Monday, June 7, 2010

Clearing Clutter

There are lots of jokes about solving how hard it is to live with our family or with conditions around us by adding in so much more hardship that when we take that away, the original mess feels easier. This is the "bang your head and it feels good when you stop" idea. This is a little backwards, in my view. Of course the weight is lighter after you put on more weight and then take that weight off. I think it's important to acknowledge both what it is that we are carrying around and the particular set of conditions or reflexes that chafe or grind. When we can see these objects and patterns that have evolved because of our own existing structures, we can begin to unpack the real load, and clear the true space ... not just try to trick ourselves into feeling differently about it.

In his notes to his introduction for his 1988 translation of the Bhagavad Gita, Stephen Mitchell quotes Maharshi Sri Ramanasramam. The simplicity of this thrills me:

"Peace is our real nature. We spoil it. What is required is that
we stop spoiling it. We are not going to create peace anew. For
instance, originally there is nothing but space in a room. We fill
it up with various objects. If we want space, all we need to do
is to remove all those objects, and we get space. In the same way,
if we remove all the rubbish, all the thoughts, from our minds,
peace will appear. What is obstructing the peace has to be removed.
Peace is the only reality."

That original space is already there, waiting for me to clear out the clutter. I watch my mind filling up like a floor with everything dropping upon it. With my attention focused, I can slowly clear away the stuff, filing it where it might be of use, putting it away as "stuff," or recycling it as material for some other time. The surface becomes clear and once again I'm able to walk, or stand, or even lie down upon that floor.

I feel this very directly in my asana practice. In order to reach my shoulder and release it from whatever is clenching it, I apply this idea of clearing out the clutter and focus on my breath, dropping the tension away from my shoulder joints. This focused attention and reliance upon the breath are key to everything for me. It is through this that I can separate the clenched jaw from the tight back muscles. Using the natural expansion of my breathing ribcage, I can release the shoulder to float on the existing structure, and let go of the holding and judging. Just acknowledging the fear I feel about moving the tight shoulder helps me to let it go . Seeing what is going on there (the piles on the floor), nodding at the worry about it (labeling the "fear"), discovering the way the elbow can shift the movement away from the shoulder joint (recycling what might be useful), exploring the possibility of doing less (putting things away to save for later) and allowing the deeper muscles of the breath to help.

Where my attention goes, so goes my energy. If I can focus on the breath and take apart the pile of junk clobbering my shoulder, I can find so much more space in which to be who I am, taking care of my shoulder and exploring all it can make possible.

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