I was struck on New Years Eve Day with the rather immediate sense that some clearing away needed to happen as I approached the new year. My wife Shasta and I were sitting in our office doing some work. As I leaned back in my chair to catch my proverbial breath in the midst of my concentrating work, I looked around at my book cases filled with hundreds of books that surround me every day. I glanced at some of the titles this time with a bit more awareness and realized that many of them no longer represented who am I these days. And at the same time, I noticed the high stack of books on my desk that I'm currently reading which have no space in the completely filled bookcases. Almost instantaneously, we both decided that we needed to do a book cleansing. One hour later, we had nine bags of books ready to be donated and all the spaces had been dusted and cleaned and rearranged. The whole office had this clean, visually appealing look and feel. We commented that we both even felt lighter inside (once the shock from the magnitude of what we'd done began to wear off).
Believe it or not, we had just engaged in one of the most significant spiritual practices for healthy spiritual growth that is particularly apropos around the new year.
I realized that all of the energy in those old books was a competing energy with my inner spirit, mind, and heart these days. Not that there's anything wrong with having competing energies. It's healthy to expose ourselves to things that stretch us or force us to reevaluate our beliefs and ideas and thoughts. But if the old energy is taking up all the space so that there's no room for energy that is more in alignment with who we are now, we're inhibiting our growth within the new.
Here's the way Danielle LaPorte (author, speaker, coach) put it in her recent newsletter blog post:
"I think it's a universal law that you have to clear space for newness to enter; let something die for something to be born; cleanse to heal; let go to receive; just like we clear our lungs to take in new air."
I like the way she puts it, especially the example of breathing. Imagine what would happen if we never exhaled; we only inhaled. I've tried it to see. I didn't get very far. My lungs felt like they were going to explode from the pressure of all that air inside. Turns out, lungs have a set capacity. So you have to clear your lungs to take in new air. And you can't live without new air.
All of the wisdom traditions share the belief that there's something extremely powerful and transformational when we let go and clear space. The new has a hard time entering our lives until we do this work of clearing.
Notice similar metaphors Jesus used. He taught that you have to die to self for the new person to emerge; the seed must be placed in the ground and then die in order for the plant to appear; you must be born of water and the spirit to enter the kingdom of God (cleansing, immersion, being buried, before resurrection and new life). Powerful spiritual metaphors about clearing space for the new.
This is the foundational ritual and practice I'll be facilitating in the first retreat weekend (of three total) on January 25-26. The journey of "Igniting the Fire of Your Spiritual Life" retreats will necessarily begin with exploring what space needs to be opened up in your life. What do you need to let go of in order to receive? What space do you need to clear in order for the new to be invited in? What needs to be exhaled before inhaled? How do you need to reframe your beliefs in ways that more deeply serve you and others through you? Spiritual growth and development must begin with this process.
I want to invite you to participate in this retreat cycle this year. There are 5 more spaces open. Here's the link for all the information, logistics, and registration: "Igniting the Fire of Your Spiritual Life." I guarantee you this will be a transformational journey for you in this new year.
On New Years Day, Shasta and I spent a couple of hours journaling our reflections to 20 questions looking back at 2012. Some were more challenging than others; like, "What was the single most difficult event/experience in 2012? What are you still hanging on to from that experience?"
As I journaled, I began to sense a movement inside of me. It felt like an expanding; like space opening up. I realized that I was letting go some of the pain from that experience. I was exhaling the limiting beliefs I had formed around it. I was breathing easier.
Do you need to clear more space in your life in order to let in the new you're longing for? What kind of exhaling do you need to do?
The artist Picasso said,
"Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction."
In other words, unless you're the God of the Hebrew creation poem who created out of nothing, for you to create you must first replace, take away, deconstruct, destroy, let go, exhale, and then build, innovate, renovate, design, construct, and create. It's about deciding what you can add to and what you need to take away and replace with. It takes boldness, willingness, surrender, focus, and earnest persistence. But it's always worth it!
Are you ready?