I spend worrying about things—getting to the place where I buy them, spending time picking them out, then fretting over their cost—to clarifying how I want to feel and spending time doing that.
Feeling well and fulfilled is the most precious possession anyone can claim, and yet not many are able to do so. We’re not educated in feeling, and yet the language of movement—how we all live our lives—is precisely that. Being able to know (or, rather feel) how we feel requires a reeducation in being in and of itself, and I’m still very much at the beginning of that ultimately life course. But I have learned this: When I feel well, the answers to what I need to do, where I need to go, and what I need to give each person I meet in any context naturally come forth. Whether it’s helping me read a room of yogis at 7 AM, or allowing me to respond to feelings of true hunger and seasonal cravings when choosing my meals, my intuition is a powerful tool that only works when it’s cared for. That means making time for rest and relaxation so my body can detoxify itself; that means investing in the people who support me for who I am, rather than what I do; that means accepting the entire container of my life and allowing myself to truly fill it.
So while I can’t exactly say that my Christmas list will be completed by sitting in meditation, it will be completed by living in my meditation. What I give to those I love will all be regifted, whether they’re technically pre-owned or not—because they’ll be imbued with the love that I first gave myself.
I’ve still had some find scavenger hunting around town for the best purchasable gifts that meet my nothing-new criteria. If you’re scrambling with your eleven shopping days left, perhaps you’ll take inspiration from these items that support all of us giving a little more love to the earth and its resources. Photos: EileenFisher.com; MinimalistBaker.com; StrandBooks.com; Ghostflower.com; Oprah.com