Zen versus Tradition

I have been pretty busy getting used to the schedule and duties of my new job, and, as such, have been neglecting not only posting here, but also my sitting practice.

I have been making it a priority to stay mindful, regardless of my other commitments (I have been prioritizing good sleep over anything else!) but I’ve also identified some integral switch within myself, and wrestle almost daily with what position it should rest in. I say this because they are pretty opposing perspectives.

The first is that of Zen minimalism. Leo over on zenhabits is always emphasizing that reducing your possessions will allow you greater freedom: essentially, the less you have, the less materialistic you will be, and live life in a simpler fashion.

I’ll admit that in the new year, I purged a great deal from my home and closets, and it is an ongoing process: I’m not sure where it all comes from, but it’s a good practice.. Indeed it feels like the more I purge, the space stays as space.. and freedom.

Yet recently there’s been a bit of hesitation in my actions. Last weekend, we had a barbecue on my deck for a number of friends, and I was cleaning up the leaves and other such detritus left over from the winter months. Some friends were helping, and pointed to the back of the deck where two old chairs sat.  They offered to go and throw them into the dumpster, and I immediately agreed. The wood was split, worn, and broken.. the seats were gone:  these chairs were utterly useless, and I’d go so far as to say way beyond fixable with a few hours of TLC (as far as my own repair skills are rated.. even an expert would probably have deemed them a lost cause)


As I walked my dog to the park yesterday, I was struck with a sudden urgency to recuse these chairs from the dumpster.. at least one of them, I mused to myself.. These chairs belonged to my parents, who had bought them over from England over 30 years ago. They were not anything special, but had been passed to me when I needed more seating in my current apartment. They were only used when there wan an overflow of guests, but still useful nevertheless

However, come winter, I left them outside on the deck. They resisted a few snowfalls, and I left them unheeded.  As the deep cold of Ottawa invaded our city, the chairs were helpless. As the temperates waxed and waned, snow became rain, became ice.. and tore the wood apart.

When I was initially asked if my friends could throw them away, I recognized the state of disrepair, and instantly let them go.

But now, suddenly, I’m gripped with this sense of tradition.  I have a *very* small family.. all that’s left in the motherland of England is one grandmother and an aunt, and all that’s in Canada is my mother and father.. I have no siblings, cousins, etc etc. Once my parents are go, I’ll be alone, and preparing for this is a battle. As I going to surround myself with their belongings, which house countless memories of my past, my childhood, everything I have bult myself on? Or will I have the courage to get rid of everything I don’t need, and live simply, as I look forward to doing?


The chairs embodied that. They were a memory of before I was born, the chairs I sat on as I grew. 

Are they the memory? No, but they are a physical representation of that time, and they performed admirably. Now I am left with a pang of regret as they are junked, because of my own negligence. Maybe that’s what spurred me to rescue them.

But I haven’t. I’m letting go, albeit somewhat reluctantly. I was strengthened in my convictions yesterday when I was watching a program where it was mentioned “The past is gone. You can’t get it back. You have to let it go”

So I am. But I still write about it. Maybe this is how the memories live on.