Three days after Christmas I found myself crossed legged in my kid’s toyroom surrounded by piles of army men, legos, Barbies, stacks of coloring books, and board games trying to create organization in the chaos and find space for the new gifts that Santa just brought. I felt overwhelmed and irritable that this was how I was choosing to spend my vacation, yet overcome with a manic-like urge to make space. For the remainder of my week off, I worked my way through the office, basement, kids’ rooms, and my closet filling bag after bag and making not one, but two trips to Good Will.
I see now my decluttering binge was all about space. I need space. I need more hours in the day. I need more space in my schedule. I need more space in my head. I need more twists to free up space along my tight spine. In the midst of this realization I came across a teaching from the yogic tradition that helped explain what I had been doing.
In Sanksrit, it’s called Alaya Vigyan. It describes how our body is like a house, and we keep throwing into the basement the things we cannot do, face, or deal with. We throw our unprocessed experiences, emotions, doubts and fears into the basement, and they go on collecting there weighing us down and indirectly affecting our actions and life. We aren’t really aware of what we’ve pushed into the dark recesses of the basement, but nonetheless, what we have repressed keeps influencing us. The teaching goes on to say it is literally dangerous to keep all of these inhibitions and junk inside and that meditation and yoga practice is the way to clear it out and make you sane.
I can see how the past year created a lot of inner clutter for me, a lot that I threw down the stairs into the basement. I took on new projects, saw more clients, taught additional classes, on top of raising 3 young kids. This also robbed me of the requisite time needed to address my sadness and my fears that I’m not doing enough as a mother or a teacher or psychologist, and to just sit with myself in a kind, nonjudgmental way. At the close of 2016, I realized how tired and heavy I felt.
The answer to how to handle my exhaustion arrived on the Solstice while visiting dear friends for lunch at their home. After we ate, my friend announced…we always do Tarot card readings on the Solstice, so today is the day. The next hour and a half flew by as we all threw cards for the period of time between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. I know very little about Tarot, but was drawn into how accurate the reading felt. The main message my reading gave was to draw inward for the next 3 months, rest, do less, rest on my laurels and the hard work already done, and trust the flow and direction of my life. They also explained that in my reading there were no major Arcana cards, which means I have a little more control over how things evolve in the coming days. They taught that when a major Arcana card shows up, it has a deep archetypal energy to it, and that there is not much you can do to change course.
It felt like an optimistic reading, and also like permission to pull back, rest, pause, and do less. And so that is what I’m doing. I’ve made a pact with myself to not take on any new project or endeavor until after the Spring Equinox. Until then, I’m making space for myself, my process, my life. I find myself curious about what am I making space for? What’s coming? Why did I feel such an urge to declutter my house? Why do I only want to practice the wringing, detoxifying power of twists on my yoga mat? If I do another tarot reading on the Spring Equinox will a Major Arcana show up? Is there some big energy coming that requires I’m totally cleared out?
No matter what is coming, I’ve realized that I’m not willing to only live in the calm pauses that life brings. Although I am utterly grateful for it right now, I don’t want to only experience a safe, uncluttered predictable level of living. I don’t want the toy room to be eternally clean. I want to feel it all. I want to live with passion. I want to experience the highs and the lows and everything in between no matter how messy it makes things.
Which means the toy room won’t stay as pristine and organized as it currently is. Nor will my spine indefinitely feel as long and spacious as it does after twists. And, even after 3 months of rest, letting go, and making space, something will most definitely fill it.
But I will come back to Alaya Vigyan, and clearing out my basement with yoga and meditation. I did feel more sane after a full day putting legos in plastic boxes. I also consistently feel more sane after meditation or spending time on my yoga mat. The beauty of the yoga and meditation practices is how they cleanse and clear, even without having to be consciously aware of the junk I’m releasing. My breath, the asana, the mantra I use when meditating takes care of that for me. In some ways, it’s far easier than actually cleaning the toy room…I just have to get on the mat.
“Keep practicing, all is coming.” -sir Patthabi Jois