This weekend I worked with a woman in the meditation area in her home. There were a lot of items on the alter table and on the bookcase. I said since meditation is meant to create peace of mind, we would ask of each item if it was supporting her with peacefulness or distracting her with chaos.
The first item was a picture of a guru that she used to follow. Even though she was no longer interested in him as a teacher, she felt guilty for wanting to let his picture go. I said that it wouldn't serve her or the guru to hold on to something that was making her suffer. She let it go. Then she found a necklace with the teacher's image on it. She said it was supposed to promote peacefulness. I said when we describe an item, rather than say we like it, that means it's no longer a part of our life. She got it and let it go.
She found a stone that had the word "peace" etched into it. I asked if she liked it. She said "No," and hesitated and said, "But it says peace in it." I said sometimes we want to hang onto something because we find ourselves defending what it's supposed to do for us. But all we care about now is how it actually makes us feel. She got it and let the stone go.
Then we came upon some packs of meditation cards on the bookcase. She said she had purchased the cards because people had told her the cards were very spiritual. I asked her whether or not she used and enjoyed each deck of cards. When she looked at each deck from this perspective, she realized she didn't have a connection with the cards, and let them go.
Up next were the spiritual books. The books filled up the bookcase, and some were in stacks on the floor. She seemed overwhelmed by their presence and didn't know where to start. I suggested she gently consider each book and see if it made her calm or anxious. That made it seem doable to her. Most of the books ended up going into the donation pile.
When we were done, there were just a handful of items that she loved in her meditation space. A few books, stones, a candle, a small painting, and her meditation chair. I had her sit, and I asked her how the space made her feel. She closed her eyes, smiled and softly said, "This is really nice."