There is an interesting approach to cleaning out our physical spaces based on tenets of Shinto, an ancient Japanese religion, conceived by Marie Kondo (http://www.cbc.ca/radio/tapestry/a-spark-of-spirit-in-everything-1.3462036/by-tidying-so-much-i-ve-learned-all-things-have-spirit-in-them-marie-kondo-1.3465772). Simply stated, her guidance around what to keep when tidying your home (or more rigorously sorting and organizing) is to pick up the things you own, touch them, and if they “spark joy” for you, to keep them. If they do not, thank them for their service to you and, let them go. The underlying assumption is that each item has spirit, something subtle but tangible you can connect to. It’s an interesting concept around what we in North America tend to think of as inanimate objects, yet we bring many of these inanimate things into our spaces for a reason, don’t we?
This is a beautiful and simply expressed way to discern what has continued meaning (or use) for us as individuals, and what does not. It is also an amazing way to look not only at the objects you surround yourself with (at home or at work), but a unique lens to view how you spend your time each day. Does each act "spark joy" for you? Could it? How are you connecting to it? So many of us go through our days striving to complete "to do" lists, to get every box checked in what is always a limited amount of time, we seldom connect to the moment. We seldom recognize the care and attention that goes into each click of our keyboards, the stroke of our pens, movement of our hands, or our thoughts and actions. Yet the majority of us pursue things with passion, attention, and good intent. That being the case, is there then the potential for each act to "spark joy"?
This is a timely question for many of us as we re-think what is going on in each of our days. When working with clients contemplating questions of life and what it all means (especially in concert with work and career) I often ask them to create two lists; one list of the things in their day that requires effort, and one of the things that feel effortless. Try it, it takes a fair bit of reflection to create the "effortless" list, but you’ll see some surprising results when you do. There often ends up being a third list, a list of things that were once effortless and now require effort to complete…a list of things most clients would like to see return to effortless. The interesting thing is that when we cram our lives full of responsibility almost everything begins to require effort, and fewer things remain effortless. Case in point one client had placed "falling asleep at night" on her list of things that required effort. Is it on yours too?
What if we looked at how we filled our days the way Marie Kondo would have us look at the objects with which we fill our homes? What if prior to each act we pursued, we thought about whether or not it could spark joy? Then, what if we gently let go of the things in our day that do not have the potential to spark joy? What if we let go of them by either stopping them altogether (as one client has done, she no longer chases daily reports from her team), or handing them off to someone for whom they have potential to spark a measure of joy (giving our children more autonomy in their routines, and being OK with the results)? What if we did this with gratitude for what they have taught us, but letting them go all the same because they no longer nourish a part of us? What if we consciously looked for more joy in the moments of everything we chose to keep? I will admit that in hearing the clip from CBC's Tapestry, highlighting Marie Kondo’s approach, I finally understood why I am contented by cleaning out my dishwasher. It is something I do with care and love, honoring very simple things in our family’s life, like Storm Trooper mugs and crystal wineglasses. This act of drudgery is in fact one that nourishes me on some level, knowing I am carefully putting away things we use as a family when we are together, each with a happy memory attached to it; each providing me with a little spark of joy (and the act of act of caring for these things multiplies that joy). Yes, it is a mundane task, and yet it holds something tangible.
Now, with that example firmly implanted in my mind, I am interested in looking through my day to see how what I invest my time and energy in sparks joy for me (and what does not…and why). I expect to be surprised, but only when I am being open-minded. Duty and responsibility are always hovering in the background, but by staying in the moment, connecting with it, I may feel that spark of joy (where once there was none). Perhaps it is this small act of attention that creates the conditions for a spark. Perhaps it is in slowing down and creating more space to appreciate each moment that allows there to be more joy. Perhaps, if I am feeling more sparks of joy in what I do throughout all my days, I can then share this joy with others. May what you touch spark joy.
Carleen Hicks is a certified Integral™ Professional Coach and EQ-i 2.0 Practitioner. She uses a unique perspective from her experience as a Leadership Coach and HR Professional to help people reach their full potential. See more of her blogs on Everyday Potential at http://www.chhr.ca and check out her Resources page to find great books, blogs, and web sites that support professional growth and development.