After a weekend out of town, I head to the gym to work off pent-up energy from van riding, airplane sitting, and waiting through flight delays.
As I approach the elliptical, I look forward to the exercise as well as the chance to catch up on the Art of Simple podcast hosted by my friend, Tsh. I choose one called Freedom From Stuff, an interview with author and blogger Joshua Becker.
I’ve enjoyed Joshua’s blog, Becoming Minimalist, for a while now but I’ve never heard an interview with him. He and Tsh have an easy conversation about stuff, simplicity, and the difference between too much and enough. I immediately warm to Joshua’s perspective of becoming minimalist, emphasizing how the journey is important even if we never quite arrive at the destination, something he is careful to acknowledge.
At some point in their conversation, Joshua says we have regular, seasonal input of stuff into our homes – Christmas and birthday gifts, school papers, various decorations depending on the celebration – but we don’t often have regular output. As a result, the clutter builds up in our homes.
When he says this, a thought comes to my mind and I pause their conversation to let it fill out.
Just like my home, my soul receives frequent input with infrequent output.
Even in this moment, I am listening to a podcast while exercising in a crowded gym with not just one TV in front of me, but eight all in a row – FOX News, NBC, QVC – the works. (QVC! I mean really, nothing says motivate me while I work out like cubic zirconia). Meanwhile, a woman in front of me pedals fast on a stationary bike, two men to my left work with those giant rubber band things I never know what to do with, and behind me I’m aware of movement in the pool on the other side of the glass.
Input, input, input.
In the midst of this highly stimulated exterior world, I make a discovery about my interior world – the input is automatic. Where is the output? How am I regularly getting rid of the soul clutter I no longer need?
“If your life is a constant blur of activity, focus, and obligation, you are likely to miss critical breakthroughs because you won’t have the benefit of pacing and negative space. What’s not there will impact your life as much or more than what is.”
Todd Henry, The Accidental Creative
What would a de-cluttered soul look like? Maybe something like this:
- courage to move toward others in love without a complicated agenda.
- wisdom to begin to give up what we no longer need, like fear about the future or regret over the past.
- willingness to face the silence within and not worry so much what we may (or may not) hear.
- energy to be fully myself in the presence of others without fear, pretense, or defensiveness.
I don’t know if it’s realistic to live in a constant state of simplicity. After all, we are naturally complex creatures – nervous system, circulatory system, digestive system, not to mention relationships, emotions, dreams, hurts, and desires. All these are all part of our human existence and not one of them are simple.
Complex has its place, to be sure.
But when our souls are filled with clutter, what is meant to be complex and awe-inspiring can become complicated and exhausting. When that happens, I crave simple.
I have to be careful not to glorify simplicity, to worship it by itself, to try to carve out a simple way in life and call that peace when really it’s just the outcome of my own effort toward order and control.
When my soul feels like this crowded gym, lots of movement, hurry and input, perhaps it will bring a bit of peace to embrace minimalism in my soul when I become overwhelmed on the inside.
I can’t say what the result of this might be for you, but I can tell you for me, the best way to uncover a bit of whitespace in my own soul is to be still.
Stillness is to the soul as de-cluttering is to the home.
It’s how the soul sifts through the day’s input, holding on to what we need and releasing what we don’t, making space to access courage and creativity, quieting to hear the voice of God.
There is no wrong with this – simply find a few minutes to sit, relax, close your eyes, and listen.
Are you able to be still long enough to let the chatter grow quiet, the whirring in your chest start to slow?