by Holly Keich (originally published September 2011)
This past month, I’ve been trying to clear out the mess contained in our basement to make way for a wonderful new useable, living space in our lives. I was forced into cleaning by the heavy rains and subsequent flooding of our basement in this past April. And finally I’ve scheduled the time and have started to get to work. But every time I traverse into the depths of our basement, I wonder “Where do I start?”
Ironically, in the midst of clearing out magazine clippings that I’ve saved, I found an article on The Lightness of Being…Organized by Marilyn Paul. Paul is the author of It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys. In an attempt to find a link to the article online, I stumbled across the FlyLady. I’ve been told of her, even took steps to ‘like’ her on Facebook, but had yet to implement any of her suggestions to make my life flow easier. Possibly both of these findings are signs that now was the time not only to revamp the basement, but to organize and supercharge my personal and spiritual growth as Paul’s article suggests.
Really, it could happen. Don’t you feel more centered and focused in life after cleaning and organizing? They say it’s in the mundane where spirit truly lies. By bringing awareness to the details of life and finding joy in them I’m certain I can bring sparks of holiness to my life and fill my every day tasks with bliss.
But the question still remains…”Where do I start?” The obvious would be to work on the physical task of decluttering and purging, but clearing your mind must work synergistically with physical clearing. Paul says, “Developing a spiritual practice can help you see with greater clarity the areas in your life that need cleaning up, literally and figuratively, and will help you accomplish the everyday organizing that we so often avoid: folding the laundry, washing the dishes, paying the bills.” Here are some ideas taken from the article by Paul found in the March/April 2003 issue of Body&Soul about where to begin:
Meditation can help you to clear your mind and stop grasping for happiness through acquisition. It can even help you cut back on the obligations in your life as you pare away what is necessary and what isn’t in your life.
Try this: Your meditation does not need to be formal. When you have kids, it’s hard to find time for a formal meditation practice. Instead, you can “sit” behind the wheel of your car when you are stuck in traffic, or pause at a coffee shop and close your eyes. Taking just a few moments to get lost between the thoughts typically governing your mind.
Mindfulness, bringing one’s attention to the present moment, to the direct, sensual, tactile engagement with your surroundings, rather than paying attention to the often negative chatter in the mind, can help you to get past the resistance of the mundane. Making the bed, doing the dishes, picking up toys, scrubbing a burned pot can all be a way to directly engage with the world around us.
Try this: Perform an ordinary everyday chore, maybe one that you typically dislike, with a quiet, attentive mind for just three minutes, as if this were the first time you ever performed this task. Pay attention to your sensations – the feeling on your skin, what you see, the shapes and the sounds. Notice your breathing. Observe the results. Consider incorporating this into your routine so you can do more of your daily tasks with a better attitude.
Sabbath, creating a time to deliberately do nothing on a weekly basis as a retreat from the everyday world of work, chores and obligations, gives you a time for renewing the soul. Breaks are essential for your wellbeing and long-term productivity. When you are refreshed, you can bring great insight and energy to bear on tasks and problems that seemed insurmountable just the day before. For those of us who feel we are too busy for a Sabbath we can work towards it slowly by setting aside a few hours in the morning or evening to start and let go of the world of deeds.
Try this: Pick some activities that are spiritually renewing for you. Perhaps you like to walk or meditate, Perhaps it’s time to play with the kids or to read. Maybe you take out those watercolors that have been drying up in the closet. The important thing is to break your normal routine. This time will give you life if you give it life.
With a fresh mind, you can work towards purging and letting go of material objects that you may no longer need to possess. Often we substitute things to obtain a spiritual connection with the world and once we’ve found that elsewhere we are better able to be free of possessions that are weighing us down. You’ll have more ability to create your physical space with harmony and balance. Finding a place for everything and putting (and keeping) everything in it’s place. Clearing spaces allowing more spaciousness internally. Now, rather than engaging in a constant battle against the external disarray that is a reflection of your internal struggles we will be able to clean with ease. And as we become more organized, we’ll find gaps in time that previously seemed chaotic and rushed. Rather than filling those gaps with action, you can choose to use this time to deepen your soul-nourishing awareness. Take that time to ask your soul what wants to emerge. This creates sacred intervals throughout your day where you can tune into the abundant, rich qualities of life and truly enjoy each moment.
Holly Keich is a Licensed Social Worker, Yoga Instructor and the owner of Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center in Camp Hill, PA.