Yes! I Create Space.
First I simplify.
The world we live in can seem an uncontrollable, entangled mess. Noise, visual chaos, and sensory overload crowd our lives. Distance is needed to see how to simplify the confusion and complexity.
I don’t need to look far to find a starting point for creating space. Reaching into my junk drawer for my keys, I find chaos. The keys have somehow migrated to the pen box, the sticky notes cemented together, and I have no idea where that screw belongs. I cleaned and sorted this drawer a month ago and bought the drawer its little dividers and boxes to create a simple system of order. It was evident I needed a drawer refresh.
Second, I make life easier.
What started neat and organized is now a jumble of “stuff” that I cannot sort out quickly. Every task, finding a pen and paper to leave a note, grabbing keys, or the phone charger, becomes a search into the great unknown. This is the unknown that begins the day rushing and ends the day tossing things into a dark and hidden drawer.
Creating order in this drawer will change my perspective coming and going.
Opening My Drawer of Complexity.
At some level, I am aware that I create this confusion and jumble; it is my creation, and only I can sort it out. (Anyone else might toss out that key that I have no idea what it opens, but I know it opens something!). For some reason, it seems that the situation has to get so out of hand that I am completely stuck. While one can assume my junk drawer is a metaphor for the complexity of life, it is also a reality of a fundamental teaching.
Life is confusing, and often we get stuck and cannot find a way to move or think. One day I happened to ask my friend and mentor Jorge Waxemberg about discernment. How do we discern a direction when there is so much confusion in the world and conflicting information?
His answer was so simple. “Put away what is in your hands.”
What is within my control?
The focus on what is in my control is an incredibly empowering idea. If the only thing I focus on is what is in my hands, then my effort becomes one of looking at what is indeed in my hands to control.
I meditate on this phrase often and find the space created in meditation to ponder, reflect, and connect well worth the time and effort. During this time of deliberate stillness, I see most of what worries me or seems overwhelming is not in my hands at this moment. Suddenly, I find space not by creating new but by utilizing what I already have in my hands.
As I create the space in meditation to consider my humanity, my time, and my place, I realize that much of what I carry with me is junk. I begin with what is here-and-now; I pay attention to and focus on what I can do to create a happier, more sustainable life. For that is the most simplistic state I can imagine. Focusing on my hands, I find humanity. These opposable thumbs on our human hands enable us to shape our physical world. This connection is right there with me.
So here I go, opening the drawer to the chaos of my “junk.”
Marie Kondo is known for her “spark joy” approach to organizing physical space. Her strategy guides you to get in touch with your feelings, not just the “thing” you hold in your hands. She offers the practice of looking at everything you own, considering: “Does it spark joy?” “What do I feel when I look at this?” Everything should have its home, where all of the like things dwell together. There are discoveries and adventures behind the emptying of the junk drawer. I find a note written on the back of a napkin that anyone else would toss out, but that cryptic message was one written by my father. It connects me to him, and I cannot toss it out. A “sentimental box” becomes home for these treasures.
Marie Kondo, channeled with my friend and mentor Jorge Waxemberg, creates a joyful experience and exercise of self-knowledge.
I begin this by looking to create space in my life to simplify. Much of the complexity and chaos created in my junk drawer is there because I am in a hurry and unconsciously living.
Simplify: “Put away what is in your hands.”
I have had a continuous prodding of the need to organize this drawer for some time. I had consciously bought a holder for my keys and had even watched Marie Kondo’s “spark joy” YouTube videos to know what I needed. But the action of buying was not the same as the mental movement of sorting the necessary from the unnecessary and putting into action what I mentally understood.
In meditation, I see that my junk drawer and my inner world have a lot in common!
And remember, I determined at the beginning of my day to live “putting away what is in my hands.” I unconsciously toss the keys in the drawer and dig around to find them when needed. While this is only a few moments of my time, it not only takes me off the course of leaving but begins a vague feeling of not being in control.
Creating space. Creative space.
There are a few ways to create space in my drawer, mind, and life by eliminating the unnecessary or expanding.
It seems at first glance that there is a need for more space in my drawer. Maybe I should take a larger drawer to be my junk drawer? Simply “dumping the drawer” allows me to discover that much of what is there does not even belong! There is a hair clip that goes in the bathroom with the other clips, safety pins in the sewing box, a screwdriver that belongs in the garage, and yes, there it is, that random screw that I have long ago forgotten where it should be!
I find that sorting through this drawer takes me all around the house. The simple act of straightening and organizing this drawer affects the whole. I feel more space within. I feel more in control with every item in its proper “home,” as Marie calls it. The physical act of creating order seems to mirror my life. I am aware of this connection and release my hold on what is not in my hands.
I recognize that it will not remain so. This is a process, not a fete acompli but rather déjà vu. I will stand here again, open the junk drawer, and become aware. Life is not a finished product; it is a process.
“Junk” and Simplifying.
My junk drawer follows me throughout the day. It opens a new connection for me as I find my mind ruminating over scenarios that are utterly useless to the task at hand. How do I choose to fill the space of my life? How do I best connect the seemingly loose strands to create a seamless, efficiently utilized space?
It is a matter of seeing life as a process, not a finished product but an ongoing evaluation of what is important enough to keep and what can be released. The physicality of a junk drawer is easy to ascertain, but the nuance of inner thought is a bit more elusive, and emotion tends to get things sticky.
The phrase given to me often echoes in my mind and life, “Put away what is in your hands.” It has become a profound truth. Moreover, it is part of a process of unfolding understanding. Meditation.
So, I begin.
Such a simple statement!
When I think about this simple statement, I consider how many things my mind wants to poke at and carry around with it, jamming up the creative synapses and focusing on what I have no control over. Examples abound as I connect the “spark joy” with my automatic reaction.
Unclutter my life.
It is raining, and my plans for a walk in the woods are upset. I am late for an appointment because of traffic lights, and a phone call I have been waiting for all day comes when I am busy with something else. All are junk and clutter, yet I yearn for a purposeful life. Once aware of these thoughts, I can move to replace them with a better, less “junk” thought. For instance, the farmers are happy about the rain; the hurried driver needed space that I could give, and the phone call reminds me of a connection that I can choose to take now or call back later.
Putting away what is in my hands means I must first be aware of what is truly in my hands. Like my junk drawer analogy, it means being aware of what is necessary and what is actually cluttering up my living.
Simply “Spark Joy.”
Marie Kondo reminds us to keep only those things that spark joy in our lives. This inner awareness of connecting to how I feel is vital.
When raising my sons, we often walked to the nearby river to skip or throw stones. It was an ideal time to be together, talking over the day’s events or the thoughts we could share. Usually, it was enough to be by the water and skip rocks to open up a conversation. These trips took us out of the ordinary relationship and into nature, where we met as fellow companions in life. We purposely created space for each other.
Often, the challenge of relationships would arise or the frustration of not understanding a problem at school. We explored the feeling as a thrown rock splashed noisily into the current. We spoke of feeling defensive, angry, and frustrated and gave words to the physical sensation: stomachs tighten, bodies tense, fists might close, hearts beat harder. The thrown rock consciously released the feeling. I would ask: How does “happy” feel? Lighter, more open in the body, the whole of our sensations expansive and spacious.
Rocks tossed and skipped. Giving words and getting in touch with their feelings created space, allowing us to be aware of the sensation of releasing tension. Often, time was all they needed to uncover the answers they had within them. Words would solidify feelings and sensations, and we met ourselves again and again on the shore of a river.
Simplicity and Space
The idea of “putting away what is in our hands” touches every aspect of life. A car passing too close reminds me I cannot control the other driver’s car. I can manage my own by giving space to the other vehicle. Or we misunderstand another person or feel our intention misinterpreted. Often our immediate response is to explain or defend, which increases the tension. I recently had such a moment. My quick reaction was to defend myself and explain why, but this was not an answer to the other person. I needed to allow them space by listening. I found that allowing time to pass and not reacting gave space for a reconnection when emotions calmed down. It would have ended differently had I responded, but allowing the room for reflection created a different connection. We both realized the importance of our relationship.
Inner space is in my hands. I create space when I allow different opinions to expand my view. Silence opens space for listening. I tap into my inner search for joy by being entirely responsible for what I live. So many examples pour into my awareness as I focus on what is in my hands.
One of the greatest gifts we can give each other is the gift of our time and our attention. At this moment, I allow space for the connection of all that has been and all that will be. I breathe deeply and consciously create space within myself. Stopping amid activity allows for connection to what is in my hands. Each of us is responsible for our lives, for putting away what is in our hands.
Thank you, Jorge Waxemberg, for your example of joy-filled living and always creating space for souls.
About the Author(s)
Libbie is a graduate of Ohio State University where her degree has proven a flexible base for writing, teaching, and exploring life. She facilitates the weekly Sunday eDialogue.