Lessons from the stars: Comfort and the Necessary

Last night was a good night for stargazing.

Piercing through the ebony background, the stars seemed to appear before my eyes. I just stood there for a while soaking in the grandness of it all, wondering how many people I was sharing that piece of sky with? How many people were at that moment looking up at those stars, and what was going through our minds?

The beauty of stargazing, is that it opens up your world. Stars broaden our perspective, expand our worldview, and open our hearts. I have looked up at the stars in sorrow, I have looked up at the stars in joy; and they will always speak to me. It’s not an audible voice, but a subtle whispering in my soul; something stirs inside me, and I receive insight.

Last night, the stars reminded me that there is a big world out there. I was reminded to stay connected to the world around me. I naturally move towards what is comfortable in life, which is natural for all of us, but I also want to be aware of the necessary.

The necessary is the part of life that requires something from us.

This will intersect with the comfortable parts of life, meaning that what is required is that which we already enjoy. This varies from person to person, but I would describe this as when the need falls in line with our passion and strengths. This may also be comfortable if the person in need is someone you already love dearly, and this love may be the key to unlocking a world of purpose.

The necessary will at times require sacrifice. Not an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom kind of sacrifice, but that which requires us to dig deep inside and summon courage, forgiveness, and the love. It takes courage to confront someone who has wronged you, and forgiveness must follow. It may require you to give money to a cause at the expense of not buying something for yourself. We may need to ask forgiveness from someone we have hurt, and in turn learn to forgive ourselves.

The necessary may also be something that you need to do for yourself. You may find inspiration to create something, from a painting to a charity. You may find direction in life, or change in the direction of your life. You may be reminded that you are loved.

The necessary requires love, because if can learn to love on a broader scale; we will become more comfortable with the uncomfortable. In love, we are eager to serve, help, and rescue. In love, we can be freed from regret and as stated above, find the key for unlocking our purpose.

The stars speak, if we are willing to listen.

 

How Minimizing has Maximized

I have been on a slow, yet constant move towards de-cluttering my life. It has taken a lot of work, time, introspection, and letting go. I have read books and blogs that have common themes of “less is more”, and it  goes beyond the material and into the spiritual. Clarity, confusion, focus, regret, joy, and heartache have all been a part of this minimalist roller coaster; but it has been worth it, and continues to be worth it.

A lot of these ideas were inspired/confirmed in the book The Life-changing Magic of Tidying up by Marie Kondo. Check it out if you are into the idea of less is more.

When it comes to minimalism…

You must embrace the process. There is no true end point, because it is a lifestyle in which you continually remove from your life that which is not you. Refinement, this is a term I would apply to the purpose of why anyone should look into minimalism, de-cluttering, spiritual awakening, or whatever you decide to call it. The more you remove what does not belong in your life, the “un-you” stuff, the more the “true you” will rise to the surface.

The process can be painful. As far as removing the material items from our life, we have to remove the value that we have paid for those items. This is tough, because we work hard for our money; and it is hard to feel like we have wasted it. You will end up selling items for mere fractions of what you paid for them, or straight up donating them to the Goodwill or local charities. The way to make it through is to focus on the benefit of letting go and the promise of life transformation, more than the loss of monetary value.

Realize that what you own feeds who you are. Don’t let your life trajectory be dictated by what you own. Find your identity at the deeper levels of life and the lives around you, not only the surface. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that “we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” This same idea applies to the items we surround ourselves with as well. We live in a marketing culture where brands want to claim us. In other words, enjoy what you enjoy; but realize the impulse to accompany each interest with purchases to affirm your interests.

Recognize the benefits. 

Generosity will spring forth. The more you let go of your stuff, the easier it is to give it away. Your heart and mind will become more attuned to the needs of those around you more than your own needs/wants.

You will have more time. The less consumer minded we become, the less time we spend buying and shopping. An hour on the porch reading a book can replace an hour spent shopping on Amazon (this is something that I had struggled with). That hour of reading will exercise your mind. You will increase your critical thinking skills, improved memory, increase your knowledge; these are just a few of the benefits of reading.  An hour spent walking on the trails or around the neighborhood can replace an hour spent walking around the mall. Being under the open sky and breathing fresh air (or maybe not so fresh depending on where you live), is healthy and allows your mind to wander and think about what you truly value in life; as compared to walking through a marketing gauntlet that is aimed at telling you what you need in your life. (Note: I still shop on Amazon sometimes and walk around the mall sometimes, these are just examples to ignite a thought process, not intended to cast judgement.)

You will be able to appreciate what you have. When we remove the unimportant or unnecessary from our life, we are left with the important and necessary. When we remove what does not inspire, we are left with what inspires.

I share all of this as someone on the journey, as a student, not as an expert. I highly recommend reading the book I mentioned at the beginning of this blog if any of this has struck a chord inside of you. It is a book that talks about how what we surround ourselves with, impacts all other aspects of our life. There is union between the material world and the spiritual world through our belongings, and it is worth examining.

The cover photo of this blog contains my favorite coffee mug. Through the act of de-cluttering, this mug has stood the test. It brings me such joy for so many reasons; it’s Star Wars (which I love), it goes into light speed when it heats up (which is super-cool), and it was a gift from my wife and daughters (who are also super-cool). Minimizing doesn’t have to mean owing the least amount of stuff, but it does mean maximizing that which you truly love.

 

Solitude

Loneliness.

This is a powerful word, because out sparks such strong emotional reaction; and I believe that it is something that all of us can relate to at some point in our lives. If being alone becomes translated as loneliness, then sadness and desperation will begin to take root. Desperation mode is survival mode, and we will find ourselves  reacting to our circumstances instead of creating our circumstances.

Time.

Time gives and takes, it builds and breaks down, and it can be a gift if we choose to see it as so.

I start with these words, loneliness and time, because they are in relation to each other. We all have the same amount of hours in a day, though not the same amount of hours in a life; and we all want to make the most of our life. The feeling of loneliness can cause us to enter a place of circular thinking, which in my case, leads to feeling of self-doubt and regret. This is a downward spiral that I have found can rip the hours and the days, which are a gift, away from us.

Now even the darkest of nights lead to a new dawn, and time is reflected best in the form of a new day; though one day may feel lost, a new day is given.

The best book I’ve read this year is Reaching Out  by Henri Nouwen.

The theme of this book is rooted in a transformation from loneliness to solitude, and that is what we will focus on. Just as time is a gift, our being alone is truly a gift, because it is in those moments that we can dig deep to discover who we truly are and what passions lie inside of us. A simple word swap can change everything, so we translate loneliness  to solitude.

The best thing I can recommend is to go out and get this book, but for the purpose of our time right now; I will share some highlights to inspire you to join me on the path of finding solitude in what has been described as loneliness, starting with probably my favorite excerpt from the book:

“When loneliness is haunting me  with it’s possibility of being a threshold instead of a dead end, a new creation instead of a grave, a meeting place instead of an abyss, then time loses it’s desperate clutch on me. Then I no longer have to live in a frenzy of activity, overwhelmed and afraid for the missed opportunity.”

“The more we come to the painful confession of our loneliness, hostilities, and illusions, the more we are able to see solitude, hospitality, and prayer as part of the vision of our life.”

“Does not all creativity ask for a certain encounter with our loneliness, and does not the fear of this encounter severely limit our possible self expression?”

“Friendship and love cannot develop in the form of  an anxious clinging to each other. They ask for gentle fearless space in which we can move to and from each other.”

“Instead of running away from our loneliness and trying to forget or deny it, we have to protect it and turn it into a fruitful solitude.”

“Then our life would indeed be a different life because then fate becomes opportunity, wounds a warning and paralysis an invitation to search for deeper sources of vitality. Then we can look for hope in the middle of crying cities, burning hospitals, and desperate parents and children. Then we can cast off the temptation of despair and speak about the fertile tree while witnessing the dying of the seed. Then indeed we can break out of the prison of an anonymous series of events and listen to the God of history who speaks to us in the center our solitude and respond to his ever new call for conversion.”

I hope these words have brought hope and healing, if not for you, then for someone close to you. Let us make the most of the time we have been given, this beautiful gift that lies in each day; and may the moments that we find ourselves feeling alone be transformed into moments of solitude.