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This week we look at the spiritual practice of cleaning. Much like the spring cleaning that I’ve heard is happening in other homes, this kind of cleaning is a time to refocus and make a fresh start when you need one. The idea of cleaning is about being in the best present state you can be. It involves looking at the things from your past or potential future that are making things feel foggy or fuzzy and letting them go so that you can feel healthy and contented where you are.
One of the things that we have to remember in this time is that while we are all experiencing similar stimuli, our responses may be completely different due to our own pasts, our own hopes for the future, or just how we perceive our present experiences. Many of us find ourselves at different points in our grief cycles, some of us bargaining for a better future, some of us mourning what would have happened today if things had “stayed the same,” some of us may have even completed a grief cycle and while we have accepted this is what is, we still may not know what to do with it, or how to plan for what may be next. It is this complexity of past and future which clutter our abilities to be present with emotions, expectations, and thoughts which we feel we cannot control. The thing is, we can work to let go of these things and be more present.
A quick side bar before getting into these steps of spiritual and mental cleaning: There are many false presents that we think we are in from time to time. I remember my dad after retiring fell in love with the song “Cat’s in the Cradle” and struggled because he thought he had let me down. Yet, in reality, I was glad for the reality I experienced and it took us a long time to find ourselves in the same present moment as that baggage from the past traveled with him. Likewise, I see many people looking forward and hoping that certain things from this time will remain when things “get back to normal” and that holds two main issues, first the next normal won’t be the old normal and second things as they are right now, even the good things, aren’t good for everyone and finding how to build on that will take us time.
Remember that while you have influence over your future, it is not yours to control. This may initially make you feel like the mess you are dealing with is bigger, but much like cleaning out the kitchen cabinets in order to reorganize, it is important to take this step and let go of what you are trying to make happen.
Straighten out your priorities. This is a step of discernment, asking yourself “What is most important to me right now?” and then “What part of that is most important to me right now?” and so on and so forth until you hit a core item. This can be as simple as self-care, or as complex as feeling at peace in the midst of chaos, but the more you can seek a core item of importance the better.
Sweep away self-criticism. This is admitting that not only is everything not going to always go according to plan, but that even things that you have some control over are not fully under your control and that “I am doing my best to…” is sometimes the most powerful statement you can make.
Let go of others. This one right now seems to be very hard for many people. Either because of lack of contact or an overload of contact. It is easy to get upset when someone in your household isn’t doing things you feel/think they should be doing, but you are not supposed to be in control of them or how they are dealing with their current situation. Instead of trying to make everyone fit with what you need, spend some time listening to others and their needs and work out how everyone can have time and space to be most fully themselves.
Focus on physical health. Our spiritual and mental health are connected to our physical. I know as someone who currently can’t leave his small townhome it is hard to even consider what physical health looks like, but this can be as simple as setting up a routine that allows for regular times of movement around the house and a regular healthy eating schedule. It can be hard to have an office that is also a home that is also a gym and a restaurant, but making specific schedules can help you physically as well as mentally.
Write it down. Even before dealing with the things that are eating you inside with others (be it feeling trapped with the same people, the unknown of the future, etc.), make sure you’ve taken time to examine them yourself. Write down your feelings, the times and things that cause them, and take time to sort, declutter, and organize before trying to make changes. This will free up your mind and spirit and allow you to feel calmer and more focused.
Take some time each day (as part of that earlier schedule) to do a few minutes of breathing, prayer, yoga, or meditation. Just doing some deep breathing can help you let go of things that are cluttering your present, and give you energy to be present in the moment more fully.
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