Have you ever noticed how young children seem to drink in the energy of each experience they are having? They are open to life, soaking in all the information and emotion around them, and then using it all as fuel for their growth.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are people who have become rigid and set in their ways. They have closed themselves off from the flow of life and stopped growing.
What caused this to happen?
In truth, there are many reasons. But one of the major causes of stagnation is our attachment to what was. We get stuck because we cling to old patterns — relationships that no longer work, possessions we no longer need, belief systems that no longer serve us.
BURIED IN PHYSICAL CLUTTER
When I was in college, I had a part-time job going door to door setting people up for estimates on windows and siding.
One of my customers was a woman who appeared to be in her late 50s. It was around 6 PM, but she answered the door in her pajamas.
The woman seemed flustered. She seemed interested in what I had to offer, but kept looking over her shoulder. Finally, she invited me inside and asked me to follow her into the kitchen.
Walking through her house was like walking through a giant maze. All around me were stacks of yellowing newspapers and dog-eared magazines that rose 3 to 4 feet in height. The only clearing I noticed was the space between her reclining chair and TV.
In the kitchen, she had a pot of soup cooking on the stove. She asked if I wanted some, and started rummaging through her cupboard for a clean bowl. There was no clean bowl because all of the dishes she owned were piled up around the sink.
I declined the offer. Glancing around, I noticed more stacks of magazines and books covering the table.
Was the woman, or someone she was a close to, a writer? Could that be why she clung to all of those printed words? I never asked.
Several years later, while living in Dallas, I met a guy who used to collect anything he could get his hands on. Some of those items he would resell at garage sales and flea markets.
He had a couple of friends he would pay to help him scour the streets for anything people left outside for the trash man to take. Couches. Recliners. Old lamps, books, dishes – – anything that might be worth a dime.
His large, detached garage was overflowing with random stuff. A zig-zag path from the front to the back door cut through the 8-foot high piles of boxes and totes.
Anything too large to fit inside the garage was propped up against it. He also had old cars in various states of repair that he was fixing up to sell.
Nothing was labeled or sorted. How he ever found anything that he was looking for I’ll never know.
Selling used, discarded products is a viable way of making money, not to mention a great way to reduce waste by keeping consumer goods in circulation. But my friend was bringing things in at ten times his capacity to sell. He wasn’t keeping the goods in circulation, he was taking on everyone else’s clutter and getting weighed down by it.
Even a junk collector — especially a junk collector — needs to rid themselves of unneeded junk on a regular basis. They have to have an awareness of their inventory, and a way of staying organized, or all their accumulation of stuff will severely limit their ability to function.
MOUNTAINS OF MENTAL CLUTTER
Three years into a daily practice of meditation I had a realization. I saw that my mind was overflowing with as much junk as my friend’s garage. I recognized that I too was a hoarder. Not a physical hoarder — at the time, all of my possessions could have fit in the trunk of a car.
I was a mental hoarder.
I clung to old ideas and ways of thinking in the same way my siding customer held onto old newspapers and magazines. All of my outdated beliefs, likes and dislikes, and ego-identifications were building up inside me and making it difficult to navigate my mind. They were hijacking my attention, blocking my energy flow, and limiting the depth of my awareness.
I was experiencing psychic congestion. And the pressure of that congestion showed up as anxiety and tension. All my mental and emotional junk was holding me back and keeping me from growing. To make things worse, I kept adding to the pile.
CLEARING AWAY PSYCHIC DEBRIS
It was around that time that I met a teacher who introduced me to Rudra Meditation, a form of kundalini meditation I still practice and teach today. The practice emphasizes the importance of letting go. I won’t go into the whole process here, but its power comes from its simple approach to the problem of psychic congestion.
Every living thing is either opening, receiving nourishment, and growing, or closing and decaying. We all have within ourselves the innate desire to open to life and grow spiritually. But in order to grow we have to continually break down our old patterns and release our attachments so we have room to take in more nourishment.
When we become too attached to what was, we can’t connect with what is. Clinging to old thought patterns and identities chokes us off from the flow of life.
The solution is to work each day to free ourselves from the past, and to train ourselves to open to the present. We can do this by bringing our awareness inside and consciously releasing our tensions. And by asking our higher Self for help in letting go of everything holding us back from spiritual growth.
I’ll go into the mechanics of this practice in more detail in a later post. But you can initiate this process right away by taking a deep breath into the heart and asking for help to surrender, to let go. Feel your awareness expand. As you exhale, feel the weight of the past begin to lift away.
After, notice the spacious Presence within and around you. Open to it in the same way a small child does. Consciously decide to let go of everything that is closing you off to it. Drink it in and allow it to nourish you.
Breathe in and open. Exhale and release.
Breathe in and open. Exhale and release.