20 May

Creating a Clearing

Spring has certainly sprung here in Northern California: my morning walk is fragrant with jasmine and peonies, the windows are open, and we’ve even had a few days warm enough to lament the absence of an air conditioner (already!). I live in a pretty small space, so my “summer clothes” get stashed away in the winter and vice versa, and I’ve been overdue for making the switch. It’s time to put the wool tights away.

Many of us have grown up with some kind of spring cleaning ritual in our homes, where we spend a weekend getting rid of the junk that has accumulated in the house or the garage. My space issue highlights another element of that process – I pack away the heavy sweaters and flannel pjs (along with the dreary days made for snuggling and hot soup), and pull out shorts and summer dresses (plus the excitement of vacation and ice cream cones at the beach). Inevitably during this process, there are clothes from both seasons that I realize I no longer wear, and they are packed up to grace someone else’s closet for a while and lighten the load in my own home.


Sometimes, creating a clearing looks like this.

I’m talking about clearing out physical stuff here, but there’s a deeper level to this spring cleaning. Before I get too far into that, though, I’d like to invite you to try a short visualization exercise…

Take a moment to imagine your kitchen in its messiest state (if you’re like me, you don’t need a lot of imagination for this part). Dishes are piled up at the sink, waiting to be washed… a stack of mail and flyers sits on the table, needing to be sorted… an empty cereal box and wine bottle sit on the counter, because you keep forgetting to empty the recycling bin… Ugh, I know. Still with me? Before we move on, I want you to notice what you’re feeling in your body. Pay attention to things like breath, muscle tension, heart rate, body temperature… and then move out to more general “feeling states”, like heavy or light, energized or sluggish, closed or open. Try to bring awareness to these feelings without judgment, just noticing.

Messy Kitchen


Okay, now, take a deep breath, erase that image, shake that Etch-a-Sketch… and call to mind a new picture of your kitchen. This time, it’s on one of its best days: the counters are sparkling, the dishes are put away, even the floor is freshly mopped (and already dry!). Take some time here, to really bring the picture into sharp focus – maybe there’s sunlight streaming through the windows, or a lemon scent in the air. Let yourself really take this in. Come back to your felt sense as you did before, and notice the cues that your body is giving you, both specific physical sensations and your general state of being. What does this kitchen scene feel like?

Galley Kitchen, by Nancy Hugo, CKD

Not my kitchen, obvs. (Galley Kitchen, by Nancy Hugo, CKD)

At this point, some (or all) of you may be wondering, what is this nonsense about a messy kitchen doing on a blog about wellness? 

The answer is: it’s not about a messy kitchen.

Go back to those feeling states from the visualizations. Let’s say there’s a creative project you’ve been wanting to get started on, or a big talk you’ve been wanting to have with someone you love. Which kitchen makes you feel ready to take action? Which kitchen holds you back, and which one pushes you forward?

The “kitchen” is a stand-in. Not exactly a metaphor, because for some people, doing the dishes and wiping the counters will be the action that shifts energy. For others, it may be selling a car, canceling a meeting, saying no to a request, cleaning out the inbox. These are all examples of clearings.

Years ago, I took a class that was mainly about dreaming big and manifesting wishes (at $99, it’s still a steal for this life-changer); one of the practices that I learned there that I’ve returned to time and again is creating a clearing. Here’s how Andrea and Jen described this notion:

“A clearing is a wide open empty space in your life that is ready for something new or amazing to emerge.”

– Andrea Scher & Jen Lemen, Mondo Beyondo

The basic idea is this: when we let go of what no longer serves us, we create a space for something different to move in.  Sometimes “what no longer serves us” is as simple as the mess in the kitchen. Sometimes it’s a pile of stuff in the garage. Sometimes it’s a job that fails to motivate or inspire . Sometimes it’s a relationship that’s run its course. And sometimes… the space that we create in one part of our lives allows another part to change. A simple step like washing the dishes can be surprisingly powerful.

Stashing the winter clothes away made a literal space for my spring clothes – but it also helped me to welcome in a different season, with different activities, emotions, and energies. This year, that ritual also carried my intention for a big next step – as I sorted through clothes and other things to donate, I recognized that every item given away was one less item I would need to carry on a cross-country move later this year. The decision to make that move is something I’ve been working through for many months. Practicing my spring cleaning with an attitude of creating a clearing was part of putting two feet in, declaring that I was ready to move forward, ready to let go so that something new could find its way in.

Have you been feeling stuck? Are you longing to make a shift, but not exactly sure how to start? Experiment with a clearing. What could you let go of, in order to make space for something new?

14 Jun

San Jose

Wow.  This move is still a bit surreal.  I can’t say I ever pictured myself as a California girl.  For reasons that seem to require a long explanation, though, here I am.  And now that I’m here, well, I’m starting to get it.  I’ve moved into a sweet little neighborhood filled with cozy old houses, well-tended gardens, and dog lovers.  The weather is fine and the people are friendly.  And it feels like a very fresh start.

I promised my mom some photos, so…




One of my neighbors has a very funky, all-cactus garden…


…complete with notations on the names of plants…


… and some not-so-native critters.


Most of the gardens look more like this:






(I haven’t seen any bears yet, but this lawn has some awesome grapevines.)






There are palm trees, though not as many as you might expect.




I know this is a pile of yard trash.  I am amused by the presence of two perfectly edible lemons in the heap.  I also found about 10 avocados on the sidewalk up the block, and if they hadn’t each been nibbled on by the neighborhood blackbirds, I would have taken them home with me.




Bagel took his first trip on an airplane (by himself!), and he arrived without incident.  He’s a world traveler now.  (I can tell he wants me to keep those stickers on, because they make him look like a badass.)


At this point, he’s pretty much settled in.