From Sorting the Pieces of Your Life: A Woman’s Guide to Simplicity, Order, Renewal, and Trust
“Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” -William James
My cleaning continues, both outer and inner. I have little projects I attack one at a time around the house—yesterday it was all the clutter that has gathered on a closed-in front porch. I like it to be a welcoming entrance to our home, but over the holidays and a family reunion it ended up strewn with grocery bags, a few straggling Christmas decorations, the first aid kit from the car, and far too many pairs of shoes!
As I removed the clutter an item or two at a time, it was striking what emerged: the hearty spring green succulent plants in their bold colored pots; broad branches in a tall ceramic vase; a tiny mirror in a turquoise sea glass frame adorning the wall. Eliminating the junk made the porch come alive in its simplicity and order.
Recently I read an old article I found in my paper cleanout. Uncover Your True Self, Yoga Journal, Dec. 2008, by Eknath Easwaran, tells the story of a sculptor in ancient India who was renowned for life-sized statues of elephants. Daring in their authenticity—the trunks, curled high, looked so real one expected the triumphant elephant call to fill the air—many wondered what was the secret of his work.
The sculptor described how he focused undisturbed attention on the blocks of granite he worked from until he began to see a faint outline of an elephant. With concentration, the image within the rock would become more definitive and then his physical labor began. “With an utter singleness of purpose, I chip away every last bit of stone that is not elephant,” he said.
As I read, I realized that whether we are cleaning out a house or a heart, our power is found not in focusing on the extraneous, superfluous clutter that camouflages the beauty of our inner and outer dwelling, but seeing the jewels that await.
It is known in psychology that when we focus on the behavior we want to stop it becomes more embedded. Rebellion rears her fierce head and digs her heals in stubbornly. Change happens instead when we take steps toward what we want to create, focusing on the beauty, simplicity, and order that we desire. The sculptor was successful because he saw the elephant, not the debris that needed to be chipped away.
This is exciting because it means there is beauty and satisfaction waiting to reward the painstaking step-by-step work of sorting and removing, as well as a potential for pleasure in the process of clearing itself.
Easwaran, author of Timeless Wisdom, wrote in her article. “We do not need to bring our real self, our higher Self, into existence. It is already there.” Once we have become attentive to the presence of this true Self, then all we really need do is resolutely chip away at whatever is masking it.
Here is a short set of suggestions for reclaiming our inner and outer radiance.
Imagine What is Possible: Use the creative power of your mind to visualize how your home will look as you continue cleaning out and organizing. What will it look like, what scents will you smell, how will you feel when you walk in the door?
Identify Your Values: When we reclaim our dwelling places, we also reclaim our true selves. What do you know about who you really are? What are your gifts and strengths? How do you want to live? Remember times you have seen those values emerging. Forgive yourself for times you lost track of your values and remember that wasn’t your authentic self, but ironically brought you closer to the full and wise expression of it.
Include Small Steps: As you go about your daily rounds, remove a pair of shoes you like, but not enough to wear, and add them to your charity box. Throw away the stale candy from Christmas still sitting on the counter. A few items a day add up. If you’re tackling an inner weakness, practice one small step today. Just for now hold your tongue when you know that’s best. Enjoy a moment of quiet reflection even though your ‘to do’ list is too long!
And remember to find joy in the process. There is a perfection to every part of the path. Through self-compassion and patience, you will see that the revelation of your most radiant expression has its own timing, and you are a work of art at every stage!