August 1995, Volume 2 Nr 12, Issue 24
Clutter comes in many forms: physical, spiritual, psychological, emotional and financial to name a few. In this issue of Metaphoria I explore how clutter effects our lives, how we deal with it and the consequences of not dealing with it. The amount of clutter we accept in our homes is related to the degree of clutter we allow in our heads. Our tolerance and/or obsession for/with clutter affect our attitudes toward life. The way we perceive clutter defines our psycho-spiritual reality
After living in a 16x24 foot home for ten years with four people, a cat and sometimes two dogs, JeanneE and I finally added an addition onto our house. For those ten years, we lived in 484 square feet of living space (not counting the basement). The house was cozy and as a friend once said, "You really have to like each other to live that close with and to one another." The original house has two bedrooms on the second floor with stairs dividing them in two. The main floor is also divided by the same stairs with a small bathroom behind them, a tiny living room space with wood stove to the left and a kitchen and dining area to the right. Needless to say, this house has a storage problem.Clutter Storage
Where to put things? JeanneE and I deal with physical clutter differently. I am more obsessed with getting rid of clutter right away than she is. While I prefer to stay up late putting things away, clearing the kitchen counter, she is more apt to do what she can and let it go for another time. For example: when the dishes need to be done late in the evening, she will wash them and leave them in the sink overnight to dry. I prefer to dry them, no mater how late it might be, and put them away. In fact, I'd rather have everything in its right place, washed clothing, dishes, paperwork, papers, magazines, pens, pencils, newspapers, trash, etc. where it belongs before I retire. In a house as small as ours, this is no easy task. Storage space is at a premium. Where only two people can fit in the kitchen, there is little opportunity for storing the effects of four people plus the bowls for the cat and dog, etc.
Just as our homes are dwelling places for the physical body, the mind is the dwelling place of psyche. It too, has the storage locations for our psychological baggage and personal effects. There are the gunny sacks filled with all the painful and negative events of our life.
Gunny sacking is the process whereby we place into a satchel our unresolved anger, resentments and disappointments. Gunny sacks fill up as we go through life neglecting to deal with our issues. We hang on to what we no longer need. Psychic clutter builds up. Before we know it, there is no room for any more. The ego would have us believe that this accumulated ammunition is needed for our protection. Eventually, just like in our home, the mind is so cluttered that a spring cleaning becomes necessary. We either do this voluntarily or the clutter will let us know it is time through some unpleasant consequence. Unpleasant consequences include anxiety, restlessness, depression, anger, claustrophobia, paranoia.Obsession
Then, there are the obsessions. One of our neighbors is obsessed with his dislike for another neighbor. Living quite a distance away from each other, he feels that the other side of the planet would be too close. Obsession is mental clutter.
We all have mental clutter. I have personal experience with excessive recurring mental clutter or obsession. I remember a time when I could not stop from thinking the same thoughts over and over again. While there is no need to bring the obsession back by describing the details, suffice it to say that I lost thirty-five pounds in a few months because of it. This obsessive clutter gave very little psychic room for much else in my life. It invaded and occupied the time and space of my hobbies, my likes and small pleasures. The clutter was so overwhelming that it consumed me. It was near impossible to find room for rest, even while sleeping.Gremlins
A samadhi tank is a one-person chamber where an individual enters to deliberately deprive themselves of their senses. It is constructed in such a fashion where one floats in a shallow water solution resembling amniotic fluid which minimizes the sense of touch. Closed doors provide complete darkness while sound proofing eliminates the outside world. I can understand some people's desire to experience a samadhi tank. I believe that the experience brings one face-to-face with their present clutter and all the clutter of our entire life placed in psychic space for us to examine, reexamine and deal with. If the clutter in our psychic space leaves little room for respite, the samadhi tank experience will force us to face it all at once.
Living in close proximity to other people without doors for privacy can also force us to face our clutter. We are four people, cat and dog living in a 24x16 foot house. We are clutter to each other. While we love each other, using the commode while someone else takes a shower in a five-by-five foot bathroom leaves little room for another brushing their teeth. Similarly, our psychic space, occupied by gunny sacks, is crowded with various and sundry gremlins.
Gremlins are creations of our upbringing, our childhood trauma and drama, and may be a consequence of hormones or chemical changes. One of my gremlins comes from living in tight quarters as a child surrounded by too much stuff, just the right counselor for living in a small house. This physical gremlin would like to rent a dumpster, park it outside the second story window, and throw everything that hasn't been moved or touched in the last two weeks away. Similarly, my psychic gremlin visits the gunny sacks anxious to examine the contents. It is less interested in disposing the contents than it is of throwing them about. Unchecked, gremlins lead to mental instability, anxiety and depression.
Our almost ten-year-old son's gremlins are encouraged by medication. Here is a youngster who not only has to contend with the fear and the uncertainty of his medical condition, he has to contend with gremlin-exacerbating and creating steroid medication. From time to time, often for no apparent reason, he has an episode. His thrashing gremlin becomes argumentative and picks a big fight over the silliest of issues. The gremlin does not wish to win the argument. It wants to have the argument.
Occasionally, I am revisited by a gremlin that would like to trash a china shop. I wrote about this gremlin in a previous issue of Metaphoria. On a large scale, this gremlin would have us slash and burn. On a small scale, it might throw tools into the woods as a response to the frustration of not being able to loosen a stuck bolt. It might cause us to strike out and hit. As a teacher, many times I've heard frustrated students say, "Someone is going to get it today." Their gremlin is cluttering up their space telling them that if only set free even for a moment, they will feel better at the expense of someone or something else. This is where graffiti and other forms of vandalism and some violence come from.
Then there is fanaticism or fanatic belief constructs. Sometimes cloaked as "faith", fanaticism leaves little opportunity for tolerance. While our obsessive clutter is telling us that we have found the way, our gremlins convince us that it is the only way and that all other belief constructs are threats. Fundamentalism is a clutter construct which desires to convert the world and unite the gremlins.
There may be few gremlins cluttering up our minds or there may be many. They appear alone or in consort with each other. Sometimes, they throw a party. The party may last a long period of time. Some infamous gremlin parties include the holocaust, Vietnam, My Lai, Bosnia.
Gremlins like intrapersonal company. While the individual psychic space may be cluttered with gunny sack carrying obsessive gremlins, they may be much happier in consort with someone else's clutter.
Misery likes company, and psychic clutter is a source of misery. Witness the fan violence in some of England's soccer matches. Dubbed hooliganism by the authorities, this is a group gremlin party in progress.
The same intrapersonal gremlins are acting up when we divide people into divisions. In the nineteen fifties, the gremlins occupied the Senate led by the underlying clutter of Senator Joe McCarthy's mind. In the sixties, the party politic revolved around doing in the evil Soviet empire. During the seventies and eighties gremlins targeted anti-nuclear activists and environmentalists. Today, teenage mothers, welfare recipients, the poor, are at the mercy of their collaborative antics. This is not to say that anti-war activists don't have partying gremlins. They do. Many had a field day overturning police cars. Diana Oughton's cluttered mind produced and set off bombs in an attempt to end the Vietnam war. Her gremlins finally destroyed themselves when one of the bombs detonated in her Greenwich Village apartment.Dealing with Clutter
How do we deal with our mental clutter? We can for example quickly empty the gunny sacks as soon as something is placed in it. Rather than stew and form a brew from the hops of our discontent, we can bring out the contents of the gunny sack and deal with it. We can tell the other person what is bothering us and seek a win-win resolution. We can practice preemptive disposition of potential gunny sack contents. We deal with the situation here and now.
One evening while exploring the Internet, I did a net search on the words mental clutter. The outcome of the search led me to Peace Pilgrim. Peace Pilgrim beautifully describes how to deal with clutter. Although she does not call it clutter, she is talking about the same thing. She writes about purification. I equate purification with eliminating gremlins and reducing clutter. Peace Pilgrim writes:Purification
"Then I discovered that there were some purifications required of me. The first one is such a simple thing: it is purification of the body. This has to do with your physical living habits. Do you eat sensibly, eating to live? I actually know people who live to eat. And do you know when to stop eating? That is a very important thing to know. Do you have sensible sleeping habits? I try to get to bed early and have plenty of hours of sleep. Do you get plenty of fresh air, sunshine, exercise and contact with nature? You'd think this might be the first area in which people would be willing to work, but from practical experience I've discovered it's often the last because it might mean getting rid of some of our bad habits, and there is nothing that we cling to more tenaciously.
"The second purification I cannot stress too much because it is purification of thought. If you realized how powerful your thoughts are you would never think a negative thought. They can be a powerful influence for good when they're on the positive side, and they can and do make you physically ill when they're on the negative side. I recall a man 65 years old when I knew him who manifested symptoms of what seemed a chronic physical illness. I talked with him and I realized that there was some bitterness in his life, although I could not find it at once. He got along well with his wife and his grown children, and he got along will in his community, but the bitterness was there just the same. I found that he was harboring bitterness against his long-dead father because his father had educated his brother and not him. As soon as he was able to relinquish this bitterness, the so-called chronic illness began to fade away, and soon it was gone.
"If you're harboring the slightest bitterness toward anyone, or any unkind thoughts of any sort whatever, you must get rid of them quickly. They aren't hurting anyone but you. It is said that hate injures the hater, not the hated. It isn't enough just to do right things and say right things, you must also think right things before your life can come into harmony.
"The third purification is purification of desire. What are the things you desire? Do you desire new clothing, or pleasures, or new household furnishings, or a new car? You can come to the point of oneness of desire just to know and do your part in the Life Pattern. When you think about it, is there anything else as really important to desire?
"There is one more purification, and that is purification of motive. What is your motive for whatever you may be doing? If it is pure greed or self-seeking or the wish for self-glorification, I would say, Don't do that thing. Don't do anything you would do with such a motive. But it isn't that easy because we tend to do things with very mixed motives, good and bad motives all mixed together. Here's a man in the business world: his motives may not be the highest, but mixed in with them are motives of caring for his family and perhaps doing some good in his community. Mixed motives!
"Your motives, if you are to find inner peace, must be an outgoing motive - it must be service. It must be giving, not getting. I knew a man who was a good architect. It was obviously his right work, but he was doing it with the wrong motive. His motive was to make a lot of money and keep ahead of the Joneses. He worked himself into an illness, and it was shortly after, that I met him. I got him to do little things for service. I talked to him about the joy of service and I knew that after he had experienced this, he could never go back into really self-centered living. We corresponded a bit after that. On the third year of my pilgrimage route, I walked through his town and I hardly recognized him when I stopped in to see him. He was such a changed man! But he was still an architect. He was drawing a plan and he talked to me about it: "You see, I'm designing it this way to fit into their budget, and then I'll set it on their plot of ground to make it look nice." His motive was to be of service to the people that he drew plans for. He was a radiant and transformed person. His wife told me that his business had increased because people were now coming to him from miles around for home designs.
"I've met a few people who had to change their jobs in order to change their lives, but I've met many more people who merely had to change their motive to service in order to change their lives.Relinquishments
"Now, the last part. These are the relinquishments. Once you've made the first relinquishment, you have found inner peace because it's the relinquishment of self-will. You can work on this by refraining from doing any not-good thing you may be motivated toward, but you never suppress it! If you are motivated to do or say a mean thing, you can always think of a good thing. You deliberately turn around and use that same energy to do or say a good thing instead. It works!
"The second relinquishment is the relinquishment of the feeling of separateness. We begin feeling very separate and judging everything as it relates to us, as though we were the center of the universe. Even after we know better intellectually, we still judge things that way. In reality, of course, we are all cells in the body of humanity. We are not separate from our fellow humans. The whole thing is a totality. It's only from that higher viewpoint that you can know what it is to love your neighbor as yourself. From that higher viewpoint there becomes just one realistic way to work, and that is for the good of the whole. As long as you work for your selfish little self, you're just one cell against all those other cells, and you're way out of harmony. But as soon as you begin working for the good of the whole, you find yourself in harmony with all of your fellow human beings. You see, it's the easy, harmonious way to live.
"Then there is the third relinquishment, and that is the relinquishment of all attachments. Material things must be put into their proper place. They are there for use. It's all right to use them; that's what they're there for. But when they've outlived their usefulness, be ready to relinquish them and perhaps pass them on to someone who does need them. Anything that you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you, and in this materialistic age a great many of us are possessed by our possessions. We are not free.
"There's another kind of possessiveness. You do not possess any other human being, no matter how closely related that other may be. No husband owns his wife; no wife owns her husband; no parents own their children. When we think we possess people there's a tendency to run their lives for them, out of this develops an extremely inharmonious situation. Only when we realize that we do not possess them, that they must live in accordance with their own inner motivations, do we stop trying to run their lives for them, and then we discover that we are able to live in harmony with them.
"Now the last: the relinquishment of all negative feelings. I want to mention just one negative feeling which the nicest people still experience, and that negative feeling is worry. Worry is not concern which would motivate you to do everything possible in a situation. Worry is a useless mulling over of things we cannot change. Let me mention just one technique. Seldom do you worry about the present moment; it's usually all right. If you worry, you agonize over the past which you should have forgotten long ago, or you're apprehensive over the future which hasn't even come yet. We tend to skim right over the present time. Since this is the only moment that one can live, if you don't live it you never really get around to living at all. If you do live this present moment, you tend not to worry. For me, every moment is a new opportunity to be of service."More Room
During the building process, everything we owned was placed in boxes and bags and centered in the middle of the small house (which is the reason why this issue of Metaphoria is so late). The four of us and the dog at times had five more people in our space, not to mention vehicles, construction equipment and materials. To me, it was the ultimate in clutter. I had to deal with both the physical and the psycho-spiritual clutter along with the gremlins. So now our addition is almost complete. We begin the process of spreading out and sensing the freedom of extra space.
In Designing Your Happiness, Nancilee Wydra describes diviners of geographic features as feng shui professionals. These geomancers practiced designing successful living spaces. Wydra writes, "The Form School (of feng shui) bases its suggestions on the observation of the natural world. Structural phenomenon like mountain ranges, buildings or waterways are analyzed for their effect on the human condition. Followers search for the influence these shapes and forms have on the quality of life."
Our wonderful construction crew had feng shui talent. A birch tree which JeanneE and I spent four days debarking supports the load bearing wall of the old portion of the house. The branches became handrails. The workmanship bears the indentity and spirit of the craftsmen. Yet, I cannot help but ponder about it all. If the successful, uncluttered living space contributes to an uncluttered mind, then an uncluttered mind affects the living space. It is the symbiosis of our psycho-spiritual space with our physical space that creates the presence or absence of clutter and gremlins. We go full circle. We have, for the most part, control over how much clutter exists in our world. We can always make a bit more room by purification of the mind and an immediate environment free of physical clutter.Peace Pilgrim
Peace Pilgrim followed her calling to serve the world. She walked throughout the McCarthy period, the Korean war, the Vietnam war and a half decade beyond. She had a message which she took to the world: "When enough of us find inner peace, our institutions will become more peaceful and there will be no more occasion for war."
She took her message on the road from 1953 until 1981 by walking throughout the country. She became a pilgrim for peace. After walking 25,000 miles by 1964 she became a voice for peace with an intensive speaking schedule. She decided to accept rides yet her simple life included only the possessions that she carried with her.
"At the time of her death Peace Pilgrim was crossing the country for the seventh time. She had walked through all fifty states, and had also visited the ten provinces in Canada and parts of Mexico...She died instantly in a head-on collision as she was being driven to a speaking engagement." Although she was homeless, everywhere was her home.Pilgrim's Beatitudes
Blessed are they who give without expecting even thanks in return, for they shall be abundantly rewarded.
Blessed are they who translate every good thing into action, for even higher truths shall be revealed unto them.
Blessed are they who do God's will without asking to see results, for great shall be their recompense.
Blessed are they who love and trust their fellow beings, for they shall reach the good in people and receive a loving response.
Blessed are they who have seen reality, for they know that not the garment of clay but that which activates the garment of clay is real and indestructible.
Blessed are they who see the change we call death as a liberation from the limitations of this earth-life, for they shall rejoice with their loved ones who make the glorious transition.
Blessed are they who after dedicating their lives and thereby receiving a blessing, have the courage and faith to surmount the difficulties of the path ahead, for they shall receive a second blessing.
Blessed are they who advance the spiritual path without the selfish motive of seeking inner peace, for they shall find it.
Blessed are they who instead of trying to batter down the gates of the kingdom of heaven approach them humbly and lovingly and purified, for they shall pass right through.
© 1995 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski