Shifting one part of the puzzle

I’ve been feeling a particular kind of stuck lately and it feels like this: thing X is working great and in theory I feel safe enough to work on thing Z, and it’s about time! Because I’ve been waiting and waiting to work on thing Z some more, and get back to the awesomeness of six months ago when thing Z was in a total state of flow, remember how awesome that was, wow, and I want to work on thing Z so badly!

And yet it just isn’t happening. 

I had an epiphany about this dilemma the other day when I read Victoria’s excellent When Pushing Through Doesn’t Work, in which she drops this freaky gem of spot-on brilliance:

When you’re stuck and need to create safety for yourself, it has to be done with no hidden agenda.

If I do it for the purpose of making more progress, it won’t work.

Oooohhhhhhh <—— the sound of my brain realizing why all the safety and love and peace and beachy weekends and delicious late-summer cherries in the world cannot force this change to happen. Because it has to happen organically.

Which, of course, is contrary to every Good Worker Bee A+ Student List-Making Organizer instinct in my poor beleaguered list-making brain.


So I’m working on accepting that.

And creating more safety, without an agenda.

But now what?

Playing with the patterns

Last Tuesday was the second class of Havi’s most excellent and inspiring evening Shiva Nata series. It was….ha ha…it was intensely hard. The kind of intense Level 3 (and 4 apparently) Shiva Nata that makes my brain go yes! this! and also oh my god! what’s going on? and we’ll stop in the pattern somewhere and Havi would ask, “Where do we go next” and my brain would be so very, very confused that I would have no clue if it was supposed to be forward or backward or horizontal or vertical or what.

Oof. Brain = broken. In an excellently good way, of course.

Afterwards, in the Magic Starlit Garden of Connections and Also Delicious Noodles (also known by muggles as Cha’ba Thai in NE Portland), I had a wonderful evening hanging out with dear friends Larisa and Cynthia, laughing and planning and wondering and generally having a lovely magical time of it.

All this Shiva Nata had me thinking about the interconnectedness of a few patterns in my life that are all on the scarcity/enoughness continuum. It showed up when I was considering the Big Scary New Thing: I worry about enoughness.

Do I have enough money, enough resources, enough love, enough self-care, enough time?

And on the other side of the coin I question why it feels like I have entirely too much: stuff hanging out in my house that I don’t need, stuff hanging out in my dietary habits that I don’t need.

And then Cynthia (among other magical insights) spoke to me a little bit about the idea of a Sacred Regime. A method of changing one’s relationship to the world by creating a container for change, for dedication to a particular regime.

And about the idea of the Sacred Regime as the thing that could help shift other blocked and stuck patterns.

Patterns. Enoughness. Change.


Shifting the corner that will shift

In this tangle of things (health, love, objects, money) there is a very tangible thing that I feel capable of shifting: the objects in my house.

What could be easier than finding a couple grocery bags full of excess stuff and donating it all?

I’m no hoarder, but I do have a few circumstances that lend themselves toward the Slightly Too Much Stuff thing: I have 1) multiple voluminous closets, and 2) sentimental tendencies toward saving pretty or meaningful things, and 3) a recently-grown-bigger toddler, and 4) a recently-grown-smaller self. So there is a lot of stuff I can get rid of.

Stuff I’ve been planning to get rid of.

Stuff I’ve already sorted as ready-to-go.

And yet it hasn’t made its way to the trunk quite yet, you know how that happens?

The sacred regime

My sacred regime would be this: to give away one trunk load full of stuff to Goodwill (or elsewhere) every day for thirty days. This is the container for change that I am committing myself to.

What do you think? Will I make it for thirty days? Will I run out of things?

These are the questions I wonder about. Thirty days feels approachable…and yet surely in that time I will get through the easy stuff and get to the stuff that requires physical effort to locate and emotional effort to weigh and consider.

Eventually I will be done shifting the simple, and will have to work on shifting the hard.

My intention for this sacred regime is that it will contain the ideas of {alchemy – investigation – fluidity – reveling} because I do find joy in giving things away, in freeing up physical space in my house and my heart, even when it’s difficult. Because maybe all this stuff is protection against something I’m not ready to face yet? But I won’t know that until I dig down into it.

You can even see some pictures I’m taking to document the process over on Flickr.

Anyway, that’s my piece today: shifting the stuff (the literal stuff!) because it’s all connected. Stuff is money is sustenance is abundance is poverty is hunger is fullness is fulfillment is enoughness is selfhood is identity.

Thank you for reading, friends. xo.


About jesse k.

Writer. Mama. Spy in the house of self-awareness. Occasional crafter, letterpress geek, and academic snob.
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12 Responses to Shifting one part of the puzzle

  1. Cynthia Salbato says:

    whee! you make me sound very wise… I think it is because your magic pen translates my vagueness with some very inspired words. Love your sacred regime of ‘stuff shifting’. I think I may join you in it starting Sept 1. You’ve inspired me with your descriptions of ‘stuff’. I could use a little containering and sorting of my material stuff too. We’ll have to compare notes, maybe at the next great brain-scrambling meet up in late Sept!

    • jesse k. says:

      It was so super helpful to exchange ideas like that! Stuff shifting is quite a commitment for me — to know that I want it and yet it might be hard? It’s a good parallel to other things where I’m reluctant to make changes for fear of hard things. So this is a parallel thing, like Havi talks about. It’s all connected!

      Can’t wait to compare notes (if you do a stuff-shifting) and can’t wait to meet up next time!

  2. jessss says:

    you and I keep semi-mirroring one another. when I moved I suddenly had all this STUFF I had done without all summer, since all I had at Scott’s was a carload full of essentials, mostly clothes and kitchen things and books. friends thought I would be thrilled to get all my things out of storage, but actually I felt so much dread. I had lived without it all summer and mostly didn’t want it back. I’ve used that feeling to RUTHLESSLY get rid of boxes and boxes of stuff. I too suffer from the inability to give away pretty things, or things someone gave me, etc. but this time it was like, “why do I have this? it goes in the box.” I discovered that if I just opened a box, sorted through it, and made the decision then and there before I had time to get connected to an object again, it was pretty easy. I’ve found that this purge impulse has gone farther than just my home stuff — I’ve deleted some Twitter people I was only following out of politeness, and have blocked a lot of people on facebook too 🙂 I am totally in streamline mode; just want to make life simpler. I think your project is awesome!

    • jess says:

      apparently I can’t spell my own name. ONE OF THOSE DAYS

    • jesse k. says:

      Not having seen things in a while is a good way to make the disconnect…I keep finding baby clothes in Penny’s closet that I KNOW were super beautiful and important to me several months ago, and now I’m like GOODBYE, no tears. It makes it easier.

      But also, and I think this is key, I think I have to find a way to talk to family about gift-giving, because I find that’s the hardest part. For instance, last year Kirk gave me a really nice bag that I’m just not using, because 1) my main bag is slightly more awesome and 2) not worn out. I have no reason to replace it! Do I really need two? Not really. Would I feel guilty getting rid of it? Yes. So I need a contingency plan (cash only? bottles of wine only?) to avoid getting Nice Things That Are Extra. It’s very, very rare that I actually need a new thing to replace a worn-out thing.

      • Heather says:

        Yeah, having family members who are on the same page about gift-giving, or who are understanding, is such a help in not-acquiring-too-much-stuff! My mom has always asked me what I want for Christmas or my birthday, and though she sometimes buys stuff that’s not on my list, if it’s something I don’t want or need, or won’t actually wear or use, she isn’t offended if I tell her so and has no problems just returning it. My boyfriend and I have mostly stuck to treating each other to nice meals out for gifts. Doing the experience-as-gift thing can be really fun, too – last year for his birthday I bought us both a flying trapeze lesson.

  3. sarra says:

    Oh my brain!
    Dear brain: please please please come back to this later. Please!

    • sarra says:

      oh goodness! It worked. I got it.
      Dear kettle method (=”let it brew”): I love you.

      The sacred regime idea works because – actually, let me talk about why I was struggling to understand how it worked.

      I was thinking: but HOW can doing a one thing, a bounded thing, change your relationship to everything else? You’re only working on the one thing. Everything you build will be in relationship to that one thing. It’s a psychological principle: if you learn something when you’re drunk or in Bruges, you’re more likely to remember it when you’re drunk again or in Bruges again. It doesn’t really come out of its initial context. The stuff you do is inside the box. Whatever you do outside the box remains outside the box. The box means that there’s a separation.

      So I wailed a lot and gnashed my teeth because I knew this thinking wasn’t fitting the thing.

      Now it works. Aha.

      All there is is now. If you’re in the sacred regime, all of you is in it. You bring in all of you from outside. You can’t just send off a delegate of the self to do the tidying while the rest of your you-commune kvetches in a corner. (Well, you could, but only if you were really quite devoid of insight and intention – okay, it happens sometimes!) There isn’t a boundary to cause any problems, because it’s about action, and about bringing everything in, and if there’s kvetching, that counts as “in” too.

      This isn’t to say that once the practice is up, either day-to-day or after the 30, there won’t be any ‘outside’ left any more – any return to the old ways. I was rather stunned by how, after coming back from a brilliant weekend of accidental good habits relating to activity and food, my home environment had a whole lot of automatic hooks to eat/sleep/sit in ways that aren’t helpful for me outside of the instant. That all got overwritten by guilt as soon as I noticed it, unfortunately – so I’m currently in the stage of smiling (especially at the dour way I’ve just said “unfortunately”!), thinking, being and accepting, even if it means I’m getting fattened up in the process. I need to save my worry for fuel for my ten-ton-of-French-lit-and-German-grammar-in-four-weeks reading lists – I’ve only got a limited supply 🙂

      • jesse k. says:

        Ah, I love your explanation and unfolding of this idea. Thank you!

        Let me also say, perhaps a clearer explanation may have helped you see the connections I have (personally) between the idea of Working On House Objects and Working On Food parts of my life right now. The experience of being in my body and thinking “why am I so overwhelmingly full right now, with food I didn’t particularly enjoy eating?” and thinking “why is that closet downstairs stuffed to bursting with stuff I never look at or need but nonetheless can’t just get rid of” ….these experiences have obvious connections (maybe?) when I write them out, but they also call up the same overwhelming confusion and bodily anxiety. Wanting to change, not knowing how. Not knowing what the protection or benefit is in the status quo. Not liking the status quo. Feeling powerless to change the status quo.

        But of course, I *do* feel capable of changing the status quo with the objects in my house! So for me, the self that I bring into the realm of “let’s clean out a ton of stuff and give it away, each day” is exactly the same self that I’d like to bring into the realm of “let’s think about the kind of food I’d like to be nourished by and how I could make that happen.” Does that make sense?

        The one shift is connected to the everything shift. At least, I try to have tremendous faith in that truth even when my anxieties/monsters are screaming (as Havi has spoken of hers doing too!) that the one thing can’t possibly be improving the other thing.

        Plus, I would say more generally that I hope the outcome of all this giving is that I’ll have investigated all the back cupboards and neglected desk drawers and obvious places and not so obvious places, and there will no longer be this accumulated detritus of a decade or so of being an adult that I often feel plagued by. I know that somewhere I have saved a box of photocopies from a college class, which I have no intention of rereading. What am I saving? The memory of being in that class. I don’t actually need that object in order to hold that memory. There are all kinds of hidden memories and phantom “needs” that I am fulfilling by keeping around the extra stuff. I’m hoping that by going through it all and exorcising a great deal of it, it will no longer be around to bug me so much. It’s not that I have a bad shopping habit that needs to be curtailed, necessarily. So it’s not quite applicable to the whole hunger/emotional eating thing in my food/body/mind world. But I do want to get comfortable with 1) not having as much stuff and 2) investigating the stuff that has hung around and finding out what it’s like to get rid of it, in a physical and emotional/spiritual way.

        Hope I’m not restating my case too much here! Just trying to work through some things out loud 🙂

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