2 Apr 2017
Does this serve me?” I am learning to ask, each time I contemplate accepting another invitation or obligation in my life. I am lucky enough to have many interests and friends, and often receive invitations to lead groups, facilitate discussions, or to get together socially. And I want to say yes to each and every invitation. But rather than expanding my life experience, too many yeses constricts me by pulling me in many different directions, diffusing my focus and limiting my sleep. Saying NO creates space for growth, creativity and meaning.
I find it fascinating that, as I am exploring teachings of modern money “gurus,” they all advocate physically clearing your space in order to create change in your life. In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, readers are directed to consider whether a material possession “brings you joy,” in order to determine whether the item should be kept or discarded. Quoting Oprah’s favorite organizer, Peter Walsh: You want to change? This is where it starts: your home. Where you live, breathe, rest, love, and create. Forget the self-help books. Get rid of the clutter. Get organized. If you do, I promise that every aspect of your life will change in ways that you never imagined possible.
I do not consider it a coincidence that I am hearing these teachings during this traditional season of Spring Cleaning. We can of course approach this practice on a mundane level, cleaning out our closets and papers, and organizing the stuff we’ve accumulated over the past year.
The deeper work, however, is in considering what we are holding on to, what we are reluctant to say no to, though it may no longer serve us, nor bring us joy. The deeper work is to begin to recognize and let go of our habitual tendencies of body and of mind in order to welcome new possibilities, new beginnings into our lives.
This is not easy work. We start by noticing:
Sit in a comfortable position, and bring your attention to your breath.
How are you feeling at the present moment?
Is your experience pleasant, unpleasant, or neither?
Are you able to be with what is, or are you jumping ahead to what will be, or reviewing what has been?
Become aware of the stories: stories of insecurity, of fear, of anger, of jealousy, of boredom.
Notice, without judgement, the workings of your mind, and bring your attention back to the breath.
Set an intention in each moment to say no to the stories, to remove their power over you and instead to focus on the bodily sensations that accompany them.