Letting Something Go After It's Done Serving Us

Last week I worked with a client who had a large amount of audio cassettes stacked in some boxes in her living room. She told me they were tapes she made of the courses she took to become a physical therapist. I asked if she still listened to them. She said no, but that she should be listening to them. I asked if she needed to listen to them for her work. She said no, but she was reluctant to toss them because, "What if I need them?" I asked her how long she'd had them. She said eight years. She hadn't listened to them since she took the courses. She looked so sad and tired as she held some of the cassettes in her hands.

I told her that something is clutter when we are hanging onto it because of the ideal we have about the thing. We think we ought to use the thing, we plan to use the thing, we think we want to use it - but we don't. It's worth noticing what we actually do. That's what's essential in helping us see what's part of our life and what isn't. That also means noticing the effect that having this thing and not using it has on us.

My client said she got it that the presence of these tapes was making her feel guilty, and that she didn't need to listen to the tapes to do her job. She looked relieved as she tossed them in the trash bag.

Then she said, "You should see the stuff I have under my bed." I said okay. We went to her bedroom. I reached under her bed and pulled out two large flat plastic containers full of cassette tapes of spiritual chanting and gurus giving discourses. She said she used to live at an ashram and the cassettes used to be a big part of her life. I asked if she still listened to them. She said she didn't. But she felt it was wrong to get rid of the cassettes because, "They're sacred." She said she was confused as to what she needed do.

I said when she was in elementary school she was taught the alphabet. Those were valuable lessons to her because they gave her the tools to read and write and communicate. The way she honored what she learned was by using those skills in her life. The way she could honor her time at the ashram was by living her life with openness and intuitive understanding. I said that living her life was sacred. The things in her life had to support her living her life now, or they had no place in her home.

She confessed that she had a hard time sleeping and that the presence of the tapes under her bed probably contributed to her sleepless nights. She also got it that her mind was tricking her into thinking that the tapes themselves were important, and that making herself hold onto them was creating conflict in her. She decided to donate them to a local charity.