Making a House a Home

“Neighbors keep you up again?” said my co-worker, noticing the dark circles under my eyes.

“Yes! Ugh! They are driving me crazy with their noise,” I replied. “I’m still thinking about moving.”

“It seems a shame for you to have to move when you haven’t even been there a year,” she said. “It’s such a cute place, so convenient and affordable. And you have that great little yard for your bunny.”

Yes, my house had a lot going for it, except for the neighbors that I’d been at war with for months. Tired of sleepless nights, and sick of waiting for my landlord to make some promised upgrades, I began looking for a new home. For months I checked the ads online, but didn’t see anything suitable in my price range. Once a possible lead came up and I went to see it, but it wasn’t nearly as nice as what I already had. I told this to my co-worker the next day.

“Well, if you like your current place so much, why don’t you just change the energy around it? You know, do some feng shui stuff, put a cactus by your neighbors.”

I knew she was right, that the energy had to change, but I failed to see how putting a cactus in the yard would change anything significantly.

Then I caught a virus and had to stay home for a couple weeks recovering. I spent a lot of time lying on the couch, looking out the window at my sweet little yard. I enjoyed the beauty of it, how the sun played across it throughout the day, and the contrast of the orange tree against the purple morning glories growing on the back fence. I also spent a lot of time staring at my four walls, and began to get ideas on how I might improve the space. “You know,” I thought to myself, “I could put a shelf there above the kitchen sink for my cookbooks. And if I consolidated these files, I could get rid of this cabinet and use that nicer one instead.” Ideas began to percolate around my head.

As soon as I felt better, I began to change the energy in and around the house. I opened all the doors, drawers, and windows and let the breeze sweep through. I lit some sage and wafted it around every room. Then I walked around the outer perimeter of the property, saying aloud, “This is my space. I claim this as my home. I am safe here. I enjoy peace and quiet and prosperity now.” I waved my hands around an invisible fence, setting my boundary between my neighbor’s house and mine.

I put up mirrors on the front door, the back gate, and one in my bedroom window, all facing outward toward my neighbors. Then I put up an actual fence, just some bamboo reed, but it created another physical boundary.

Then I had a sudden urge to start rearranging my furniture, realizing that certain pieces would work better in a different place. As I pulled the furniture out I gave everything a good spring clean, vacuuming and dusting and washing blankets and linens. I put up shelves and a rack to hang my pots and pans in the kitchen. I reorganized my closets and drawers. I bagged up old clothes and books to give away to charity. I repotted plants and brought some new herbs into the yard. I made small repairs that I’d been meaning to get to for months, and threw out junk that had been accumulating on the side of the house.

And then miraculous things began to happen.

My landlord suddenly appeared and made all the repairs and upgrades that I had been nagging him about. I discovered that another neighbor whom I’d never met was also a rabbit lover, and was delighted to find a bag of carrots by my door one day. And to my utter astonishment, the neighbors who had given me such grief suddenly moved out. My attempts to shift the energy had worked better than I ever imagined.

This new energy extended into other parts of my life. After months of uncertainty about which new career path to take, I suddenly felt clear about the direction to go. New friends appeared. Income flowed in easily. I even had a party, something I hadn’t felt like doing since I moved into this space.

Feng shui mirrors and a cactus in the yard are just outer tools that represent a shift in mental energy. If I hadn’t put my positive thought behind my actions, all the sage in the world wouldn’t have shifted the energy. I know it was literally changing my thoughts that helped my outer world come into alignment with what I wanted. And as my co-worker commented as we toasted glasses at my party, “And all you had to do was put a little love into it!”

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The Magical Laundrymat

Yesterday was laundry day, which meant a trip down to the Magical Laundrymat. Yes, that’s what it is actually called, an unassuming place with a name that always makes me laugh. Magical? Laundry? My experience there had always been absolutely mundane.

Laundry is one of my least favorite chores. I put it off as long as possible. Then I find ways to spend the least amount of time in the actual laundrymat. I put my washer load in, set a timer on my phone for 28 minutes, then go run an errand like mailing a letter at the post office, or washing the car. At minute 27 I go back in and move the clothes to the dryer, reset the timer for 32 minutes, and find something else to do. Usually I go sit in my car with a book.

Except this time I forgot my book. Doh!! I thought about walking the couple blocks home to get my book, but by the time I got back the laundry would be finished anyway. My familiar bugaboo, boredom, loomed large.

A little voice in my head went off: “Hey, Mindfulness Teacher! What if you just did nothing?” I sat down on a bench and crossed my arms, resisting the idea. I saw the timer on the dryer: 28 minutes to go. Sure seemed like a long time to do nothing.

A spiritual lesson just waiting to be discovered.

A spiritual lesson just waiting to be discovered.

I drew a few deep breaths and gazed at the dryer, the tumbler going round and round and round. Round and round and round. I felt mesmerized. The rhythm of the motor began to take over the buzz in my head. I picked out a piece of clothing, a red top, and watched it circling around and around. Then another piece caught my attention, my pink bunny-print pajamas, and I followed its circuital route with my eyes. Then a black sock took over.

Suddenly it occurred to me: this is like meditation! Thoughts flit across the tumble dryer of the mind like clothing. We latch onto these thoughts and follow them, churning them around and around. But we don’t have to.

I softened my gaze, letting the image of the dryer go blurry so it was just a wash of color like an Impressionist painting. I could still detect movement, but instead I focused on the image as a whole. Clothing coming and going, thoughts coming and going, breath coming and going. I felt peaceful.

A buzzer went off and the tumbler stopped. My laundry was done. I was surprised by how quickly the time had passed. I realized then why the place was called the Magical Laundrymat, and how little moments of inner sight can come from the most mundane of chores. I vowed to leave my book at home the next time, too.

Words Without Thoughts

I was lying on the couch last night watching Hamlet, like you do, when I heard these lines:

“Words without thoughts never to heaven go.” –Gertrude, Act 3, Scene 3

I paused the video to reflect on this. It seemed to jive with what I had heard in church that morning, which was that prayer is a thought, a belief, or a feeling arising within the mind of the one praying. Without the feeling behind it, words are just words. To make prayer effective, you’ve got to fully embody the belief behind it.

I’ve been working with some affirmations for abundance and prosperity lately. I taped a few little mantras to the refrigerator and the bathroom mirror. I noticed that some days I’d recite them mechanically, just saying the words and then mentally ticking off the task, wondering when my prosperity was going to show up. Then when nothing happened I’d fall into the old attitude of lack. I began to wonder if I really believed in what I prayed for, or if I just thought I believed.

I started an experiment and began reading the affirmations out loud with passion. I said them with zeal and used big hand gestures, like an evangelical preacher. Even if a small part of me was still doubting inside, I tried to act as if I really believed my words. Then I’d stand with my eyes closed for a few minutes, trying to feel the truth of my words, letting them soak in.

A few days after this experiment I received an invitation to teach a meditation class and two yoga classes for an adult education program, something I had been trying to attract. Naturally, I accepted.

I am learning that gratitude is the prerequisite to abundance, not the other way around. You can’t sit around in a separative funk wondering, “Where’s my abundance?” and expect it to just show up. If your attitude is always that there is never enough, then that’s what gets reflected back to you. God doesn’t hear the words without thoughts. But if you start out with a feeling of gratitude for anything, even the beauty of a sunrise, that’s a signal to the Universe that you are open and ready to receive.

I challenged myself to make a list of 100 things that I am grateful for. It started out with some basics, like having a roof over my head, food on the table, and a job. The more I wrote, the more I realized how fortunate I really am. Things like having access to clean, running water; the right to vote; paved roads; the ability to drive…things that some of my ancestors didn’t have, and many people on the planet right now don’t have. I began to notice small things, like having clean sheets, the public library, and an orange tree in my yard. Once I got going, it was easy to find things to be grateful for.

Thanksgiving is an ideal time to work with the concepts of gratitude and abundance. I invite you to also make your own list. Let the feeling of gratitude grow in your mind and crowd out any feelings of lack or want. You could even start the list by taking a deep breath, and feeling grateful just to be alive.

abundance

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