Dr. Catherine Meeks: Me, A Hoarder?


We watch the stories of the hoarders on television and feel sorry for them and go away being proud not to be one of them, but wait a minute, perhaps we are more kin to them than we realize. As we travel along our life journey, what are the things that we are holding onto that keep us from hearing the voice of the Spirit and separate us from living the life that is meant for us? What about our distractions? They are so vast in our modern culture. So many of them have been elevated to the level of necessity so they are not even called into question any longer. You know those essential ones, work, shopping, eating, entertainment, politics, war, creating security for ourselves and our families, doing good work to serve others and the list goes on and on.

Of course these things and many others are not inherently negative. But when they are moved to center stage in our lives and stand between us and the space that is needed for the still small voice of God to be heard there is a challenge being presented to us. The challenge to make space for something other than the busyness to which we have become addicted as a society stands boldly before us. A part of the problem with this is that we see almost every aspect of life in terms of production and making space for the holy seems unproductive to so many folks these days. So, indeed we become hoarders because we continue to pile more and more distractions into our lives and even if we come to realize it, change seems impossible.

I know a lot about this problem of having a life which is too full. I lived as a very busy single parent for several years who had two very active teenage sons, a full time teaching job and the responsibility for running a struggling community center. Along with that I was quite active in my community working with issues of race relations, wellness and women's issues, youth violence and many other related causes. I tried to manage a bit of a contemplative element in my faith journey but it was very difficult and often got pushed to the side by all of the more important things that had to be done. As is usually the case there was always more to do instead of less and it made my life feel normal to live that way. After all, my friends at work, church and in the community were all living the same way. We worked too much, shopped more than was necessary for essentials such as food and household things because these were the distractions that helped to make up for not having a deeper connection to our hearts.

Two years ago I began to pull the plug on this way of being in the world. I am retired from full time teaching though I continue to teach, mentor, conduct workshops and write, I am creating a different rhythm. I sold my house and moved into an apartment which was half its size. I got rid of half of my belongings including about a thousand books. I no longer watch television. I am very careful about how much I shop, even for food because it is very easy to allow shopping for food to become one more distraction that keeps filling up one's life instead of allowing the empty space to emerge. This change was not easy and there were times when I had to work hard to stay with the intention to embrace the space instead of filling it up.

A couple of months ago I moved from my mid sized Georgia town where I had lived for the past 41 years to Atlanta, Ga., and this is a continuation of the space making process so I can hear the voice within that longs to be heard and perhaps has never been heard. The willingness to make external space is necessary for finding internal space. This move will make a lot of external space because I have embarked upon creating a new life in many ways. Though I am quite familiar with Atlanta after having gone to two of its major educational institutions and I have friends here, it is not the home that I left. It took a bit of courage to make the transition. But even though I have been here a short time, it is clear that making the change was the right choice to make.

Those of you who read this will have your own intention to follow and every path will be a little different, but the imperative is the same. We need to make space in our lives by letting go of some of the things with which we have filled them so we can hear our heart's voice. If we learn to listen to our hearts we can begin to hear the voice of the Spirit as well. We don't have to spend money to do this or anything other than turn our attention and intention in this direction. This is one way to assist in transforming the world.

Taken with permission from HuffingtonPost.com/Religion