Read an Excerpt
YOUR SPACIOUS SELF
clear the clutter and discover who you are
By STEPHANIE BENNETT VOGT
Hierophant PublishingCopyright © 2012 Stephanie Bennett Vogt, MA
All rights reserved.
CLEARING WITH AWARENESS
The busy mind is so grateful to stop and taste eternity.
While I waited, bleary eyed and cranky, I proceeded to do what I always do while the coffee brews: I took the clean dishes out of the drainer, one at a time, and put them away.
On this particular morning, I experienced something I had never consciously observed before: In the sixty seconds that it took me to stack the last of the pots and pans, I noticed that the cobwebs in my head had cleared, and my mood was better. A lot better. The fog that I was carrying—and my spirits—had lifted.
What is this? I haven't even had my cup of coffee!
There it was: a spacious infusion resulting from a housekeeping ritual that I've repeated every day for most of my adult life; an experience realized and harnessed by simply being aware.
The truth is, I experience a swell of spaciousness every time I put the dishes away or hang the laundry up to dry or fold it. I feel the shift when I gather the empty cups and glasses in my living room or on my desk at the end of the day. Or when I address an annoying toleration, like replacing a light bulb or sewing a button or fixing the squeak in the door. I've devoted hours to writing about how simple actions can transform the energy in our living spaces, our lives, and our world.
I notice that every time I create an experience for my students to try at home or blog about ways to cultivate a clear home and spacious life, I myself am affected by the elegant simplicity of the practices I'm writing and teaching about.
What I didn't expect as I got deeper into my writing is that I would be responding to something more urgent: a distress call from people—women mostly—yearning to relieve the stress they feel; hungering to connect with something deeper and more meaningful.
Everywhere I go I see a longing for simplicity but a loss of where to begin; a desire for balance and nourishing self-care but no idea how to cultivate it. There is no time to juggle it all, let alone clear the things and thoughts that caused us to feel so overwhelmed in the first place! The chorus of unease that I'm hearing is a series of notes that sounds a lot like this:
* I'm overwhelmed. I have no time. I can't see straight or hear myself think.
* I'm so envious of people who are able to get things done.
* I have no idea what I love anymore.
* Slow down? You've got to be kidding.
* Where do I begin?
It's no surprise that our fast-paced lifestyles pack a wallop to the system. Technologies evolving at lightning speeds are making it possible for us to communicate as never before. We are assaulted by information all the time and have limited time to process even a fraction of it. Ironically, the very systems that are designed to simplify our lives seem to complicate them even more.
Add the noise swirling "out there" to the internal, chaotic struggles going on within, and you get fried circuits, a constant triggering of the fight or flight response, and a cascade of stress chemicals coursing through the system.
I wanted to write a book that cuts through the noise; one that could charm the part of the mind that is spinning out of control somewhere in "overwhelm La-la Land"; a book that creates the tiniest peephole of quiet, yummy spaciousness that not only expands with our awareness but can be felt—at the deepest level; a book that delivers a palpable experience of ease in one minute flat.
Your Spacious Self is that book.
Whether you are a superorganized neatnik, a hopeless clutterbug, a nonstop multitasker, a cautious beginner, an experienced professional, or a curious bystander—welcome! This book is for you.CHAPTER 2
IT'S A JUNGLE ... IN HERE
As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
—Henry David Thoreau
Here's what I'm wondering:
Are you wearing something right now that you don't love, doesn't flatter you, or doesn't fit perfectly (yes, including underwear)? Do you groan or cringe every time you walk into your home or office? Do you wake up in the morning worrying about something? Do you feel guilty when you take time to do something for yourself?
That was just the warm up. Here's what I really want to know: Did any of these questions elicit a physical sensation of any kind? An eyebrow raise? Constricted breathing? A gulp or a nervous laugh? An impulse to cringe, manage the situation, or bolt?
Were you aware of a change in your energy level? Were you aware of how the room feels? Were you aware of yourself being aware?
Welcome to my world of clearing!
IT'S NOT ABOUT THE STRESS OR THE STUFF
No one would argue that most of us do too much or have more possessions than we need. Or both. With our lives swept up in a swirl of attachments, worry, and endless, mechanical "doing," our minds become fuzzy on what stays and what goes, what matters and what doesn't. As humans, it is in our nature to experience clarity and spaciousness all the time. The problem is that we lose focus, get off balance, and forget how.
So how do we dial it back or even begin to reduce the noise, release the stuff that doesn't serve and support us, and connect with that which makes our hearts sing?
One minute at a time. In present time.
No matter how minuscule the task or effort, the fact is that clearing anything consciously and gently, as this book teaches, creates an energetic opening—a spaciousness—that will work on you slowly and surely to soften your attachments to things, beliefs, and outcomes.
Whether your clutter challenge is the stuff spilling out of the closet or the noise spinning around in your head, or both, here's what I know for sure—distilled to its bare essence:
* Clutter (and chatter) is not the problem.
* We do not need fixing.
* Without awareness, there is no clearing.
Let me explain.
In the end, it is not about tackling the unsightly messes, the boxes of whoknows-what mildewing in the basement, or the clothes that don't fit.
It's not about the mountain of mail, the emails that invade your inbox, or the pile of medical bills that the insurance company refuses to cover.
It's not about the car that needs new tires, the crazy-ass housemate who won't turn her music down, or the neighborhood dog that barks all night.
Nor is it about "fixing" yourself.
It's not about the despair you feel over the dishes that no one bothers to wash and put away, the to-do lists that get longer by the second, or the fact that you have zero time for yourself.
It's not about the hopelessness you feel, your inability to say no, or the fear of someone discovering your dark secret.
Clearing is not about any of those things. It is how ... you ... relate ... to ... them.
It is the space between the problem and the solution where the real juice is, where the real clearing happens. And the only way to release what isn't working for you is to enter that sometimes-scary zone called feeling.
Feeling the overwhelm, resistance, attachment, guilt, sadness, worry, despair, shame ...
Feeling it all—without judging it as good or bad or taking it personally.
IT'S NOT ABOUT FIXING
We do not need fixing. The core of our being is not broken. We humans are simply out of touch with our true selves and out of balance. And, by extension, our homes and world are out of balance because we are. Not the other way around.
When you can allow feelings to arise in all their messy glory without fixing or judging or personalizing, that is when the clutter you experience "out there"—in your home and life—magically melts away.
No matter what your clutter challenge is, as you practice clearing in this way, you'll begin to notice some shifts taking place in your life. Who knows what that might look like for you. It might start as a tiny peephole of space that wasn't there before. An ah-ha. A kindness. A quieter dog. A surprise check in the mail. Less junk mail. Fewer pounds. A job offer. Fewer buttons getting pressed. Better sleep. More energy. More joy.
More real, spacious you.
CLEARING IS A JOURNEY
To the degree that you can see clearing as an adventure—a Hero's Journey, of sorts, that will take you places within yourself that you've never experienced before—here are some ways to gain the most from your experience.
As you probably already know, or will soon discover, clearing anything has a sneaky habit of pressing our buttons and bringing up what I affectionately call the "weather." Many of the lessons in this book are intended to gently produce this emotional weather—on purpose—so that you can directly experience what your holding patterns look like. The Clearing Practices and the open-ended statements in the Clearing Journals are designed specifically to pinpoint and "needle" areas of stuckness, limiting beliefs, and resisting patterns in your life so that you can name them, feel them, and let them go—for good.
SLOW DOWN AND SIMPLIFY
If you are a take-charge, "doing" machine, the practices in this book might take a little getting used to. Don't be fooled by their simplicity. If the slow-drip model offered in this book feels grossly inadequate next to your Mount Everest of stress and stuff, take heart. Literally. The heart knows. The chattering, grasping mind—what the Buddhists call the "monkey mind"—is not equipped to deal at the level that is required.
It will help a lot to set clear boundaries: Limit the time you spend on each lesson and practice; stop immediately and exercise self-care whenever you feel tired and hungry. Drink a lot of water, as clearing is very dehydrating. Set a timer if you need help managing your time and energy level. Most of all, keep it simple and follow your "knows."
REFLECT AND RELEASE
Writing down your experiences (dreams, synchronicities, ah-has) is one of the most powerful ways I know to acknowledge and mark the shifts that are occurring in your life as you clear, especially when it feels at first like not much is changing.
As one of my students shared: "I have a hard time having my journal by my side, taking myself seriously enough to do the lessons. Today something clicked. I wrote and wrote. All the questions leading to one answer—It's a way out!"
Start your journey with a brand-new journal, notebook, or blank book. Use it to complete the daily contemplations, set intentions, integrate key principles, explore questions, gather your thoughts, and brainstorm ideas.
Best of all, when you use it especially at the end of each chapter (or day) to download, vent, wonder, noodle, integrate, reflect upon, off-gas—anything that is going on for you—you will be releasing loads of mental and emotional clutter!
SUPPORT THE JOURNEY
In this journey, there are two things you can almost count on: First, there is no way to predict what will happen as you clear; and second, no matter how good your intentions may be, if there is a monkey mind lurking in your head space, it is easy to fall off the wagon, get discouraged—or plain lost.
For that reason I am including these reminders to help bring you back. Write them down in your journal or on a Post-it note. If you can remember to adopt these guiding principles as part of your daily practice, I can almost guarantee that you will clear more stress and clutter than you ever imagined possible.
* Be Curious. Enter your life with wonder and curiosity. Pretend that you know nothing. Be willing to be pleasantly surprised.
* Allow Silence. Silence creates openings and opportunities to feel. Don't be afraid of it.
* Invite Mystery. There is no way to predict what will happen. Accept mystery in your life as a legitimate state of being.
* Take Your Time. Clearing is a journey to be lived, not a task to be completed by a certain deadline. Go as slowly as you need to, but keep moving. When you are rushed, vital connections are lost.
* Stop and Feel. The daily practices will open you up to new information. Notice and allow emotional weather to arise without taking it personally.
* Don't Identify. Most of what you'll be feeling is stuckness that comes from the past, from other people, and from your (and other people's) living spaces. The weather will always pass to the degree that you don't make it "yours."
* Have Fun. Don't take yourself or anything that happens too seriously. Being less attached to an outcome will make it easier to clear; it will raise your energy level, expand your perspective, and lighten your load.CHAPTER 3
WHAT IS CLUTTER, EXACTLY?
As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
It starts with an eye roll and a nervous laugh that suggests, You don't even want to know what I have lurking in my basement.
This is the usual reaction I get when people ask me what I write and teach about. Some even get so nervous that you'd think I was going to send in a SWAT team to bust them on the spot for even having stuff.
Conversely, if my response elicits a glazed or bored look, I can pretty much guess that this is a person who cannot relate to clutter, either because she doesn't suffer from physical excess at all or is too busy to notice that she has any.
If, however, the mention of clutter is met with prickly resistance, a wave of emotional charge, a hollow stare that points to deep pain and shame, then I'm really interested. This is the kind of "clutter" that gets my attention—and all my "special forces teams" bearing massive and gentle amounts of love and compassion.
No matter what your housekeeping habits and lifestyle predilections might happen to be, if you live in a body that gets out of balance, thinks thousands of thoughts a day, feels pain and loss and fear from time to time, or gets caught up in worries of the moment, you've got clutter.
MANY FACES OF CLUTTER
As you can see from the sample of comments below, clutter shows up in many forms. It usually shows up in overlays of physical stuff, mental chatter, and emotional charge. Can you guess which is which?
"I have tried so many ways to clear my home—life coach, junk removal, nifty closet systems, sweat and tears, and I usually end up again in a frozen state of clutter and disorganization. My moods are horrible when dealing with my stuff. I get angry at everyone, although I know deep down it is not their fault."
"I struggle with busyness ... always somebody wanting something: time, energy, money, etc. And I nearly always accommodate the request, wanting to be the 'good girl' and wanting to be liked.... However, I always end up feeling like there is nothing left for me—time, energy, or money."
"I have lifetimes of projects. Why do I have so much material for so many possible projects that never get finished?"
"My self-sabotaging brain is relentless."
"I have been feeling irritable, anxious—just not right, not myself. It has been very difficult and painful."
"I haven't had anyone over to the house in years. I am so ashamed of how bad things have gotten."
"I feel overwhelmed ... [embarrassed, sad, unrealized, guilty, trapped, weighted down, scattered, strangled, stuck, blocked, distracted, paralyzed, anxious, like a failure, hopeless, exposed, vulnerable ...]"
Can you see yourself in any of these? Do any elicit even the tiniest flinch of self-awareness?
If so, you have just discovered the secret doorway to living clear.
Clutter, first of all, refers to anything that gets in the way of experiencing your most spacious self. It is visible and invisible; it is any thing or thought that makes you feel off center and rattles your cage; it is the limiting beliefs that cloud who you are; it is stuck energy.
Excerpted from YOUR SPACIOUS SELF by STEPHANIE BENNETT VOGT. Copyright © 2012 Stephanie Bennett Vogt, MA. Excerpted by permission of Hierophant Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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