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Mental Decluttering


Ever have those moments where you feel stuck? Like you can still function, but your mind is on overdrive and there never seems to be enough time? Or it’s the other extreme where you don’t feel much of anything – where you’re frustrated, struggling to cope, or waiting for something to happen? If so, you’re not the only one. I’m there quite frequently myself. I find that there’s a simple way to mentally declutter, but first, I’d like to share what brought this topic up in the first place.

In June, I drove to Jasper National Park to hike. Hiking has come to be a form of spiritual practice for me. It takes perseverance, commitment, and with nothing but my senses and the elements, I’m challenged to be alone with my thoughts. On this particular hike, when I reached the peak, I shot the attached video on a whim – it wasn’t premeditated at all. I had my phone with me as a “just in case” – just in case I slip, just in case I need help, just in case a bear takes a bite out of my shorts and flings me over the edge…you know, common hiker thoughts. I sent it to a few friends who encouraged me to share it, and now, I am.

That hike proved to be a mental enema for me. It was invigorating, resetting, calming, and grounding.  No noise pollution or people to deal with, and a much needed megadose of clean, fresh air. I hadn’t felt grounded in so long. I’ll admit that the previous year had been a challenging one for me. Lots of changes. A long-term relationship ended, I moved, and my beloved aunt, who was like a second mother to me and a nurturer in my life, had passed away in March. I was lost. I delayed the grieving process by pouring myself into my work (a great distraction.) Even though I meditate daily and practice mindfulness, I was overwhelmed with this desperate need to clear my head.

Years ago, when faced with such feelings, the first thing I would do is say “screw it – I need a drink.” I’d have that drink, knowing full well that it was a distraction and a temporary escape. In most cases, it would turn into two or three. I knew logically it wouldn’t make things any easier, but in that moment I didn’t care. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t have anything against enjoying some fine wine (especially if it’s red, paired with some French mimolette,) beer (especially at a hockey tournament,) or a shot of vodka before walking in the Pride parade dressed up as one of about fifty Dorothys from “The Wizard of Oz” (yes, that actually happened) when it’s in the spirit of fun and enjoyment. It was important to acknowledge the distinct difference between enjoying some drinks for sheer pleasure, and using it as a crutch when I felt frustrated, fearful, or sad.  Looking back objectively (with some compassion,) it was an effort to quiet the busyness of my mind, soften my intense emotions, or liven up the mundane. I used it as a tool to avoid dealing with my reality, and when I found the courage to be honest about that, there was an opportunity to make different choices.

I found a simple way to clear my head in a way that built self-respect, not self-loathing: SPENDING TIME IN NATURE.

I’m not saying you have to fly out to Alberta or parachute into the rainforests of Costa Rica. Go to a local park. Go to a place where there are no airbrushed advertisements bombarding you with messages of how to look or what to eat. A place where there’s no unnatural noise – no mindless chattering, no phones dinging, no tires screeching.

Mental decluttering is similar to the physical act of decluttering. It’s like that closet in your home that’s filled with items from your past that you haven’t bothered to throw out, like New Kids on the Block posters and old VHS tapes. These obsolete items no longer reflect who you are, but they pile up and occupy valuable real estate. Kind of like your mind – if it’s full of clutter, there’s no space for amazing new things coming into your life. The old stuff simply has to go – its essential to create more space.

So, please go outside and look up. Be reminded that there is NO CEILING.

Breathe fresh air.

Experience natural beauty.

Feel what you feel. Clear your head. Hear your heart.

Please don’t take my word for it – your experience is always your best teacher.

When you create space in your mind and body, you create space in your life.

PS. Feel free to dress up as Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” and dance down your city’s busiest street. No vodka necessary 🙂