Mahatma Gandhi said, "Peace is its own reward".
Peace may seem ellusive, but we can discover inner peace as we create more harmony in our environment. Homeostasis is the ability of any living body to seek and maintain a condition of balance, stability, and equilibrium within in response to changes and conditions in the external environment. As humans, it is our natural state of being. Much of what disturbs and creates conflict, disease, and disharmony in our lives, can be related to our inability to maintain a sense of harmony. In our physical bodies, we experience the process of homeostasis as we feel ourselves reacting and responding to external changes including temperature. The normal body temperature, 98.6, is affected by both internal and external conditions. When I walked into the house last night, I noticed the windows had been closed all day, and the room was hot and stuffy. I took off my jacket and opened the doors and windows to cool things, including myself, down. What are some of the ways we can create a more harmonious environment for ourselves?
Clear Clutter. Start creating harmony by clearing clutter, one piece, one pile, one drawer, or one area at a time. Clutter creates its own kind of energy, and we feel distracted, disturbed, and blocked by it. Our bodies and minds are affected by our surroundings. Objects not only hold our attention (taking up space in our minds) but also distract and disturb our sense of balance and harmony. Clear off surface areas first. Then bring to mind 5 places in your home or office that are cluttered (ie., kitchen sink, desk top, work table, drawer in the bathroom, or area by the front door). Throughout the next day or two, make a point to clear the clutter from the main areas. Take clutter-clearing breaks from your work. Clear clutter between commercials, or clear clutter as you are talking on the phone. Set the timer for 5 minutes, and see how much clutter you can clear in that time.
Create Order. Once you have cleared clutter from an area, create order. Look at how an area, say a table top, a counter, or an area of a room tends to be used. If it is a space where you sit to read in the afternoon, but also a space than collects a lot of clutter, determine what the clutter is related to. Is the clutter a collection of notes and letters, lists, plans, things that need to be recycled, or memorabilia or objects of inspiration? Create a functional space for the objects so that you are less likely to us the space for clutter in the future. For example, if you have notes and letters in process or meant to be read, set up an attractive box for correspondence complete with pens, stationery, stamps, and perhaps some business cards or inspirational messages. Or perhaps you have a favorite spot to meditate, pray, or spend quiet time reading each day (we all need both time and space dedicated to this in our lives). Create a sacred space using a beautiful piece of tapestry, a vase of flowers, and a small collection of inspirational books. Set this space aside from any other uses, and be more intentional with how you view and use your space.
Simplify, Organize, Adorn. Along with creating order comes simplifying and organizing space. Simplify. Create more harmony in your home by creating more space. Space creates its own peaceful energy. Make it a practice to get rid of items you no longer need, use, or have outgrown. Pack up the paperbacks you have read over the last year or two, and donate them to a senior center or shelter for the homeless, abused women, or someone you know who might like them. If you have 20 pans the same size, simplify and get rid of only the few you would use in a single day or for the largest meal you’d prepare. Organize the space around you to fit your daily life habits and needs. Recently while house sitting, I decided I would limit my space to the ground floor, and the outdoor spaces (porch, picnic table, yard). One end of the dining table is my desk, the other end is my easel and creative space. I’ve cleared the kitchen counters, and made a menu and shopping list in order to get supplies for my stay here. Menus help simplify the fuss over food. When you go camping or backpacking, one of the reasons it feels so peaceful and freeing is because you have limited the stuff you have with you.
We can simplify our homes in much the same way we do when traveling o do the same thing with our homes. We get lethargic, I think, about our own spaces sometimes, and we just let things pile up or go until some fantasy time in the future.Once you have simplified and organized spaces in your home, adorn those spaces. Create beauty. Put a vase of fresh flowers in the middle of the table.
Use beautiful textiles, fabric, or scarves as backdrops, table covers, or hangings. Drape chairs with large pieces of beautiful fabric, and get a couple of throw pillows with designs and accent colors to bring more beauty into your rooms. Use your beautiful items to make surrounding more beautiful and your life more peaceful. Using your mother’s fine china makes meals a more sacred time than eating out of the yogurt container or the ratty cracked bowl you’ve been meaning to toss. Release what you no longer need, use, or like, and surround yourself with a few very nice items that symbolize peace and harmony to you.
Use Feng Shui to improve energy. Feng Shui principles encourage creating a free flow of energy and eliminating anything that blocks or drains energy in our spaces. Pack up clothes you no longer need or wear, and either donate them or take them to a consignment shop. I found this quite difficult. No longer wearing business suits each day, I found it very difficult to give them up. We hold a great deal of emotional energy in our clothing and other personal items. Spend a little time determining why you are holding onto that old ratty t-shirt of your husbands from when you were first dating (no mystery there). Or the dress your mother made you before she died 30 years ago, or the cups all the students have given you over the years (I still have a shelf of these). If the memory is a good one, use the item to make something or do a little letting-go ceremony, and release it. Take a photograph of yourself wearing it.
If you do not have a lot of time, clear one space, surface, or drawer at a time. Long term, make a list of 7 places in your home or office where you could improve the Feng Shui energy, and then proceed to do what it takes to remove blocks and improve the flow of life in your environment. I make a habit of clearing as I go along as it is easier for me to form a habit if I make a part of my routine. Usually, I clean the glasses, cups, silverware, and plates I use as I use them. Remember that the entrances to your house (inside and out), the kitchen, the bedroom, work space (desk, easel, work table), and bathroom are key areas to keep clear, clean, and clutter-free. Update your home and your life with artwork that reflects your life not. Support your artist friends by displaying their artwork in your home and office.
Use the Bagua to determine in each space/room, the areas of the room that represent the areas of life. Use this information to use color, elemental objects, light, and organization to energize your space and life.
Create a Healthy Lifestyle. Order, lack of clutter, and even the best Feng Shui design in our homes, do not guarantee a happy or healthy life. We need to maintain both inner and outer peace in our lives. Yoga, for example, focuses on using pranna/the breath and animating life force with asanas/movement and alignment to help energize and create greater peace. Meditation and prayer both focus on quieting the body and mind to become more receptive to discovering what we need to find our equilibrium in body, mind, spirit, and emotions. Meditation is also used to activate and energize the glands, hormones, and circulatory system. Walking, swimming, rowing, riding, hiking, and most forms of physical exercise, when done according to your own body’s needs and abilities, provide ways to improve your health and discover peace. Equal amounts of work, play, rest, creativity go along way to help harmonize our lives.
Overdoing anything, however, is not the way to create peace and balance in our lives. Too often we think if a little is good, a lot is better. Not so. Working at a job you hate is also a big drain on your energy (and probably those with whom you work), as well as a really bad idea in terms of creating harmony, inner and outer balance in your life. Too much exercise, too much or not enough sleep, too much or too little activity and interaction---all indicators that you are out of balance. Discover ways to create more harmony in the daily activities of your life. Build in regular times to meditate, pray, exercise, learn a new skill (kickboxing, French, or drawing), spend time with friends and family, spend time alone, and engage in activities aimed at taking better care of yourself. Make an appointment to get some new glasses, or have your teeth cleaned. Simple acts that we may put off thinking we are too busy. As one good friend says, “There’s always enough time for beauty.” I believe there is always enough time to take care of ourselves as well.
Look at how you are treating your body. When was the last time you ate a well-balanced, healthy meal? What kind of eating habits do you have? What we put into our bodies, fuels, heals, and keeps our systems going. Keep a journal of what you eat. Notice what could be improved, and then make some conscious changes. Have you made yourself a slave to an unhealthy diet plan? Putting our bodies in a constant state of depravation can also do more harm than good. Become knowledgeable about your body and your dietary habits and needs.
What kind of rest and activity are you getting or not getting? Do you have any daily exercise habits? If not, how can you start building some regular exercise in your life? Complaining about not being near a pool if swimming is your style, can become an excuse for doing nothing at all. Take a walk. Go up and down the stairs or around the block if that’s all the time you have, but move every day. And get enough rest. Having a regular schedule helps keep our body clocks running. Some of us are early morning people, and some of us are night owls. In either case, and anything in between, make sure you get good, regular sleep. At least 7-8 hours a night is adequate for most people. Take a nap if that is something that fits with your needs. Some of us were raised on naps, and now every day at 2:30, that’s what my body craves. As often as possible, I take a nap and find it refreshing and a time to sort out the day’s activities. Not everyone likes naps, so find what works for you.
Look at your shoes, underwear, and wardrobe. Wearing good shoes is good for your health and your self esteem. Do you allow yourself permission to dress well? By that, I don’t mean wearing expensive designer clothes and shoes. You deserve to have shoes that are in good repair, fit well, and are good for your feet. Replace your underwear annually, at least, and make room in your budget for clothes for yourself. One piece of clothing each pay day (a blouse, a pair of jeans or slacks, a dress) is not too much to ask for yourself. Visit the local consignment shops for nicer, high end fashion. Often a piece of clothing in an consignment shop has never been worn. When you travel, find something unique to the area and add it to your wardrobe.
Practice What Helps and Heals. Knowing how to pray, meditate, walk, exercise, eat well or do any number of other daily activities, is not the same as doing them. Knowing what is healing, relaxing, centering, healthy, or in any way good for you and others, is no guarantee we will do it. Make a conscious effort every day to do something with intention. Living mindfully, that is paying attention to each moment, being awake and aware of what we are doing, saying, creating, or expressing, is crucial to living in harmony. Paying attention to what your body, your thoughts, your emotions, your senses are signaling to you is an important part of taking care of ourselves. Paying attention to the world around us (relationships, environment, conditions, and energy) is also more valuable if we do so mindfully. That requires slowing down a bit; just long enough to notice what is actually going on in the present rather than guessing or assuming. Notice. Stop, look, and listen. Notice when your thoughts are racing ahead to a list of things to do in the future or when you are rehashing something that happened in the past. Pull yourself back into the moment by focusing on your breathing for a few seconds, and then quieting yourself long enough to notice where you are, what you are doing now, and how you are feeling. Learn to appreciate who you are where you are. Give yourself some personal credit and kudos for getting something accomplished, and give yourself permission to simplify your life a bit. Give yourself some bite-sized goals...something you can accomplish that would be helpful in alleviating something in your environment that is disturbing your balance. Simplify your life in some way to bring you more peace within. Breathe, relax, focus, and take that next perfect step.
Be with what is. Rather than living with a constant "I wish" list running in your head, become more accepting and at peace with what is in your life right now. Be at peace with yourself, just as you are, regardless of what the circumstances might be. Those of us who have weathered the storms of life understand that despite the worst of times, if we maintain a sense of inner peace and serenity, life is much easier to cope with. Listening to a young mother reassuring her daughter about traveling on a plane, the mother addressed all the child's questions about safety and emergencies with very sound, practical, and reassuring words. "An emergency", she said, "is something that might happen, but it is unlikely. However, if there is an emergency, you can trust me to know what to do. I'm very good in emergencies." Rather than worrying needlessly about what might be or obsessing on the past and what has already happened, spend your time being more present. Be actively engaged in doing what you can where you can. I recall hearing about the invasion of Kuwait years ago, and knew my husband was in the middle of the horror, conflict, and uncertainty. Not having any way to do a thing, I scoured pans all one night and prayed. That was what I could do for that moment. We are all in the position of being where we are, and we can be at peace with that when we appreciate and are grateful for the simple fact that we are alive and have the capacity to create more peace within our lives and the world around us.