Leaving your comfort zone. Learning to let go of old habits, ideas, people who are not serving your best interests, and much more is not an easy task for anyone. The main reason is one must leave one’s comfort zone or familiar situations, habits and thinking patterns. This is stressful, often in the extreme. Therefore, most people simply do not do it. They make excuse after excuse as to why they should not change, rather than embrace change. This is the main block in most people’s way when it comes to letting go of anything in one’s life.
Letting go can be as simple as recycling or giving away old clothing. It can be as radical as leaving a long-standing marriage or friendship and changing one’s entire lifestyle. Whichever it is, it is always going to be somewhat painful. I mention this because the feeling of loss that accompanies any type of letting go is perfectly normal, and should not be confused. If one expects no pain, then when the pain of separation and letting go and abandonment hit, many people turn away rather than move forward boldly. This is the main reason that most people do not make the most of their lives.
Letting go is always somewhat scary. Letting go is also frightening for other reasons. One is that the future is always unknown. The past, miserable as it might have been, is known and thus one can more easily navigate through it, knowing at least what to expect, even if it is not great. The future, however, is completely unknown and this is very unnerving for most people. This is the second important stumbling block that prevents most people from moving forward in their lives. The third block is that the future is unpredictable. This is related to the second block, but is somewhat different. It means that no matter how well you plan ahead, the future is inherently difficult to prepare for, unlike past attitudes, relationships and habits with which one is more familiar. This, also, stops some people from moving on because they don’t even know what they need to prepare for their futures. The fourth block is that few people realize that when one truly lets go and forges ahead, one will have few if any reference points to evaluate their next move. This may seem trite, but is extremely important. Because of this fact, a wonderful counselor I once spoke with told me that if an opportunity that arose for me seemed comfortable, then it probably was not truly my future. Whereas, if an opportunity arose that seemed quite nebulous, with few reference points, it was actually more likely to be related to my true future.
This may seem counterintuitive, but the counselor explained that it is an important reason why most people have difficulty really letting go of their past and embracing their future. He called this process “movement”.
Another block to movement or moving on in your life is thinking you will lose some essential part of your identify, personality, friendships, family relations or other parts of yourself that you value. This was a stumbling block for me as well. Know that if you truly embrace your future, this will not occur. In fact, when you move ahead and let go of your past, more, not less of your personality and gifts will manifest. I can only tell you this from experience, and everyone experiences this fear that they will lose their identity, talents, friendships and so on. You may seem to lose some, but if you do then anything you lose was not really you. This may seem harsh, but many of us do not really know our deepest self, our deepest identity, and even who our real friends are. Please consider this statement carefully.
Fact: No two physical objects can occupy the same space at the same time.
This is just basic physics. We have to choose between this piece of furniture and that piece to fill a given space in the corner of the living room. We have to choose between a handful of blueberries or a handful of nuts to go into this bowl. We have to choose between this dress or that suit to clothe our bodies.
We have to choose because we can’t have both occupying the same space. And we get this. We learn it as little kids. We live by it even if we fight it once in a while (overpacking a suitcase just a wee bit, anyone?).
In fact, we can even thank this law of physics because it has compelled so many of us to choose a path to a simpler life, to live with less so we can create more space and more openness to breathe and to live a minimalist lifestyle. We have chosen to give away the physical clutter that piles up in our spaces in exchange for serenity, for simplicity, and for a richer life. But what about non-physical clutter that fills up our minds and fogs our vision every day, every second even? Why can’t we apply the same principle to our thoughts, which could benefit a thousand fold from a little clean-up in their dusty attic? What would we do if we knew for a certain fact that a positive thought and a negative thought cannot occupy the same space in our mind at the same time? That they cannot co-exist at all? We would have to start choosing our thoughts like we choose our clothes for the day. For the longest time, I could not get on board with the positive thinking movement. It sounded fluffy and shallow at first. It seemed to make light of my problems and most of all, it didn’t seem to work. I would read books, scan hundreds of blog posts, even write a few of my own, and repeat the positive affirmations over and over to myself, all to little or no avail. Deep inside, I still felt largely negative, unhappy and far from positive or peaceful.
Worst of all, I felt like a fake. I wanted to be positive. I talked about positivity, and I wanted to believe in it but it just wasn’t working its magic on me.
And it wasn’t for lack of trying. I really did try. My wife can tell you about my sincere attempts, and my Kindle can prove how many books I devoured to prove my interest! But positive thinking still didn’t work for me. Here’s why. You see, I was committing to the positive thoughts as much as I was holding on to the negative ones. I was thinking “I am powerful beyond measure. I can run a successful business.” as much as I was thinking, “This is not going to work. I am going to mess it up. It is too late for me to start over.” I repeated and reinforced the good as much as the bad. And since both thoughts could not occupy the same space in my mind, the power of habit sided with the one that it was used to nurturing: the negative thought. It was the familiar voice it knew, and it takes a lot less effort to believe the familiar than to get on board with the new and unfamiliar.
So how do we apply this principle to clean out the mind clutter for good?
If you are reading this, you are either a pro minimalist or a new and aspiring one (welcome). So given our love of “less is more” in the physical world, let’s follow the step-by-step approach below to clean out the clutter in the mind:
1. Get ready to move out of your castle.
Imagine your mind lives in a giant castle filled with the stuff that fills up minds: thoughts, worries, anxieties, fears, memories, desires, questions, yearnings, … and more thoughts. Now imagine you are going to move out of this giant castle. It has been good to you no doubt but the rent is up and you can’t afford it anymore, and you are moving into a clean, open, well-lit but teeny tiny space in your favorite spot in the world. (For me, Queenstown, New Zealand next to Lake Wakatipu and you’re welcome to join me!)
2. Choose carefully what you pack.
You have to pack very light. And you can only take with you what you plan to use. Ask yourself (really, loud and clear, ask yourself): Am I going to use the worries, the anxieties, the fears and the negative thoughts? Am I going to use the memories, the desires and the positive thoughts? Decide on each one as if this were a real move (because it is). Decide consciously and with intention. What will you choose to take, and what will you choose to leave behind?
3. Find a space for everything you brought as you move into your new place.
Everything has to occupy a space and no two things can occupy the same space at the same time so it would be best if you brought not quite so much. There’s room only for half the stuff in your head anyway!
4. Apply the rule to live clutter-free now.
If you chose to leave behind the worries, anxieties, fears, and negative thoughts, then you have de-cluttered your mind from the get-go. You are truly a hero, at minimalism and at positive thinking (and the rest of us envy you!)
But not all of us can detach so quickly from our cozy familiar world even if it means our negative thoughts. So if you chose to bring everything—the good, the bad and the ugly—your tiny space will be beyond cluttered. That’s okay. Just consciously apply the rule: No two things can occupy the same space in your mind at the same time. Choose either a negative thought or a positive one for this day or this hour or this very minute. Discard the other. For instance, you can either choose a peaceful memory or a big worry, fear or courage, acceptance or denial.
And listen, you can choose the worry if you want. Just choose it consciously. No fooling yourself. And then, worry. Worry until you are sick of it. Worry a lot. Then choose fear if you must and fear as much as you can. Then choose anxiety and be anxious for a few hours. I am not saying you can’t choose the bad. I’m just saying you can’t choose both and this is where we finally start to outsmart that clever mind of ours. And it’s where you begin to think simpler now: You can have one thought at any given moment, but not two or ten.
Sometimes you choose right, sometimes you learn, but if you keep applying the rule, every day you will get closer to the freedom and peace that only a clutter-free mind can give you. But what if you can’t choose? What about the times you feel indecisive or don’t care? Every time you give up the choice, you return to what you know, you go back to default, to the familiar face, the good old smell and taste. Your familiar and your default mode is different from mine but as far as our desires, I’ll go out on a limb and say we both want the same thing, you and I. We want to be happy, free of worry and anxiety, free of stress and fear, and definitely free of clutter. We want to fill our minds with positive thoughts and our hearts with peace and joy and love. No? So as you settle into your new tiny clean clutter-free space in your favorite spot in the world, make room only for positivity, for joy, for serenity, for optimism and for happiness. It’s a process, my dear, it’s an adjustment, it takes time but It Works.
Choose to fill your new abode in this manner one thought at a time and you will be surprised how the small stuff adds up to take you where you were always belonged: with a quiet clutter-free peaceful mind.
This is a great spiritual lesson. I meet many people who are deeply concerned with “finding themselves”. This often means finding a career, a relationship, love, power, money or something like this. I have found that the key is make room for your future by letting go of your entire past.
I emphasize entire past because for me this is what it takes. In other words, question everything and everyone in your life. Let them all go mentally and emotionally. This does not mean you must get a divorce or leave school, however. It means to be free in your mind. Then you will figure out in an objective way if the job, the school, the friends and so on are really for you. But you must first let them all go emotionally in order to see where the future may lie. That is the key. Letting go of unwanted things, habits, attitudes beliefs and even people is an ongoing process for anyone who wishes to unfold spiritually. Allowing and accepting more of who you really are requires reflection, always involves some pain and suffering, and requires loads of compassion for oneself and everyone around you. As much as possible, relax, enjoy it and celebrate the process as often as you can. Know that letting go, which children are often better at doing, is the key to your growth and development throughout life.
Let’s focus on ourselves, on what sets us apart, on our core of being, which shows up once we dare to be ourselves… the author describes that very picturesquely in the book “Mister God, This is Anna”… Finn says that all people have two different kinds of windows: the eye window, they have two of them, and the heart window, everyone has only one of it.
Eye windows exist to look out, and the heart window exists to look to the inside. If you cry, says Fin, then it’s not just because of something sad. It also serves to clean our eye windows. Once they are clean again from tears, you can look through them better, and the world is much brighter than before. Sometimes I prefer looking through the heart window than through the eye window.
Because outside, I almost know everything there is to see. But whenever I look through the heart window to the inside, I always see new things. The same with me. Because from the inside, according to Finn, nobody knows himself as well as he knows his garden or the people next door. And that’s why the heart window is made of a different kind of glass. To the outside, through the eye windows, you mostly see clearer, says Fynn.
But I believe I see better with my heart. This is an interesting part of the book “The Little Prince,” where the Prince was crying about his rose, and is talking with his new friend the fox. The Prince is sad because he thought his rose was unique, but now knows better, because he has seen a row of rose bushes and many more roses. The fox explains that his rose is unique because of the relationship between them. That relationship is the bond of the heart, which cannot be seen by the eyes. With that bond come feelings of responsibility and love. These are some of the greatest bonds on the planet, and are completely invisible to the eye.
Why is seeing with your heart important?
Have you ever heard someone say “I wonder what they see in each other?” In hearing that, you now know the true meaning of this quote, right? The speaker is seeing with their eyes, the people they are talking about are seeing with their hearts.
Another question for you: have you ever felt compassion for something or someone that was not pleasing to the eye? How can that be, unless your heart recognises what *it* sees, and overrides your eyes. This allows you to see what is essential, despite what you might see with your eyes.
Now, imagine a world where the only thing you felt or acted on was related only to what your eyes could see, nothing else. What if everyone else in the whole world did the same? What kind of a world would be? Would it be a nice place for you to live in, or can you see that it would not be a very pleasant place?
To me, that is the reason why we must always remember there is more to the world than meets the eyes. I believe we should always try to strive to recognize that which we see with the heart, not just the eyes.
Where can I apply this in my life?
For me, I find that being centered, being calm, helps me see more clearly with my heart. Yeah, sounds kind of goofy, but it works for me. What about you, when do you see most clearly with your heart? Is it when things are calm and you are focused, or when things are crazy? The more hectic my day, the harder I find it is to see with my heart. The more cranky I am, the more aggravated or angry I am, the more stressed I am, the harder it is to see with my heart. Is it that way for you as well? Does that give you something to think about?
Once I realized that my state of mind did seriously impact my ability to see with my heart, I have been trying to maintain a more even keel. I try to stay as centered as I possibly can, and use a variety of techniques in my attempts. Success varies, but I like to think I’m getting better. Have you ever thought about the things you do that help you be calm and centered? Perhaps you use other words, and other means of getting to the place where you see clearly with your heart. Perhaps you are able to see with your heart at all times. If so, please leave any hints or tips for those not as advanced. Thanks!
Now the question is what to do once you notice that there is something going on with your heart’s eye. For me, the big trouble is to overcome what my eyes see, or to overlook them, as it were. What do you do to to see past what you are actually seeing and feel what is going on, to see with your heart? You have almost certainly done it before, so think back to times when you have allowed it to happen. Can you remember what you were thinking, what mood and state of mind you were in? That is where I would start. Try finding that state of mind and mood, and see how well it works when you are trying to make it happen.
Try variations, or note how you were in a slightly different mood or state of mind each time you are successful. Hopefully, within a short period of time, you will have a pretty good idea what works for you. With that in hand, it’s time for the next step. How do you get to that mood or state of mind? It does us little good to know where you need to be, but be unable to get there, right? What can you say or think to help you adjust your mood or your mind? I would practice doing those things until I could do it fairly easily, and on demand.
Now, look at the world with different eyes. The eyes of your heart are unleashed, and the world will never seem the same. It will be greater and more awesome than you imagined, and get better every day. At least it has for me. What a beautiful memory of this touching story… And how true it is… sometimes it needs tears, their cleaning effect… and then we see much better and clearer… and deeper!!