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The weight and clutter of beliefs we carry

“When we carry a belief, it has a certain mental weight attached to it . . . The heavier the investment—such as religious loyalty, abortion, politics, patriotism, good versus evil—the heavier the weight of belief.”  —Neil Kramer in The Unfoldment

In my work at a local library hundreds of books pass through my hands every shift. Most times I don’t pay too much attention, except to note where to place the book correctly. Sometimes a book stops me and says, “Made ya look!”

This week it was The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, by Margareta Magnusson. I have not read the book yet (if only I could read every book) but I gather the principle is this: clear out your crap before you die and make someone else clean up your mess.

I’m sure Margareta is more polite about it.

Speaking as someone who has had to clear up some such clutter, I endorse the idea. And I think we can go a step farther and clear out some of our mental and emotional clutter too.

In his book, The Unfoldment, Neil Kramer talks about the cluttery weight of beliefs we carry around with us. Some beliefs weigh more than others depending on how invested we are in them. Casual or lighthearted beliefs, like believing a four-leaf clover might bring us good fortune, are light and don’t bother us much to tote around. If we add on a lot more of those little beliefs (knock three times, don’t turn the calendar page until the new month starts, don’t step on a crack, don’t shave during playoffs, don’t wash your lucky socks . . .) the pack gets lumpy and awkward.

Big problems arise when we lug around sandbag-heavy beliefs. Those become a real burden because, even though carrying the weight is hard work, we don’t want to set those burdens down.

“Strangely, the heftier the belief, the more proudly people will sometimes bear its weight. If someone has carried a belief-anvil for 40 years, she is not going to react too kindly to someone telling her that it’s been totally unnecessary. All that effort and martyrdom would have been for nothing. So people hold fast to their own obstinacy, mentally staggering around under this peculiar encumbrance.  —Neil Kramer in The Unfoldment

And a disbelief can be just as heavy. “Disbeliefs require the same maintenance, egoic investment, and channeled consciousness as their positive counterparts,” Kramer writes. (So that’s why so many atheists look like they are a day past a good bowel movement.)

I think we need to think about death-cleaning our minds, clearing out the clutter of beliefs we shouldn’t pass along for someone else have to deal with.

Lately I have found myself avoiding conversations with certain people on particular topics if I know they carry a heavy belief, or if I know I do: Politics is a mine field, the #metoo movement has pitfalls galore, and even Easter has potential for controversy. I’ve started to think, “I need to lighten up.” The weight is getting heavy.

The benefit of death cleaning, I suspect, is keeping only that which serves life, for the benefit of health and happiness and the good of others. Sounds good to me.

four-leaf-clover

It was fun when my daughter found this four-leaf clover, but I don’t REALLY believe it brings us good fortune.

 

 

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De-cluttering as spiritual practice: Pruning the “perfectly good” for the health of the organism

Photo courtesy of Lucy Nieto Flickr

Photo courtesy of Lucy Nieto
Flickr

Are you a clutterbug? Do you hate to part with things that are “perfectly good” in case you need them later? 

In Mapping The Soulscape Of Spiritual Practice: How Contemplating Apples, Living In A Cave, And Befriending A Dying Woman Revived My Life, Michael Yankoski writes about how spiritual practices re-balanced his out-of-kilter life.

He consulted a spiritual adviser who recommended the spiritual practice of de-cluttering. Yankoski began to tackle the extraneous items in his house, sifting through them and deciding which to keep and which to recycle or donate elsewhere. Between bouts of de-cluttering, he worked in his plot at a community garden where he nurtured tomato plants and other vegetables. Near his plot, another more experienced gardener watched his efforts and worried that Yankoski’s tomato plants were getting a little unwieldy. The wise gardener recommended pruning to produce a higher yield of higher quality vegetables. Yankoski hesitated. He hated to heartlessly lop off “perfectly good” stems from his plants. How could removing potential fruit-producing branches help his plant?

He conducted an experiment. He pruned some tomato plants according to the wise gardener’s instructions, and he left the rest to grow at will. At harvest time, the pruned plants bloomed with a hearty crop of luscious tomatoes.The other plants produced much fewer fruit of lower quality.

When he applied the same principle to the de-cluttering of his house, he felt the same surge of energy the luscious tomatoes on the pruned vines felt. Without clutter to clog up his thoughts and his movements, he took better care of what was there and appreciated it more. Like his tomato plant, without extraneous branches to deplete energy and resources, he had more nutrients to nourish the rest.

Sometimes it feels wrong to get rid of the “perfectly good.” What if it could be useful someday? But pruning off branches and composting them to feed other plants is like pruning our “perfectly good” clothing, furniture or other household items and delivering them to others who really need them. The pruning serves both us and the recipient.

Do your belongings nourish you or deplete you? Maybe a little pruning is in order. It might hurt a little, it might feel counter-intuitive, but expect to feel a surge of energy at the end of the day.

_________

The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski http://www.thomasnelson.com/the-sacred-year

Photo courtesy of Vilseskogen Flickr

Suffering tomatoes! Photo courtesy of Vilseskogen
Flickr

Beautiful and positive and valuable

At Thanksgiving we give thanks for everything in our lives that is beautiful and positive and valuable. We look around us, really think, and feel gratitude for that which enriches us.

Unfortunately, sometimes we have to look past or psychologically climb over a lot of things for which we’re not so thankful to get to the good stuff.

Decluttering our lives

Years ago, when Vicki Gabereau still had her wonderful show on CTV, she had a guest who specialized in helping people declutter their lives. This woman, and how I wish I knew her name, advised people to only keep things that are beautiful, or positive, or valuable. This includes clothing, furniture, art, even friends.

At the time, I looked around myself with new eyes and discovered that I was keeping a surprising amount of stuff that was ugly, negative and not really very useful.

Let’s say, for example, that you have a great aunt Myrtle who had a habit of telling you things like, “You would be beautiful if you lost 30 pounds.” And let’s say that Great Aunt Myrtle gave you a rather unattractive painting for your wedding. You hang it on your wall—in case she drops by. But every time you walk by this painting, your stomach churns, you think, “What an ugly painting,” and you feel somehow not quite beautiful. Who needs that kind of energy in their lives? Take the painting down and put up something beautiful.

Feeling the warm glow

Over the last while we’ve been going through the process of cleaning out my mother-in-law’s house after her move into long-term care. This process involves the heart-wrenching work of deciding what to keep, or not. As we cleaned, we came upon my mother-in-law’s old typewriter that she used to type up her favourite recipes.

Both my husband and I have spent our careers typing and writing, so a typewriter is not a piece of equipment with which either of us would part easily. Then add in that it belonged to his mother, a woman we both adore. Then add in that she had typed all her favourite recipes on it (she made the best shortbread cookies on creation). We knew that we needed to keep that typewriter. We put it on a special table in the corner of our dining room, and every time I look at it I feel a warm glow.

What do you feel?

Go through your belongings. Pick each thing up. Does your stomach churn? Get rid of it. Do you feel a warm glow? Keep it and put it in a place that feeds you. Do you have no strong reaction? Well, if something doesn’t do anything for you one way or the other, do you really need it?

Make Thanksgiving easier

Clear out the negative clutter and move in what is beautiful, positive and valuable.

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