Life is constantly presenting us with opportunities to learn, grow, love, and live more fully. Yet, we sometimes are stuck or bogged down in situations or relationships that cloud our view and prevent us from moving forward. It’s as if we no longer see the blue sky because we’re looking through dirty windows. In order to see blue sky again we must understand what is obstructing our path.
Do you feel like you’re trapped in a job or a relationship that is not fulfilling? Are you faced with challenging family dynamics? Or do you lack a sense of purpose or no longer feel passionate about anything? Perhaps a chapter of your life has closed due to a loss or ending of some kind; you’re in the transition phase, eager for something new. This is where I currently find myself, having lost a beloved friend.
Whatever the situation, one powerful way to begin the clearing process is in our personal environment: our home, office, and the spaces where we spend the most time. These places reflect what’s going on inside us. They can teach us about our past and present, and show whether we are moving forward or being blocked. They may reflect our past experiences, successes and failures, hopes and regrets, joys and fears.
My clearing process began in the form of a long overdue remodeling project, updating my condo with wood floors, fresh paint (including closets), new bath, and kitchen. As I prepared for my handymen to start the work, I became more and more committed to leaving no stone unturned. Systematically emptying every closet and sifting through drawers, I acknowledged that it was time to finally tackle the decades of accumulated memories neatly stored away. While I’ve never been a hoarder, I do admit to being a saver of treasured memories—and unfinished projects. In my new life chapter, those old memories no longer require much space in my consciousness. The projects either need to be completed or discarded.
I began with slides taken on my many travels in an earlier stage of my life. I found myself hurriedly discarding thousands of slides, saving only 110 to be digitized. These were mostly of people I met in far-off lands (I can go online and view photos of Machu Picchu and Egyptian pyramids anytime). Next were thousands of photos, of which I saved only those holding the most endearing memories of friends, loved ones and family. Then I found boxes of greeting cards, postcards, and letters that others had sent me. Yes. We used to write letters, and I had a lot of them, especially from people I’d met through my travels. Some of them I could barely remember. While I read and savored some, each one I pitched left me feeling lighter and freer.
As I became more and more consumed by this clearing process, I established three bins for getting rid of possessions. Two were for repurposing—donations and recycling—and the third for garbage. I committed to put nothing back in the closet unless I loved or needed it. Over the years, I’ve helped others downsize and guided people through this process in my coaching practice. I have periodically cleared out some of my business and personal items. Now I was compelled to lighten the load on a much larger scale—and simplify my life. Indeed, my closets and rooms are now not only neat, but have lots of empty space—space for breathing, growing, and being. Like a snake shedding its skin, I feel a life renewal emerging.
Our external spaces can often mirror our internal environment—our thoughts, beliefs, values, and memories that are rooted in our past. Our values and beliefs were mostly formed early in life and were largely influenced by those who taught and cared for us. The harmony or disharmony we experienced in childhood may be reflected in our furnishings and artwork and in the order or chaos seen in our homes or offices. Early harmony may be manifested by an orderly home, while disharmony may be manifested by cluttered, chaotic surroundings.
My growing up years were not particularly joyful. There was a lot of dysfunction within our family: divorced parents, father’s early death, arguing between mother and stepfather, etc. There was apparently a longing inside me to challenge the beliefs and values I was raised with and shift beyond the memories and disharmony of this early life. Moving into adulthood and working life, I embarked on a period of study and growth that included international travel, in which I sought to fill my spirit with adventure and exposure to other cultures and peoples. Further explorations led me to yoga, spiritual studies, joining a dance company, and starting my own business. Deep relationships either evolved or ended. Marriage and children have not been part of my life – though joy, love, and passion have!
My clearing process is a reflection of a renewed lease on life that I had already signed onto in recent years. The terms offer greater freedom and clarity that bring me more in alignment with my true self—a long overdue project. My joy is heightened as I engage with my presence and skills to help others learn how to live more fully, fruitfully, and harmoniously, even with life’s challenges and traumas.
Renew your presence
Take a look at your external and internal environments and see how your life is playing out. What’s missing? Do you feel blocked or stuck in any way? Is there clutter, disrepair, or boxes of past memories calling for your attention? Is there anything you need to let go of physically, emotionally, mentally? Are you ready to shed your skin of the past? If so, what will you be willing to let go of in order to emerge into a new present?
According to Jeff Foster, a spiritual teacher in England, “Being present is the best way of letting go, and, curiously, as we let go we become more present.” One of the most vital forms of renewal is to quiet your mind enough to experience presence. You may do this by opening the senses to hearing, seeing and feeling into the body and breath. This allows you to listen at a deeper level to yourself and others to hear beneath the surface for deeper truths.
According to a study by Jason Fischer, neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “What you are seeing at the present moment is not a fresh snapshot of the world but rather an average of what you’ve seen in the past 10 to 15 seconds.” With this understanding, there is just enough time in the present moment to slow down, take a deep breath and just be for 10 to 15 seconds. We can let go and renew, like a caterpillar who has woven its cocoon and is ready to emerge as a joyous butterfly with the wholeness of renewed being. When we live in the state of being, the doing in life becomes easier.
I recently attended a concert celebrating the work of composer Marvin Hamlisch who died three years ago. At the end we were all invited to sing together the words of “What I did for Love” from his musical A Chorus Line. What are you doing for love? As Frank Sinatra sang, “Regrets, I had a few…but…I did it my way.” What is your way? Are you ready to clear the way to living from a renewed, whole sense of being?