Have you been nudged by the recurring urge to simplify? Downsize? Just get rid of all the things that, as they say in the metaphysical and healing worlds, “no longer serve you”? No doubt you’ve let yourself notice how much stuff you have that’s taking up space but has worn out its usefulness. Most of us take a look, but then get put off by the thought of the effort that might be required, so we put that project on the back burner because it doesn’t appear to be urgent. I’m not referring to cleaning out your closets or your file cabinets. I’m talking about psychologically discarding all the outworn or unused or irrelevant advice, strategies and the best practices we’ve acquired over the years.
A while ago it dawned on me that there was a problem with my decades-old collection of this kind of “advice” still sitting around in my head. And this advice covered all the bases: health, wealth, finances, business practices, relationships, self improvement - you name it. How did I know it had become a problem? I knew it because whenever a thought arose from this outworn collection, there was an energetic ‘disquiet’ that came along with it; some sense of obligation or guilt or confusion. So much “helpful” information over the years; why didn’t I feel like it had worked? Was there something wrong with me? Should I go back and try it again?
All of us have lives that include the usual ups and downs, joys and tragedies. But instead of being encouraged to turn inward and cultivate our natural resilience and courage and creativity, often we’re encouraged to protect ourselves from, defend against or deny the parts we fear or dislike. Hence, the over abundance of so-called experts and their arsenal of tactics.
We can’t realize the extent to which stuff gets in our way and needs to be discarded until we begin to question whether it’s actually doing us any good. But how do you go about such a thing? I hear so many people say they wish their lives were more simple; there are too many demands and not enough time or not enough resources or not enough money. But there's a hidden factor, one we don’t notice until we’re no longer fully able to trust ourselves and our decisions.
Recently, I emptied my bookcase of about 40 books after realizing that they simply had nothing to offer me anymore. Some of them I doubt ever did. But in that simple yet liberating act I recognized this impulse to clear the shelves was rooted in two questions that seem increasingly important to me in living a life that is authentic, joyful and content:
What do I really know to be true?
How much that’s in my head is just what I’ve been encouraged to believe is true?
Here's why those questions may be the key to your peace of mind for you, too. There’s a difference between being able to figure things out and follow directions based on what someone else has recommended and learning how to discern with certainty when your actions are based in your inner knowing. We’ve been culturally, spiritually and psychologically conditioned to seek out the experts in every topic under the sun. Advice and strategies are fine; usually they're well intended and have some evidence that they actually work. But more often than not that advice comes with a price: it obscures your own deeper wisdom and causes you to default to the prescriptions of those “in the know”.
Coming from decades of learning how to “fix” thoughts, “fix” feelings and even “fix” the human energy system, I had amassed quite a library of ideas, both in my head and on my shelves. But one day, when I looked at my bookcase, I had a light bulb moment where the books themselves were the outward expression of all those tips and tools that had been collecting dust in my mind and that they, too needed to be cleared out. With the books, I packed them up and gave them to the local library.
But with my thoughts? Whenever thoughts arise from other people’s advice (sage or not) I allow myself to realize that I don’t have to pay them any mind if they no longer ring true for me. And that when I let myself get quiet, my innate intelligence comes to the surface and presents an insight or a course of action that always rings true and feels more natural, more obvious and somehow, more like me.
Here’s an analogy that might help: if we want to go for a swim in the pool, it will be a lot easier if we take the pool cover off before we jump in. In the same way, if we want to swim in the waters of our own clear knowing, it helps to move the old thinking that’s sitting on top of that knowing out of the way.