Tis the season to start clearing out the old to make way for the new! And while we may be busy peering into cupboards and dusting off cobwebs, maybe we can do the same with our minds.
This analogy came to me courtesy of one of my favourite meditation podcasts, The Morning Ritual. It was a random episode from August 2020 that I stumbled upon last week, and the podcaster mentioned how that episode’s practice was like a “spring cleaning moment to sweep away any old, stuck, stagnant energy, any tension, any discomfort, clearing out to open up to the new.”
Well, how apt for Chinese New Year, I thought!
So how do we do this? In the spirit of Chinese New Year, I have 8 lucky suggestions for you:
1. You have to know what you have in the first place.
Just like how you’ll start poking around drawers to see what you have, do the same to know what’s in your mind.
While this isn’t likely to be achieved in a day, at least starting to bring awareness to your thoughts and feelings will provide some guidance on what’s occupying your mind. Even setting aside 15 minutes a day to meditate or think about this will be helpful.
Huat Ah! Bonus question: “What’s really behind the emotions I am feeling that is negatively impacting my life?”
2. You have to prioritise which areas to clean up.
Not everything needs attention right now. Identify, which areas of your thought processes or your behaviours or relationships you wish to work on.
3. Be brutally honest with what you do or do not need.
Just as you may aim to be ruthless in deciding which physical things you want to let go of, be honest in recognising and accepting your true feelings.
Huat Ah! Bonus question: “What can I clear out of my mind that will help me become a more calm and balanced person?”
4. Let your present needs guide you.
You know this one. You buy something, thinking one day I will use it, or one day I will lose enough weight to be able to wear it and then it’s there, taking up space in your cupboard for years without you ever touching it.
Mindfully speaking, focus on the present. Accept reality and let it be. Sweep away unhelpful thoughts about the past and the future. The key word is “unhelpful”. It doesn’t mean not thinking about the past or the future. In fact, if you are in denial and don’t work on processing the past or planning for the future, you may never be rid of that stuck energy.
5. Use a ladder to reach the top.
It’s easy to see the junk in the front of your cupboard, but what about the long-hidden “treasures” at the top?
Likewise, when we start to clear our mind, it might be easy to determine obvious actions such as “I want to improve my focus, I will meditate every day for 15 minutes.”
What about deep-seated emotions though? That inexplicable anger you feel towards someone. Or the strange guilt you carry with you for no obvious reason at all.
That’s when you need to access a higher-level thinking process. For this, you can read books about a variety of psychological topics, or you can choose to get professional help. A counsellor, a therapist, someone who can help you think deeply about your issues and work with you on improving your mental health.
6. Organise regular-use items to be within easy reach.
So you’ve cleared out everything, sorted out what you need, and placed them in easy to reach areas. And for the mind?
Don’t stress your mind! Make certain decisions and stick to them. This is good advice for perfectionists or as my psychologist would say, people with unrelenting standards.
Here’s the scenario. You’ve been grappling with something, you’ve done all the high-level thinking, processed your feelings to death, determined your Values in life, and decided on what matters most to you.
Then comes a difficult situation forcing you to decide on something. And instead of just easily reaching for what you had painstakingly worked out, you and your mind decide to go round and round again. Thinking, processing, evaluating, again and again.
Why not just go back to the hard work you had already done and following through on what you had decided?
Huat Ah! Bonus question: “What big picture decision do I need to make to guide my actions in future?”
7. Maintain the neatness.
Inevitably, new acquisitions will enter your home. So maybe you will need to make room for them.
Likewise, you will definitely have new information and new experiences to process. Knowing your Values and a regular awareness practice such as meditation can help. It’s what you do for your mind on a daily basis that will help you deal with new challenges!
Double Huat Ah! Bonus article on how to work out your Values here.
8. Identify no-go zones and don’t sweat it.
After you’ve cleared out the deepest part of your cupboard, you’d fill it up with the rarely-used but necessary things. But you’re unlikely to go poking around or visiting that space regularly.
If I translate that to spring cleaning your mind, I would say that is akin to setting boundaries. We want to regularly engage with relationships that nourish and uplift us, but some relationships are like a glue stick. There are bonds that have been formed but sometimes, the stickiness may not be a pleasant experience and in some cases, may even be toxic.
So limit exposure to that and focus on the relationships that nourish you.