(spoiler alert, no harsh scrubbing required)
by Jennifer Battisti
It’s the newest sensation—every item, from our coffee-stained T-shirt to a mediocre book, is given pause for us to consider if it “sparks joy.” We are encouraged to press our gratitude into our outgrown shoes, our toddler’s too snug snow coat. We are told to fold the charitable items into cotton origami affirmations and to be thoughtful about their departure from our homes and lives. We fill the donation bags with generous thanks to the materials that gave us their service. We are asked to consider what serves us? What is just taking up space, holding us in the past, keeping us stuck, what clutters our lives? This is intentional living—and this is just our closets.
I wonder if this same line of thinking might be useful for the deep cleaning of our thinking, the decluttering of our beliefs. How often do we question whether that decade-old resentment has a place in the cupboards of our mind? Why isn’t that self-limiting belief in the recycle pile?
Sacred living comes from attention and ritual and kindness. It comes from unbiased grace. Grace doesn’t buy into our limitations nor does it placate us into staying small. Grace is roomy and generous. By now you’ve heard the term “holding space,” a sort of energetic force field of non-fixing and non-judgment that a friend or a therapist might initiate to bear witness to your pain and experience. I have a holding space reserved for my best friend whenever she needs to be seen and heard, but the mutual understanding is we honor one another’s ability and inner resources, so neither of us fix or try to cheer up the other person, unless advice is asked for.
I sometimes think that animals are the best space holders, but the worst, I think, can be ourselves, for ourselves. I tend to consider my joyful moments sacred, playing with my daughter, vacations, but when I am feeling scared, overstimulated, lonely, I skate right by sacred and into shame. Holding space for ourselves requires a sort of surrender. Without resistance to the feeling, we can make space for it to be named and felt, to be honored and then we can contend with the thoughts around the feelings, such as “Of course I am lonely, why would anyone love me?” If we are paying attention, we can ask right here in the moment, does this serve me? Is this true? Is this who I want to be? And then we let that sink in. No distracting, no being busybodies, no abandoning ourselves.
Soon, even the tedious moments take on a kind of sacredness—we free up space for new ways of responding to our struggles. What if I met my loneliness with compassion, what if that compassion could include the universal loneliness; that we are all in this together. Certainly I can’t be the only lonely person in this moment. Can I send kindness to myself and these lonely strangers?
Curiosity is underestimated, I think. Infusing our personal growth with curiosity can work as a powerful spiritual component. Curiosity is innovative and creative; it’s the opposite of rigidity, it asks your grief in for tea. It gives your fear a pack of crayons. It takes your anger for a hike outdoors. What if we could be free of the emotional, negative thought merry-go-round? Scratching that same old record creates new grooves, curiosity does just that, it creates space for a new way of responding, it uses wonder and playfulness to think up new ways of reacting to ourselves.
What if we made our minds and hearts as sacred as the storage unit? What clarity and potential might be revealed? What if clearing what does not serve us allows the sunlight in? An inward effort is never a wasted effort. This season, commit to sweeping the corners of your mind and to let go of what you have outgrown. Bear witness to your big messy heart—your ordinary humanness is sacred.