Casting Books into the River

As a result of my Mindmapping 101 exercise, I’ve culled a few short stacks of books from my shelves for donation. Now it’s time to pack them up and get them out. Sounds easy, right? Well, the stacks have been sitting for almost a week, waiting for me to catalog them. This is presumably for tax purposes, but I’m wondering if there’s something else at work.

I love to donate things. I’ve prided myself on identifying the most relevant places for each type of donation, from libraries to veteran’s homes, from transitional housing to career closets, from church rummage sales to local food pantries. Sounds wonderful, and maybe it is. But that “pride” is keeping me from releasing these books.

Last year I created an Excel spreadsheet to record book donations. Here’s what it looks like:

Inane Spreadsheet


Why on earth did I decide I need to catalog whether this was a juvenile book or a hardcover book? I’m giving the damn thing away! Yet, I filled up this spreadsheet with 97 books.

But this time, I just can’t bring myself to do it. It seems so arduous, even for a short stack. And after I catalog everything, where, oh where do I drop it off?

Then the answer comes: just let go. Let go? You mean put the books in a bag and give them to one of those drive-by pick-up charities? You mean not even take them to a library or a shelter where I know someone will just love my books?

That’s right. Let go. The idea of meaningful contribution is really just the ego chirping: “I give, therefore, I am.” Or, “I give, therefore, I am good.” This is an illusion. First of all, maybe my stuff is junk. Second of all, I’m good because I exist.

Instead of viewing this giving as a way to earn merit, I can view it as stepping into the flow of life—releasing what I no longer need, making space in my heart for a new idea. It’s kind of like living at the riverside, having everything I need float downstream to me where I lift it from the current, use it while I need it, and set it adrift downstream when I’m done.

So I’m challenging myself to pack it all in bags—books, jeans, vase, music box—and let it go. No tax deduction list, no spreadsheet. Nothing. I arranged a pickup with a charity that takes everything I have right now to give. I’m going to set it all down in the river, and trust, just for this once, that Divine Intelligence will figure out who needs what and will lead them to the river’s edge to pick it up.

And that leaves me free, when I set down this pen and paper (yes, that’s how I drafted this thing), to simply be a woman sitting on a step, delighting in the touch of the soft October sun on her skin. The river flows.


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