I have become quite entranced by the power of organizing this year and I am recommending it to several of my clients and many of my friends. I have been waxing lyrical about discovering the almost magical healing properties of this seemingly mundane activity. Ironically, given that it is all about the physical detritus we accumulate over a lifetime, I have found that organizing is, in fact, very good for the soul.
- Want to know the biggest secret about organizing? It’s not about the stuff
To say organizing is about the stuff is to say that kissing is about moving your mouth around next to someone else’s. Which is to say that the sum of the whole is far greater than the parts. It’s a process, people and within this process there are many profound revelations and hidden benefits to be had.
To begin with, it’s an eye-opening indicator about just how much attention (or not) we have been paying to what surrounds us. Some people say that the state of your surroundings is a direct reflection of your state of mind and I have to say, that for me at least, there is a lot of truth to that. To begin with is the fact that the times I start to get messy coincide with the times I am feeling overly stressed or rushed. Of course, this easily becomes a vicious cycle if you find it stressful to be in disorderly surroundings.
I happen to think there may actually be some scientific merit to the idea that de-cluttering reduces stress, if only because it must take more energy to be in a cluttered room because each time our eyes survey it, our optic nerves and brain have to fire off so many more times to relay the information about all the stuff they are seeing.
So there’s something to be gained from the end result but what I haven’t heard so much about, is the healing that can happen along the way. Having recently gone through all of my possessions, I looked at, touched and made a conscious decision about the value and benefit of keeping each thing. In my case, needing to decide whether each thing is worth the cost of either storing or shipping pushed the stakes quite a bit higher.
What was astounding to me, given that I have moved a fair bit and most recently within two years, was the embarrassing amount of stuff that I really didn’t even know I had in my possession. I wish I had kept count of the astonishing number of trash sacks of stuff that got thrown away, not to mention all the things that were donated or sold. And at the end of all that, I still look at what I ended up with and feel that there is more to be let go.
Looking at mementoes from the past can be bitter-sweet. Reading love letters from someone who no longer shows us that they love us – for whatever reason – brings grief as we remember and re-experience joys and love lost and feel the pain of its absence.
Organizing gives us the opportunity to come face-to-face with a literal manifestation of how much emotional baggage we are carrying around.
The letting go was at times incredibly painful but when you stop to really think about it, totally irrational. Why do we get so attached to things? Of course, what we are really attached to is the meaning we ascribe to that thing, for a really good explanation of this, check out what my friend Jon has to say about Essentialism here.
What I came to realize was that the reason it was so hard to let go of certain things was because I greatly valued the meaning that I had attached to them. I realized that my reluctance had to do with feeling like I was letting go of experiences and emotions I wish were part of my present. So I understood that it hurt because it was very important to me to be able to remind myself or perhaps even to prove to myself that at this time I felt loved, at that time I felt happy or successful, or creative or whatever that emotion was that I want to be able to hold on to.
One of the most difficult parts of the experience was realizing that I needed to acknowledge that not only certain relationships were over, but also that certain phases of my life are over. That there are roles I wish I were playing in my life and other people’s lives that simply don’t fit or exist anymore. I realized I had been holding on to the props required for the movie set of the life I wished I was living.
Letting go of the things shattered my denial and resistance to being fully in the present – which of course is the only place we actually exist in. When I am able to drag myself (sometimes kicking and screaming) into fully being in the present, which perhaps I fear will be just too painful to even survive, I always experience relief. I need to try to remember that just like throwing up, once I finally submit to the inevitable, I always feel so much better afterwards. And the present is where the rebuilding can begin.
So this, dear reader, is how I came to discover the little known fact that organizing is in fact, a sort of spiritual practice since just like meditation it brings one into the present. Organizing facilitates a healing whereby we can review the past and acknowledge its gifts and lessons. As we take the gifts and lessons into our minds and hearts, we can let go of the stuff and without all that baggage it is so much easier to gracefully move on and grow towards a better future.
“Life will break you.
Nobody can protect you from that,
and living alone won’t either,
for solitude will also break you with its yearning.
You have to love.
You have to feel.
It is the reason you are here on earth.
You are here to risk your heart.
You are here to be swallowed up.
And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near,
Let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps,
Wasting their sweetness.
Yesterday I found a new role mode, in an Elephant Journal article by Robert Sturman about The Guiness Book of Records reigning oldest living yoga teacher, 93 year old Tao Porchon Lynch. As impressive as her strength and flexibility are for someone of any age, let alone a nonagenarian, it is much more than her physical prowess that enchants me about this radiant being.
For not only does she love yoga, but also wine and dancing the tango.
In a interview with Tara Stiles-Parker, she credits her longevity and zest for living to proper breathing and making a concerted effort to think positive thoughts, along with a nightly shoulder stand before bed each night. She eschews fear and procrastination, simply doing the next right thing without delay.
She beams and twinkles with a light that simply dazzles me.
“Smile at everyone”
She advises as she illustrates the phenomenal magnetism of her charismatic charm.
This is how I want to live my life.
Waking up grateful for each new day,
thrilled by the prospect of all that I can learn,
all the wonderful places and beautiful people to be met,
making the most of the great gift of life
and blessing all I see with a smile.
I had an amazing weekend facilitating the Vive La Différence Weekend for Couples with Bruce Gold. I am awed and humbled by the transformational power of love. It truly is the strongest medicine. This morning, one of the participants forwarded me an email she had received today which I would like to share with you along with a song – MC YOGI Give Love.
Daily Inspiration for Monday, February 27, 2012 from Renaissance Unity
“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.”
My passion is freedom and my purpose is love.
Your presence in my life is like a burning fire and a cool breeze.
Your truth pushes and cradles me.
I intend to be a better person today than I was yesterday.
With Your help, I passionately live my purpose.
With my help, You transform the world.
And so it is.
Today I hope that you feel connected to and inspired by your life’s purpose.
Holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year but they can also be the most difficult. There is something about the message that this particular time should be full of joy that can create a lot more pressure for people who aren’t feeling particularly joyful for various reasons. One of the keys to getting through it is to remember that, in fact, you are not alone in feeling this way. Many people are suffering from sickness or depression, are dealing with being separated from loved ones, or coping with personal challenges or financial issues that are overwhelming.
Even if you are lucky enough to be surrounded by loved ones, ironically, this season of cheer and goodwill to all men is the time of year that families and couples fight the most. There is nothing quite like an extended period of time in an enclosed space with your nearest and dearest to push your biggest buttons and, when you add alcohol to the mix, things predictably go downhill.
Being single during the holidays is arguably worse than being part of a fighting couple: For some reason, being unwillingly single for the holidays sucks even more than on Valentine’s day, presumably because you at least have a fighting chance at ignoring the existence of the latter.
All this pales in comparison to how hard it is to get through the holidays when you are mourning a loved one. It is particularly painful, not just because it is a time full of memories, but because everywhere you turn, the message is that this is the time to be together with loved ones. The joy that the rest of the world seems to be experiencing can make those burdened by grief feel particularly isolated.
The most important survival skill at this time of year is to give yourself permission to have the feelings you are having. Stop telling yourself that you ought to be feeling differently just because the calendar is on this particular page. It is hard enough to deal with difficult feelings without heaping guilt and shame on top of them. Quit Should-ing yourself. Expectations are 99% of the cause of all suffering. Give up the expectation that you should be feeling or reacting any differently to the way that you are. At a minimum, accept that the reality is this is how you are feeling. Even better, show yourself a little compassion and respect the fact that if you had a choice, you wouldn’t choose to be feeling like this.
Step 2 is to imagine yourself as someone else that you care about and think about how you would treat them if they were feeling this way. Perhaps you would be a little more patient? Give them a break? Give them permission to curl up under the covers until they felt stronger? Everyone is unique and we all have different things that make us feel better – and crucially for some people, the most important thing is simply having permission not to feel better until we do. Sometimes it takes a heck of a lot more time and energy to try to stop yourself having a feeling than to let it run it’s course. Sometimes, little things can help a lot. Be brave and ask for help. If that’s too much or there doesn’t seem to be anyone available, come up with a short list of things you can do for yourself that might help. Maybe it’s going to the movies and escaping reality for a while, finding someone to talk to, getting some exercise, making yourself some nourishing food.
Step 3 is to remember that practicing gratitude can be a very helpful aid. Sometimes, even coming up with a list of things to be grateful for is a major challenge (click for a link to a post on some suggestions to get started). If that’s the case, try an appreciation list instead. When all seems lost, sometimes it helps to focus on appreciation for the things we have experienced, the ability to feel, the breath that still carries hope that there will be a better moment ahead. If these holidays are hard for you, I truly hope something here will be helpful. Please remember that you are not alone and that everything changes. This too shall pass, I promise. I wish you peace in your heart.
Before I moved last time, I made a determined effort to go through my possessions and get rid of anything and everything that didn’t fall into the category of useful, beautiful or sentimentally valuable.
I tried hard to be ruthless and sold and gave away a lot of stuff. But, in spite of my efforts, I still ended up with a sizeable amount that moved to my new basement, where it has taken up residence on my to-do list ever since.
With the second anniversary of my move into this house approaching, my conscience finally got the better of my procrastination and I started to tackle this seemingly simple task that I find so daunting.
Going through the basement is not just about the furniture that hasn’t found a home or the boxes of random chargers, cords and clutter. It’s a bittersweet trip down memory lane when I open the boxes that reveal remnants of once precious moments.
In reviewing these familiar things, I am also noticing my feelings and noticing how they have changed since the last time I brought these souvenirs into my present consciousness.
Looking once again at love letters from a past relationship, I can see how much healing has taken place because this time I experience tenderness and appreciation, instead of the anger and resentment I remember feeling the he last time I held them in my hands. Finding a picture of my dog who died, I am grateful to sense that my grief for that loss is beginning to soften.
The hardest thing this time has been looking at photographs and artwork from my children, which used to bring pure joy. Touching and holding these treasures today has brought me face to face with the pain in my heart from missing my children which challenges me to the depth of my being.
Yet as painful as it may be, I am also aware that this is a fundamentally healing process. I have been looking at these hours in the basement as a voyage of self-discovery, to help me to become conscious of what I have been holding on to.
The objects I have chosen to keep speak about what has been important to me. The relationships I have had, the roles that I have played, the feelings that I once experienced.
As I evaluate each item and whether it’s time to release it or whether I still want to keep it, I can ask myself the same question about each thing that is symbolized.
Of course, I don’t want to let go of my most precious memories of my children’s childhood, but I need to face that my role in their lives has changed in order to be able to move forwards and step through and out of the grief that has paralyzed me for a while now.
What’s in your basement?
Happy 4th of July, everybody! I started today at the Jersey Shore where I had been invited to spend the weekend with some friends. I went out to run early this morning and chanced upon the startling sight of a large group of women of assorted sizes, ages spanning six decades, moving together in perfect harmony, filling the band-stand and spilling out on to the grass surrounding it.
At first glance, I thought I had stumbled upon Wildwood’s synchronized belly dance team, however, I soon surmised that this was in fact, an exercise class led by a contagiously enthusiastic blonde. After watching for scarcely a minute, I put down my water bottle and joined in the fun.
We bounced and gyrated, shook our booty and strutted our stuff sweatily under the morning sun. Our joie-de-vivre knew no bounds as we formed a can-can line and then twirled about, swinging each other around with such girlish innocence and playfulness. As I stretched up my arms into the blue sky above me, I was seized with emotion. I thought of the patients I had tended to in hospice last week and in particular, the one who had died and my heart surged with gratitude.
I was filled with a profound awareness of the blessings I was receiving. Such a simple yet sweet joy: strangers laughing and smiling as they danced together under a blue sky. How lucky I was, to be alive, to be healthy, to be free and above all, to be able to be conscious of this and to appreciate it all.
It is sunset now and as I look at the sky again, I am relieved to be brought back to this state of mind once again. The worries with which I have been preoccupied for the past couple of hours shrink back into their appropriately insignificant proportions, compared to all that I truly can rejoice in and give thanks for today.