Saturday, August 17, 2013

How to Declutter Using Faith

What on earth, you may ask, does faith have to do with decluttering?

If you'd asked me six months ago, I'd have said absolutely nothing. But now I see how critical faith is to a simple life, a decluttered home, and a feeling of prosperity and ease.

I don't mean faith in the sense of religious beliefs, though that can work if that's what works for you. I'm such an eclectic spiritual soul that I don't know how to define my "faith," but I don't think of it in religious terms. More in terms of a belief in something larger, something mysterious, something that is perfect and whole, no matter what is actually going on, and no matter how I perceive it to be otherwise. A universe that exists is enough, for me, to have faith that I can surrender to its integrity, even if I don't understand or even like it.

Here we are. Amazing.

Now, in my home, I have struggled, for years, with a yearning for a simple, uncluttered lifestyle, a clean, open and cozy place that has room to breathe and feels good and actually achieving it. I can tell you that right now I don't have that. My house is also not so bad as to be the other extreme--it is not heavily congested, it is not chaotic, it is not cramped and airless and it does not look to be the home of a hoarder.

But. I want the feeling of simplicity and space and enough-ness in my home. My discovery vis-a-vis faith and decluttering is that the only way to let things go AND not bring more than what's absolutely necessary into my life is to have faith in a universe that provides enough.

The process of getting to that faith, by the way, has taken me years. And I can discuss more of that in another post. But today, I want to leave you with the thought that if you crave a decluttered home, if you want simplicity and peace and ease in your life, you are gonna have to cultivate faith to achieve it. I really think it's the only way.

I mean, you could hire a professional organizer to come in and declutter and organize your stuff, but the only way to maintain that state is to feel differently than you did when you were in the process of cluttering your home. (And, by the way, you have to take responsibility--clutter doesn't just happen. You either make it or you allow it via various avenues, another topic for another post.)

And for me, the way I've begun feeling differently about prosperity and material possessions and all that goes along with it--money, work, buying, selling, giving and sharing--is to apply faith to the process.

If you're feeling it, tell me what the biggest obstacle is for you on your path to a decluttered, simple home? And what do you think faith could do for you regarding this area?

As always, peace to you.

Monday, August 12, 2013

How to Set an Intention

In my last post, I mentioned that I wanted to discuss intention setting. (In the stressful situation I wrote about, I had told my son, "I'm wanting to feel calm and spacious..." and that that was my intention for that day.)

This, intention setting, is another tool I practice to help my days feel rich and vital and blissful. Or, on days when I'm coping with something difficult, it helps my day to have the space and calm and peace I need to make room for difficult emotions or situations that I know I'll have to navigate.

It's really simple. The key is that you have to make it a habit and make room for intention setting in the beginning of your day.

On an average day, I might set an intention like this: "At the end of the day, I want to feel energetic and joyful."

Other common intentions in my household include:
  • Abundant and free
  • Calm and spacious
  • Peaceful and content
  • Patient and loving
  • Playful
  • Appreciative
  • Present and aware
  • Empathetic
  • Mindful
  • Rich and prosperous
You get the idea. Choose one, choose a few. Mix and match. Create what's relevant to you. The other thing is, you can pick whatever you want, but you can't let circumstances derail your intention. That's where the practice comes in. If you want to feel patient and loving and your child is testing your patience with huge tantrums, you have to devise some way to try and generate, authentically, the feeling of patience and lovingkindness, in the face of tests.

That's why I often like to add a strategy at the end of my intention. So, it might look like this: "At the end of the day, I want to feel patient and loving. --> Deep breaths, counting and lots of hugs!"

That way I have the intellectual touchstone--the idea about the feeling--and a roadmap for how to actually generate, in my body and brain and heart, the feeling.

My son and I have a little whiteboard we keep on the table where we write down our intentions over breakfast. You don't have to do this, but I like to model this practice for my children, so that's important to me. You can keep yours private if you want.

My family has had so much success with this practice, because it prevents us from reacting out of a more primitive and emotional place. Just by setting the intention, we have a positive, healthy direction we've placed in the front of our minds.

I don't want to be a mama who yells all the time. I don't want to be angry, impatient, frustrated, distracted, discontented, etc. I want to be rich, happy, joyful, grateful, loving, patient, kind, contented and all the other good qualities we admire. I want to live in those feelings. And, as a wise teacher says, what you appreciate, appreciates. The more you can authentically dwell in those feelings, the more good feelings come to you.

As if it weren't enough to just feel better and have happier, more spacious days, other benefits accrue from this practice: Healthier relationships. More time. An instinct toward simplicity, gratitude and kindness. Less debt. More productivity in the areas of the most meaning. Clarity of thoughts. Less time spent in regret, less time apologizing. More playfulness and creativity.

Go ahead. Give it a try. Let me know how it goes for you, or if you have any questions.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Gratitude Is the Way, but Breath Is the Path

There's so much I want to say in this space now that it's hard to know where to start. I promise it won't be dull--you'll just have to deal with some potentially weird non sequiturs.

First, as per my last post, I do believe gratitude is the secret to living in bliss. Not that it's always easy. Gratitude is the practice, the yoga, if you will, that leads you to your path, to *the* path that is yours and yours alone. There are many, many days that still arise in my life where feeling grateful is a struggle. But I'm so certain that it's the way, that it's the source of good and vital things in my life, that I come back to the practice. There are days when practicing gratitude feels so hard I can't do it with real authenticity. That's OK. That's normal. I want to remind you that there are days where our humanness, our feelings, overwhelm us and we just have to feel what we're feeling so we can get through it and eventually resettle into our higher, more luminous selves. On these days, I take deep breaths and I count.

Yesterday I found myself trying to get to a meet up with other mamas and their kids, and we were running late. The baby slept longer than usual. My son was distracted by his deep thinking on what kind of train he was going to be that day. Then we got lost. The baby was getting fussier and fussier. Finally, as we arrive at the splashpad, I see that it is dry. A mama from our group sidles up to the car: "It just broke.We're heading to Ricky Guerrero." New plan, new address in my phone's GPS. Screaming baby, impatient 3.5 year old. Traffic.

I was in a primitive, stressed part of my brain. Thinking of gratitudes in that moment was in no way going to make me feel bliss. It would be like my brain trying to sell my body on something it didn't need. "Gratitudes for sale---pathway to bliss!" it would sing out. And my body, stressed, heart pounding, muscles tight, would say, "What a moron! Can't my brain see that what I really need is a strong drink?"

(Not that I advocate drinking for stress relief, though sometimes, you know, it's what ya got.) The point is, like people use alcohol to bring their bodies through the stress, what I needed was a physical aid, a way through the fight-or-flight response. My intellectual brain was useless to me. And, thus, so was a gratitude.

Which leads me to breath. I told my son, "I'm wanting to feel calm and spacious (my intention for the day, a topic for another day's post), so I'm gonna take some deep breaths and then count." (He loves to count, so that helps him through stress.)

And that's what we did. In traffic, baby screaming to get out of her restraining (and therefore nefarious) carseat, we took big, deep, settling breaths. And we counted. (Up to 70.)

And that's how, in a stress-filled moment, rife with the potential to explode and go wrong with yelling, inattention, or hurtful words, we rerouted by acknowledging what we were feeling and then
relied, like a cripple on a cane, on our breath to carry us through some stress and big feelings.

That's how, by the time we got to the park, we were human again, escorted by breath past our reptilian response.

And there, in the dappled sun, by the rushing sound of water, in the good company of friends, we could relax, and I could look around and feel, with authenticity, how blessed and lucky I was to be there. How grateful I was. How happy.

If gratitudes are like the signs that show you the way, breath is like the earth upon which you walk your path. 

So, don't feel bad on those days you feel shitty and gratitudes seem like a cruel joke. What I'm saying is that all you really need to do to stay on the path is breathe.


Monday, August 5, 2013

The Secret Is Gratitude

The last post here was about 13 months ago. I was five months pregnant at the time, and now I have a beautiful, healthy 8 month old baby girl.

Man, having a baby is hell on blogging. :-)

But, a routine has reestablished itself and I'm back, feeling again like I have some things to say. I've been through some crazy things over the past few months, some traumatic, some amazing, and some just mundane.

But through all that, I've been following a plan that has kept me growing, evolving, and believing in the possibility of bliss and a rich life today, right now. And, the more I live this way, the more I believe that it speaks to the great myths and ancient wisdom traditions that point to the truth of bliss being here, always available, no matter the circumstances.

Today, I am living a life I consider to be a dream, not because it looks like something in the movies. It is a far richer, yet more humble dream: I work doing work that I love, for a few hours a week, and the rest of the time, I am with my beautiful and amazing children and my seriously fantastic (and yummy!) husband.

This dream would not be possible without the help of others, it's true, but it also isn't only chance. I have worked in many ways, consciously and unconsciously to design a life where help slots into place and is available for me to take advantage.

I want to say more about this as I go along here in this space. I look at my life, and while not perfect by any means, it is a life I deeply, deeply appreciate and feel gratitude for.

And, the thing is, every life, no matter the circumstances, deserves appreciation and gratitude. It is not too much to say that deep, abiding gratitude for what is here, for who you are, for what is, is the secret to finding bliss.

That's all I'll say for now. I hope to see you back here for more. In the comments, feel free to tell me what you are deeply and wildly grateful for right now.