My Week: Litter

Yesterday morning, I cleaned out the back of my car only to find that someone left a half full soda bottle on the floor. I often come home to find that someone has left their garbage at my curb, in my yard, or even in my recycling bin. At my workplace, cleaning up the garbage the blows by or is casually dropped in front or in back of the building is a continuous chore.

Like the trash that surrounds me, my mind is similarly cluttered with litter. Unhappy memories, insincere intentions, guilt, shame, and worry take up what would otherwise be pristine space in my precious mind.

Our inner and outer words are mutually reflective. It may be no surprise, then, that my home and my office are full of unnecessary things to which I am attached for both sentimental and practical reasons. Stuff, both real and imagined, surrounds me and saturates my emotional-cognitive processes.

There is a lot of litter that I would be quite happy to remove from my view. All of the dirty and now useless trash that I encounter throughout the day can gladly go away. The litter in my mind, however, is a bit more difficult to purge. While I feel ready to let it all go to create more space and freedom, it seems to keep coming back. It is like the wine glass in The Bishop’s Wife that magically refills whenever it is emptied; however, this glass is full of poison.

Perhaps the process of creating space consists of two steps – not just letting go, but also holding that space open. We can resist the inclination to put something in that space, whether we judge it to be good or bad, and just allow it to be free and breezy. By creating and maintaining open space, our minds will become less cluttered and more clear.

My Week: Sleep, Space, and Stillness

Last weekend was a bit of a whirlwind. I spent a lot of time with family, took a yoga class, worked, and traveled. I wasn’t terribly busy, but my time was fully occupied.

The week before had been very stressful at work. It wasn’t necessarily more stressful than usual, but it was challenging nonetheless. While I usually thrive when I am surrounded by multiple challenges, this past week was different.

By Sunday evening, I felt irritable, drained, and just overall icky. I went into the next week feeling depleted and exhausted. It was another difficult work week, and a bit more so than usual. I nearly fell asleep while out to dinner Friday evening. I stayed in bed with the cats a few extra hours on Saturday. Even going to yoga just seemed too stressful so I skipped it.

This experience has reminded me of the value of sleep, space, and stillness. These are three things that I need in sufficient quantity to function and to flourish.

Having been in school for the past three years, I spent a lot of time in isolation reading, reflecting, and writing. I unintentionally developed the discipline of making time for myself week after week. Now that I am not in school, I do not have the same impetus to remove myself to a quiet space for 10-20 hours each week.

Yet, I think that is why I have been doing so well emotionally over the past few years. Space and stillness are two things that I crave as a highly sensitive, introverted person. Sleep is equally important for my emotional balance and contentment.

Despite my respite from the demands of a structured educational program, I am going to intentionally continue to make time for myself every week, and every day, so that I can not only avoid feeling like crap again, but so that I can live a life full of peace and joy. I am going to allow myself the pleasure of sleeping, resting, and reflecting to my heart’s content.

My Week: Asking for Help

I have always felt a great deal of resistance around asking for help. This became quite apparent to me this week as it was lovingly brought to my attention by a coworker.

My reasons for resistance are complex, interconnected, and mostly subconscious. I strive for independence, I like to challenge myself, and I prefer to be a helper rather than a beneficiary. But at the same time, I yearn to be vulnerable, to trust, and to learn from others.

In a letter to Anais Nin, Henry Miller wrote, “by receiving from others, by letting them help you, you really aid them to become bigger, more generous, more magnanimous. You do them a service.” By accepting help from others, we can both benefit. When we reject or do not intentionally seek the support and help of others, we are passively, albeit unintentionally, shutting them out of our lives.

This past week I also began my first coaching relationship (I am the coachee). I was approached by the coach; it was not something that I pursued on my own. I naturally feel open to the process of self-discovery and transformation so I was excited about this possibility. Yet, when the coach started to dig a bit deeper, I felt threatened. I felt as though I needed to maintain the illusion of having it all together and being successful. This is one of the greatest ongoing failures in which I continually submerge myself.

I never hesitate to help others; yet, I do not seek help for myself and sometimes resist or reject help when it is offered to me. I am going to continue to be aware of how I feel in response to accepting loving help and support from others, and push myself to open up to the generous gifts of their minds and hearts. My goal will be to appreciate what others have to share and to balance what I give with what I receive.

My Week: Letting Go

I have been working and going to school full time for about 11 years, the majority of my adult life. In the beginning it wasn’t really a choice; if I wanted to go to college, I was going to have to work for it. But then it became a habit. If I wasn’t in school while also working I didn’t feel happy—I felt empty and unfulfilled.

For the past three years, I have been working toward a doctorate in organizational leadership. The plan was to begin my dissertation this summer. For a variety of converging reasons, I have decided to withdraw from the program with the intent to re-enroll next fall.

This program has become so much a part of my life. I have worked harder than ever, and have pushed open many intellectual and emotional boundaries along the way. It was a labor of love, and every successful moment was well worth the many difficult periods of time that preceded.

Next week, others in my cohort will be enrolling in their final semester of classes. Their dissertation committees are formed, their concept papers are written, and they will walk through a congratulatory procession among our colleagues. I won’t be there in body, by my heart will sing for each of my classmates as they advance to candidacy.

This weekend, I completed work for my research assistantship and turned in my final timesheet. Tomorrow I will submit my official withdrawal form. It’s official.

Yesterday, I felt a deep sense of inner peace that I haven’t felt in a long time. I didn’t feel hurried or full or obsessive thoughts about everything I need to do. I felt like everything was flowing beautifully.

I hope to sustain these feelings into perpetuity and to cultivate increased awareness and lovingkindness as I go about my day – every day. That clarity and peace will lead to a dissertation topic that I can fully embrace by choice, rather than submit to one that I develop under the pressure of limited time. But most of all, these feelings will contribute to a better, more beautiful, and more complete life that is not dependent on the rush of academic pursuits.

My Week: Clearing

I spent a good part of the beginning of this week watching an old, dilapidated building being destroyed. Bit by bit, a Caterpillar claw removed bricks, shingles, and innumerable other items until a pile of rubble remained on the ground. I spend a good part of the end of the week unintentionally removing all of the toxins from my body. Whether I had food poisoning or a virus remains unknown; what I do know is that I have never felt so sick in my entire life.

While the process of clearing out feels icky, messy, and miserable, it is only by doing so that we can create space for new possibilities. The space where the old building once stood will be lovingly filled with a new home for many people. The space inside of my body will be carefully and delicately filled with nourishment until all is healed. Both processes of clearing have also created a positive psychic energy from which a renewed sense of clarity and purpose is emerging for me.

I often have a hard time letting go of old feelings and things, regardless of how heavy and obstructive they truly are to me. These attachments block the flow of energy and a limit my ability to feel free.

The destructive processes that I have witnessed and experienced this week have reminded me of their life affirming dimensions. Like waste that transforms into compost that nourishes a plentiful garden, letting heavy or negative things, ideas, and feelings flow away can lead to a bountiful, flourishing life.