When the circumstances of life seem out of control – and more specifically, beyond our control – it is human nature to attempt a pendulum swing back to a more measured place.
Those who study Buddhist dharma might fall back on the basic tenant that suffering is largely caused by a desire to attain pleasure and control our environment. The sooner we could simply accept the inevitability of change, and the impermanence of the joy found in material goods, the sooner we could find inner peace.
I offer another perhaps more direct route to feel at ease in uncertain times. Literally get rid of your stuff.
There is a reason Marie Kondo is enjoying such immense popularity. Kondo, the Japanese organizing mastermind, author, and tv show host, trademarked a system of de-cluttering called the KonMari method. The underlying principle is that if an object does not bring you joy, thoughtfully discard it.
The fact that renewed interest in Kondo coincided with a global pandemic forcing citizens to lock down in their homes for the past 11 months tells one truth. People finally had time to go through those boxes in the attic, contemplate a guest room renovation, and come to terms with the fact that they weren’t going to be wearing those suits and little black dresses again for a while. If ever.
With little else to do, cleaning out the house offered a sense of purpose.
There is, however, a bigger reason we are drawn to simplify in trying times.
Psychologically, clutter reads as chaos and that is stressful. A 2010 study in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that bothersome clutter can actually create a physiological response including raised levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Clutter also reads as choices – too many choices. That as well has been found to create feelings of overwhelm and information overload. The less choices consumers are provided with at the market, for example, the easier and more stress-free their selections are.
Letting go of things offers a fresh start, and a way to shake up stagnant energy hanging about your abode. The process can also be a way to release items associated with painful memories or emotional triggers.
Making space means more than letting go of things at the physical level; it is also about creating room in your mind and heart. You may have heard the term ‘sacred space’. That simply refers to a place where you can let go of the pressures of modern society and reconnect with your core values, your true heart, and the divine – be it a holy power or the light within each of us.
What does sacred mean to you? The dictionary tells us sacred means connected with God or pertaining to religion. However, in the parlance of our times, this definition is further reaching. It includes the secular and spiritual, and truly anything that connects you with nature, your higher self, something bigger.
Creating sacred space means to allow yourself a place free from distraction so you can connect with something meaningful by way of prayer and reflection. For some, it is a church pew or an altar within their home. For others, it is a special spot outdoors. When you frame out your own sacred space it will be unique, as everyone has different ideas about elements that will support and nourish them.
I’d like to say my sacred space is the massage table of a trusted practitioner, where I can melt on the table and exhale a deep sigh of relief and release. The reality is, for the past year I have been cooped up an unnatural amount of time in my house, trying to keep life moving forward with some sense of normalcy. Born out of necessity, my sacred space has become my bedroom. With beloved books, candles, and fluffy pillows, and view of a fruit-tree filled backyard, it is a space where I can close the door and feel free of the demands of life. It is a place where I can cry, meditate, or otherwise focus on myself without guilt. We all need that place.
Where is your spot? Perhaps it is simply a corner of a room, a place in your garden, or a single meditation pillow. Perhaps it is a park bench on your favorite trail. Wherever you call sacred, I encourage you to make your space private and filled with the things you love. Create a space with intention. Allow it to be a resource that replenishes your energy, realigns you with your purpose, and reconnects you to your breath.
For me, breath is the most essential element. It is where I focus my bodywork practice and what I tell my clients to direct their attention to in and out of session. When you find yourself in sacred space, take a moment to notice your breathing pattern. Are you taking deep or shallow inhalations? Are you clenching the muscles associated with respiration – those in your stomach, chest, and neck? What happens as you relax these muscles and ease into a deep breath and full exhalation?
As you focus on quieting the mind and filling your lungs to capacity, notice the emotions come and go. Be an observer in your own body. Allow yourself this time to let go of expectations – those you may have placed on yourself and those you feel others have placed upon you. Reconnect. Just be. Return to the world at large recharged.
This is what making space means: freeing yourself from physical and mental distractions, so that you may focus on the essence of who you are and where you are going. Do so with intention and love.
#makingspace #sacredspace #freeyourbreath #meditation