Marie Kondo & The Gods In Small Things

marie kondo kneeling

While on the subject of Marie Kondo, I was reading some of the reviews of the Marie Kondo Netflix show ‘Tidying Up’ and was astonished at how much of the Western media is missing the whole point. A few critics have gotten tangled debating her suggestion that we should keep fewer books, “ideally, less than 30”, in the house. I found more than a few stories in mainstream UK newspapers saying the popularity of her process would be ultimately catastrophic to landfills.

For her part, Marie Kondo has clarified often enough that her process is not about removing things, including books, from our life—it is about loving those things which we choose to keep because they spark joy in us. The KonMari method is a gentle reminder of holding an attitude of gratefulness for the service these small gods offer us. From this flows a sincere desire to treat them wisely, kindly and gently.

Watching the show, one can see that Marie Kondo is obviously an empath, with a keen gift of sensing into the energy of objects and her physical environment. Those on the spiritual path are not unfamiliar with this kind of sensitivity. Her process marries this innate gift with the philosophy from her childhood in Shintoism, where everything in natural world is alive with sacred spirit called “kami” and worthy of reverence. It’s a beautiful combination.

The KonMari Method though is more than a philosophical ideal. At a deeper level, I realized as I worked through my books and papers, my attachment to things is my attachment to the stories of those things, and the stories behind those things. The objects are the tangible symbols of those stories. And the clutter around me is the plans and emotions that I haven’t dealt with yet. So de-cluttering is actually a cathartic process of facing those leftover stories—the debris of our abandoned plans, aborted love affairs and alternate timelines—and letting go.

For some, this may mean an overhaul, for others a few minor changes. Either way, your clutter is your perfect, custom-designed path. Like the Zen monk who mindfully and diligently sweeps the pathway of dead leaves, clearing your house of clutter is clearing your mind. No wonder so many of those who go through it report a burst of energy and clarity after they complete it.

To those Western minds furiously employing the law of attraction to manifest fantastic objects to bring joy, Marie Kondo offers a gentle sister process: how about finding joy in what you have already manifested? How about enjoying them in the present moment? How about folding your clothes not to make them smaller, but to touch them with gratitude?

Intrigued by Marie Kondo’s advice, I watched an episode of another popular Western de-cluttering expert. She attacked the same process with hard-hat determination—clutter was a scourge to be exterminated and objects were a litany of old sins to be expunged. On the contrary, Marie enters cluttered house and gleefully exclaims, “I love clutter!” She begins her method with a prayer to connect with the energy of the house and ask the house for permission. In place of a shame-fuelled purge she offers a gentle goodbye to that which has served us… and a reminder that everything we own has served us in some way. While the former approach changes the way your house looks, Marie promises to change your attitude to what you keep, to what you give away, and as a parting gift, to what you will purchase in the future.

With that last gift I think—and no critic has noted this—the Konmari method is actually an antidote to mindless consumerism and fast fashion. Not only because of that brilliant moment of shock when a person, for the first time, sees all the clothes they own piled into a mountain, but also for how Marie treats each object. Her method values the classic, the timeless, the long-lasting. Every item of clothing is treated like a friend you treasure for years, not as fast fashion you trash every few months. That lifelong bond with the items that serve us is an unspoken gift of the diminutive Japanese lady’s method to the audiences—and in the long run, also to the landfills.

Saving The Planet, One Drop At A Time

An inspiring true story that shows just how simple it can be for one person with an idea to make a difference.

Aabid Surti

Aabid Surti is an odd character. A few years ago, the angular, bearded author was invited to meet the President of India to receive a national award for literature at a ceremony in the capital, New Delhi. He politely declined. Absorbed in writing the first draft of his new novel, he cited the reason that he did not have time. But what he has made time for every Sunday for seven years now, is going door-to-door in Mira Road, a non-descript suburb of Mumbai, with a plumber in tow, asking residents if they need their tap fixed for free!

As a distinguished Indian painter and author, Aabid has written around 80 books but no story so moved him as the truth about water scarcity on the planet. “I read an interview of the former UN chief Boutros Boutros Ghali,” he recalls, “who said that by 2025 more than 40 countries are expected to experience water crisis. I remembered my childhood in a ghetto fighting for each bucket of water. I knew that shortage of water is the end of civilized life.”

Around the same time, in 2007, he was sitting in a friend’s house and noticed a leaky tap. It bothered him. When he pointed it out, his friend, like others, dismissed it casually: it was too expensive and inconvenient to call a plumber for such a minor job – even plumbers resisted coming to only replace old gaskets.

A few days later, he came across a statistic in the newspaper: a tap that drips once every second wastes a thousand litres of water in a month. That triggered an idea. He would take a plumber from door to door and fix taps for free – one apartment complex every weekend.

As a creative artist, he had earned more goodwill than money and the first challenge was funding. “But,” he says, “if you have a noble thought, nature takes care of it.” Within a few days, he got a message that he was unexpectedly being awarded Rs.1,00,000 ($2,000) by the Hindi Sahitya Sansthan (UP) for his contribution to Hindi literature. And one Sunday morning in 2007, the International Year of Water, he set out with a plumber to fix the problem for his neighbors.

He began by simply replacing old O-ring rubber gaskets with new ones, buying new fixtures from the wholesale market. He named his one-man NGO ‘Drop Dead’ and created a tagline: save every drop… or drop dead.

Every Sunday, the Drop Dead team – which consisted of Aabid himself, Riyaaz the plumber and a female volunteer Tejal – picked the apartment blocks, got permission from the housing societies, and got to work. A day before, Tejal would hand out pamphlets explaining their mission and paste posters in elevators and apartment lobbies spreading awareness on the looming water crisis. And by Sunday afternoon, they would ensure the buildings were drip-dry.

By the end of the first year, they had visited 1533 homes and fixed around 400 taps. Slowly, the news began to spread.

In March 2008, director Shekhar Kapur, who was working on his own water conservation film, heard about Aabid’s efforts and wrote on his website: ‘Aabid Surti, thank you so much for who you are. I wish there were more people like you in this world. Keep in touch with us and keep inspiring us. Shekhar.’

Local newspapers began to write about Drop Dead, which prompted a further flood of grateful emails and spontaneous messages. One of the most heartfelt messages was from superstar actor-producer Shah Rukh Khan, a longtime fan of Aabid’s work as a comic book creator. After reading the newspaper report titled ‘City of Angels’, he wrote to Aabid: “…It sounds like one of the little big things my dad would have done. Strange that I have enjoyed [your comic] Bahadur in my childhood and enjoyed reading your tap story so many years down the line… when I am father myself. God bless you and yes, I believe in angels after reading the newspaper.

In 2010, Aabid Surti was nominated for the CNN-IBN CJ ‘Be The Change’ Award. In the same year, a television crew from Berlin flew down to follow him on his Sunday rounds which continued come monsoon or shine.

It’s hard to say how much water he has saved with his mission, given that the faucets he fixed could have continued leaking for months, and maybe years, had he not rung the doorbell one Sunday morning. But conservatively, it could be estimated that he has single-handedly saved at least 5.5m litres of water till date.

In the summer of 2013, the state where Aabid lives is expecting its worst drought in 40 years. Months in advance, the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chauhan has warned citizens to begin conserving water. While ministers lobby for drought-relief packages worth millions of dollars, Aabid sees his own approach as simple and inexpensive.

As he rings another door-bell on yet another Sunday in Mira Road, seven years into his one-man mission, he says: “Anyone can launch a water conservation project in his or her area. That’s the beauty of this concept. It doesn’t require much funding or even an office. And most importantly, it puts the power back in our own hands.”

I would call him a modern-day angel; I am lucky I get to call him dad.

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UPDATE (MAY 2013): Much has changed for dad since this post. He was given the Sparrow Award for conservation and funding to continue his work. He also received funding from the Rotary Association and a few other organizations, and offers to spread the news further. This blog post itself went viral and got dad featured on DailyGood as one of the Everyday Heroes. Global Voices Online further translated this post into Italian, French, Spanish, Malagasy & Greek!

In April 2013, he was once again invited to meet the President of India, for his Drop Dead project.

This time he went. 

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5 Super-Simple Tips to go from Internet Zombie to Internet Zen Dude

Working on the internet is like being in a crowded bazaar, protected by glass from the noise, but feeling the energy of the busyness and chaos; catching the screaming confusion of others who have been in this bazaar for too long, some who have forgotten the way out.

It’s a fast world, the internet — time here runs faster than seconds, it zips by in clicks. For even a second is sometimes too long to wait for a page to load, or a video to buffer. The internet is the domain of restless fingers and ceaseless thinking and darting eyes. And in losing myself in it, I become another arm of the million-armed monster who is restless, hyper-active mentally and a ghost-like zombie in the real world.

A strong reason for this is the electro-magnetic radiation aka dirty electricity which your body picks up. According to Dr Lance Macleod-Lutchin, over 2000 studies have connected EMF radiation to rapid or irregular heart beat, pain or pressure in chest, high or low blood pressure, numbness in arms, legs fingers or shoulders, constant fatigue, weakness, depression, headaches, lack of focus, memory loss, blurred vision, insomnia, cancer, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis just to name a few.

Here are tips that REALLY WORK, tips which I have picked up over many years from various sources, to help you stay zen-centred inside the machine.

1) GROUND YOUR FEET
Keeping one’s feet flat on the ground is always helpful, if possible bare feet – at the very least, not folding your legs and hooking them to the stem of your swivel chair. Earthing the electromagnetic energy aka the dirty electricity is excellent whether you are using a tablet or a laptop. See this unforgettable video by health guru David Wolfe where he measures the actual voltage coming from a laptop, iPad and Kindle using an EMF meter.

2) DON’T KEEP IT ON YOUR LAP
Yes, I know it’s called the laptop but don’t keep it directly on the lap. Even manufacturers say the name was given more for marketing purposes – the laptop needs a flat base to function best. Keeping it on a base also cuts the radiation to your thighs. By the way, since you didn’t read the fine print, Apple has a warning about this point in the Macbook manual. And by the way, macbooks are no longer called ‘laptops’ in the manuals.

3) NATURE
Nature is the best antidote to electronic radiation. Sit near nature or look at nature or go out into nature. In every which way you can, connect with the energy of living things. Japanese author Masaru Emoto’s research on resonance has shown how the crystals of water get bizarrely distorted around electromagnetic fields. Your body is 70% water – go figure. Here’s a link to an interview with Masaru Emoto on how water is affected by energy.

4) BE ALERT TO INTERNET MALLING
‘Malling’ is a term my wife and I have coined for when we are aimlessly browsing on the internet, long after our work is done, simply unable to leave. This is generally when our energy has been sucked out, our eyes hurt and our backs are hunched but we just cannot walk away from the screen. Like a junkie looking for the next fix, we click the next link – neither reading nor absorbing. Most of it will be forgotten by the next day, or until the mail order items we ordered in our daze arrive after a few days.

5) RELAX YOUR FINGERS
Your fingers are where all the stress is first picked up – they are the primary contact points. Relax your fingers and you will find the rest of you falling more easily at peace. The other variation of this exercise is to gaze fixedly at one point off the screen – when the eyes stop their little automatic samba movements, the mind starts becoming quiet. Another great tip: if you are stuck on the computer for long stretches, wash your hands and face every few hours. Running water is great for clearing stuck energy and dirty electricity.

And as soon as you can, go and do something fun, something that involves all your senses, something that makes you feel glad all of you is alive – not just a pair of eyes connected to a brain!

PS: GD has promised me he will share some Advanced Tips for grounding energy while working on the computer – tips which may require a little preparation or equipment. Stay tuned for more on this subject. Meanwhile, keep your feet grounded and keep your head out of the iClouds.