Decluttering and the Meditative Life

August 17, 2009

Was wondering what I’d blog about this week and a trip to our sunroom screamed “decluttering” to me. I hate to say why, but I’m sure you can guess. The sunroom has become a storeroom for our business — full of boxes for things received, bubble wrap envelopes for CDs to mail, and all sorts of related stuff. Richard is great at keeping things neat. His tolerance for clutter is way lower than mine. But still sometimes we get busy and the boxes start to take over. Hence the room’s cry for help. Well, truth be told, hence the cry for help by my psyche!

As soon as I walked in the sunroom, I felt the energy of the clutter. It’s unpleasant to say the least! I’ve promised myself to take care of it by day’s end. In fact, I’m actually looking forward to doing it. I find decluttering to be a lot like meditation. It’s a kind of meditation-in-action for me. It has the same calming and grounding effect when I do it in a relaxed, non-pressured way. It has to be done in a loving way. It can feel so self-nurturing when I’m not chiding myself for what I find, for having let it get out of control. It feels good when I allow myself to be there, fully present to all the sensations, emotions and thoughts that accompany the work, and that includes being present to the self-critical part of me! If I’m present to that self-critical part, I have a chance to cut myself some slack. It feels good when I allow myself to relax into it — when I give myself “all the time in the world” to do it, not being pressured by the clock.

Is this sounding at all like meditation to you? It does to me. It’s the same art. Meditation is all about the art of living, the art of how we do things. How we do something is totally about how we handle our inner world — how we handle our thoughts, emotions and the experiences that come our way. We can make decluttering a meditative experience. Instead of starting out with a logical plan, I like to just dive in. I enter the room or area that needs to be cleared and organized and just start — taking one step at a time as my intuition guides me. It’s so much more relaxing that way.

I read an article with all sorts of tips about decluttering — practical things to do. It sounded so intelligent, logical, effective. But I balked at the idea of following some rules, of having to things set up and plan in advance. That’s the way that person decluttered — it worked for them, but I can guarantee you that they didn’t start out with that list. That’s just how it developed as they did it and then they said — wow, that worked — now I can tell someone else how. I much prefer to get in there and discover how I do it. Like meditation, it’s an exploration that reveals my own path to me. If I start out with a instruction manual, then I think there’s a right and wrong way to do it. I start getting awkward and ignoring my own intuition and inclinations. What’s more it becomes work when it can be play!

It’s like writing this post. I had no idea when I started where it would take me. I just started writing and discovered where it took me. Just like meditation. Just like life.

Meditation and Creativity

July 20, 2009

It’s always a surprise to me. Every single time. I record a guided meditation, do some editing and pass it on to Richard. And then before I know it, he’s added some music and voila — it’s done. Just like that, he listens to the meditation at his keyboard and the music seems to get composed effortlessly. And I always love it. It always feels just right for the meditation. And I’m always in awe. How did that happen? How is it that every single time, on the spot, the music comes?

Even though I’ve experienced how effortlessly things can get created, I’m still amazed. And yet, when something new does come into existence, it is by nature a spontaneous, effortless event. If it’s new, it’s never been seen, touched, heard, known before. How could that come with effort? When we make an effort, we are working at something. We have an end in mind — we draw on everything we know and have experienced before; we use our logic; we try to connect the dots. But something completely new can’t be found in what we have heretofore experienced and known. It comes from the source of all of that, and the functioning of the source lies outside the functioning of our own will and actions, even though it influences them. So “true creativity” can only be effortless. While we may work at shaping an inspiration once it arises, we cannot force the inspiration to come.

While that explains to me the effortlessness of Richard’s composing, it doesn’t explain the consistency of it. And here I turn to my understanding of meditation for answers. Meditation can align us with the source of all creation (and hence creativity). The mind shifts into a more open, intuitive mode, beyond intellect and logic.  Composers have to “get out of the way” for their music to come into being. Meditation in its most essential form gets us out of our own way.

Richard gets into a meditative state to compose. After all the years of meditation, it’s easy for him to do that. So Richard gets out of the way and the music comes. I should understand that — it’s how my meditations come. It’s how everything I’ve ever accomplished creatively has come. And yet it still surprises me when it happens. It is always a wonderful, awe-inspiring mystery. It is always a gift.

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Richard’s beautiful, meditative music is available on our Pure Light album (a compilation of background music from our podcast and CDs.)

Knitting as Meditation

April 9, 2009

It’s so easy to enter a meditative state while knitting. Something about the rhythmic movement back and forth between the right and left hands, something about the soothing repetition of movements. Something about it…

I am not the first, nor will I be the last, to write about knitting as a meditative art. People have tried to understand it in right brain/left brain terms. It has been compared to EMDR with its right and left eye movements. There have been lots of attempts to explain why it works, as if people need to prove its therapeutic benefits. I don’t really care why it works, it’s enough for me that it does.

I picked up knitting at a particularly stressful time in my life, not realizing that it had become a craze. Having learned it when I was young, my mind-body must have remembered the feeling of it and signaled my intuition that it was time to start knitting again. I find knitting to be so comforting and relaxing. I’ve known that it produces a meditative state, but it was just a couple days ago that I fully appreciated its power. When I was thinking about the similarity between meditation and knitting, I realized that you can’t worry and knit at the same time! 

When you worry, the mind gets involved in a train of thought — a story about what might happen, what could happen, what might have happened and so on. Worrying engages the emotions in a way that creates anxiety.  The use of your hands and the sight of the stitches being formed breaks that pattern. I challenge you to see if you can worry while you knit! To test this out, I knit a few rows actually trying to worry. I couldn’t do it. I could come up with worry thoughts like “what if that pain is a horrible disease” and “what if I can’t pay the bills next month”, but no matter what thought I conjured up, there was no emotional juice that came with it.

So many of the phrases I use while leading guided meditations aim to do this same thing — to disentangle the thoughts from the emotions, to allow the mind to break free of its usual patterns so that one enjoys a simple, open state of awareness. When I say things like “not minding the stories of the mind” or “let thoughts be a meaningless activity in the mind”, I am encouraging the mind to do what it does while we knit — disengage.

If you decide to knit to meditate, I think you’ll find the effect is the most powerful when you do a simple knit stitch over and over. In knitting, it’s called “garter stitch”. You just knit and knit and knit and don’t try to follow a complex pattern. It’s easy to learn, and you may find you also love handling beautifully colored yarns with various yummy textures. You might even end up with some great scarves in the process!

OK, so you’re behind the curve on the knitting craze. For all I know it’s over. Who cares? Knitting makes a great meditation. And, if you are hesitant because you are of the male gender, please know that, to borrow a book title, “real men knit”. Russell Crowe does it. Brad Pitt does it. The big, talk Ghi McBride character on Pushing Daisies does it. Just do it!

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