2021 has arrived. Time for (inner) cleaning!
I began my clean(s)ing in October 2019. After living in the Bay Area for 13 years, I sensed I needed a big shift in my life. I decided to relocate to New York.
I was living in Palo Alto in a cozy 1,600 square feet apartment that cost me a fortune to rent. But I was earning decent income so I could afford it. Over the years, I had accumulated a lot of stuff: my house was filled with 2,000+ books and precious artwork collected from all over the world. I knew I couldn’t carry all this “stuff” with me to New York, where people live in tiny crammed apartments.
I hired a wonderful organizer Sylvie B. to sell/donate some of my bulkier belongings. A hardcore minimalist, Sylvie lives by James Wallman’s motto “It feels better to do stuff, than to have stuff”. Sylvie and I spent few days to identify items in my house that need to be sold or donated to thrift stores.
One night, Sylvie handed me her business card: under her name, it said “I simplify your life”. She told me: “People don’t realize that all the stuff they keep in their house are ‘living things’: they feed off your life energy to keep themselves alive. I sense all your beautiful artwork and furniture and books are draining your energy. You are moving to New York to restart your life. Are you sure you want to drag along all your life-sucking belongings with you?”. Sylvie’s candid comment hit me like a thunderbolt.
In 1999, I arrived in the US as an immigrant with just one suitcase. 20 years later, I had realized my American Dream by accumulating a lot of stuff that can fill an entire trailer. Having written two books on frugality, I realized it was time for me to actually PRACTICE frugality! I decided on the spot to sell off or donate EVERYTHING in my house except for some expensive, rare-to-find books and few clothes. The super-dynamic Sylvie helped me empty my entire apartment in just one week. I left Palo Alto for New York with just one suitcase on November 1.
Being “lightweight” in NY really helped, as I hopped from one tiny Airbnb room to another across Manhattan and Brooklyn for 3 months while traveling to Europe to do speeches since I earn all my income in Europe. In early February, I finally found an apartment to rent in Brooklyn. My new place is thrice smaller and twice cheaper (rent) than my Palo Alto house and is bare except for a small table (for eating/working) and a bed.
The story doesn’t end here. As I began to ease into my new life in NY, COVID-19 struck. All my speaking engagements for 2020 got canceled, wiping out my projected income for this year. I am living off my (limited) savings now. My 2020 income will likely be thrice less than what I earned in 1999 as a fresh US immigrant. So much for the American Dream, eh?
But here is the amazing thing: I never felt FREER in my life. In the midst of the health crisis engulfing our lives, I feel liberated and my creative juices are flowing. I wrote 60,000 words of my next book in past 3 weeks! The “inner freedom” I experience now has emboldened me to write on topics I never dared write about before, such as spirituality and self-development (even this email you are reading, I couldn’t write it last year!).
It’s as if this current crisis is releasing me from all my inhibitions and giving me *permission* to finally be myself and authentically express myself freely and fully. Even this very article…I wouldn’t have dared publish it if COVID-19 didn’t happen.
Unburdened by “stuff” and the pressure to earn money, I have the great luxury now to reset myself and concentrate on what is essential in life. After all, what the coronavirus is teaching us is to appreciate the fragility of LIFE and how precious it is.
I turned 50 on August 14, 2020. In Indian numerology, the number 5 is associated with the planet Buddha (Mercury), the symbol of self-expression. And 0 is the symbol of Shunya (nothingness) associated with Shiva, the god of “creative destruction and regeneration.” (watch my TEDx talk on the amazing power of ZERO).
Hence, I feel 2020 — dominated by COVID-19 — and the upcoming 2021 are giving me once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to return to “zero state” to empty myself of all of my deep-seated fears and inhibitions once for all and regenerate my being so I can let my soul express itself unhindered.
I am sharing this with you so you can see a silver lining in the pande(mic)monium and the recession unfolding: A lifetime opportunity to let go of everything that no longer serves you and be reborn as the beautiful free being you truly are.
Bottom line: Don’t try to be a HERO: Become ZERO !
So grab that broom and start the (inner) clean(s)ing!
— Published originally in Thrive Global