I have been bald twice in my life. I shaved my head, on two separate occasions, for spiritual trips to India. Shaving my head was optional. Despite the assumption that India is riddled with bald spiritual seekers on a path to enlightenment, I found that the people of India look at you with the same look as the people of Minnesota: What’s with the bald woman?
There are a number of reasons, depending on the spiritual tradition, for shaving all or part of the head. The reason that appealed to me was releasing attachment. Hair represents a number of things, especially to women, and the act of releasing these representations was very powerful. But, even more, to let go of something that I always perceived as such a part of me started to positively affect my ability to release other attachments.
As I sat bald in the Himalayas, I contemplated my choice and how it related to the rest of my life. What came to mind immediately was my fondness for aesthetic beauty in the form of dÃ©cor – and my business that sold “material” possessions. Though the intent of the shop is focused on educating people to value the possessions they do choose to own, was I just encouraging attachment? And what about my own possessions?
There are some people, especially those focused on a spiritual path, who confuse having possessions and valuing them as attachment. They insist that owning things represents how attached you are to the material world. They choose to eliminate as many physical objects from their lives as possible. But often, these same people are just as, if not more than, attached to certain beliefs that don’t serve them.
Many of the beliefs, which may be subconscious, focus on poverty consciousness, that you have to be poor to be spiritual, or that money and “stuff” are bad. I am not talking about the act of living simply. Those who embrace that view tend to have a different energy about it. I am talking about those who have a struggle around possessions and/or money. This behavior often is accompanied by either desire and frustration or even disgust and rejection of “things” or money. And often, these same people struggle to make a living, which ultimately may stress their capacity to be of service in the community.
An attachment to an object or a belief is the same thing. It’s an attachment. If the object or belief serves you, it may be helpful to have it. If it is not serving you, are you willing to let it go? That is what it comes down to. Neither the attachment to physical objects nor the attachment to poverty consciousness is serving us. They are actually two sides of the same coin.
Over-consumption has swung our natural order completely off balance. But the issue is not the “stuff.” What drives this over-consumption has more to do with our psychology.
Think about the intention behind what you own. My creative outlet is my space and it is important to me that it’s beautiful. Having this outlet to express myself empowers me to do many different things in my life. It promotes clarity, wellness and creativity that I then channel out to the world. My belongings that form the beautiful space around me encourage my well-being, which therefore moves me forward on my spiritual path of service to others. I do, however, make conscious choices when I acquire belongings. I limit what I buy. I buy second hand almost exclusively. I only keep things that I love and that I currently use, avoiding the tendency to store things that I can’t use or appreciate.
I will always be a big advocate of simple living. But what was revealed to me that day sitting bald in contemplation was that belongings themselves are not what represents attachment. It is how we feel about our belongings. It is important that we value what we choose to have. But we must also be willing to let them go at any moment, much like limiting beliefs…or maybe even our hair.