Freeing Your Mind
Posted in Nourishment for the Mind » Learn on Wednesday, November 11, 2009

 

Freeing Your Mind

From Family Circle

4/1/2009

 

THE STUFF YOU OWN can easily separate you from the life you want- I’ve seen it happen in hundreds of homes in hundreds of different ways.  We surround ourselves with things large and small, things that are intended to bring us joy and pleasure, things we like and often treasure.  This is what we own, what we have, but what is it that we want?  What is it that we are hoping for when we fill our homes with stuff?

                  You strive to have a mutually rewarding relationship with your loved ones, you try to be successful and fulfilled in your work, and you aim to bring healthy food and exercise to your body.  But what about when you put all those things aside?  Do you feel as if your own unique internal compass is steady and true?  Are you centered?  Is this the life you want?

 

WHERE DO YOU FIND PEACE?

For some people, that feeling of well-being comes on vacations, during baseball games, or after lots of sleep, yoga, and green tea.  Some pursue gardening or reading- activities that are calm and peaceful, giving them time to recharge and refocus.  Others find their centers through a one-on-one relationship with a higher power or from a being part of a congregation that shares common beliefs.  What I believe is that we come into this world with a twofold capacity: the ability to reason and a near-limitless potential for love.  These are the criteria for the quality of our lives.  So I believe inner calm comes from living a life of love and reason.  In one way or another, most of us want to be good, giving people who make choices based on our values.  When you are successful at that effort, you feel a sense of fulfillment.  But what stands in your way of achieving inner calm?

                  Remember those words we use when we talk of clutter:  “suffocating” or “feeling buried” or “can’t breathe.”  This is what clutter does; it sucks the life out of any space.  Think of your immediate reaction when you walk into a cluttered space- anxiety, stress, feeling overwhelmed, or a strong wish to simply get away from it all.  When clutter fills space, there is no room for any light to occupy that space- literally and metaphorically.  It is impossible to have a clean, centered inner space when your outer space is a chaotic, disorganized mess.  Start with the physical clutter and then advance to those internal hurdles that are standing between you and inner peace.

 

IMAGINE THE INNER LIFE YOU WANT

The first step toward clearing the clutter of your internal life- what I call spiritual clutter- is to clarify to yourself what your goals are.  Here are some common goals to help you formulate your own.

Ø     A sense of purpose or mission  Do you believe that no matter what happens, you have a set of core beliefs to comfort and sustain you in time of need?

Ø     A sense of completion  meditative reflection that leaves you feeling centered?

Ø     Community  It may sound counterintuitive when you’re talking about inner calm, but community can bring you a sense of having a place in the world.

Ø     Decompression  Is there a  place you go or something you do to regroup?  It may be as simple as zoning out on your commute home, walking the dog, baking bread, having a drink, watching the news, playing with the kids, talking to your partner, or running around the block.  Don’t underestimate the value of this sort of personal retreat.  Give it the respect it deserves.

Ø     Charity  Giving to others is a great way to get rid of physical and mental clutter.  Just as donating belongings helps others while cleaning your home, donating your time has the unexpected side effect of clearing your sense of priorities and purpose.

 

CLEAR THE CLUTTER OF UNREAL EXPECTATIONS

Most of us live our lives in a linear fashion, seeing each day as a series of tasks to be accomplished.  But when it comes to finding a sense of truth and wholeness, everything gets a lot more abstract.  You can’t just pick something- like practicing yoga or painting in the garden on Sundays- and expect a sense of well-being to emerge.  Fulfilling your spiritual goals isn’t like attending jury duty, where you get credit just for showing up.  You need to take responsibility for yourself- for how you nourish yourself, for what you do and say, for the kind of person you are and the way you act toward others.  You have a responsibility and commitment to actively pursue what will help you reach your spiritual goals.

 

DECLUTTER YOUR INTERNAL LIFE

You can’t find peace if you are in a constant state of chaos and clutter.  Your spiritual life is personal, and fulfillment takes infinite forms.  I can’t tell you what or how to practice, but what I can tell you is that you have to establish and commit to your goals in this realm as in any other.  Let’s talk about how.

Ø  Strike a balance  Take a moment for a reality check.  Look around your home.  Think how you spend your time.  Is what occupies your spare time the meaningless clutter or a focus on what you value?  Organization is not something that you do- it’s where you are and how you live.  You need to work to keep your focus on your core priorities- things that truly matter should occupy your time, your head, and your heart.  If not, your internal clutter is not all that different from the stuff crowded in your home.

Ø  Commit time  Being too busy is the biggest obstacle to calm.  You may need time to clear your head and be quietly reflective.  This requires carving out a regular time to “practice.”  Or you may find it easier and equally fulfilling to integrate spirituality into your everyday existence by being generous and kind to others.  The point is, you may never fell balanced unless you find a regular activity- and by regular, I mean everyday- that takes you out of yourself.  Because one thing you can rely on is that if you spend all your time like a hamster on a wheel, you will never feel that life has meaning.  No matter what you choose as your peaceful interlude, you need to invest time and energy in order to yield returns.

Ø  Communicate  Connectedness doesn’t happen in a void.  You need to communicate with your community, with yourself, or even with a higher power, if you so believe.  If you want to include your family in your spiritual practice, I suggest you gather together and talk about each member’s individual goals and how the family might coordinate efforts to meet them.

Ø  Set boundaries  Our decisions reflect how we choose to live in the world, where we direct our energies, and how we relate to others.  This understanding of limits and the setting of boundaries is key not only to a balanced relationship with the physical world, but also to establishing and preserving your sense of calm and well-being.

Ø  Live by your moral code  Honesty and integrity are core values to use in dealing with yourself and everyone in your life.  Anything counter to these is clutter, just as real and destructive as the physical clutter that fills homes and destroys lives.  If in any way, shape, or form you act in ways that you know or believe to be wrong, you need to stop.

Ø  Don’t take on more than you can handle  List the tasks that are crowding your brain.  Prioritize them, decide what is reasonable to do, and get rid of the rest.  Learning to set limits is easier said than done, but it’s an important and powerful step to helping you find balance in your life.

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