Rooms 491-499: Treat Yourself To A Nice Pair Of Underwear
The Argument Against Minimalism
It’s been five weeks now, but what a beautiful five weeks they’ve been. And it all started the day I bought myself a nice pair of underwear. Not any underwear, mind you. These were Tommy John’s Black Cool Cotton Boxer Briefs. I won’t tell you how much they cost, but let’s just say my wife could buy 3 five packs for the same price. And I’m not an underwear guy. I buy what’s on sale, and then wear them until they become threadbare. Let’s just say my underwear would be a rag in someone else’s home.
But not these guys. These were the real thing, and from the moment I read a review about them in a magazine, I knew I wanted them, even if it took a couple of soul searching days to talk myself into buying them. I usually have no problem spending money on myself, especially when most of my purchases can be justified under the guise of work.
But seeing as I don’t work at Chippendales, I didn’t really need these. Just the same, I loved them and so I did what I had to do. I turned my underwear into Room 491 and voilà, I needed them for work.
I immediately went online and made the purchase. I even had them overnighted, and for no other reason than I needed to get started with this new phase in my life.
The next day I heard the roar of the UPS truck heading down my street. I rushed out of my office like a puppy running to the sound of the front door opening. Mike was walking up my driveway, carrying my “underwear” in his arm. And I might add, with all the gentleness you’d expect from the best UPS driver in the company. He was used to me meeting him, eagerly awaiting one new gadget or another. I usually tell him what I’m getting, too, even if it’s just AA batteries or lemon lip balm.
I took the package and smiled. “New underwear,” I said. “Tommy John’s.” He laughed and walked away, climbing back into his truck, where I swear I saw him reach behind his back and adjust what I could only assume were a horribly bunched up pair of underwear. There was no thunder or lightning, but the message was loud and clear. That pull on the butt was the universe telling me that my purchase was necessary. Maybe sacred.
And most definitely, comfortable. As the company claimed on their website, this was a “thin, luxurious smart fabric that was going to keep you cool and dry.” Add the innovative “quick draw fly” and you had the ultimate underwear experience, which as they also said, “was quite possibly the most comfortable and functional underwear on earth.”
I wore them four times that week, which probably broke a few health codes, but I didn’t care. I was in underwear heaven and as you probably know, there’s no right or wrong there. Only bliss.
Now I know your question. What does buying nice underwear have to do with walking into new rooms of awareness? How do my new Tommy John’s justify the coveted 491st room?
I'm glad you brought that up. It's a good question. Especially when most of the loin-clothed sages throughout history might argue against nice underwear as a path to enlightenment. Of course, they never owned a pair of Tommy John's with a quick draw fly. All that aside, they have a point.
We all know we shouldn’t need stuff to be happy, no matter how soft to the touch it may be. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said long ago, "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." In other words, less really is more.
And it is this unburdening that leads to a simple life, which allows us to slow down, breathe, and focus on the Now, which is the only place to find the things which really matter—like who we are and why we’re here on earth.
And you certainly don’t need a spiritual degree to know that stuff can get in the way of this pursuit. Stuff nags at our shirttail, and constantly demands our attention. If left unchecked, a healthy want can turn into need, then desire, which like a devouring parasite will never be satisfied. It will always want more.
But back to the underwear. Boy, do they feel good. It’s like I don’t even know I’m wearing them. Do you have any idea how much of a game changer that is for me? Probably not. And until you walk a mile in my shorts, I wouldn’t expect you to. But make no mistake about it, we’re more similar than you think.
At one time or another, most of us have fallen victim to the Tommy John syndrome. Maybe not underwear, but some bit of extravagance that might seem unnecessary, out of character, or even out of our price range. Yet, we still want it in our lives.
It could be a pen, a purse or a Lexus. For all I know, it could be the premium brand of toilet paper or an extra appetizer at dinner. It could be absolutely anything we deem extravagant, which of course is all relative to who we are, not to mention the size of our individual wallets.
But bank accounts aside, there are plenty of good reasons to say no to all those shiny whims that come our way. We might not need it, or it is wasteful, overkill, or legitimately out of our price range. After all, we can only afford what we can afford, and to live outside our means is to invite imbalance into our lives.
But sometimes we say no just because we always say no, automatically and without thought. We say no because we’re practical, sensible, realists who find it hard to break the piggy bank when it comes to our own pleasure. Or we say no because we don’t think we’re deserving, or because someone else is more deserving than we are.
And sometimes we even say no because we believe owning something nice somehow makes us shallow or less spiritual than the next guy.
There are all kinds of reasons we say no to nice things. While some of them are valid, others are just tapes wreaking havoc in our heads, and pushing us to do things we don’t want to do, like living what we believe is a minimalistic life.
But here’s the thing. You are worth it. You are deserving. And you don’t have to always be practical, with sensible shoes, or underwear. And, yes, minimalism is all fine and noble, and should certainly go at the top of our spiritual resume’s. But unconscious minimalism is neither mindful nor minimalistic. It is just self-denial, which can become as out of whack as self-indulgence.
Having less clothes doesn’t make you more spiritual, anymore than having a fully loaded walk-in closet makes you less spiritual.
The whole world is made up of energy, and this includes everything in it, like my underwear or your Lexus. And none of it is good or bad. It’s the intention we bring to this energy that makes it positive or negative. It’s our perception.
Freedom from possessions is never about having or not-having. It’s about not needing. Needing is what sucks the life out of us, and strips us of our focus. It’s that self-destructive belief that we have to have something in order to be a better version of ourselves. Happier. Stronger. More desirable.
Poverty or riches doesn’t make us aware. Only living in a desire-less state will do that. And you can live there with or without Tommy John’s.
All of which brings us back to Room 491:
Take a hammer to that piggy bank and buy yourself some nice underwear…or the pen, or the Lexus…or the whatever.
And for those of you still resistant, remember: it’s easy to practice not needing or wanting when you have nothing, the same way it’s easy for the monk who lives alone in a cave to love his neighbors.
But try practicing a desire-less state as you sit on your own tropical island sipping Mai Tai’s. Try it with some soft Tommy John’s clinging to your body.
It’s just as possible. And equally if not more challenging.
The room couldn’t be more simple. All you have to do is treat yourself to something you’ve always wanted but never allowed yourself to have. If you don’t immediately know what that is, I bet you’ll find it soon. It will appear. And when it does, be ready.
It doesn’t matter if it’s small or large, wild, absurd or impractical. Just as long as it feels right to you and is within your budget. But remember, sometimes you have to work at making it right for you. Not deluding yourself, but allowing it to be. Allowing you to have. And to do so without guilt or justification.
You’re not just buying something nice. You’re sending yourself a message that you’re worth it.
You’re sending yourself a message that you can bring all sorts of beautiful things into your life, without having to own, covet or treat them as a reflection of who you are.
You’re sending yourself a message that you can hold life with slippery hands and eyes that see things for what they are—bits and pieces of energy that come and go.
It’s called mindful possession.
So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and slip into some nice underwear. And by all means, enjoy. They’ll be threadbare soon enough.
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