Thursday, April 29, 2010
This was originally posted in April,re-posted in response to Dawn's challenge to repost an article we wish had gotten more attention/readers at original publication. This was the perfect post for me now at the next transitional season, I always do fall cleaning too. Thanks, Dawn for the idea!
It's that time of year again, spring cleaning. This process can be a very symbolic and healing act as many will tell you. Whenever I read an article written by someone lauding the spiritual cleansing that can be gained by spring cleaning, I cringe. I picture some well put together middle aged woman in flowing silk gown, her arms adorned with exotic bangles, floating around her perfectly feng shui house happily "cleansing" like some New Age June Cleaver. When she's done cleaning she steeps in a bath of oils and herbs and meditates by candlelight about all the unneeded habits, thoughts and behaviors she is releasing. Maybe some of the authors of these articles and books do have this kind of lifestyle. I'm betting that not all do, but they are leaving out some important details. As they say the "Devil is in the details" and I can attest to that. Having been disillusioned by trying to compare my own process to some of these tips, and admittedly tainting them with my own skeptical imagery, I've decided that being true to my mission to being real, authentic and honest it would be a great idea to post about "Spring Cleansing" in my world.
Now, before I come across as bitter or cynical, I love the concept of cleaning/cleansing and utilizing the opportunity to let go of what is no longer needed, whether it's a stack of old magazines, or a negative thought pattern. In fact, the impetus for this post was when I opened the bedroom curtains and realized the mirror over my dresser is covered in dust. I remembered one of the articles I had read that addressed this issue specifically. Your mirror reflects you; you probably look in the mirror daily. As someone who avoided mirrors for years,(except to apply eyeliner) I'm happy to say that I am finally content with the way I look and yes my mirror should "reflect" that. It's a nice symbolic reminder of clarity and self recognition. Another word about glass, my windows seem to get very cloudy and dull over the winter. Once the sun arrives and we take down the plastic and open the curtains, it's time to really let the sunshine in. Good news and bad news: bright sunshine comes flooding in warming us, filling us with light and hope and…..aaggh illuminating all the dust, furballs, fingerprints and scuffs that were barely noticeable in winter's darkness. This is where we may be tempted to feel overwhelmed, discouraged and ashamed, all those feelings that may send us down the road of self criticism and perfectionism.
Let's put a stop to that immediately! There are two beliefs about housekeeping that I live by. 1) It's my house, I will determine my standards regarding what makes me comfortable. 2.) If it feels unmanageable, that's only a feeling, not a reality. I break my cleaning into small tasks. Whatever bothers me the most and doesn't make me feel comfortable is the first project. Spring lasts more than one day and so can spring cleaning. I often find that once I get a good start and allow myself some breaks to do other things, the rest no longer feels like a daunting chore. I can begin to enjoy the concept of clearing, cleansing and renewing. It can be a good time to rearrange some things to give your house a new feel. Even if it's only a few pictures or knick knacks, I find it doesn't take much to give my environment a fresh look.
Here's a word about throwing things out. I've often heard writers speak of opening yourself to prosperity and claim that clinging to old things can restrict the flow of prosperity into your home. I can see the philosophical and "energetic" rationale behind this practice but I don't see this as an all or nothing proposition. Personally I, like many others who didn't have a lot growing up (or at stages in our adult lives either) have a tendency to hang onto things "in case I or someone else needs them". On many occasions this has been beneficial to someone I knew who was in need, including me. I'm an advocate of the barter/trade economy and it has worked for many. Of course sometimes all that stuff begins to take up too much space and it becomes obvious it's time to part. I strongly encourage anyone in that case to utilize the barter systems that are available either in your community or online. If you don't want to involve yourself in the barter process look at what items can be donated, and find the appropriate resources. Homeless shelters, DV shelters, community agencies, even schools may need something that you have. You would be surprised at what someone else may really need or want. Many people are getting into DIY arts and crafts and I've seen some beautiful artwork, jewelry and clothing created out of "found" or discarded items.
Finally, to summarize what I believe are the key points of this whole spring cleaning/cleansing trend:
-It's your house, you decide what's comfortable. Some people need minimalist uncluttered space to feel emotionally and spiritually at home. Others like me, find great comfort and warmth in a house that looks a little lived in, I would feel spiritually rather empty in a stark orderly house…but remember that's just me, we all have our own preferences and standards of comfort.
-when and if you do throw unwanted items away, make an effort to find a use for them, or a way they can be recycled. We owe it to our future generations to leave them something better than miles and miles of garbage dumps ("landfill' is too polite and tidy sounding word…I try not to use it!)
-Last but not least…there is no June Cleaver, New Age or otherwise!
Happy Spring!©2010 Jennifer Hazard, Nanaoosa's Place
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Authenticity part 2 The topic of authenticity seems to be cropping up all over the place. Granted I do a lot of reading and research on areas where authenticity would be likely to be a frequent topic and a desirable goal. For many of us in those circles, it’s not a novel idea. I am noticing, however, that the concept seems to be making its appearance in the collective consciousness; as things tend to do when their time is due-when humanity needs them and is ready to accept them. I’m not certain why the “divine timing’ but I can think of several good arguments for the development and nurturance of authentic living. If we are authentic true to ourselves and our inner being, our values become clear; we begin to realize and prioritize what it is that really matter to us. As our true “heart’s desire” becomes clearer we are less inclined to be persuaded by others that may attempt to manipulate us, convincing us that they know what’s best for us. I can’t help but relate this to the “economic crisis” and the role of advertising and the American trends of consumerism. When we don’t know who we are, what we really value, it’s easy to look outside ourselves to fill the emptiness of uncertainty and doubt we harbor. We are at risk of filling the void with seemingly easy, quick fixes; drugs, alcohol, spending beyond our means. Our country’s current economic problems are the result of both individuals reaching beyond their means to acquire things, belongings, vacations, homes, etc that they believed they needed and the greed and lack of morality of those who were willing to capitalize on those “needs”. A friend and I recently discussed the gift of having been raised in a household with limited income. You learned what was essential and what luxury was. You learned that people are more important than things. You learned how to entertain yourself and have fun with whatever you had available to you. My kids remember very few of their Christmas or Birthday presents. One of their most fond holiday memories is in creating a house from a large cardboard box that a Fischer price playset was packaged in. They kept that box house for months. They drew on it. They taped up curtains from old fabric scraps, cut out windows and even a mail slot and played for hours creating a world of pretend around their “home” I’m not implying that poverty is essential to the discovery of one’s authenticity, but I believe there is a connection between living simply and living authentically. Given our current times with not only the financial problems our country has faced, but the increasingly obvious need to create sustainable sources of energy and food, the real need for community and cooperation, it makes sense that there is a mass appeal for authenticity. If we are to create strong communities, work cooperatively and be open to lifestyle change, it is important that we have a sound foundation of self understanding and self respect. Once we have achieved this foundation, we are less threatened by change, by sacrifice and by new ideas and world views. As individuals we are all part of the larger community of humankind, links in a chain, with the strengthening of each link the chain becomes stronger, more flexible and more functional. May your authentic self thrive as a strong link in our healing community.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Authenticity is a concept that I was introduced to when I was in treatment for alcohol abuse. Each morning the residents and house manager would start the day with the reading of at least one daily affirmation. The topic of authenticity was a common element in many of the affirmations, especially those intended for women. Maybe we lose ourselves in the midst of an abusive, controlling relationship, or in our addiction, or other self defeating behaviors. Or maybe we never developed a strong sense of identity and appreciation for ourselves in the first place and that itself made us vulnerable to abuse, addiction and other dangerous lifestyles. Regardless of what came first the chicken or the egg, one of the great things about residential treatment is that you learn or rediscover who you really are. You are separated from your family, friends, job, social life and most of your personal belongings. All of the external "things" we use to define ourselves are stripped away. You live in a house full of strangers who know nothing of your history except that you share the common bond of addiction, and now you don't even have that "identity" to fall back on. This is a frightening experience for most of us. But once the initial fear, anger and powerlessness wears off, we are left with the rather exciting opportunity to look within and remember who we are at our most inner core of our being. We are also able to pick and choose which of those traits we wish to develop, nurture and refine. And, wonder of all wonders, we are free to decide what characteristics, habits, traits and interests we want to introduce into our lives. It's like the terrible twos or adolescence all over again. We try on new roles and some of them don't fit, we rebel against change and rules, we struggle with self identity and self esteem. Most of us don't make it the first time through treatment. Finding our authentic self is too much work, too scary, too filled with uncertainty fear of failure,and worst of all fear of not being accepted for who we are. so we go back to what we know, an abusive relationship, the bottle, the pipe, the needle, whatever it was that we thought defined us. My aoda counselor once said to me, treatment will ruin any future relapse for you. As usual she was right. Once I had the glimpse of who I could be, who I wanted to be, that other life revealed itself for what it really was, a cheap gaudy mask designed to hide me from not only the rest of the world but from myself as well. So on my second bout of treatment, I was a little more receptive, a little less rebellious and a lot more willing to reclaim Jenny, whoever she was. I knew she was in there and I knew I could resurrect her. It has been a long journey, but within the last couple of years I finally feel I know me, my authentic self. Ever since that relationship with me has developed life has changed drastically for the better. Lucille Ball once said "Love yourself first and everything else falls into line". The love you find is well worth the discomfort of stripping away the masks and delusions we create in order to avoid being authentic.