Clearing the Clutter: A Cathartic Practice

Earlier this week, I sat in a sangha among a roomful of spiritual seekers, gathered together in pursuit of a shared goal to reset the self.  Prior to coming, we were given the task to cut physical clutter from our lives. A few folks shared their experiences: various items of stagnant energy ushered into the forsaken trash - the ex’s toothbrush, the taunting pack of cigarettes, the size 4 pants that paraded in the past - or my personal favorite “an ex-boyfriend’s comforter he got from an ex-girlfriend”… folks were purging it all.

The only thing missing from this gathering was the bonfire to eat it all to ash. 

As tales of emotion unraveled, one truth became clear – the cleansing process was cathartic. A visceral lightness cloaked the room as stories were shared and chords were cut.

Clutter comes in many forms: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

Often we are reluctant to let go of that which we’ve grown to know.  We attach to familiarity. From birth and our first breath, we enter into a foreign world. It is here we start the search to know oneself, and so we begin the uncomfortable relationship with uncertainty. Often we find it difficult to part from the past because it is concrete, defined, and tangible. But when we finally let go and let pass, accepting the transience of life, we ultimately make room for green and growth. Nature is a perfect teacher. A forest fire sweeps the Earth of old growth. Dead leaves crinkle in the flames. And when all is settled in dirt, the ground is fertile and bears new buds. Nature’s recycling.

So how do we cut the clutter and learn from nature’s wisdom? Here are a few ways to cultivate a clear mind, body, and soul.

1. Clear your physical space.

You’ve heard people say it: clear space, clear mind. Objects carry physical energy. Cleaning brings balance. Start with your physical surroundings. Empty the trash, donate unworn clothes, toss the moldy bread. Allow your physical surroundings to breathe and notice the lightness in your lungs.  Perhaps try a smudging ritual. Many ancient traditions such as the Native Americans burn herbs (sage, palo santo, cedar) to cleanse the space. It is believed that the smoke sews itself to the negative energy - and as it dissolves, so does the strings of negative energy.

2. Cleanse and purify your body.

Your body is your soul’s home. Nurture it fully. Flush it of toxins and reinvigorate it with fresh foods. Take a purifying yoga class, go for a run, move in anyway you feel inspired and sweat out the excess.  Nourish yourself after. Breathe deeply – breathing is one of our bodies’ most powerful forms of detoxification.

3. Learn to let go.

One of the eight limbs of yoga is “aparigrapha,” the practice of non-attachment. Easier said than done, of course.  But if you learn to accept what is, you can cultivate peace. Understand that external factors and circumstances are out of your control, but what you have in gold is the power to control all that is within.

4. Feel fully and allow emotions to travel through you.

“Emotion” comes from the Latin word emovere meaning to move out. Emotions are like waves that flow through and out of each being. Often they result from blocked energy relating to experiences both subtle and intense. Notice when emotions emerge, and allow yourself to feel without reservation. Witness without judgment. Treat your feelings as teachers, as guides sent from beyond.

“Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.”  - Rumi

5. Create to liberate.

Write, journal, paint, doodle, make music, dance, build sand castles, sing, pick up fallen leaves and build a collage – create. Make anything that speaks to you. Find your inner child and follow the footprints of your curiosity. Creativity is an outlet for energy to flow freely and it is the birth of new horizons. 

“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

6. Meditate for your mind’s medicine.

Meditating helps us clear the mental clutter and empty out the mind.  Take 20 minutes to meditate, before your morning coffee or eating rajasic foods that may move the mind. If you’re new to this, try a dark place like the closet. Sit up tall. If your thinking-oriented, focus awareness on the Ajna Chakra, the Third-eye space between your brows. If you are feeling-oriented, focus on the Anahata Chakra, your heart. Allow thoughts to pass like a logs floating down a river and return to your breath.

There are many ways to clear the mind, body and spirit. But of all that exist, it is important to remember that you can press the reset button at any time. Trust the natural ebb and flow of life. Rather than resist what comes, ride the wave and welcome it with an open heart.