“It’s a transformative experience to simply pause instead of immediately fill up the space. By waiting, we begin to connect with fundamental restlessness as well as fundamental spaciousness. ― Pema Chödrön
It’s that time of year again, when the words “Spring Cleaning” will be making their way to our eyes and ears. While I think that there is opportunity throughout the year to bring mindfulness to our surroundings and possessions, spring is especially important to do so. Why? Because we are in preparation for new energy and growth that comes in strong after months of winter’s dormancy and we must prepare a clear path for it’s smooth arrival. Since the word “cleaning” is such a drag, perhaps we could think of it as “Spring Clearing”.
The act of clearing is one of the fundamental principles of the universe. Done regularly, it makes maneuvering through life much easier because it keeps us calibrated closer to our true center, or internal self. The smaller the gap between our true center and the external self (the one we put out into the world) the less space and tolerance we have for accumulating things that don’t serve us.
We are able to see and feel what isn’t working much faster, allowing us to clear it out long before it has a chance to take root in our lives or our psyches. We feel lighter and have greater clarity because we are only walking around with the things we really need. We have no desire to load ourselves with extra pounds, extra drama or anything else that brings no value to our lives.
Sometimes there is more value in the absence of things than in the presence of things.
But the wider the gap is between our internal selves and the external self the further away we are from feeling our true center. With a wide divide between the two, the debris of living can quickly pile up, making it harder to see or feel who we are anymore. If there is one thing I’ve seen from working in the physical realm of the home it’s that the more space you have, the more stuff you’ll find to fill it.
This plays out in so many ways in our lives. Physically, we may have widened the gap between good health and bad health by not listening to the body, which clearly tells us what it needs to work well and what it doesn’t. We may not even be aware of what we are putting in our mouths or how sedentary we’ve become until our tight clothes or illness remind us that something is wrong.
Emotionally, we may be widening the gap by filling it with destructive thoughts, distracting or addictive behaviors, or untrue belief systems. We may not even be taking responsibility for our behavior or seeing it’s impact on the state of our lives.
In our physical space we can widen the gap by neglecting to reflect in our surroundings the things that remind us who we are internally. We may choose to copy a style or color palette because it feels safer than expressing our own uniqueness. Perhaps we have forgotten to use our homes as a gathering place for family and friends and thought of it only as a quick landing pad between trips out the door. By not listening to, or pleasing, the internal self we may find ourselves in a place we don’t recognize as home.
So how do you start closing the gap that distances us from our center? By starting the process of clearing. The first step is to wake up and see what we have been filling ourselves up with. By looking at the contents of our bodies, our minds and our homes we can decide what stays and what goes. Every time we give up something that we don’t need or want we get a little closer to our center again.
For those that have a practice of checking in with themselves on a regular basis this clearing is familiar and done with relative ease. The places that need tending to are in plain sight and easily addressed. But for some, the waking up process meets more resistance because it is an unfamiliar routine. We may be met with discomfort as we come head to head with layers of neglect, old beliefs or excuses we need to dig through. It may seem like a bulldozer is needed to clear even the narrowest of paths. But if we don’t, no light can get through and we are doomed to live in our own dark shadow.
Getting comfortable with the practice of clearing in our homes is a great starting point because we can see the results almost immediately. Rather than getting bogged down by the totality of what needs to be done, just pick a small starting point, like a closet or a bookshelf, sock drawer or under a bed and just keep on going. You may be amazed by how much unneeded stuff you have shoved into that space between your internal and external you. The more you clear out the narrower the gap will become. You’ll be inspired to continue when you turn around and see the change that comes about as a result of your own effort and actions. You may be ready to explore clearing in other areas of your life. Whether we are clearing the contents of a junk drawer or the contents of our lives, the skill set is the same. Done on a routine basis we are able to re-center ourselves before wobbling too far from center.