It's been especially beautiful here in New York. Memories of last year's dismally grey and snowy start of spring have melted away with this year's expansive blue skies and crisp, almost fall-like days. I even sat outside in a tank top one day! My skin was getting tipsy off the vitamin D after being abstinent from sunshine for so long.
With the change of the weather, I see a change in the city. There is an almost tangible sense of expansion. Coats and windows are left open. People are slowly filtering from inside crowded restaurants and sitting in the open to dine. Trees that have been shrinking to their barest state are starting to stretch and prepare to bloom again. Passing strangers on the street expand their awareness from the pointed focus navigating a snowy street demands and instead look each other in the eye. Even the sun's light starts to creep into the evening a bit more each day. It feels like space is being created for spring to settle in.
I'd like to suggest that there may be opportunities for all of us to do the same thing the seasons do - create space for whatever is ahead. This can apply to any area of your life - your work life, your home environment, your relationships, your mental headspace, your spice cabinet. Take a moment to think about an area of your life where you feel cluttered, confused, stuck or crowded. Often we hold on to the cobwebs of clutter and negative thought patterns because we don't know what would take its place if we cleared them out.
Creating space can feel like a task too big to take on. I absolutely get it. Disclosure: Organization is not my forte. While my room may look tidy, you only have to open a drawer or look under my bed to see that there's a lot that could use clearing out. But for me, the key is to start making small action steps toward creating space in all areas of your life. This makes me feel more open and ready to receive new opportunities, experiences and emotions. Haven't we all experienced how just clearing out a drawer can make you feel like a superhero ready to take on saving the world? The following are a few small steps you can take each day to clear a little space for whatever awesomeness is on its way.
1. Make headroom.
Yes, I am going to tell you to do the dreaded "m"-word and MEDITATE. Don't freak out - I know you're too busy and can't sit still and are already a calm person and just have too much going on in your brain and you've tried it and you suck at it and you hate it. I've heard and used every single one of these age-old excuses. I finally committed to a morning meditation practice after someone let me in on a secret: the goal is not to stop thinking. We are thinking creatures and that's what we do. It's about practicing passive thinking; being present to thoughts without investing in them. In this way we create space between ourselves and our thoughts so we know that just as we can choose the words that we speak, we can choose the thoughts we want to invest in. Our brain becomes its own "spam" filter, so our head can be a tidier, brighter place!
Meditating doesn't have to be intimidating or hard either. Try using guided meditations to start. I like apps like Simply Being, Headspace, or OMG I Can Meditate (I know, best name ever). Podcasts are also awesome (Meditation Minis, Meditation Oasis) and YouTube has a bunch of great guided meditations (this one is kinda silly but my fav). If you want to dive in real deep right away, you can still sign up for Deepak Chopra & Oprah's 21-Day Meditation Challenge for free - it starts on March 21! I've participated before and will be doing this one, too. It does require more time (20-30 minutes every day) but it has been a game changer for me in achieving greater clarity of thought before, so I highly recommend it if you need a deep brain clean!
2. Clear your surfaces.
Pick one surface in your home every week to dedicate to clearing. Whether it's that corner of your bedroom where laundry or bags or boxes pile up, or your desk top, or your kitchen counter. Give that space a clean sweep, getting rid of what you don't need and putting away what you are keeping in its place. If you have a lot of chachkies all over, get a shelf (they are less than $20 at Target, I promise) so you can keep your work and living space as clear as possible. When you can see more physical space in front of you, you will feel freer and more open in your mental and emotional space.
3. Do a sweep of your address book, inbox and news feed.
We all have or have had them - relationships that bring us down rather than lift us up. While some of these are very close, complicated relationships and may take much more time and support to "clear out," others may be trivial and easier to let go. I suggest starting with these - unfollow the friends you haven't spoken to since high school who crowd your news Facebook feed with idealogical or personal garbage that makes you cringe, delete the number of the ex you know you'll text when you're in a compromised (i.e. sad and/or intoxicated) state, and unsubscribe from the junk email lists that hound you every day to buy fifteen pairs of jeans and get one free! Even if you clear just one of these each day, you will begin to feel more emotionally free, so you can allow new, positive relationships to form.
4. Write it down, clear it out.
I had a friend who recently told me she had started using a planner for the first time ever in her life. She had always just relied on her brain to keep track of her to-dos, her schedule, meetings, appointments, etc. She is a very smart, on-top-of-it woman, so she did fine this way, but when I asked her if she noticed a difference, she said, "I can't believe how much space I have in my brain now!"
Get a planner from the dollar store. Physically write down your commitments, schedule your chores and errands, and block off time for personal activities (ahem, meditation, exercise, etc). When you don't have to worry about getting it all straight in your head every day, you can stay present when you're actually doing the things you've written down!
5. Use "no" to make room for "yes."
If you want more time in your life for things that matter to you, you have to start to say no to the things that don't matter as much to you. It sounds like a no-brainer, but is much easier said than done. Saying no to meeting up with your friends for drinks because you want to take yoga can make you feel like you're selfish and boring. Turning down a promotion or increase in your workload because you value spending time with your friends and family can make you feel like a lazy, ungrateful slob. However, if you are constantly over-extending yourself for the benefit of others, you are not teaching them or yourself to respect your time and energy. Practice saying no, even when it's tough, and get picky about when you say yes. You'll start creating a life that's spacious enough for what you truly value.
Just like the seasons, these changes will be slight and slow. There's not an overnight shift from winter to spring - it happens moment by moment, step by step, if you choose to notice it. Look up, notice the vastness of the sky. Emulate it in your life by taking small actions toward more space in your environment, your body, your mind, and your heart every day.
With love, light, gratitude, and S P A C E,