Separating the essential from the inessential

How do we come to know what is truly essential in our lives, to the degree that the inessential is then allowed to fall away? How do we get rid of the detritus that is weighing us down? This can be a technical problem, like taking care of all the boxes of stuff crowding the house and our lives. Mostly, however, it is an issue of inner work. One doesn’t know how to live without something, a comfort or prop in one’s life, until one does.

It is the difference between wants and needs. I want to buy this thing in the moment of desire, or say that hurtful comment in the moment of knee jerk reaction, but I actually don’t need to. We need basic, essential things, but we want the inessential. Want is hard to separate from desire, or it is the same thing. Desire can be god-given when we desire for better outcomes in our relationships, our work, or something like. And it can also be only the habit, the shadow trying to keep us locked down and unfree. Our wants when meshed with desire keeps us chained.

Needs can be pared down to pretty small and bare bones physically. Emotionally, they can be very hard to access. How do we know it when we are actually needing to be heard and seen in our closest relationship, around certain issues? We may only see our feelings of frustration and resentment, not knowing these feelings express an unmet need. Our cultural tendency is to place blame elsewhere – it is the other who causes my anger and frustration, and is the source of my resentment – rather than recognizing that we have an unexpressed need at the root of it.

I see this as an esoteric principle, where if we walk on the path of inner development as acolytes towards eventual enlightenment or well-earned wisdom (another way of putting it), then knowing what is the essential thing is all important as orientation, as a compass.

When we begin to ask ourselves what is essential to our current lives, we can be open therefore to what is weighing us down and is inessential; first, what is it not?

This principle can be applied in many different contexts, for instance:

  • House clutter – brutal decisions around keeping only what we actually need, and the enormous feeling of release when we get rid of what we don’t.
  • Money – how and where do we tend to spend unconsciously and inessentially?
  • Activities – is this activity serving me in the long term or is it out of habit and comfort?
  • Relationships – am I serving the essential need, or am I too afraid to speak my truth?
  • Business – can I see the essential tasks in front of me to do, or am I distracted by all the inessential details?

When we feel squeezed, pressured, out of control, or overwhelmed, these are all opportunities for separating out the essential form the inessential. Life in its infinite wisdom gives us these opportunities so we can learn this lesson as we walk on the path toward that well-earned wisdom.

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