This morning I lost something. It has been pinned to the wall in my office for at least two years. I have never needed it until this morning, when I actually did. I could picture it, a CD in a pale blue envelope with some writing on it. It is the record of my daughter Mae’s 24 hour EEG, and I needed to Fedex it, to a doctor in New York. I waited until 7 in the morning to look for it, because really the optimum time to look for something important is while you are also trying to get your kids out the door for school.
The corkboard in my office where I swear that thing has been pinned, is also home to the kids’ school calendars, my bib numbers from races, important notes and cards from friends, a giant skeleton poster of the muscles and bones, and one of the central nervous system, 6 bumper stickers, a flyer for the first yoga workshop I ever taught, two pictures of me with my parents when I was little, a man made out of a popsicle stick, a tiger made out of a paper plate, and this very important piece of Mae’s medical history that I absolutely needed this morning.
The entire corkboard situation is actually hard to get to because my office chair is in front of it. You can’t actually see the chair because it is camouflaged by remaining christmas cards, snowsuits that everyone has outgrown, a gallon size ziploc bag of lego directions, a copy of the yoga sutras and two old copies of the New Yorker. When I moved the chair, all of that stuff slid off it and onto the vacuum cleaner which was perched just behind it. This caused the vacuum to tip forward, sealing my body between it and the desk. At this point, my blood pressure was through the roof.
Losing something, especially something which you could swear you see every day is annoying. Being trapped in your own messy, disorganized office, wasting valuable minutes when you need to be getting your family and yourself out the door, is a recipe for disaster. I desperately wanted to yell at someone, or something. Luckily, my family had scattered, either some animal sense for self-preservation had kicked in, or they actually saw me entering the war zone with a take no prisoners look on my face.
There is nothing zen about my office, in fact certain sections of it would land me on the show Hoarders. Most of the time, the mess doesn’t bother me, until I need something and then it makes me crazy.
This is the same relationship many of us have with our own minds. We are fine being busy, and multi tasking. We are fine just stacking thoughts and feelings in random piles to be addressed later. That is, until for some reason it all starts to move so fast that we feel like we can’t slow down, we can’t find anything. The corkboard in my office with it’s layers of unrelated papers and other snippets of my life is probably a fairly accurate representation of my thought process.
Just as cleaning and organizing a wildly messy living space gives us a sense of possibility and maybe even ease, so does taking some time to sit and bring a little space into our minds.
Take some time today to sit down and look at the space where you spend the most time: your head. Just take 10 minutes, find a quiet place to sit. Organize your body in a comfortable, alert but relaxed position, listen for the sound of your breath. When your attention wanders from your breath, just bring it back. It will wander a lot. That is OK. You don’t want to clear your mind of thought the same way you don’t clean your office by emptying all the shelves. You just want enough space in your mind that you can actually see your thoughts clearly, and weed out the ones not related to where your body is and what it’s doing.
If you go months and months without cleaning your office, things will start to build up. Important papers will get mixed up, and you won’t be able to find things when you need them. The same is true in your mind, it is easier to do a little bit every day than to wait until the day when you really feel yourself stressed and disconnected trying to center yourself on ever shifting ground.