I have a hypothesis, and this is it: When we adopt any practice that nourishes our spirit, it creates a beautiful up-spiral. I think of up-spirals as those feelings and actions we have which help us feel more free, alive, energetic, and capable of living our lives the way we want.
Our spirits feel nourished, and as they do so, they become stronger, freer, more curious, more adventurous, and clearer about what makes them feel good and what doesn’t. This causes us to seek out more nourishing practices, and the up-spiral begins again.
I have definitely experienced this in the eight months I have been doing my breathing practice.
To be honest, I had no clear expectations when I began my breathing practice. I just knew I wanted to breathe more deeply and freely. And as I did that, my up-spiral began: breathing led to craving nature, which led to walking, which led to walking long distances, which led to creating more space in my house, which led to resting and dealing with some painful emotions, which led to hiking and running.
And this beautiful up-spiral continues. This my eighth month of my breathing practice. Here’s me on a walk in Oregon the other day–I was visiting family.
Here’s me on a hike in the rain along a beautiful stream the other day.
I don’t do my breathing practice perfectly. Some days my breathing is better, and some days it is worse. I still have bouts of wacky breathing sometimes.
But I realize that I don’t have to be perfect to create up-spirals. I just have to consistently keep taking steps in a good direction.
Month Eight of Beautiful Breathing
That brings me to this month—month eight of beautiful breathing. During the month of December, I spent a lot of time cleaning out cupboards and closets in my house, reorganizing, and getting rid of stuff. This is a big deal for me.
I am not very confident about my housekeeping skills, and I tend to make messes a lot. I used to have somewhat good tidying habits, but these fell by the wayside when I was in graduate school, and I feel like I haven’t gotten back into a good rhythm yet.
But this has started to change, and here is why. My breathing and walking practices have taught me three important things:
One: I’m a natural.
There is something deep inside me and inside you that wants us to thrive, to engage in practices that bring us health and clear thinking, and that bring more power and integrity to our lives. I think of that thing most often as love.
So whenever I want to do something that brings these good things into my life, I think to myself, “I am a natural at this. My mind, body, and spirit want me to succeed in this area. They are on my side.”
It has been so helpful for me to cultivate this view of myself. Too often, my default is really negative thought patterns like “I can’t do that” or “I’m just not good at that. I never will be.” It’s easy for me to give up when I think like this. If I think “I’m a natural” instead, it helps me become more curious, open, and adventurous to what I am trying to do.
Two: I can become good at things if I break things down into steps and just keep practicing them.
I use to view activities or skills in two ways: either I was good at them or I was not.
I would do the things I was good at and avoid the things I was not good at.
I realize now that this is not the way life is. For any activity or skill I want to be good at, I can make a lot of progress if I break it down into steps and keep practicing these steps. Viewing skills this way encourages me to try things I never thought I would be good at–like walking long distances.
Three: It’s okay if I’m bad at something and fail when I start practicing it.
Developing new skills often means making mistakes and failing in the beginning. If I give myself permission to makes mistakes and fail, these uncomfortable episodes become no big deal, and they don’t get in the way of me practicing and making progress.
Back to Cleaning
I have been applying these ideas to cleaning. I’m no Marie Kondo, but I realize that I have some natural tendencies towards wanting to create orderly and efficient spaces. I have been focusing on those feelings and trying to follow their guidance.
I’ve started reading this book. It’s pretty good. Did you know she has a show on Netflix now?
I have also been breaking cleaning down into steps—one cupboard at a time, one closet at a time, one bookshelf at a time.
My cleaning adventures have created a bit of a mess. I currently have a big pile of miscellaneous items on my office floor that I need to take to Goodwill, and I have piles of books lying around the house I need to relocate. There are also still some failure areas in my house—I have not figured out a good system yet for filing bills. That’s okay, I’ll get there
I feel happy about the progress I’ve made. I have cleaned out two cupboards, two closets, three desk drawers and a bookshelf. I have been embracing low-furniture-living, and in addition to getting rid of my couch, I got rid of two clunky end tables and replaced them with two little wooden crates. I like this low-furniture living thing.
I have plans to organize and get rid of more stuff.
It turns out I might be good at cleaning after all.
Nurturing our Spirits and Losing the Most Important Weight
There is a lot of cultural focus on losing physical weight, but I think the most painful weight we carry is emotional and spiritual weight. It’s the weight of feeling stuck, dis-empowered, out of control, and like we cannot make any progress.
There are many things that cause us to feel burdened by such spiritual and emotional weight, and I certainly don’t know all of the answers to those things. But I do want to say, Friend, that there is something deep inside you that wants to nourish you—that wants you to thrive. Pretty much any loving practice you adopt consistently helps you to create a beautiful up-spiral and let go of some of the emotional and spiritual weight that is weighing you down.
Breathe or move or love or write or clean or walk or pray or garden or draw or dance or sing. Do something else that feels simple and good. Do it each day or often. Do it badly. Do it well. Keep doing it.
You’re a natural.
You can read more about my breathing adventures here:
Month Ten and Eleven of Beautiful Breathing
What nurtures your spirit? I would love to hear about it in the comment section below.
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This post describes the beginning of my breathing practice: