Last fall I had a special experience at a gathering I was attending in Europe. The discussion focused on how changing the world first requires a change within ourselves. During the week I spent with this group of
people, I felt a strange sense of peace inside. I couldn't figure out where this feeling came from, but over the coming days it grew and grew, until I was filled with deep inner tranquility.
It felt as though every single cell of my body was vibrating with a warm, soft energy. And this feeling continued for nearly two months. During that time, I spent many moments by myself, being still and revelling in the sense of quiet meditative contentment.
Along with this extraordinary experience came a few unexpected changes in my daily life. First, I went through my closet and sorted out all the clothes that had been forgotten and unworn for years. Without any special effort, my appetite waned and I did not crave food as I used to. I was also cured of a bad sleeping habit that had plagued me for over a decade. I was turning in early and getting a restful night’s sleep. I was clearing my life of unnecessary excesses and bad habits.
I was amazed by these changes, and my mother who witnessed them, even said that it was as if my soul had been cleansed. The experience left a valuable and unmistakable imprint in my mind: when you feel fulfilled
inside, you no longer crave – be it food, objects or the desire to constantly prove yourself. Everything was just right and just enough. Nothing was lacking.
This experience prompted me to examine all aspects of life with a fresh eye – my mind, body, relationships, the time I spend and the space I occupy. I followed the trails of my thoughts to determine which were truly
mine and which were just noise. I took an honest look at my relationships and asked myself if all of my social engagements were really meaningful. I even reduced my wardrobe to a few basic colors. On the wall of my office, where my editors and I create ARS VITAE, I posted a reminder not to speak unnecessary words, for they too are waste. I had become aware on every level how we fill our lives up with so much stuff.
The process of sweeping through all corners of my life with an internal broom is continuing even today. For every action, word, and object I acquire, I try to think about whether it has a place in the life journey I’m on. So this time, the theme of ARS VITAE Volume 4 is cleaning or cleansing – our minds, hearts and bodies, and the aesthetics of emptying out our lives, so that, paradoxically, we can be whole. Are our lives filled with things, thoughts, and words that have value to us? Or have we given our lives away to unnecessary stuff ?
The philosophy that promotes de-cluttering of our physical and emotional space is gaining momentum around the world. It is in some ways a reaction to the excessive materialism of recent decades. In this volume, we have compiled stories about people who discovered true values in their lives by organizing their space; beautiful small houses from different countries; the Buddhist philosophy embodied in the minimalism of Japanese Zen gardens; the ideal of wu-wei in the Chinese thinker Laozi; and poetic emptiness in Korean literature. Our writers also talk about fasting, not just as a way of cleansing the body of impurities, but as
a doorway to communicating with the aliveness of the universe.
When we clean or tidy, we clear obstacles that block the natural flow of energy in our bodies, space, relationships and in all aspects of life. It is only then that vitality can return. Emptying ourselves physically and emotionally allows us to live fully and vibrantly. Spring is the season when vitality returns to nature, and we are naturally called to clear out the old and to make way for new growth. And so it seems just the right time to talk about cleaning and tidying our lives in this spring edition of ARS VITAE.