Clear, Release, and Add a Rock to a Cairn

Sarah's Cairn 2
Photo courtesy of Sarah Reed-Lamberg.

A year and 3 months on I have finally reached the top of my ‘mountain’ – my undertaking to systematically declutter each and every room in my house. A mountainous task involving nine rooms, (excluding the bathroom and hallway), which hadn’t been cleared once in the twelve years I’ve lived here.

Maybe not a mountain quite the size of Fuji to be sure. I’m quite an organised person to begin with and a teeny bit house-proud to boot. But a mountain the size of a fair-sized peak in the Japanese Alps at least.

You see the problem with having a big house and living in a land of generous people is that you tend to accept more than you really need. “Maybe I can use it someday,” has, over the years, become my go-to phrase.

Combine that with the natural accumulation of ‘stuff’ – clothes, books, DVDs, letters, Christmas and birthday cards, Tupperware, cleaning products, stationery, shoes, fridge magnets, hand towels. You name it, it builds up…

And there you have it – your own personal mountain of stuff.

Having made the decision to get rid of the extraneous, I did a pretty good job last year of clearing the three rooms that I consider to be my ‘living space.’

But my initial goal to finish the whole house by (last) spring kept getting pushed back – first to the summer, then to the end of the year.

In fact, it took me pretty much that long to finish those first three rooms… Talk about the ‘mountain’ bringing you face to face with your own limitations.

Somewhere along the way I had to accept that it will take the time it needs, and I’m okay with that.

The start of this year saw me revisit the two upstairs’ rooms where I keep my books and pottery. It was a gentle start to the year – the equivalent of a Sunday afternoon stroll up a small hillock – having used them minimally from the start and sorted through them thoroughly only a couple of years ago when I started to arrange my pottery there.

March, at last, saw me gear up and tackle the sheer rock face before the mountain’s peak. The ‘sheer rock face’ better known as my ‘storeroom’ – the room in which everything and anything that I haven’t been able to find a home for elsewhere has landed over the years.

To be fair, it could have been much worse. There were no haphazard piles of things reaching to the ceiling. It wasn’t such uncharted territory that there might have been buried treasure lurking in its depths. (Unfortunately one might say…).

Although ‘stuff’ had definitely taken over the room, (and was, indeed, piled quite high in places), it was still a relatively well-organised space. I knew most of what was in there and could locate what I needed when I needed it without too much trouble. However, when it came to clearing it… it was difficult to know where to start.

But that kind of thinking wasn’t going to get me up my mountain.

In point of fact it wasn’t going to get me anywhere, except for huddled in a chair in the kitchen thinking about the looming pile overhead…

So start I did – albeit with a very limited area: the ‘oshiire’ cupboard built into the wall.

As with anything, taking that first step gave me the impetus I needed. As things got taken out of the cupboard and put in organised piles on the (freed up for that purpose) floor, the next step in the process became clear – just as it is only when you make that first step in faith and begin climbing a rock face that the hand and footholds make themselves known.

Almost before I knew it, the room that had appeared to be an almost unscalable rock face was cleared. The things I wanted to keep had been reorganised and now fit nicely in the oshiire cupboard. A few things had been thrown away; the rest given away to friends or taken to a  ‘recycle shop.’

I was left with a six-mat tatami room with only a table in it. Beautiful empty space to create something new in.

It felt good to have created this space in my life.

So good, in fact, that I even rode on that energy and ‘picked my way along the ridge line’ without delay, clearing the adjoining room that is home to my pottery wheel that very same night.

Seven rooms down and two to go…

But it’s all downhill from here.

The two rooms that are left are the ones I use as my English classroom; as I teach some of the village children in them once a week they’re pretty presentable to begin with.

I knew when I started it, over a year ago now, that the clearing of your physical space symbolically represented the clearing out of your mental and emotional ‘rooms’ or ‘energy bodies.’ This energy clearing as it is known is a process that involves becoming aware of, and then releasing and letting go of, negative and unsupportive thoughts and emotions; choosing to replace them with thoughts that support you in feeling good and creating what you desire to see in your world instead.

It’s only now, taking a pause for breath at the top of my mountain, however, that I’ve begun to notice just how many parallels there are between the two processes.

My decluttering process has literally been a mirror of my inner healing process.

Beyond the obvious parallel – you declutter your physical space by removing the things that are not functionally useful or an authentic expression and reflection of who you are; just as you clear out your energetic space by removing the limiting thoughts and emotions that are no longer ‘useful’ to you i.e. they don’t build you up, (anything that is to continue in its usefulness to us on the energetic level has to be something that supports us in becoming more of who and what we desire), or are no longer an authentic expression of your truth once you have embraced your power as creator of your life, not victim of it – I also observed the following shared characteristics:

  • The importance of self-awareness; the first step in both processes is becoming aware of ‘the elephant in the room’ – whether that is piles of clutter lying around your house or a near constant stream of negative thoughts and emotions as an accompaniment to your days.
  • How essential it is to have a sense of responsibility to self and self-love that, combined, propel you to do what is in your own best interests, even when that path happens to be the most intimidating and difficult-looking one of the choices facing you. Awareness of your ‘elephant’ alone is not going to change anything and the decision to do something about it can only come from you. A sworn commitment to your self and a love of self that results in a deep desire for something better than what you are experiencing right now are what give you the incentive and the strength to translate this awareness into action.
  • The sense of stepping out in faith that is intrinsic to both processes – even though you may have no idea quite how you’re going to be able to clear either your space or your negative thoughts and emotions, you will find that once you take that first step things start to become clearer and answers come to you.
  • How important it is to ask for and receive the support you need. For me personally, clearing my physical space was something that had to be done alone. But the energetic clearing was a different matter altogether… I could never have cleared so much of my ‘stuff’ and got to where I am now without the help of both an energy healer and countless books, webinars, friends and processes.
  • How helpful it is to have some kind of system in place for deciding what to keep and what to ‘let go’ – i.e. remove from your life. Many people ask, “Does this (object/person/thought/emotion/relationship/…) serve me and my greatest and highest good?” I used this as my starting point, but also created more specific questions in alignment with my personal aims. As I unearthed various items in my house that weren’t an immediate “Yes” or “No,” I asked, “Do (or will) I use it? Do I like it? Does it enrich my life in some way? Does it make my life more beautiful, and/or joyful, and/or fulfilling?” With the energetic clearing I asked, “Does this thought/emotion make me feel joyful, light and expansive; or negative, heavy and constricted?”, “Is it helping me to move forward or holding me back?” and, finally, “Is this thought/emotion supporting me in being the kind of person that I want to be?” Having these questions to fall back on made it a lot easier for me to let go of stuff that I might have otherwise clung onto just because of its comfortable familiarity, even though it was no longer serving me.
  • Although I wasn’t even sure who or what that was, I also found it really helpful to get my ‘higher self’ involved in both processes. A simple and genuine request for help and that the processes were accomplished with as much ease and grace as possible was enough. Along the way I discovered my higher self to be that quiet little voice inside, always kind and compassionate, offering encouragement and support when the road felt rocky, hard and unscalable. But a voice with the strength of character and firmness of will to keep me on target and in alignment with my highest good, even when that was the harder path to walk.
  • When it comes to clearing, things so often seem to get worse before they get better. The space on the floor in front of my storeroom cupboard began to take on the aspect of a demolition site as I removed things from it. When I started the process of energetic clearing it was an invitation for everything that need to be released because it was no longer serving me to come up from the woodwork and hit me full-on. Don’t let the fact that your room/house or emotional state/life seems to be in a bigger mess than before you started the clearing process deter you. Remember that this is all part of the process and that it is going to get better in the end. (People kept telling me this, and although I clung onto it like the harness rope that would bring me safely home through the fog, at times I found it almost impossible to believe. I want to promise anyone who is at that point on their path right now that the fact that nothing in this life is permanent means that this is also true of our pain and suffering. By holding firm to your intention to clear and release anything that no longer serves you and stay in alignment with your greatest and highest good you are already moving in an upward direction, even when it feels like you are losing your foothold).
  • Things you’ve forgotten all about come to the surface. The picture you bought but never hung; clothes you’ve bought and have never worn; long-forgotten memories from childhood and past relationships; suppressed emotions; grief, bitterness, anger, disappointments, resentments and the like that you thought you’d already dealt with but discover have been hitching a ride in your subconscious all along. The physical stuff isn’t usually a problem, but the energetic stuff can really blindside you… Know this: it’s all coming up for healing and release because it knows you’re strong enough and ready to do this now. Give yourself the time and space to feel the emotion fully, forgive yourself and anybody else concerned, and then let it go. You’ll feel so much lighter when you do.
  • Some of the stuff that comes up for you to clear won’t even be your own. Clearing my house I found musty curtains and floor mats from previous owners, littered with mouse droppings and moth holes. Also a couple of boxes of stuff my former boss had left in my care on his return to the U.K. As you progress with the energetic clearing you’ll find that you are led to clear ancestral beliefs, things rooted in your DNA, things from past lives and more. I adopted the motto ‘Even when you don’t understand it fully, go with it.’ Going by what others say, if you do you’ll be doing not only yourself a favour, but your ancestral lines, too.
  • In both cases somewhere in the middle there, and most likely more than once, it starts to feel like you’re never going to get through it all and be finished clearing your ‘stuff.’ At these times I reminded myself that this was just my scared ego playing tricks on me; fearful that all the changes taking place in my physical/energetic space were going to topple it from its position of power, and therefore trying to self-sabotage me. While I do believe it’s true that new stuff will come up for us to clear as long as we remain here in this physical world, this big thrust up the mountainside is not going to last for ever.
  • For me, both processes brought up a lot of internal conflict. “Do I really want to throw this away or is it potentially useful for me some day? If I throw it away now, will it be just what I’m looking for two years down the line and I’ll be kicking myself for having ‘released’ it?” On the physical level, it’s a case of having the presence of mind and self-discipline to return to your questions and make a decision based around your personal goals for the clearing of your space. On the energetic level it sometimes felt rather like I had a split personality as my subconscious mind kept throwing up my old patterns, ways of thinking and go-to emotions and I learned to simultaneously embody my own higher self; refusing to be taken in by the mind’s stories and making a conscious choice to release the negative thought/emotion and choose a more uplifting one instead.
  • With both processes you need to accept yourself where you are and to understand that you can only let go of what you’re ready to. Some of my thoughts and emotions were particularly tenacious, coming back time and time again. Although it’s good to release as much as you can – you just feel so much lighter – you can only let go of what you’re ready to. Understanding and accepting this is vital, for the road can be long and arduous as it is and heaping blame on yourself for not being further along it doesn’t help. Just as when you’re in the mountains, learn to be accepting of your limitations and work with them instead of fighting against them.
  • Both processes are a great lesson in celebrating your successes and keeping your attention on what you have achieved, rather than all that is still to be done. With the physical clearing it can help to divide your space up into small and manageable chunks and really allow yourself to feel the sense of achievement and completion as you succeed in clearing each one. It seems harder to divide energetic clearing up into these kind of manageable chunks – everything seems so inter-related and, as a result, it can be more difficult to see your progress. In retrospect I think I would have greatly benefited from creating some markers along my path to help me more clearly see my progress. It is when we see how far we have come that we find the strength and courage to embrace the next part of our journey.
  • Neither process can be rushed! Accept that it’s going to take the time it takes and don’t try and fight it – you’ll only create more turmoil for yourself. There are no deadlines for these things other than the ones we impose on ourselves. If they are self-imposed they can also be extended, as mine was many times! The mountain top isn’t going anywhere so there’s no need to be over hasty. Let’s let things take their own time and enjoy the journey as much as we can, even as we keep our sights set on that clear, blue sky that soars overhead.
  • It helps to become comfortable with the fact that it’s about shedding layers progressively, rather than trying to do it all at once. Some things need to be revisited often. I have been through my books twice, and will no doubt be ready to release more the next time I look through them. More of the DVDs on my shelves are also awaiting their release. In the energetic realm, some thoughts and emotions I could let go of relatively easily and others still return; although as a rule they have grown less overpowering with time. It seems to me that both kinds of clearing are an ongoing process that we will revisit many times throughout the course of our lives.
  • You really help yourself when you learn how to go with the flow, rather than against it. Sometimes you’ll feel ready to take on the world and all your piles of stuff, and other times you simply won’t have the energy or the inclination. I discovered that the whole process goes much more smoothly when you work with your inner knowing, rather than trying to force yourself to do something you know you’d really rather not in this moment.
  •  With both processes, it’s so important to always hold onto the belief that you will get to the top. As long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other and climbing the mountain, (instead of pretending its not there as we so often do), and making choices in alignment with your greatest and highest good, you cannot fail to summit.
  • Both kinds of clearing are very personal processes. Find what works for you and do that. Don’t worry if it’s different from the way that everyone else is doing it or from the way people tell you you should be doing it. As long as it works for you, that is all that counts. Trust your intuition and your higher self to guide you as to what needs to be released, and when, and the best way (i.e. the smoothest, quickest and easiest way) in which this can be done.
  • The importance of not losing sight of the finish line. With both kinds of clearing it’s so essential to hold onto the end vision of what it is you want to build in the new space that you are creating in your life. For me, new shelves to dry my pottery on in my former storeroom; and a less clearly defined but no less inspiring vision of a life filled with love, light, purpose, fulfillment and joy that sustained me through the densest and most intensely felt moments of my energetic clearing. Just as the thought of the view from the top can be an incentive to keep climbing when you are face to face with a real mountain, these things help you keep going when the road feels long and you are weary.
  • Last but not least, it seems to me from where I sit now, temporarily perched on the ledge at the top of this mountain with a whole new vista open before me – a vista which includes the pottery shelves being made at this very moment in the workshop of a friend who came back into my life at just the right time to assist me in this way; a home that has been cleared of the extraneous and is such a pure reflection of the essence of who I am that I seem to regain my peace and equilibrium just on entering it; a mind that is in the process of rewiring itself to focus on possibility not limitation; a heart that has opened itself up to feel more beauty, peace and joy; and a life that has opened itself up to the infinite possibilities of the Universe – that with both types of clearing some kind of maintenance program is not only desirable, but necessary. I already have something of this nature in place on the energetic level – each morning on waking and last thing every night I invoke the violet flame to clear and transmute anything that is no longer serving my greatest and highest good. I’m also coming to grips with how to manage my energy better on a day to day basis, through practices like learning to distinguish which of my feelings are mine and which I have taken on from someone else, and returning anything that is not my own back to its source. Having realized during the clearing of my physical space quite how much unnecessary stuff we can accumulate, I plan to put a similar maintenance system in place for that. I’m no longer going to take on things that I neither like nor need; and I’m forming the habit of releasing things on a more regular basis, rather than waiting until they reach mountainous heights again. In this way I hope to maintain both my personal energy and the energy in my physical space at their optimal levels.

And so here I am at the top of this mountain of mine. With an eagle-eye view of all that has been, and a carefully nurtured anticipation of what is to come – I can’t wait to discover what I’ll create with all the new space that has opened in my life.

Before I begin my descent, let me rest a while perched on this ledge, breathing in the pure, clean air and enjoying the new vastness of space within and around me. Let me surrender myself to the cleansing force of the wind and the energizing blue sky overhead.

Let me take a moment, by writing about it here, to symbolically add a rock to a cairn. And, in doing so, both celebrate my achievement in reaching this precipice, and leave a marker of solidarity for kindred spirits on a similar journey, reminding them they’re not alone.

And after I’ve rested a while?

There will always be the next mountain to climb; ever more expansive vistas of possibility to open myself to.