A Great TED Talk On Clutter

“Clutter is postponed decisions.” – Barbara Hemphill

I absolutely love this brilliant quote by Barbara Hemphill which Kerry Thomas mentions in this TED Talk video, because it is completely true. No matter what type of clutter plagues you, it may be impeding you in a profound way from living a free and peaceful life.

I hate physical clutter and fight it all the time by conducting purges throughout the year. But physical clutter is only one type of clutter, and Ms. Thomas breaks down the different types into the following:

Physical
Mental
Emotional
Digital
Spiritual

Although I feel that I have a good handle on physical clutter in my environment, the other categories are more challenging. I control digital clutter by going through my email inboxes on a daily basis, consolidating images and deleting old text messages on my phone. I also think I have a decent handle on spiritual clutter because I meditate daily, take meditation and yoga courses, and also practice breathwork. I try to forgive those who upset me, and I also make sure to avoid toxic people.

The areas where I get hung up (and I suspect many others do) is with mental and emotional clutter. Ms. Thomas states that mental clutter consists of fears one might have, and it also could stem from the judgmental words of others, while emotional clutter consists of negative thoughts and behaviors. The thing is, I have fears which keep my mind racing, and I also fall into the trap of negative thinking from time to time, especially when I am in the middle of a crisis. So by no means am I completely free of clutter. However, I constantly strive to clear up anything which is depressing me or slowing me down.

It’s incredibly liberating to get rid of items which are damaged, unused, or worn, and it’s also wonderful to let go of all the mental blockades to happiness and freedom. One thing I always try to remind myself is that worrying about things will never bring about a solution. The only thing worry ends up doing is eroding one’s demeanor and sparking anxiety.

I suggest that you think about the different areas in which clutter might be adversely affecting your life, and adopt behaviors which counteract such clutter.

There’s Always Time To Breathe

breathing

As I was speaking with one of my patients earlier today, I was struck by the fact that she said she had no time to do anything, and that her work schedule was so stacked that she felt like she was unraveling. I suggested that she take a moment at some point in her day to just sit still and BREATHE, without any task or agenda. Her reply? “Oh, I don’t even have time for that!”

It seemed unreasonable to me that this woman wouldn’t even take a few SECONDS for herself just to breathe, take momentary break from the maddening rush of her life, and just be in the moment. It’s not that people can’t stop and breathe, they WON’T, because they have been led to believe that remaining on the hamster wheel of life all the time is a necessary sacrifice for all the success they hope to achieve. The sad truth is that those brief moments of stillness enable the spirit to reset and restore balance to mind and body as well.

If you are like my patient, you are doing yourself a major disservice by constantly moving and not allowing yourself to rest, even for a few seconds. Even the most creative and driven people in the world find time to enjoy their surroundings, pause in the midst of chaos, and realign with themselves. All you will do if you insist on going full guns all the time, without a moment to rest, is burn out your adrenal glands, damage your immune system, and set the tone for depression and anxiety.

For only a few seconds a day, you can enjoy the gift of being in the moment. What’s even better is that you can indulge in such moments throughout the day, between projects, meetings and chores. You can even do it upon waking, right before you start the ignition in your car, while standing in line at the grocery store, or just about anywhere.

The Magic Of Meditation

meditation-cognitive-bias

Meditation is something I have engaged in regularly for over ten years, but my practice had dwindled in the past two years to a session every few months. This was partially due to the fact that the death of my meditation teacher had rattled me so deeply that I was unable to sit in a meditation without being distracted at some point by my own grief.

It took a major life event from early April to wake me up and make me realize that by neglecting my meditation practice, I had made my spirit weary and unbalanced, Since the cadence of my life had changed rather dramatically and suddenly, I decided that adopting regular habits like meditating would be good for me. I have been able to carve out time in my schedule to meditate daily over the last few weeks, and the effects have been profound and positive. On some days, I only have a few minutes to set up my zafu (meditation cushion), light incense and the candles on my meditation altar, and sit in the moment for mindfulness meditation, but I still make sure I meditate before crawling in bed each night. I am not joking when I say I think more clearly, feel more calm, and experience less anxiety after meditating daily over the last few weeks. I now look at my daily meditation sessions as important daily workouts for my mind and spirit. I swear that even my gym workouts are better as a result of meditation, because I am more focused and calm during gym time than I used to be. Things which used to irritate me sort of glide off me now.

Regular meditation has made a tremendous difference in my general demeanor and my outlook on life, and now I honestly look forward to my sessions. I strongly encourage everyone to meditate regularly, especially anyone who feels beaten down by life or who deals with constant stress. Meditation provides an excellent outlet for stress, and can lessen symptoms of depression, reduce blood pressure and boost immunity.

Before you say that there’s no time to meditate, I am willing to bet you that there are a few minutes each day you can spare to nurture your spirit. You can either take a few minutes first thing in the morning to sit and meditate, or do it right before you go to sleep. If you feel intimidated by the idea of sitting on a meditation cushion, you can simply sit on the floor comfortably, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Each time you inhale, allow your chest to expand, and pull your shoulders back. When you exhale, imagine pushing away all of the stress of the day, out of your body, and into the air. Keep breathing slowly and deeply with your eyes closed, and try to empty your mind of any random thoughts or feelings which may come up.

For a more detailed description of a great breathing meditation, read on. The original link can be found here: http://www.mindful.org/a-five-minute-breathing-meditation/

A 5-Minute Breathing Meditation To Cultivate Mindfulness

Reduce stress, anxiety, and negative emotions, cool yourself down when your temper flares, and sharpen your concentration skills.

By Greater Good Science Center | February 26, 2016

How do you cultivate mindfulness? One way is to meditate. A basic method is to focus your attention on your own breathing—a practice simply called “mindful breathing.” After setting aside time to practice mindful breathing, you’ll find it easier to focus attention on your breath in your daily life—an important skill to help you deal with stress, anxiety, and negative emotions, cool yourself down when your temper flares, and sharpen your ability to concentrate.

Time required:

15 minutes daily for at least a week (though evidence suggests that mindfulness increases the more you practice it).

How to do it

The most basic way to do mindful breathing is simply to focus your attention on your breath, the inhale and exhale. You can do this while standing, but ideally you’ll be sitting or even lying in a comfortable position. Your eyes may be open or closed, but you may find it easier to maintain your focus if you close your eyes. It can help to set aside a designated time for this exercise, but it can also help to practice it when you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious. Experts believe a regular practice of mindful breathing can make it easier to do it in difficult situations.

Sometimes, especially when trying to calm yourself in a stressful moment, it might help to start by taking an exaggerated breath: a deep inhale through your nostrils (3 seconds), hold your breath (2 seconds), and a long exhale through your mouth (4 seconds). Otherwise, simply observe each breath without trying to adjust it; it may help to focus on the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation through your nostrils. As you do so, you may find that your mind wanders, distracted by thoughts or bodily sensations. That’s OK. Just notice that this is happening and gently bring your attention back to your breath.

Find a relaxed, comfortable position. You could be seated on a chair or on the floor on a cushion. Keep your back upright, but not too tight. Hands resting wherever they’re comfortable. Tongue on the roof of your mouth or wherever it’s comfortable.

Notice and relax your body. Try to notice the shape of your body, its weight. Let yourself relax and become curious about your body seated here—the sensations it experiences, the touch, the connection with the floor or the chair. Relax any areas of tightness or tension. Just breathe.

Tune into your breath. Feel the natural flow of breath—in, out. You don’t need to do anything to your breath. Not long, not short, just natural. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. It might be in your abdomen. It may be in your chest or throat or in your nostrils. See if you can feel the sensations of breath, one breath at a time. When one breath ends, the next breath begins.
Be kind to your wandering mind. Now as you do this, you might notice that your mind may start to wander. You may start thinking about other things. If this happens, it is not a problem. It’s very natural. Just notice that your mind has wandered. You can say “thinking” or “wandering” in your head softly. And then gently redirect your attention right back to the breathing.
Stay here for five to seven minutes. Notice your breath, in silence. From time to time, you’ll get lost in thought, then return to your breath.
Check in before you check out. After a few minutes, once again notice your body, your whole body, seated here. Let yourself relax even more deeply and then offer yourself some appreciation for doing this practice today.

One of the most beautiful things about meditation is that you can be fully in the moment, without holding onto the trappings of your day. Work obligations, chores, errands, and any other mundane distraction can wait. It’s a wonderful escape from the physical world and the ultimate way to attain balance and peace. Plus it’s free!

After Bad Comes Good

I have heard my mother and my aunts and uncles share stories about my grandmother, whom they all adored. They have all spoken of her unflagging kindness and compassion, and of her wisdom. One thing she was prone to saying frequently in Japanese was, “Don’t worry, after bad comes good.” For those of you who are curious about this quote in Japanese, here it is: “Shinpai shinai de. Subete umaku iku ne.” This statement can also be translated to English as, “Don’t worry, everything will be all right.”, but everyone in the family insists on “Don’t worry, after bad comes good.” as the unwavering message my grandmother was known for. She truly felt that good things ALWAYS followed bad things.
Buddha Kumamoto
I find this quote from my frail, tiny (4’8″) Japanese grandmother, who incidentally bore FIFTEEN children and lived through countless hardships and poverty before dying of cancer at the age of 63, to be incredibly wise and reassuring. Whenever someone in the family was concerned about a troubling event, my grandmother would utter this statement and smile.

It seems to me that my grandmother’s sense of calm and joy about the world and her ability to enjoy the simplest things despite living without many creature comforts made her more aware than most, and thus more spiritually enlightened. It is probably part of the reason why her journey on this planet did not last very long. Sadly, she passed away before I was born, so I never had a chance to meet this remarkable woman. My mother tells me that I have my grandmother’s eyes, and I can see that when I look at photos of her. Though she was full-blooded Japanese, she had large, round eyes with the telltale Asian skinfold called the epicanthic fold which I also have.

I try to remember that with every challenging or stressful situation, that it too will pass.