Thursday, January 1, 2015

Thursday Reflection: Happy New Year!

Dear Friends, Happy New Year and welcome to 2015!  

New Year's Day is not the only time during the year when we experience a fresh start, a new beginning. Perhaps you have that feeling at the start of the school year, even though you haven't been in a classroom for many years, or maybe it occurs on the first day of  turning earth for a new garden or opening a can of paint to bring new life to an outdated room. Have you have known that feeling of "newness" with the birth of a grandchild or a decision to make a major change in your life? Yes, one can experience a feeling of beginning anew often throughout the year, but somehow January 1 is unlike all other launches. 

In January we seem to be bombarded with suggestions about how to organize and declutter our lives. Target's aisles of plastic bins are marauded by those who have resolved to bring more order into their lives. Magazines and newspapers and blogs and other websites all give hints for how to deal with the material stuff in our life, all in the hope of living easier. 

Many of us create lists in these first days of the new year of what needs to be done in our homes. In our home, today is the designated "demolition" day. No walls are coming down. Just the Christmas decorations. As much as I have loved decorating this year, and the house has been so cozy in the glow of candles and Christmas lights, IT IS TIME! I can't wait to return Christmas bins to the storage area, and then my first 2015 house task will be to tackle the laundry room. Mundane, I know, but so be it. 

My list is long as we continue to deal with all the possessions from a lifetime of collecting. Not only do we live in a much smaller home now, but we are oh, so ready to shed, declutter, and lighten up, giving us both the appearance of a new beginning, as well as the space and the emotional energy to live anew. To be open to the new, instead of attached to whatever has cluttered, not only our homes, but our hearts and our minds.

That, of course, is the real purpose of decluttering--to let go of what no longer serves us well, of what impedes us from being the person we were created to be. Dealing with all the physical stuff in our lives is important, but it is not enough. 

What is cluttering and burdening our hearts and minds?

I am reminded of what one of my favorite spiritual guides, Mark Nepo, says on the subject of decluttering and letting go in his book, The Book of Awakening. He tells the story of a friend preparing to paint his family room. He mixed the paint outside and then loaded himself with everything he needed to begin painting. You can guess what happened. He struggled to get the door open and in the process spilled the gallon of red paint. 
          It's such a simple thing, but in a moment of ego we
          refuse to put down what we carry in order to open the
          door. Time and time again, we are offered the chance
          to truly learn this: We cannot hold on to things and 
          enter. We must put down what we carry, open the
          door, and then take up only what we need to bring
          inside. p. 3

The spiritual writer Joyce Rupp refers to this time of year as a time of "freshness," a time when we are encouraged to let go of old hurts and fears; feelings of failure and weakness or of the old stories dwelt on for far too long. She quotes the poet Gerald Manley Hopkins, "There lies the dearest freshness deep down things." and then Rupp goes on to say,
          Freshness. That's it. That is what this new year is 
          offering me as I pray to God of my life this sparkling
          morning. God is holding out a freshness of life to me.
          God is offering me a new beginning with this new 
                                Fresh Bread And Other Gifts of Spiritual
                                Nourishment, p. 19

As we declutter our homes and attempt to live simpler, easier lives, what I think we are moving towards is that feeling of freshness, like putting fresh sheets on the bed or eating fresh grapefruit in the morning or looking out into the fresh morning sunshine even on a below zero day. We yearn to see life with a fresh perspective and to live with fresh pep in our steps. We want to freshen up! 

Freshness comes when we forgive ourselves and others, when we move through and beyond the ways we restrict ourselves, when we recognize what is stale in our inner lives and needs to be tossed. Along with freshness comes deeper and wider compassion or as Nepo says, "our heart becomes our skin." (The Endless Practice, Becoming Who You Were Born to Be, p. 119)

Call it decluttering or downsizing or call it creating freshness. Whatever you call it, make 2015 a year when you open the door and cross the threshold holding only what you need. 

An Invitation
What areas of your inner life need decluttering and where does your life need freshening? What are your plans for bringing freshness into your life? I would love to know. 

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