Updated: Jan 18, 2021
MAKING SPACE FOR WHAT'S IMPORTANT
On my 35th birthday, I checked myself into a local ashram to take a 2-day meditation workshop. It was just going to be from Friday evening to Sunday—a gift to myself. Everything changed when I got there. It quickly became clear that I had been living in a dangerous pattern, staying overly busy to escape from my emotions and problems. Once I stopped running away, I felt how empty I was. A Pandora’s Box-worth of suppressed pain, grief, sorrow and a strong hit of reality suddenly came welling up.
Sunday afternoon arrived, and I couldn’t bring myself to leave. My 2-day retreat turned into a 9-day journey of self-discovery and healing. In Siddhayatan, located two hours north of Dallas in Windom, Texas, I experienced a place of love. The nuns and monks had the kindest eyes. The spiritual leader listened to my troubles without judgement and allowed me to bawl my eyes out during chanting. They provided three meals a day that were lovingly prepared to touch the soul. And they gave me the privacy to mourn while always feeling cared for.
The least of my concerns at the ashram was my attire. I know the stereotype. As a woman, if I’m going somewhere for two days, I’ll pack for nine. You aren’t wrong. I had packed 5-days of clothes for my 2-day trip. I made do with what I had brought and survived the last four days without a care for my wardrobe. I knew a change was coming.
"I know the stereotype. As a woman, if I’m going somewhere for two days, I’ll pack for nine. You aren’t wrong. I had packed 5-days of clothes for my 2-day trip."
Immediately after returning from my stay, I started clearing out my closet. I was mortified to learn that I had over 300 dresses, 100 pairs of shoes, countless jeans, skirts, sweaters, and tops—many of these items still with tags on them. I spent a year after that unraveling my relationship to clothes.
My clothing made me stand out and be seen, feel worthy and admired, but it also allowed me to hide behind a cloth facade. Clothing was a way to escape, to play the part I was trying to fulfill. It felt good to get compliments and be admired by both women and men. It fed a part of me I felt needed to be nourished. But my attachment to clothing was only holding me down. I knew that I could not find worthiness anymore in an outfit. That was something that 100 percent had to come from within.
When my lease was up, I decided to downsize my life to a 450 square foot apartment. By sheer necessity, I found myself cleaning out my closet once again. Each piece of clothing I parted with was another layer of myself being shed. Eventually, all these layers peeled away, making room so I could focus on what was really important, what I’d been avoiding—myself.
"My clothing made me stand out and be seen, feel worthy and admired, but it also allowed me to hide behind a cloth facade. Clothing was a way to escape, to play the part I was trying to fulfill."
Having minimal clothing choices made it easier to make serious decisions regarding finances, friendships, jobs, and habits. The emptiness I had felt at the ashram began to fill up in new ways. I stopped looking for external validation and found validation within myself. I felt fulfillment when I gave away items to acquaintances, friends, and co-workers. I found joy in watching them wear it with pleasure. I found fulfillment in shedding not only clothing but myself.
I now concentrate on working with a time capsule wardrobe. This means limiting your options to 25-30 pieces for a 3-month season. Even the fun of mixing and matching items to create fashion excites me in new and engaging ways. By stepping back from my life, I was able to identify and understand my relationship to clothing. Today, I view fashion with a new mindset, one focused on self-love and inner peace.