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Less Is More: Clean Up Your Sh*t

Photo by Toni Josephson

Bruce Lee said, “It’s not the daily increase, but the daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”  That quote actually comes from ancient Chinese thought, and you are likely to find it running through the culture stream of any wisdom tradition.

As the weather warms up, we all understand the concept of spring cleaning. Beyond that notion, part of health and well being is to get rid of what you do not need. In the I Ching, the Book of changes, there is hexagram #41: decrease. Sometimes it is called “empty the cauldron”. It is made up of the trigram mountain over the trigram lake. Here’s what’s happening in that pairing: the water evaporates, and though not visible, the moisture nourishes the mountain. It moves deep inside, hidden — yet is fosters new growth.

It is a time not of accumulation, but meaning. What seems to be lost, and in many ways is lost, is ultimately changing. The external gives way to the internal. Maybe its a reduction in your material possessions. Their loss can leave room for something else: perhaps not visible, but felt, and understood. Known only in a way that manifests when you make space for it.

In more modern words — less is more, clean up your sh*t. Cutting through clutter and excess could mean cleaning out a closet, or clearing out your own cobwebs. Streamline efforts in your daily life. Clear a place for deeper exploration of thought or spirit. Is it time to talk less and listen more? Maybe the anger has to go. Or the frustration. Judgment. Jealousy. Self absorption. Self pity. All baggage you do not need to carry. It weighs you down. Hack away at it, let it go. Empty the cauldron. Dissolve, like water into the mountain, and see what grows.

Toni Tan