There are few better deals than renting a dumpster. More than a big box for tossing all the junk you can’t give away or otherwise recycle, it’s like a tennis court, baseball diamond and horseshoe pit rolled into one.
Our family had a blast filling the bin my wife, Steph, booked last week for our spring clean-up. Much of the fun was finding new ways to send the clutter flying into the big clangy garbage container. My favourite is Trashminton – just grab a broken badminton racket, tee up some trash and swing for the fences.
A bonus was coming across the odd box full of stuff you forgot you had. My big find was a fat stack of old Talking Heads and bootleg R.E.M. records.
But even better was the great time I had with Steph and the kids getting rid of the stuff we no longer need, and the satisfaction of knowing that our shed will now be used for more than storing useless clutter.
The peace and contentment that result from letting go of things that are no longer helpful is a recurring topic in Buddhist teachings. Often referred to as “renunciation,” it takes its place among the 10 paramitas, or perfections, of Therevada Buddhism, and is mentioned in the Dhammapada, one of the most widely read Buddhist scriptures:
If, by giving up a lesser happiness
One could experience greater happiness
A wise person would renounce the lesser
To behold the greater
Chapter 21, verse 290
I wish I had come across this verse during my introduction to Buddhism, as the topic of renunciation sometimes gets reduced to a glib sound bite: “Just let go.” I’ve heard it used more than once as a suggestion that we should immediately abandon any negativity in our lives – let go first, ask questions later.
The verse from the Dhammapada points to the importance of investigation in the process of renunciation.
The passage came to mind last week as we were routing through the shed. Spring cleaning, after all, is renunciation in a nutshell. You come across something and ask yourself some simple questions. What is this? Do I need this? Would I be better off without it? The more honest you are with yourself, the most successful the clean tends to be.
The same goes for mental inventory. Lingering embarrassment over a bad speech or a dumb joke made years ago probably isn’t worth clinging to. Conversely, it probably isn’t wise to dismiss feeling bad over wronging someone without putting in the effort to make amends.
Plans for the future can also use a good spring cleaning from time to time. Mine happened yesterday, when, hot on the heels of a very successful Dumpster Week, I officially dropped out of next month’s 100-mile tail race in the Dundas Valley.
Technically, I dropped down. I transferred my registration to the 25K event, though depending on how much time it takes for my stress fracture to heal, I may have to drop out of that one too.
Buddhist practice hinges on a willingness to be completely honest with oneself. So I was skeptical yesterday when I told myself that I don’t feel bad about pulling the plug on the 100-miler, just in case I was engaged in some serious bullshitting on a subconscious level.
My story seems to be holding up, however. I’m truly at ease with bowing out.
Given the persistence of my injury, the weeks of training I’ve already lost and how fast race day is approaching, clinging to the prospect of running a 100-mile race next month made as much sense as keeping the busted kitchen table that sat in our shed for years. There was plenty of room in the bin for both.
And, as was the case with our spring clean-up, the focus isn’t on what’s been given up, but on what’s been gained by letting go.
I wrote last week that I wanted to take my recovery seriously, but that proved too difficult with the 100-miler looming. Every uncomfortable twinge in my leg put the pressure of race day into focus, rather than the need to be patient and to let my body heal.
Taking a pass on the 100-miler gives me the space, and time, to heal properly so I can be stronger for other races down the road.
Though my original race plans for next month are in the dumpster, my goal of finishing a 100-mile race is worth carefully packing away for another time.
Also spared from the trash bin is my appreciation for family and friends for the support they’ve shown over the past several months of training. Special thanks go to Steph, my brother Daryl – who also had to drop out of the race due to injury – and Sister Thich nu Tinh Quang for accommodating my race plans in the scheduling of next month’s Wesak ceremony.