When I first began writing this column, I had just begun working almost entirely from home. Now nearly 8 years after becoming a full-time freelance writer, photographer, and spirtual/pastoral counselor, my home has become my office, studio, retreat, and home base. Being my own boss means having to organize my space, time, and priorities to provide for my optimal health, economic, psychological, and spiritual well being. My interest and experience with Feng Shui and other principles designed to harmonize the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energies of our homes and work spaces has come about as my desire to support those who seek healthier and more well-balanced lives. Our homes, whether they are our primary workplace or not, are central to our living fulfilling and happy lives.
During the next week, we are going to look at how our homes and workspaces reflect our health, and how we can make more effective use of our space and time. We will look at what might be interfering with our over all well being and optimum health. The articles will include: How do our homes reflect our health, happiness and well being? What are some of the ways can we improve the way our homes affect our health and healing? How can we make some subtle changes to improve the flow of well being in our lives?
How do our homes reflect our health, happiness and well being? The flow of energy in your home like the flow of energy in your body or in the world around you, depends on a harmonious blending of all the elements needed for optimimal health. Optimal health includes the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and psychological levels of our being. Optimal health depends on one's individual needs, stage of life, our style of living, our personal goals and desires, and our environment (where we live and work and the climate and geography in which we work). Our homes reflect us in a way very similar to how our physical appearance reflects our levels of health, happiness, and emotional well being. If we are not taking care of our personal hygiene and appearance, if we walk and talk as if we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders, or express ourselve through primarily negative behavior and communication, that is how we are understood. Likewise, if our homes are cluttered, messy, dirty, piled high with laundry or overcrowded with boxes, piles, and cupboards full of unused and unwanted objects, our homes reflect a level of dissatisfaction and blocked energy.
Using our physical health as an example, let us consider what happens when we are run down, not eating properly, and not getting enough fresh air and exercise. What happens? If we consistenly overdo, we usually reach a breaking point where we get ill, have an accident, or find ourselves completely overwhelmed by our physical needs. Being tired, is not a sign of weakness; it is a warning that our body needs rest. Being overwhelmed is not a sign that we are incapable; it is a sign that we need to cut back on our activities and simplify our lives a bit. Getting in an accident of some kind often happens when we are pushing ourselves past our own limits. Not all accidents of course, are caused by this, but a number of them can be traced to going too fast, being in too big a hurry, or not paying attention to where we are going--all signs of needing to slow down and pay closer attention to where we are and what we are doing.
Our homes and offices/workspaces also reflect our levels of health. Before you read any further, check for yourself. Notice the places in your home that are cluttered, jam packed with 'stuff', in need of repair or cleaning, or otherwise blocking energy in some way. Notice where in your home/workspace there are areas that need to be addressed, where you may need to clear some space, clean things up, or eliminate clutter and blockages. Make a short list of the 3-4 main areas in your house that are taking up space in your brain, keeping you from using valuable space, light, or time, or are proving to be unworkable, inefficient, unattractive, or junky. It may be a drawer that needs to be cleaned out and rearranged, or a shelf that has become a catchall for outdated and unused books. It may be a coffee table that is a collect all for things that need a home of their own, or it may be the mud porch or the front steps that haven't been swept for a month. Select the areas you would like to tackle, and begin to connect how that area is affecting your well being.
Listen to your feelings as you do this. Notice areas that make you clench up or feel tired just thinking about. Your feelings and emotions signal to you what your needs are. When we ignore our needs, our emotional and feeling state is immediately affected. Our emotions and feelings in turn affect our psychological, physical, and mental health. Allow yourself some space each day to pay attention to how you're feeling and what those feelings signal to you about your home environment. Spending just five minutes can be helpful for putting you in touch with what in your environment is causing you distress of some type.
Acknowledge your aptitudes, skills, talents, and proclivities. Some of us are more naturally inclined to be organized, sometimes to the extreme. Others of us have a higher tolerance for clutter and disorganization. In extremes, neither is good. However, understanding and accepting what our threshold for clutter is enables us to become more aware. If we are too rigid, we may need to learn to loosen up a bit. If we are too lax, we can learn to become more organized. What determines your level of success in learning how to pay attention to and organize your house better, is your attitude. Having a positive outlook includes selecting some changes or improvements you would like to make, and then believing that your can make those changes to improve your life. The idea of doing what we love, can also be understood as loving what we do. If you have to do the dishes (because no one else is going to do them), learn to love doing it. I make this a special ritual that I do while heating up water for tea. Sometimes I do it late at night; other times I do it in the morning, but it is connected to something I love and makes the doing of the dishes part of an overal experience that I love. As we think, so are we. If we put the positive energy into an exerience, it makes the task easier to handle. I'm not suggesting adapting a Pollyanna attitude, but "keeping on the sunny side" has its merits. Consider the alternative, and think of what kind of energy that generates. The choice is yours.
Nourish yourself. Whether you are involved with taking care of other people, as either your professional or personal obligations, or both, you still need to take time to take care of yourself. If your office or studio is at home, you may find yourself having a hard time separating your personal and professional needs from one another. Again, this is a discipline, a practice that can be learned. One of my colleagues was mentioning that being our own bosses often meant it was more difficult to organize our time than when the organization what done for us. His thought was that "sometimes a little regimination is helpful." I recall during the last ten years of my father's life, his military training kicked in and helped him keep his daily schedule, home, and life organized. He was meticulous about establishing a place for everything, a time to take care of business, a time to go fishing, or a time to do his socializing. Sometimes a bit of regimentation helps, as long as it is flexible enough to allow for deviations and creative movement. Nourishing ourselves is more than eating properly; it is taking the necessary time and steps for attending to all levels of our health. Time to rest and relax. Time to prepare and enjoy our meals. Time to be with friends and time to have more solitude. For those of us who do our work at home, our work often runs more smoothly and we are more productive when we get on some kind of regular schedule.
Exercise: Make a list of all the activiites you do in a week. Include everything. Next, decide how much time you spend on each activity. Draw a circle and put a dot in the middle of the circle. Divide the circle into the time you spend with each activity. Notice what is out of balance, missing, or overwhelming your time and attention. What is missing? Did you include breaks from work, or time to take a walk?
Pay Attention to your Needs. Our experience as a human being is a magical one. Our body, our emotions, our dreams, our experiences, our senses, and our minds constantly bombard us with information we can use to take better care of ourselves. The problem for many of us, is we just don't pay attention. When we become more aware of our needs and feelings, we arm ourselves with the information we need. Listen to your body. Pain and discomfort are messengers telling us something is out of whack. For example, headaches often signal hormonal fluxations, strees, or activity-related overuse. Some of us have backs that signal distress, while others experience pain in our shoulders, wrists, or hands. Pain is a reminder that we need to stop doing something. We allow our sense of obligation, duty, or ego needs to stop us from listening to ourselves. Teachers are notorious for not using the bathroom all day, and nurses often don't get enough sleep or eat well. We know better, but we push ourselves past our limits, and then wonder why we hurt, get ill, or feel out of sorts. Those of us who work on computers, tend to think 8-9 hours at the keyboard is 'natural'. It is not. Ask the chiropractors, masseuses, doctors, and physical therapists who are now treating people of all ages for carpel tunnel and nerve damage due to spending too much time on computers.
Notice where you are pushing your limits, and then diagnose yourself. By diagnosing yourself, I am not suggesting you never seek medical advice, but rather that by listening to your own body, feelings, emotions, and dreams, you notice what is calling for attention. Before a symptom gets bigger, take some positive action to counter it. Go to be early. Cancel a meeting. Take a walk. Take a warm bath or shower, or listen to some music. Allow yourself to feel what you feel, and ask yourself why you hurt, feel upset, or are edgy or nervous. Try to pinpoint the source of the problem, and then take some small action to combat it. Teach yourself to listen to your body, notice areas of upset in your body, your home, and in your workspace. Notice how you feel when you are out. Happier waking or driving? Happier alone or with friends? Working yourself to death, or taking a much-needed vacation? More and more of my friends and colleagues have started their own businesses or now work almost exclusively as their own boss. We ask ourselves, how is the 'boss' treating me? When we take responsibility for our own lives, be it as a self-employed person or one who works for a company or organization, we have to take responsibility for organizing our space, our time, our homes and workspaces, and our lives to encourage and support our optimum health.
In the next article, we will look at steps we can take to