Avoiding Loss Through Tidying Up


How does avoiding loss show up in the way we behave on a daily basis? An unexpected topic in a discussion about the shadow side of yoga between Judith Lasater and her daughter Lizzie. The shadow side of yoga in this instance being the unhelpful, unconscious aspects of ourselves that our yoga practise reveals to us, which unbeknown to us inform how we act on a daily basis.

I write instantly and with focus. Too often our ego barges in with it’s skepticism and judgements, sending the quieter, more subtle feelings, images and words; the stuff of creativity and insight, right back to whence they came. 

The discussion guides me to this; I try to avoid loss a lot. I avoid letting spaces get too cluttered or messy. I avoid buying too much ‘stuff’ because stuff turns into clutter so easily. In one way this is just being sensitive to surroundings and trying to live mindfully. But it’s also, I now realise, a fear of the abandoned, unattended, disheveled space that to me represents loss.

The unmade bed brings about a twinge of sadness. Dirty dishes piled high makes me feel a heaviness. Going to bed in a messy room takes much effort. To avoid these aches, to keep things light, indeed to avoid a feeling of loss, I make the bed, I do the dishes and I tidy the room.

I take an age to pack and unpack because if it’s a rush and it’s all just thrown in, I somehow feel sad! The lack of care, the disorganised luggage, the feeling of loss that is part of the ending that packing a suitcase will always involve. 

All of the above is an attempt to control. When we let loss in, we relinquish control, we accept that  it is impossible to either control or avoid loss in life. 

I remember moving from a small bedroom to a bigger bedroom when I was nine. I sat amongst my stuff in boxes and cried. Suddenly in the big empty room with belongings scattered, I felt the loss of my cosy room. I felt the loss in this ending and at nine I did not know how to avoid it. I felt it all and my parents looked at me bewildered.

I know now that honouring endings is important and is one way being with loss is more possible. That chaos around us can be a necessary step to moving forward. That sometimes the mess can wait.That sometimes there is something much more pressing and precious in the present moment to place our attention on. 

Sometimes the moment absolutely does call for bringing a sense of order to our environment. Loving our home enough to tidy it up can be a beautiful act of self care. But sometimes truly listening to someone or going to bed early is much more valuable than doing the dishes! 

Choosing to be with the feeling of loss that arises when I see mess, disorder and unorganised spaces…this will take practise. But the opposite is denying it through forever tidying up my life. Exhausting.

Moving to Tunisia is an extreme lesson in being with the mess. The abandoned, the littered, the chaos I see. I sit with the sadness because I cannot spring clean every road in Tunis! And because what we see is not something separate from us. As one Greek Hermes Trismegistus said;

~As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul ~

My path so far has been one of moving a lot. Perhaps I will continue to keep moving until I can sit with the accompanying loss rather than vanquish it quickly with tidying, long enough to notice it, reflect on it, accept it, see it shift, make a choice.

I’m not saying that my love of order is negative or that my love of creating a beautiful space is not part of who I am, but rather that the unconscious, unable to resist, must do it above all else tidying up and de-cluttering has become an unhelpful habit. The deciding to do the opposite, the not avoiding the difficult feelings, the having a choice; that is the shadow side of living my yoga that is worth exploring.