Yesterday, I received a letter from my friend, Mary who lives in northernmost Minnesota. She describes sitting on the front porch, watching the birds flitting from flower to flower, and noticing the first few signs of autumn, which as she puts it, means that winter in Minnesota is not far away. With the first ads appearing for school supplies, we are reminded that we are in the last few weeks of summer, and autumn is not far away. Listening to several young girls walking down the street singing together in the summer sun, I am reminded of how we use our memories to remind us of sweet summer days and nights of the past. How can we use our memories and creativity to create beauty and harmony in our homes, offices, and studios?
For the past couple of days, I have been clearing out my walk in closet (the only closet in the house) and reorganizing my studio/office. Sorting through papers, letters, clothes, supplies, photography, equipment, and boxes full of mystery piles that at one time or another have been sorted as far as the box its in. Now I’m sorting through the minutiae. Interestingly enough, I’ve heard from other friends who have been doing the same thing. The need to purge, clear, clean, and reorganize comes in waves at certain times of the year. When the weather is warmer, and while there is plenty of light, we begin responding to our ancient need to prepare for the changes we know are coming. Feng Shui, the art of working with energy, is one way to help us release trapped energy in our lives and to make room for new life, new experiences, and new paths ahead. When setting goals for the next year, season, or project, doing a Feng Shui clearing is a great way to prepare your environment and yourself for the movement of energy in your life.
While sorting through papers, letters, photos, and other items, we often awaken the energy attached to those items, to a past time, to relationships at various stages, and to memories. Why am I hanging onto a collection of business suits that I no longer wear? What and whom do the letters and cards I’ve chosen to save all these years, keep me connected to? Why do I have this collection of postcards or that book or diary? Why am I still hanging onto someone else’s stuff? How does my stuff connect me to my unhealed grief or to a longing that is probably not going to be fulfilled? How does ‘stuff’ define me, and what would it mean if I let this object, or that letter go? What would it mean if I gave away a sweater that someone gave me even though it no longer fits? Is my relationship or my love tied up in a sweater or cup, or old photo? Can I release the object and still retain the memory I cherish? Questions like these pop up when we are sorting through our ‘stuff’ to give away or dispose of. For if we asked the questions that all ‘clear your clutter’ folk ask, (how long has it been since I used or wore this, have I looked at this in the last year or two, is it necessary to keep, what purpose does it serve, can it be repurposed, or is it time to give this away) we would find that what keeps us connected to the objects is memory and our emotional connection. Unless and until we are ready to let those memories and emotional connections go, we tend to hang onto things. The hardest part of clearing clutter, I believe, is dealing with the emotional connections our stuff has to our memories. How can we cherish our memories, and release our emotional clutter? I’m not sure I have the answer, but I deal with the question regularly as I try to keep myself in tune with my own emotional health and the way I live.
According to Feng Shui principles everything in our physical universe is alive and is attached to memory. Everything is connected, and our energy is affected and affects everyone and everything. And life and our experience of it is dynamic—everything and everyone is in the constant state of changing. Feng Shui is a way to view life and work with the energies of life to deepen our awareness, attract positive energy into our lives, and eliminate and diffuse negative energy. Negative energy is energy that has become trapped in some area of our lives. Sometimes the energy is trapped within us in the form of upsetting memories, harmful patterns of thinking and behavior, or repressed and stagnant energy that causes illness, pain, or suffering. Trapped or negative energy is also found in our environment—stuffed in closets, hanging on walls or clothes hangers, or sitting unused on a shelf. Take a minute or two to think about where in your home and office you have energy traps. Perhaps there’s a box of papers that need sorting, a folder full of old photographs and letters, or bills and receipts from years ago taking up space in your life. You may want to walk around the house, or you may simply think about the places in the house where energy is trapped.
Once you identify the areas in your home, office, and studio where energy is trapped in piles, boxes, bags, or wherever you find them, begin to tackle the process of clearing and moving energy one small piece at a time. These suggestions may help you work your way through some of the difficult energy traps you have. Keep in mind as well, that when you tackle the outside—the environment— you also release trapped energy within you. Your emotional, spiritual, mental, physiological, and energetic bodies will be affected. We are within what we express and reflect without, and Feng Shui helps us release trapped energy both internally and externally, releasing energy to be used and directed in new ways, and in new directions.
Assess your Decor. What is hanging on the walls of your home, office, or studio? How does the art, photography, or decor reflect your life, desires, and interests? How does it attract positive energy? Does it create a sense of harmony, peace, and active energy, or does it weigh you and/or the environment down? Does it link you to a past that is no longer supportive and affirming of who you are? Is it simply an item to fill space, or does it hold meaning and inspire you? Is your environment cluttered with too much, or do you need some more effective ways to store and display your art, work, or favorite items? Assess what is working and what is not.
Look for Energy Traps. You may have already done this; now is the time to look into the heart of darkness—find those spaces where your deepest, darkest memories, secrets, and energy is trapped. What boxes, items, books, or pieces of jewelry, clothing, or accessories have you been carrying around for not years but decades? Right off the bat, I can think of two boxes I filled yesterday with papers, letters, and a few objects I was having trouble parting with. Instead of putting them back in a closet o slipping them onto a shelf or under a desk, again, I will tackle them, sorting through one item at a time pledging to purge my life of what needs to go from each box, and then if anything is lfet, finding a home and use for the items I keep.
Take time Processing the Energy. This task could take a while, so allow yourself a few days. Instead of devoting an entire day to sorting, limit sorting and purging to an hour of intense work, followed by a break to clear, process the emotional energy, and consciously release that which you are letting go. I find that sometimes sorting through emotional stuff frees up some creative thoughts or leads me to want to make a new memory. I consider what I could do that would create a new memory, and then I do it. Sometimes this is sketching something related to what I’m releasing, or writing a poem or song. Sometimes it’s baking a cobbler or taking my Mother’s dishes down to set for the evening’s meal. Or it might mean doing a yoga routine, or taking a long walk and treating myself to a cuppa on the pier (that’s my reward for today). Work through the clutter slowly but surely, releasing, pondering, and rewarding yourself in the form of creating positive ways to use your energy. If we simply toss everything without processing the emotional memories that attach us to them, we simply create new negative energy in the form of guilt, denial, anger, or some other form of unresolved energy. Face where you are now with whatever situations have held you in the past. Forgive yourself for bad decisions, or forgive someone else for not being all you’d hoped they’d be. Acknowledge how important someone or something was to you, and give it its proper place in your life (in a photograph, a sketch, a song, a fond farewell). You know you can take that memory out when you need to and hold onto to it, but you do not have to be attached to the objects, space, or time of life that is in the past.
Be grateful and mindful.Imagine what it is like for people who have lost everything in a disaster, or who have had to leave behind family and home to come to a place of safety. What matters in our lives is the energy alive between ourselves and the world and people we are fortunate enough to be with now. What matters is the life we have, not the one we had or the one we imagine but may never have. Feng Shui is about being present and being able to use the energy of this moment to be alive, to be active, productive, and to serve and love others through how we live our lives.
Tackle the trapped energy in your life, and free yourself to be yourself with all the gifts and talents you have now. Regardless of your age, financial status, or health, embrace the life you have, and release whatever drags the life out of you. Cherish your memories, but live to make new memories. Be receptive and open to the new gifts that life offers you at this point in time, and enjoy being alive. That is the gift we have been given today.