“Don’t use a lot where a little will do.” ~Proverb
My fears around becoming a mother for the first time were validated. Giving birth did hurt, though in an empowering, “hear me roar” kind of way.
There is stiff competition now for my husband’s attention, but mine is captivated as well. And our spontaneous, hedonistic, freewheeling lifestyle is permanently cramped—but into this cozy fetal position of child-friendly rhythm and routine.
Though we have been pacified into a relatively mundane existence, my morphing into a mama bear that’s hell bent on protecting her cubs from excess has helped keep things spicy. Excess in the form of stuff, noise, and activities that attempt to encroach on our home and our time to connect, distancing us from our core values.
There is a therapeutic benefit to this extreme nesting to the kids and adults in our family alike. My kids are imaginative, calm, and pleasant to hang out with, and I find myself with more energy, creativity, and overall bliss than I have ever experienced before.
With this keen selectivity of what is enough, we gift our minds and hearts the room to expand, explore, then retreat again for restorative contemplation and rest.
Less leads us closer to more bliss and here are just three ways to get there:
Step One: Less Stuff
Take for instance the visual pollution surrounding us. Coming into a space that is clear of clutter can release us from the immediate but subtle sense of anxiety we feel due to the responsibility of ownership—the need to repair, organize, share, and account for.
With kids in the house, we’ve found it necessary to do a seasonal or at least twice yearly purge of items that no longer serve us. Since we have limited storage space, we need to clear out the many quickly outgrown clothes, toys, and the occasional toddler toilet paraphernalia.
This is my less stuff method de jour: With a couple of boxes in hand, run around the house once or twice for the duration of one or two songs on your iPod.
One box is to donate and the other is for items beyond repair. Needless to say, figure out how to dispose of this one in the most recyclable manner possible.
The trick here is not to think too much. A guideline to help overcome a stall in decision-making is to ask: Is it beautiful or useful, or does it hold sentimental value?
Be careful around the sentimental bit. If you get stuck there, challenge yourself to take a picture and pass it on to a friend or into the donation box.
We are trying to model and practice relationships to people, not things. If you’re also a parent, you might be surprised by how quickly you will soon forget all about your daughter’s first successful attempt at gluing two Popsicle sticks together.
What you won’t forget, though, is the sweet taste of abundance left from clearing excess, the immediately apparent lightening of the mood in the house, and the shift in energy as the empty spaces allow for more inspiration and connection.
Step Two: Less Talk
Silence and pauses in conversation can be unnerving and awkward, but what would happen if we chose to embrace the lulls more often with a loving heart?
Many of us were raised in homes where there was a constant influx of background noise, questions, bickering, nagging, commenting, reminding—and the list goes on.
This nostalgic soundtrack can leave an unsettling feeling into adulthood when nothing has been said for a few moments. These long seconds of quiet chewing can feel to some like a twitchy ten day Vipassana retreat.
A tendency to fear silence may result in junk-food variety filler statements, noisy, fidgety sighs, and idle gossip. Try to savor a shared silence. Dive into the comfort cultivated by swimming alone in your own thoughts when the opportunity presents itself; observe, accept, and release.
Other than meditation, another tool to curb this engrained habit can be found in the beautiful book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne.
Test your words, pre-utterance, through the following three filters: Is it true, kind, and necessary?
It takes but a moment. If it fails this litmus, smile gently, muster much love in your eyes, and enjoy the bliss-filled moment that words would probably just gunk up anyway.
Step Three: Less Doing
An approach I borrowed from Waldorf homeschooling is the concept of alternating in-breath activities with out-breath activities. This reminds me of my love for ashtanga yoga’s dance with breath; opening your body with the oceanic sounding inhale and then folding back in again on the exhale—surrendering to the releases that occur deep in the muscles and beyond.
Our society at large seems to have the out-breath part down pat. It’s the in-breath that we need to take in more fully and consciously.
With that image, I ensure to balance days filled with much action and running around with quiet staying close to home ones. When I teeter off this balance, it shows in my health and my mood, as well as the grey hair count in my bangs.
To check in on balance sometimes visuals help.
Start with physically drawing out a timeline for daily, weekly, and yearly activities to see where the opportunity to lay low and regroup presents itself. Then nab it.
Though our culture typically frowns upon taking too many breaks, an in-breath may be the most productive thing you can do. Just like in the creative realm, a lull welcomes a new breath of inspiration and a resurgence of energy to regenerate and heal.
Many of the parents I work with can literally see how constant activity, entertainment, and bombardment of toys can put a burden on the little shoulders of children. I hope that we can provide ourselves with the same parental love and attention to these influences.
If we can learn to clear our plates from excess—and not view it as deprivation, but rather as weeding out non-essentials to allow true connections to flourish—we can kick back and enjoy the bliss that blossoms all around.
Where can you find the opportunity today to take one less step toward bliss?
Photo by MeditationMusic.net