I’ve recently been introduced to the Japanese method of de-cluttering made popular by Marie Kondo. She helps people around the world take stock of their ever growing possessions and audit them with care. At the heart of her technique is guiding people to hold up every item of their cluttered closet, for example, and ask themselves ‘Does this spark JOY?’
I love the simplicity and power of this query and being able to tap into our intrinsic YES and NO buttons. We can’t fake a YES when holding up the frayed edges of a silk frock that appeared to be fashionable a rather uncomfortable number of years ago. And we can’t pretend to answer in the affirmative when the trousers in question are known to sag and lose their shape after a brief and unavoidable session of sitting rather than standing. Sagging simply doesn’t spark joy.
Being able to let go and discard or donate pieces that aren’t met with a resounding YES leaves us with more space. It also creates an environment where all the possessions that surround us are beacons of JOY! We can de-clutter and create a life, immersed with the things we cherish and those items that truly cultivate levity.
So what if instead of de-cluttering our closets and cupboards, we directed this profound question to other facets of our lives? Does our job spark joy? Does our partner spark joy? Do our evening and morning routines offer levity and joy? If so, fantastic! It’s time to practice even more gratitude. And if not, that’s fantastic too! Because we can’t fake our YES to joy. Asking the question, believing our answer, and then being brave enough to change or discard layers, adds to the richness of a JOYful life.
I’ve been referred to as a daredevil or gambler with a bit of frightening consistency throughout my life. And given the number of broken bones and overall mishaps I’ve experienced, perhaps its a fair assessment.
But the bit that follows next is quite fascinating. People tend to quickly add ‘well, you obviously don’t have fear’. There seems to be a logical separation between people that ‘have fear’ and those who would never dangle from the wing strut of an airplane because they simply ‘have fear’. On the surface, you can follow the logic of the argument. But when looking closer, I can attest to the fact that I absolutely feel fear.
When climbing a mountain and struggling for that thin bit of air; when caught in a blizzard unprepared; when attempting to cycle another 100 km day in fierce cross winds; when facing the empty void of that bungee jump, sky dive, trapeze platform, paraglide or ramp that is just crazy steep for the dirt bike . . .my palms sweat. My heart is bursting through my chest. My breath shortens and seems to only inhale. Disastrous outcomes flood my mind. Does any of this sound familiar? To live is to feel fear.
The choice we each have, is what we do with that fear. For me, being able to feel the fear and do it anyway, is a wholly gratifying and JOYful way to live. Its inspired me to move countries, travel to corners of the world on solo adventures, leave perfectly solid jobs, end lovely relationships, dive into life changing love, and yes, to fall flat on my face. But I did it. Each time. To push through the layers of fright and common sense can be incredibly liberating.
So perhaps don’t limit yourself by identifying with your fears or let them paralyse you next time your palms start to sweat. Instead, see it as a playful layer of resistance that can be out manoeuvred. And yes, I’ll be reciting this to myself as I attempt to cross the Bass Strait in a little boat with sails.
Its fascinating, and a bit sad, to find the space to observe the stress levels of others. People get worked up over all sorts of seemingly trivial topics. The traffic is heavy, the sun isn’t shining, the sun is too hot, my coffee isn’t right, why can’t that person in front of me just walk a bit quicker or exit the ferry faster? People are feeling these frustrations on a regular basis and sometimes you can see it on their faces and often they can be heard expressing their disdain to everyone within ear shot. While its painful to witness, it can also be painful to absorb. If you’re an empathetic human, you can quite easily feel the pain and stress of others.
I’ve found that when I’m surrounded by stress, its incredibly helpful to know if the stress is mine, or if it belongs to others. On a typical day, almost 99% of the stress I encounter isn’t mine at all! This simple recognition can be powerful. I find myself acknowledging the stress, empathising with the owner of that stress, and then quickly celebrating that I don’t own it. I literally tell myself ‘that’s not my stress’. Because if we stop noting that most stress isn’t ours, we can easily become overwhelmed by the negative energy that surrounds us and spiral downwards.
Lately, I’ve started to conjure up a playful image along with my words that helps to bring me back to my natural state of JOY. And that’s the notion of being a stress trampoline. Yes, you might bounce down on me with your heaviness and leave an imprint, but I’m a source of bounce and will launch your stress back into a space of levity. Hopefully, I can bring you with me.