Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Identifying and Owning Our Dust

There's an old saying in 12 step programs: "You are as sick as your secrets." While keeping a secret about an affair or clandestine meetings is difficult, it is equally as difficult to keep emotional secrets. We try to act big when we feel small or act cool when we are shaking in our boots. Our secrets can be so stealthy that we forget we have them.

I once had an opportunity to meet with a celebrity. There was talk of us doing a TV pilot. Some friends watched a show I produced and thought I should be on TV. The show was to be centered around me, but since I was an unknown, we needed someone with a name for the show. The big meeting was in a restaurant. We met: the real big shot and I. I felt less than, being the nobody I thought I was. We made small talk. I was full of myself, but underneath, I was afraid. Someone who did not take on new talent had offered to be my agent. Of course, I slung that fact around. I came off like a braggart. No, I actually was a braggart. Later, I asked my friend how the star liked me. She replied, "He didn't." She went on to say, "You were boastful. You were bragging. What was going on with you? We want you to stay, but we'll have to find something else for you to do. Maybe you can find the guests to be on the show." She was right. The meeting had been important to me. It could have been my big break, and I acted like a stuck-up jerk. I drug shame about the incidence around for years. Every time I thought back on the event, I could feel may face turning red. I wasn't broken up because I didn't get to be a star; I was embarrassed, to the core, that I had been so full of bravado. I didn't want people to know how low I sank. I wanted everyone to love me, and if they knew, they would think I was a charlatan. "Some spiritual person she is." As a full-time minister, the whole event gnawed on my self-image, which, I admit, was quite overblown.

I kept a deep secret from myself. I was not aware of how afraid I was, and because I swept those feelings under the rug, I blew it. If I had been in touch with my feelings and been vulnerable, the meeting might have gone differently.

I've grown since then. I frequently reveal my weaknesses without identifying with them. Who I am is clean and pure, but my body, my past, my hang-ups, my emotions, and my behavior – not so much. I remember someone saying to me, "You are like me. You put yourself down a lot." I just smiled. It wasn't easy to explain that when I remain vulnerable and don't hide my faults and fears under some pseudo self-confidence, I disarm my ego. I don't talk about my weaknesses to put myself down. I often think my weaknesses are funny or somewhat universal; therefore, understandable. I talk about my foibles to fertilize my compassion, not to denigrate myself.

When I am around people who brag, it is tempting to one-up them. Rivalry is alluring, but whenever I try to show off my knowledge, I feel crummy. It's my ego. It has to show off, but I find it better to stay quiet, even when I'm hooked into a baseless competition. Not that I can always do it.

There is a fine line between putting ourselves down and owning up to our character flaws. I may cross that line at times, but since I am not omniscient 100% of the time, it's okay to flail. I can be wise and still not be in touch with my entire psychological portfolio. We demand too much from ourselves. Our human part is but one piece of the large tapestry of being. In this tapestry there are large swaths of sky and specks of dust. We are the sky and the dust. When we are in our dust moments, we can't pretend we are the sky, but when we are in our sky moments, we can fly. And when we do, life can be EZier and EZier.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

12 Steps to Freedom from Stuff - From Chaos to Order

Chaos is an important idea in the totality of the universe, but when it is a part of our daily lives, it creates and sustains stress. We are drowning in our stuff. Annie Leonard’s video, The Story of Stuff, tells of the predicament we are in with our possessions. Our society not only supports the purchase of more and more, it solicits these purchases.

It’s possible that we are genetically predisposed to hoard, buy too much, and clutter. In the past it’s been wise to store food or other supplies for the future. This is not the case today, but epigenetics show that genes are malleable and they can change in the midst of trauma. Environments, even emotional environments, affect our genes. Could it be that our needing to have so many things is a product of our parents' or grandparents' experience of hoarding during and/or after the Depression? Studies of holocaust survivors suggest that people whose parents went through the Holocaust carry unique genetic markers: the same markers their parents carry.

One of the most popular ideas of our time is the idea of decluttering. It’s about taking control of the physical chaos that surrounds us and creating order. Does the story of more have an irreversible hold on our lives? If our genetics predispose us to hang on to too much stuff, does that mean we are doomed to buy and keep much more than we will ever need?

We are destined to fail unless we become aware of the problem and take some time, energy, and effort to overcome the problem. The first step in overcoming our stuff problem is knowing that we have a problem.

I've written a 12 step Program to help us with decluttering our lives that's fashioned after the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

12 steps to Freedom From Stuff

  1. We admit we are powerless over our stuff—that our lives are unmanageable. Just say, “I admit that I have too many things and, as a result of that, my life is unmanageable.” Having too much stuff makes a heavy load. We call that a burden.
  2. We believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity, relieve our chaos, and empower us to let go of useless items. There is a force larger than what made these problems. It’s larger than our past and more powerful than our limited minds.
  3. Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of The Infinite Source of our understanding. This is the humbling step of surrender.
  4. Take an inventory of our keeping behavior and of our stuff. What behaviors keep our chaotic system going? For example, too busy to take care of ourselves, don’t know what to do, self-talk is negative. Make a list of categories of stuff. For example, kitchen gadgets, shoes, shirts, makeup, or toiletries.
  5. Admit to Source, to ourselves, and to another human that we had too much stuff, didn’t have the ability to organize our belongings, nor the willpower to let go of our useless items. Talk with a trusted friend. Tell them you are in the midst of cleaning up your life and your environment and that you have a problem. Tell them you are going to get rid of the things that no longer serve you and that you don’t want or need as many things in your life as you used to.
  6. Become entirely ready to have The Infinite Source remove all these defects of character and self-judgments, and for Source to break the chains that bind us to our family history. I am willing to have my life changed at the core. I am willing to be changed internally so that I can make the external changes I need to make.
  7. Humbly asked Source to remove our need to buy and keep too many personal and household items. Ask Source to instill in us a sense of having more than enough of all things necessary to abundantly support our lives. We pray or ask for help in our own way. The Cosmic Forces Exercise, developed by David St. Clair, has proven an effective way to ask for help. Years ago I taught this method to a Catholic Priest. He told me later that he had solved a long time problem using this technique.
  8. Made a list of how having too much stuff saps our energy, keeps us from succeeding, and keeps us in the addictive drama of overwhelm. Be specific. For example, “When someone rides in my car, I feel ashamed because there’s so much junk and trash in it.” “My purse or briefcase is too heavy and taxes my body.” ”I’m ashamed to have anyone to my home. I don’t want them to see the mess.”
  9. Work the steps, develop an action plan for decluttering, and execute this plan. Take action. Go through the steps, make your plans for recovery, and implement them.
  10. Continue to take personal inventory and continue to declutter on a daily basis. Carry a copy of the steps with us and affirm perfect and easy order in your mind and all your surroundings. Click here for a PDF Printable copy.
  11. Seek, through prayer and meditation, to improve our conscious contact with Infinite Source, praying only for knowledge of our dharma and the power to carry that out. Stay in touch with the stillness. It is from this stillness that all order is born. The stillness allows us to experience the enough-ness of the universe and gives us the ability to lighten our loads.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we seek to live in freedom from stuff, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
My 5-5-5-5 Plan will help you declutter your mind so you can focus on the task at hand and provide a plan for the day. The Minimalist blog offers ten creative ways to declutter your home.

As humans we walk a dual path. One path involves our physical world. This includes earning a living and taking care of our physical world in an effective way. It is the path of the physical, the practical, and the sustenance of life. The other work we do is on ourselves. This is our dharma. Our dharma requires that we live life in an effective way that enriches life itself. In order to live the path of rightness for our lives, we must identify the obstacles than keep us from fully living. Working the steps helps us live our dharma, lighten our karma, and makes our lives EZier and EZier.