Now THAT'S organized....
Ah, spring. A time to pause and take stock, organize and do some deep cleaning. An opportunity to purge, cull, and rid yourself of unworn clothes, unused items, and other things that are cluttering your space. It feels great, doesn’t it?
While taking a load of donations down to Goodwill the other day, I got to thinking about the concept of spring cleaning. We get to decide what is no longer serving us, and make a conscious choice to expel it from our home environment. Making the selection to discard something necessarily means that we are also making another set of decisions, namely, what to keep. If something makes the cut and we choose to keep it after a round of spring cleaning, then logic would tell us that we must value that item in some way. By eschewing that which we do not wish to hold on to, we are highlighting that which we do want. The act of mindful valuing is called having gratitude. Perhaps by creating that moment in which we consider what we’re holding onto, we are reminded of its importance. I wonder, then, if spring “keeping” can also extend beyond the items in our closets to our values, perceptions, and behaviors?
So maybe I'll never have THESE moves...
"The devil's a liar! Don't listen to him! There are angels all around you!"
No, these weren't the words belted out across the pews at a church on a Sunday morning. This was inspiration found in a weekday funk dance class.
I'd decided to try an intriguing new class, CardioFunk, offered at my local gym. Scanning the others in the studio, it was clear that I wasn't going to be the only one relatively new to this style. There's something about dancing that can bring out insecurities and self-consciousness, making an otherwise capable adult feel as vulnerable as a gangly teen at a school formal.
Luckily, the instructor was onto us. Milo had enough experience teaching hip hop to suburbanites to know that we just might be feeling, well, a touch un-cool. That's when he started with the verbal support.
"Don't listen to that voice that's bringing you down. That's the devil and he's a liar! Let loose and dance like you're alone at home."
Milo's words were enthusiastic enough to override the negative thoughts that were threatening to derail our fun. His message was clear: the more you just go for it, the more confident you'll look and feel. I often use cognitive behavioral therapy techniques in my counseling work. I know how powerful our thoughts can be in affecting our feelings. Who knew I'd be reminded of a principle of psychology in my morning gym class? Thank you, Milo, for guiding us out of our heads and onto the dance floor.
Our lives get busy and, before we know it, we're already turning the corner to a new year. The winter season is a good reminder to slow down, reflect, and take a moment to appreciate that which has meaning in our lives. The new year is also a time of renewed hope, providing us with motivation to recommit to our goals. Mindfulness, or, being fully present in the moment, is a way to savor the experiences that define our lives. In this festive season, I hope you take the opportunity to feel and express gratitude for where you've been, where you're going, and for those who have shared joyfully in your journey.
Wishing you a beautiful new year,
I love this poem by Rumi and wanted to share it with you. To me, it speaks to radical acceptance of what is. Rather than push away our feelings and try to deny them, welcome them. The more quickly we acknowledge them, difficult as they might be, the more quickly we can integrate and process them. They're there for a reason. Invite them in.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
(The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks)
I am currently feeling quite a bit of gratitude for the modest verdant space that I call a yard. To some, it might seem a chore to have to weed, mow, and clip. Just another job to get done with as quickly as possible so that you can get back to the business of enjoying your weekend. Instead of seeing the work as a burden, however, what about reframing your perspective? Is it possible for you to view your yard work as an opportunity for your own personal practice in mindfulness? A do-it-yourself therapy session? If you are able to shift your thinking, you might find yourself looking forward to the chance to prune branches, trim hedges and water the hydrangeas.
There is something about kneeling down on the ground to trim the edge of the lawn that can focus the mind so intently on the task at hand. What a peaceful and meditative feeling to be so absorbed in a particular activity that all else falls by the wayside. Out in the fresh air, take notice of what is around you. Can you hear birds chirping in the tree overhead? Do you see the tiny community of bugs living underneath that leaf that you just raked? Are you able to recognize the nuanced shades of color in a flower’s petal? Do you appreciate the feeling in your body at the physical exertion required to push that mower over and through the blades of grass? How does it feel to run damp soil through your fingers or to walk barefoot on the earth? The act of bringing our attention to the present moment reminds us that the only way we can truly experience the richness of life is in the here and now.
We can choose to be fully present in the moment, all five senses alert, while tending to the yard work. However, it can also serve to connect us to the past. Does the act of pulling weeds today conjure up memories of the smell of freshly-cut grass in the neighborhood park where you played as a child? Do you remember your favorite aunt’s vegetable garden and the way it smelled when you went to visit her in the summer? What about the lone fig tree in your grandparents’ yard, whose ripe fruit were canned for homemade jam and enjoyed throughout the year? By engaging in the work of gardening in the present, we are aligning ourselves with a human tradition and creating a link to our heritage. Maybe you grew up surrounded by concrete, with green spaces few and far between, but relished the school field trip to local botanical garden. We usually don’t have to look too far to find our personal connections to nature.
So, the next time you peer outside of your window and notice that the lawn needs mowing and the tomatoes look like they could use some plant food, don’t get discouraged. Think of it as a fabulous opportunity to practice mindfulness and connect to your past. It’s the gift of yard work!