June 9th 2013
Ok, so this blog is about writing creatively with spirit, i.e. do my spiritual practices, including my communication with spirit, influence my writing?
At the end of April I completed the first draft of a book I was writing on parenting – Love is Not a Reward. It was my intention to begin writing a distance learning e-course for an educational establishment in the Caribbean at the beginning of May.
I’ve been struggling with the concept of how to present this course for over a year now, and as the time arrived for me to make a start on it I was no clearer about what to include or how to structure it.
One night I decided to write up the constellation events I’d attended for the blog. I knew the first one was in 2007/8 and headed to the loft to find the box with all my journals and diaries. After a quick look I realised it wasn’t in the 2007 one, and I couldn’t find the journals for 2008 or 2009.
I was very puzzled. I began hunting all over the house, even looking in places I knew they couldn’t possibly be. It was this search that began what was to become a month long process of clutter clearing.
It began with arranging my journals in date order. I’ve realised that I’m going to be relying on them more and more for information that I hadn’t considered significant at the time, but which I now understand were milestones in my spiritual development.
Then it progressed to peeking into other areas of the loft, into other boxes and bags, and making decisions about whether to keep items I haven’t looked at in over four years, books I didn’t even know I had, or certainly had forgotten I had, clothes not worn in years, again, items I’d forgotten I had.
The one thing I wasn’t expecting when I began the process was how much I’d learn about how our possessions define who we are. They are the very essence of our identity.
That dress I bought ten years ago that cost me a week’s wages that I wore once, but refused to throw out because it cost so much. The shoes that pinched my toes and gave me corns but that many people said looked lovely. It’s not that these things don’t fit me anymore (well actually the shoes never did) it’s that I kept them as a reminder of who I was. And that person is not who I am now.
With each thing I threw into plastic bags to donate to charity shops, I was making a statement of who I no longer was, and by default what I was keeping was also defining who I am.
While some things caused a little pang as they were dropped into the bag, it wasn’t until I came to deciding which books to throw out that I really began to question who I am. Some of the novels were not too big a wrench, all my Jane Gardams, the Wilt series etc. I reasoned with my scared hoarder that if I needed to read them again I could always borrow them from the library. And indeed A Course in Miracles says ‘nothing is lacking that is needed.’
The big tussle with a voice in my head came when it was time to make decisions about my spiritual and professional books. The conversation went something like this;
Voice: ‘You know you’re going to have to throw out all the books that no longer reflect who you are, don’t you?’
Me: ‘Yeah, I can see these books on angels, the Kabala, Buddhism, Reiki and so on need to go.’
Voice: ‘Do you understand why?’
Me: ‘Yeah, it’s not that I don’t believe in them anymore, it’s just that now I understand they are all one, all the same energy, I don’t need to keep so many books on all the different parts. They were great as part of my learning and development but, given that I need the space I don’t need to keep them anymore.’
Voice: ‘Great. And the professional books, you know they have to go as well don’t you?’
Voice: ‘Yes, you heard me, the professional books.’
Me: ‘Which ones?’
Voice: ‘Any that doesn’t fit with who you are now and the way you practice now. Any that doesn’t address the spiritual aspect of your clients.’
Me: ‘That’s most of them.’
Voice: ‘My point exactly.’
Me: ‘But if I get rid of my psychology books, my counselling and coaching books, my working with bereavement books, my biology and nutrition books, how will people know who I am?’
Voice: ‘How do they know who you are now? Do you have them with you when you’re talking to someone at the supermarket? Do you have them displayed when you’re on the train, or at the airport, or on the beach? Do you have then when you sit in a bar and someone tells you their life story and ask for your help? Do you have them…?’
Me: ‘Alright, alright, I get it, but what if I need to look up something?’
Voice: ‘Tell me the last time you looked up something in one of those books?’
I thought for a moment, and for a moment longer, and honestly couldn’t remember. It was then that I realised how much of my identity was tied up with being a qualified, professional, practitioner. Despite the fact that when I work with people now I trust that my higher self speaks to their higher self and guides me to what is appropriate for them and for me, I still had the books as confirmation that I am a bona fide practitioner.
Me: ‘Ok. I’ll throw them out. I’ll only keep the ones that are consistent with who I am now.’
And so it was that I let go of books that have defined who I was for the last twenty years, and in the process redefined myself in much simpler terms as black, female, a writer and spiritual student and teacher.
It was a very liberating feeling to put the books into the bags and to feel that I was passing them on to someone else who needs them for that part of their journey. I was no longer attached to them.
A week later I when I went to my A Course in Miracles study group, I pulled a card and laughed out loud when I read what was on it.
‘Your worth is not established by teaching or learning. Your worth is established by God. …nothing you do or think or wish or make is necessary to establish your worth.’
Confirmation or what!!!
I have a friend who has a massive problem with clutter. I shared with her how I came to realise that our identities are tied up with what we keep and refuse to let go, even though we know they should go. It’s because we’re not ready to change the identity they represent.
Once I realised it was about identity change, I waded into many other things that wasn’t even on my original list. The question wasn’t ‘will it come in useful one day?’ but ‘does this fit with who I am now?’
What I thought would take a few days actually took the whole month.
At the beginning of June when I turned my attention back to the parenting course I was astounded that within an hour the structure of the course presented itself, along with content, chapter headings, modules and units.
I mentioned this to one of my sons. He asked, ‘do you think the clearing helped the course stuff to come in, because you’d cleared all that clutter out of your head?’
‘No, I think the course stuff was always there, clearing the clutter allowed me to see it.’
I believe as writers, artists, people trying to find solutions to problems, that when we clear the daily clutter out of our heads it enables us to see the solution, find the plot for the story, see the moves for the dance, find the right strokes for the painting, work out how to re-structure our finance and find the right words to soothe a fiery situation.
Sometimes clearing physical clutter can help with this process.
If you’ve had a similar experience or if you have issues with clutter I’d love to hear from you.