A Path Through (Part 2)
This is the second part of a two-part post.
If you haven't already, read the first post, "If I Can't See the Clutter, Does It Exist"
OPENING OUR AWARENESS
When we stop skimming the surface of our lives, we are often astonished to find out how much is really there.
And yet, perhaps out of fear of discovering it all, most of us never take the time to do this. When we feel called to reduce clutter, to slow down, to begin to take creative control of our lives, to find our breath...we must begin by acknowledging the expanse of everything that exists in our days and moments.
One way to discover this is by outlining what you do throughout the day.
You can try writing your activities and thoughts down as you go along, or simply spend some time at the end of the day in honest reflection. Think about every phone call, every distraction, every project started, worked on, or completed, every bite of food, every step taken, child's or coworker's question answered, every minute in personal grooming, each moment spent in decision making. Think of all that you did and thought throughout the day, then recognize how much was left un-done - how much you felt you needed to do, but simply did not have time to get to.
All of that exists and sits on your mind and within the cells of your body, and often, in piles on your desk and in folders in your email.
Another way to discover how much we really carry with us is by meditating. Simply sit in an upright, comfortable position, close your eyes all the way or halfway, and focus on your breath. If you are like most, you will find your mind flooded with thoughts. From what you want for lunch, to the pain in your leg, to guilt over losing focus on the breath, it seems the thoughts never end.
Meditation doesn't create these thoughts - it simply allows us to become aware of what is going on all of the time.
Once we become aware of everything that is going on in our mundane lives, it can feel quite heavy and overwhelming. We feel discomfort and want to alleviate it. To do so, we often begin by ignoring the noise and clutter (i.e. not meditating, keeping the closet door shut, not reading reports of environmental destruction). But as noted in the previous post, ignoring what is there doesn't make it go away.
So what can we do?
There are many paths, and I don't claim to have "the right one".
What I offer here is just one path, one way to begin the important journey of mindful living in the real life of clutter and noise.
We can start by simply acknowledging what is (such as in the practices given above). That is often challenging enough, and is certainly a practice we return to again and again. Life changes, circumstances change, beliefs and relationships change, and we must always spend time examining what is truly present. Otherwise, we run the risk of acting on old habits and staying stuck in the same rut.
If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten.
As we expand our awareness and learn to be with the discomfort instead of running from it, we begin adjusting our choices based on the life that is (instead of one we are running from or clinging to).
For example, most of us have no idea our true financial debt. We choose not to think about it. It is a form of clutter that drains us of energy each time a bill comes due. Outlining what we are spending each day can truly seem depressing. But as we become aware, we can make small changes in our spending habits. Just like we wouldn't try to deal with every item in our closet at once, we don't need to fix our financial clutter in one week or one year. What matters is that we remain aware and take actions based off the truths of what exists.
We carry clutter in our bodies as well. From toxins ingested from the environment or diet, to energetic, psychological, and physical clutter from stress. I've heard countless times that when people start exercising, small aches and pains or lack of flexibility keeps them from returning to the exercise. (How many of you have heard of - or used the excuse of - not being flexible enough to do yoga?) We become aware of the tightness that has developed in our bodies and, instead of keeping our awareness open to this discomfort, we just return to the couch. We can instead be gentle and find the pleasure in being in a body. We note the tightness, the aches, and move with them - whether stretching, increasing the heart rate, or seeking medical advice.
The same goes in meditation and in dealing with mental clutter. So many give up on meditation because they feel their mind is simply too noisy. Instead, we can gently notice thoughts and return to our focus on the breath - repeatedly. As we practice on the cushion, we begin to find awareness of thoughts increasing throughout the time off of the cushion. We can note thoughts of anger or judgment and gently release them before we respond.
Mental clutter can also affect sleep, which is crucial to our well-being. How many times have you tried to fall asleep, only to find yourself thinking and thinking and thinking and.... Journaling can help with this type of clutter. Releasing mental chatter onto the page - for no other reason than to just get it out - can help ease the mind. Something releases when the mind feels as though it isn't forgotten, and writing down the thoughts allows the mind to be acknowledged. Journaling also allows us to become further aware of all of our thoughts. That awareness lets us deal with them when we are ready, instead of when we are trying to fall asleep.
Environmental clutter (our homes and our earth) follows the same step-by-step path as clearing financial, physical, or mental clutter. "Cleaning the house" sounds overwhelming, and certainly makes me groan and want to just head back to bed. But it's easy to pick up the shirt that my daughter dropped, or rinse out the cup that sits on the counter. I hold in my awareness the items around the house, but I remain mindful of what I am presently seeing, smelling, or holding.
One item at a time.
One dollar at a time.
One thought at a time.
One breath at a time.
This is a path.
It is not an easy one, and I don't promise it will be comfortable.
But in order to live freed from our clutter, it is necessary to open our awareness and to be with the discomfort that arises. As we do, we treat ourselves and others gently and with kindness, and move mindfully through our choices.
There are many resources for decreasing and dealing with clutter of all kinds. Here are a few - some of which I've personally come across and some which were recommended by friends over on Facebook.
(None of these are affiliate links; just resources that I, and others, have found valuable)
- [FINANCIAL] Man Vs. Debt: A great site and blog about one man and his family who worked their way out of debt and stayed there. Many guest posts and resources. (http://www.manvsdebt.com)
- [MEDITATION] Susan Piver, Open Heart Project: A free, email-based project with text and video instruction on beginning meditation. (There is also a more in-depth project for those wanting to go deeper with meditation.) (http://www.susanpiver.com/open-heart-project)
- [GENERAL / FINANCIAL] Liberated Life Project. Maia at the LLP offers ongoing wisdom on her site - the tagline sums it up perfectly: "Freedom - it's an INSIDE job". She has an entire series dedicated to financial freedom, which you can check out here. (http://liberatedlifeproject.com/category/livelihood/)
- [GENERAL] Bliss Habits: A fabulous website exploring all types of practices that can lead to Bliss, Kathy has an entire series of posts on Order:( http://blisshabits.com/category/order/ )
- [GENERAL] Guest Post, Keeping Your World Organized and Free Of Clutter: A great post over at Bliss Habits, Kym starts with mental clutter and goes from there. ( http://blisshabits.com/2012/02/keeping-your-world-organized-and-free-of-clutter/ )
- [COMPUTER] Mac 2 School. Own a Mac? Feeling overwhelmed by electronic clutter? I can speak from experience that Ruth can help. Her new online class starts today, http://www.mac2school.com/biz/ ), and you can also find all sorts of great information on her site ( http://www.mac2school.com )
- [HOME] Bundle 'o books (and more) from Keeper of The Home. I usually don't purchase "bundles" online, but this one caught my attention. For $29.97 (yeah, catchy price), you get 97 ebooks and courses on homemaking, many of which are directed towards clutter. Again, I'm not an affiliate for this, but it seems like a pretty good deal for those into e-reading. The catch? It's only available until May 4th, 2013. (http://www.keeperofthehome.org/2013/04/97-ways-to-solve-your-biggest-homemaking-challenges.html)
- [GENERAL] Being Breath: An Introduction To Experiencing Life As It Is. Yep, I'm plugging my own. But hey, it's free, and an excellent resource to start feeling lighter. (Sign up link to receive free download: http://eepurl.com/xeHI1)
- [GENERAL] SoulSpace, by Xorin Balbes. Recommended by a friend on Facebook, the forward of this book is by Marianne Williamson, and reads, "SoulSpace is about more than how we decorate our homes; it's about how we care for ourselves." Sounds intriguing! (http://www.amazon.com/SoulSpace-Transform-Creating-Clutter-Inspired/dp/1608680371/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1367366113&sr=8-1&keywords=soulspace)
- [GENERAL] Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life, by Julie Morgenstern. Recommended by a friend on Facebook, the book is about the, "SHED process—a four-step plan to get rid of the physical, mental, and schedule clutter that holds back so many of us." (http://www.amazon.com/SHED-Your-Stuff-Change-Life/dp/0743250907/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1367366466&sr=1-1&keywords=when+organizing+isn%27t+enough+shed+your+stuff)
I know I've forgotten many, so here's your chance to remind me.
If you have any other favorite resources, please list them below in the comments.
Also, let me know - do you have a path for dealing with clutter and noise? Have you tried any of the techniques above, and have they worked for you?
I want to leave you with a quote I just found online, quite appropriate to today's topic:
LIFE IS SHORT
"Every act counts. Every thought and emotion counts too. This is all the path we have. This is where we apply the teachings. This is where we come to understand why we meditate. We are only going to be here for a short while. Even if we live to be 108, our life will be too short for witnessing all its wonders. The dharma is each act, each thought, each word we speak. Are we at least willing to catch ourselves spinning off and to do that without embarrassment? Do we at least aspire to not consider ourselves a problem, but simply a pretty typical human being who could at that moment give him- or herself a break and stop being so predictable?"
"My experience is that this is how our thoughts begin to slow down. Magically, it seems that there’s a lot more space to breathe, a lot more room to dance, and a lot more happiness."
Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, page 141
Here's to the journey....