Making Space for Beauty

A friend of mine remarked the other day that the owner of a local cafe gallery (popular here in Japan) had made the observation that there’s been a decline in gallery sales this year – as she saw it as a result of the decluttering mania that is sweeping the nation with its emphasis on reducing how much you own.

By this estimation it would seem that the concept of “decluttering” has turned into something akin to “downsizing,” and that in this new wave of minimalism the precedence is given to things that can define their value in terms of efficacy, practicality, function and utility; leaving little room for  anything else.

I have no idea if she is correct in her estimation or not, but if she is I think she’s put her finger on something of a misapprehension; not so much a “misunderstanding” as an “incomplete understanding” of what “danshari” (decluttering) is really all about.

According to my (admittedly somewhat subjective) understanding, removing the clutter from your life and then reorganising what is left are only the initial steps in the decluttering process.

It doesn’t stop there. Rather the space you have created by removing the things you no longer want or need opens up the arena for something different to come into your life; presumably something that – to use Marie Kondo’s words – sparks joy.

Now once again I’m advancing an entirely subjective opinion but, for me, things that are designed with only function and utility in mind rarely succeed in sparking joy.

Take my rice cooker and bread maker, for example. They’re wonderful inventions which I’m delighted to own because they serve a useful function in my life. But I don’t feel my heart being uplifted with joy when my gaze alights on them. (A fact which, admittedly, says a lot about the high standard of living we pretty much take for granted in first world countries).

I’m grateful for them (and other such modern conveniences) and the way they contribute to the ease and richness of my life. But the objects in and of themselves don’t have the power to gladden my heart and make my day. Any spark of joy they produce comes from the function they perform, rather than some quality intrinsic to themselves.

Things that combine function, utility and a pleasing aesthetic can sometimes instigate that elusive spark of joy – take my recently acquired MacBook Air for a start.

Now you must understand that I’m not a person who is particularly interested in technology. While most people of a similar age here in Japan are decked out with smartphones, digital TVs, tablets and other such phenomena of the digital age, I am content, for now, to use my old “garakei” mobile phone until it gives out on me and the only TV in my house is an analog one, kept in case I want to watch a DVD.

I do, however, extol the virtues of computers and the Internet – both of which are essential features of my working and personal life. Having spent years deliberating whether to stay with Windows or opt for a Mac, at the end of last year I finally decided I would never be able to make an informed decision without at least trying a Mac.

Now, as I mentioned, I’m not really into technology as it goes; but when I opened the box and saw the beautifully streamlined design of my new computer… Well, there was a spark of joy that quite surprised me in its intensity.

And now we’re getting closer to the truth of it; for me personally the objects in my life that spark joy are the ones that are, to my mind and eyes, beautiful.

Some of them combine attractiveness with utility; the Mac laptop is not only beautiful to look at but also pleasing to use. I’m also rather fond of the bamboo chest of drawers that one of my friends gave me from her mum’s old place which now contains my bath products; the hardly-30-centimetres-square small but elegant table that stands in my “genkan” (hall) – perfectly placed to hold a vase and a flower plucked as I walk my dog in anticipation of guests; and the simple white teapot that sits in my kitchen and is used every day, its gentle curves creating a pleasing graciousness of form.

Noticing these things as I walk through my days – the way they stamp their identity on the space; the way they interact with the room they’re in and the other objects in it to create a sense of a unified whole which turns the space I live into from “a house” into “my home” – gives me a sense of pleasure and a very real sense of belonging that uplifts; sparks joy.

But the things that spark the most joy?

Well, they tend to be the non-essential embellishments that are beautiful to look at and expressive of who I am, but are not really necessary in strictly functional terms.

I went through my own “danshari” process last year, (if you like you can read more about it here and here), and as I released years and years of clutter from my life and living space it was of the greatest importance to me that the space I created anew was one of beauty; one that evoked in me a response of joy.

I wanted to create a living space which reflects the essence of who I am, expressing my unique ideals of beauty – both in the way the space is laid out and in the objects with which I choose to surround myself. A living space that would uplift and enliven me, support me in being the best version of myself that I can be.

So what are these beauty-giving objects in my life that uplift my heart and expand my joy?

Well, there’s the candle holder I made that lay unused for years but now sits in pride of place on my kitchen table; its subtle off-white slip and the ash glaze’s tender green making it an attractive centrepiece whether it has candles in it or not.

There’s the one of a kind wall vase – for want of a better word – that looks somewhat similar to a partly rolled narrow scroll hanging on the wall and holds just enough water to sustain a wild flower for the best part of a day.

There’s the traditional blue and white tie-dyed “noren” (a piece of fabric often hung in doorways in Japan) that delineates the line between my kitchen (personal space) and the hall (the “public” space where I welcome guests) with a singular grace that still causes a warmth to spread in my chest, even now years after it was gratefully received from friends who no longer had a use for it.

There’s the perfectly imperfect flattened round vase made by a local potter that sits on the chest of drawers in my bedroom, a welcome sight each morning that helps me start my day on an uplifting note of beauty and joy.

And there are the lamps – scattered around the house – joy-giving in the softness of the light they impart, as well as in the attractiveness of their well-crafted forms.

Most of these joy-giving objects in my life are quite small and easily overlooked. It has been my experience that although a few of the visitors to my house notice these things and the particular quality of beauty they impart, many more pass them by failing to notice they are there. If asked and forced to answer honestly they would call my old house in various stages of disrepair far from beautiful.

But to me these things and the way they are arranged in the space give the place I live in a beauty all of its own.

Many of them also have personal meaning for me, combining beauty with a deeper significance in the fabric of my life.

There’s the picture of a mother and baby elephant that I carried carefully cradled in my arms through two more countries and then safely home to Japan from Laos. Bought from a local artist with talent bigger than the town or village in which he was born, a beautiful reminder of a wondrous time and place.

There are the various lace and patchwork items my mother has made for me her only daughter; each stitch a symbol of her love.

There are stones and driftwood I’ve found on beaches and by rivers, and various shapes and sizes of pinecones and feathers I’ve discovered in my path.

All of these things add to the beauty of my surroundings and, in doing so, they incomparably enrich my days.

I’ve always been a lover of beauty. I remember as a child ornaments lined the top of my bookcase and the window ledge, the only available surfaces in my room.

When I first moved into this big, old house I took delight in creating a beautiful and welcoming feel – covering unsightly walls with throws, placing carefully chosen objects around. These things were still in place, but over the years I’d managed to accumulate an excessive amount of things and much of the sense of beauty was lost as the objects I’d so carefully placed lost their significance submerged in the sea of stuff.

As I progressively peeled back the layers of clutter and refined my space through my clearing process, the beauty reemerged. I began to delight in my living space again and this brought me moments of a pure and quiet joy.

Like many people who find themselves on the spiritual path, my year of space clearing coincided with a period of energetic clearing. The emerging beauty in my living space was a healing balm to my spirit as I went through what felt like a dark night of the soul – it was both a tangible representation of my own healing process and a physical presence that inspired a deeply felt tranquility and calm that supported my healing, assisting my return to wholeness.

In an act laden with symbolic meaning I gave away the plain white bowls that had come from the 100 yen store and that I was in the habit of using most days – knowing they were microwave-safe; unlikely to break and, on the off chance they did, easily replaced…

Out with the practical and convenient but notably uninspiring; in with the joy-giving, life-enriching, far more fragile few pieces of handmade pottery that I’d purchased over the years, one treasured piece at a time.

Purchased and then never used in some cases, waiting for that special occasion…

Well, I decided at some point during that year and more of protracted clearing and extensive healing that every day of my life is a special occasion; every day a day to celebrate the gift of being alive. That not only is it my right, but that I owe it to myself to surround myself with and interact with things that speak to me of beauty and spark my joy.

This is a simple but profound gift that I give to myself each and every day. Deceptively simple. For it is nothing less than a sacred act – when I connect with beauty I connect with my own divine nature, with the divine nature that is in all things.

The conscious creation of beauty in my space is an avowal of self-love, an honouring of myself, a pronouncement of my worthiness.

It is also an action of self-love for, as I surround myself with beauty, it impresses itself on me; inscribes the signature of its harmonic resonance on my cells; edifies me in the process.

Even in the midst of my year of darkness, as I consciously immersed myself in beauty (that of the natural world as well as the pockets of beauty I was creating within my home) I found myself taking on something of its nature. The world within me, doing what comes naturally to it, mirrored the world without and so the stillness, the order, the quietude of the beauty around me became qualities that I unearthed within myself, embodied and integrated into my life.

The simple acts of walking in nature; using cups, plates and bowls that were handmade and held a special significance for me; lighting candles and/or placing a wildflower in a vase to create beauty in my table setting as I ate my meals became a reprieve; rituals that brought some joy and equilibrium back into my life and helped me to know the world I lived in as one of goodness, joy and beauty again; even if that knowing sometimes only lasted for a few short moments.

It was the beauty that I responded to; hand in hand with beauty’s capacity to heal goes its ability to draw us wholeheartedly into the present moment. The conscious creation of and interaction with beauty urged me to be more fully engaged in the here and now. Who can look, really look, at a flower, the flame of a candle, and not be drawn into its beauty, forgetting everything else?

We may be complex creatures, but despite the fact that we have the word “bittersweet” in our language our experience in the moment can only be either bitter (characterised by pain and suffering) or sweet (characterised by life-affirming joy). It can never be both at the same time.

The presence of small segments of beauty in my life helped me to create small pockets of “sweet”  life-affirming joy in my days; my absorption in the here and now beauty in front of my eyes releasing me from my pain if only for a while.

Beauty’s unique ability to bring us fully into the present also helped me to ground and, in doing so, to come back to myself; to know, as the beauty without was mirrored as harmony within, myself as a calm and centered presence again. In those dark days when I’d lost sight of myself as anything other than fragmented and broken this was a much-needed lifeline; the pockets of beauty I’d created reviving in me the knowing that I was (am) whole.

The same centeredness and a peace and stillness in my heart come about whenever I’m engaged in the active appreciation of beauty, whether the beauty of nature or the consciously created beauty of a physical object or space – a picture, a piece of furniture, a room, a temple, a cathedral, a museum.

I’m stopped in my tracks and brought forcibly into the present. In that moment the things I carry around with me – the worries, the fears, the doubts, the suffering, the pain, the regrets… – ebb away and I find myself suddenly naked without my stories, face to face with the now moment and beauty as a physical presence – one that has the power to heal.

When I am weary or discouraged; tormented by my thoughts; drained of energy after injurious interactions with others, I seek solace in nature.

What I am seeking in part is the healing presence of beauty.

Beauty soothes the troubled mind and quiets the troubled soul.

Beauty replenishes, aligning us with a natural order and harmony that revives, revitalizes, restores.

We have an unfathomable affinity with beauty. It captivates our souls, drawing us in with its mysterious pull.

And beauty, like nothing else, allows us to experience for a fleeting moment a sense of our divinity as, in that moment of surrender, as we lose ourselves in rapture, the grip our ego stories hold over us is loosened and we are free, for that moment, to experience our connection to Source, to know ourselves as one with All That Is.

As we yield to beauty, submerging ourselves in it eyes and senses wide open, beauty yields its offerings to us. We are nourished by it; nurtured back to wholeness; receive into our lives its gifts of peace, calmness, serenity, equilibrium.

This is the transformative power of beauty. Its ability to touch us to the core.

It is a transformative power that I want to consciously harness. If beauty has this power to seep into our heart and cells, to inscribe itself there, to impart its peace and harmony creating a sense of relaxed joy, a tranquility within that mirrors the beauty without and is what we then reflect back out into the world through our interactions with others; then surrounding ourselves with beauty not only enhances our own well-being and joy and enriches our lives, it also empowers us to embody the highest expression of ourselves. It hones our hearts so that we can be more loving and compassionate, more harmonious in the ways we interact with the world. It liberates us from the bindings we have put on ourselves and inspires us to shine more of our light in the world.

Imagine how differently we would think, speak and act if we made a point of consciously nurturing ourselves with beauty; inviting its gifts into our lives.

Imagine what different people we could be and how different – because as each of us transforms the world around us is also inevitably transformed; our light, as it impacts the people around us, changes our corner of the world for the better in some small way – how beautiful our world could be.

When we lay it out like this the advantages of creating more opportunities in our everyday life to interact with and consciously appreciate beauty are persuasive. And there are a multitude of ways in which we can: spending more time in nature; filling our homes with harmonious music and sound; spending an afternoon watching children play; a weekend appreciating art in galleries and museums; enjoying the play of light as it comes through our window and the rich and burnished look it gives to everything it comes into contact with… Beauty is all around us; the opportunities to appreciate it endless.

What I’m choosing to focus on here, (the missing piece to decluttering being the impetus behind this post), is bringing more of the healing presence of beauty into our homes. This really brings beauty into the everyday spaces we inhabit, makes it a part of our day to day life.

Meaningful as this is – and I truly believe that the sheer physical presence of beauty can rejuvenate, inspire harmony, heal – this in and of itself isn’t enough if we really want to harness the power of beauty.

The impact that beauty can have on our lives will be determined to a large extent by our capacity to open ourselves up to it, to receive its gifts. Even a living space that is in perfect integrity with our soul will only be able to support us in embodying our highest vision of ourselves if we actively create the time to be present in it, to absorb its vibration and receive its gifts – the “consciously nurturing ourselves with beauty” I mentioned before.

This conscious creation of and appreciation of beauty, though it may require an effort of will at first, soon becomes a labor of love; a pleasure-filled ritual that can create moments of awe and wonder in even the most drab and lacklustre day.

And it’s so easy. We don’t have to go anywhere, study anything, or ask the advice of anyone in order to be able to start.

We can begin right now, right where we are.

One surface cleared of clutter with a few things attractively arranged on it can make a difference to the feel of a whole room. The same goes for a beautiful picture on the wall, or a single flower placed in a vase.

Pockets of beauty that transform a space, strewing joy and harmony in their wake.

And it oh so doesn’t have to be perfect.

However many times I clear it the far corner in my kitchen has a tendency to descend into chaos again as it takes on the overflow from my cupboards, and I have a chair in my living room that I have to take something off practically every time I want to sit on it.

Heck, I have a hole in my wall that’s stuffed with newspaper and a dip in the hall floor through which weeds grow every summer.

But my eyes don’t linger on these things; they stop instead on the things that captivate my heart, call to it to silently sing with joy.

Notions of beauty aren’t constant – my ideal of beauty is without a doubt not minimalistic enough for some people, too simple for others, not colourful enough for many more – and that’s kind of the point; all that is required is that you ask your heart and do what “sparks joy” in you.

While notions of beauty may not be constant, its healing and transformative power are.

This is what I encourage you to make space for in your life – decluttering’s unsung anthem that has the power to transform both our inner and our outer worlds.

Welcome the gifts of beauty, invite still more of them into your life.

 

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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.