There is a billboard on an Interstate Highway that says, “Does your wife have too many shoes?” Apart from the sexist overtones of addressing the man of the house, you might hope it was advertising a Goodwill store or maybe a local therapist. But no, it was advertising self storage.
Why solve a problem if you can just put it in storage and forget about it?
Stevie Wright once said, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” He obviously hadn’t heard of self storage. At the end of 2008, self-storage facilities occupied 2.35 billion square feet of space in the United States, making it physically possible that if you put all the self storage units together, you could fit every American in there and have a horder’s picnic.
You might think that self storage usage decreases during a recession. On the contrary, when recession hits we respond by downsizing. Therefore we need somewhere to store furniture now that we are in a smaller apartment. God forbid that we should actually get rid of any stuff.
Do you know who willingly gives away their stuff? Many of those who return from near death experiences report a desire to give away their possessions. The prospect of death changes your priorities. You might say that the nearness of death leads to a shift in consciousness. Suddenly, hording stuff doesn’t seem so meaningful, and using stuff to help others makes all the sense in the world.
It’s all about how you see yourself. Which views of your self do you store in your inner self storage unit? Maybe you store some ancient self limiting beliefs from way back in the past, like a message you were given as a child. You try to feed this illusion of who you are with lots of stuff. Maybe you store some views of your self from the media that tells you that you are what you own. Take some time to purge some false selves from your inner self storage unit; get rid of the ones that aren’t serving you, and aren’t serving the world. Nothing you own can add an ounce of worth to who you are. If you see yourself as lacking on the inside, then you will have an insatiable desire for stuff to try and fill the gap. But of course it won’t work.
A middle-aged woman has a heart attack and is taken to the hospital. While on the operating table she has a near death experience. During the experience she sees God and asks if this is it. God says no and explains that she has another 30 years to live. Upon her recovery she decides to just stay in the hospital and make the most of the opportunity to have some work done; a face lift, liposuction, breast augmentation, tummy tuck, etc. She even has someone come in and change her hair color. She figures since she’s got another 30 years she might as well make the most of it. She walks out of the hospital after the last operation and is killed by an ambulance speeding by. She arrives in front of God and complains, “I thought you said I had another 30 years.” God replies, “I didn’t recognize you.”
More importantly, do you recognize yourself? In the quiet moments away from people and pretense, do you recognize yourself? Who is the one you recognize? Do you ever stand before the mirror and wonder, “Who is that anyway? Who is that being in the mirror masquerading as me? Is that me in the mirror the same me with this address, this phone number, this human identity? Or is there a deeper mystery to who I am? Is there someone or something within you, a deeper self, a mysterious consciousness, prodding you with essential questions: “What is the meaning of it all?”, pushing you to know more than you know and be all that you can be. The Poet W.B. Yates put it this way,
From Mirror after Mirror-
No vanity’s displayed
I’m looking for the face I had
Before the world was made
Is this one any other than the pure radiant light of being, the one with no beginning and no end; God herself, One Consciousness, Universal Energy? A verse in the Koran says, “God is nearer to you than your jugular vein.” Your consciousness is your awareness that you are so much more than your roles and personas. Your awareness is that which knows that you know.
A woman in a coma was dying. She suddenly had a feeling that she was taken up to heaven and stood before the Judgment Seat.
“Who are you?” a Voice said to her.
“I’m the wife of the mayor,” she replied.
“I did not ask whose wife you are but who you are.”
“I’m the mother of four children.”
“I did not ask whose mother you are, but who you are.”
“I’m a schoolteacher.”
“I did not ask what your profession is but who you are.”
And so it went. No matter what she replied, she did not seem to give a satisfactory answer to the question, “Who are you?”
“I’m a Christian.”
“I did not ask what your religion is but who you are.”
“I’m the one who regularly volunteered to help the poor and needy.”
“I did not ask what you did but who you are.”
She evidently failed the examination, for she was sent back to life. When she recovered from her illness, she was determined to find out who she was. And that made all the difference. (a story from Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight, p. 140)
Take some time to purge the unnecessary and self limiting aspects of your self and you will gain a closer view of your true self. You will lose your fear of death and you will live every moment with purpose and passion.
At a time of such enormous social change and anxiety, this consciousness can make such a positive difference in the world. There is a phrase that has become popular over the last few years, “conscious capitalism”.
It’s a holistic movement, attempting to instill the best of human consciousness into the economic system. Conscious business has a higher purpose than profit. Profit is only one consideration. It addresses the real needs of society in sustainable ways. It recognizes the interrelationship of all stakeholders, including the crucial role of the earth as a major stake holder. It balances the many diverse interests of all stake holders. It believes that actions today that benefits future generations are all important. In this sense it brings the future into the present.
Conscious capitalism believes that doing the right things ultimately brings good results. Do you remember the 2002 movie Changing Lanes? A junior partner discovers that two senior partners are paying themselves 3 million dollars a year to manage a charity. He asks the senior partners if they really think this is right. One of the senior partners responds, “I can sleep at night knowing at the end of the day, I did more good then evil”.
That’s a cop out. You should sleep well at night because you are conscious that everything is related, and that your actions now will last forever. You will have to deal with the consequences or else they will continue to repeat negative patterns for you and others. How will you look back at the end of your life and assess the quality of your life?
Jesus said to a wealthy first century man- “You have lived a good life. You have kept the commandments and more. But you lack one thing, consciousness, a realization that your actions affect others. So sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor.” The man was crushed. He didn’t have the consciousness to believe that he would be more if he had less. Jesus said, “it’s harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a person who lacks consciousness to enter heaven.” He then turned to his disciples and said, “If you wake up to this new consciousness that you are part of all others and the earth, then you will already have entered heaven.”
Doing Good While You Have Time
There was a letter that was reportedly sent by the Indiana Department of Social Services to a person who had been receiving assistance through their organization. The letter read as follows: “Your food stamps will be stopped in March because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances.” Apparently this is a true story. Now that’s a government department that believes in life after death.
Then there’s the boss who asks his employee: “Do you believe in life after death?”
“I certainly do,” the employee replies.
“That’s a good thing,” says the boss. “Yesterday, while you were at your grandmother’s funeral, she stopped by to visit you!”
You can’t fool death! You can’t fool your deepest consciousness! The certainty of death leads you to ask the most challenging questions about how tied you are to your various roles and personas in the world.
Once you know who you are, you contribute so much more to those around you. You begin to create life after death by living with an interrelated consciousness that what you do today will benefit generations to come. You can bolster the collective consciousness, the center of gravity of the planet with your thoughts, words and actions.
I end with a nice image from Erma Bombeck who once wrote:
“I always had a dream that when I am asked to give an accounting of my life to a higher court, it will be like this: So, empty your pockets. What have you got left of your life? Any dreams that were unfulfilled? Any unused talent that we gave you when you were born that you have left?
Any unsaid compliments or bits of love that you haven’t spread around? And, I will answer: I’ve nothing to return. I spent everything I was given.”
Are you hording your time, talent and treasure? Give it freely while you have time. You were given it as a gift by those who went before you, and now it is your turn to make sure that you leave the world a better place because you were in it. Give freely while you have time, and you will create heaven on earth.
For Further Reflection -
Why do you think our society has such an obsession with hording?
Which limiting and critical views of self are you storing, and why?
What do you think consciousness is, and how do you experience consciousness?