Oct 18 2012

Lazy Days

Peggy McPartland

I wake up without an alarm, long after the sun rises. I slowly stretch, look out the window at the brilliant blue sky and smile.

It’s a Lazy Day and I have absolutely nothing to do today.

In today’s hectic world, we rarely take time for ourselves. There’s always something else to do, somewhere to go, one more deadline or one more soccer game to take the kids to. “I’m too busy” becomes a common refrain.

We have this this incredible ability to keep moving forward even when we’re exhausted and feel as if we have nothing left to give. Rather than listening to that inner voice that’s screaming for us to just stop for a minute, we keep pushing ourselves, refusing to slow down and take care of ourselves.

Our body has a way of telling us “if you won’t listen to me and slow down, I’ll force you to.” And that’s when we get sick.  It’s happened to me more times than I care to remember.

But what if we just regularly took time to slow down, nurture ourselves and become grounded? It’s easy to consider time for ourselves as a luxury when in reality it’s a necessity. It’s a valuable lesson I learned during my time at Plum Village.

Being lazy has always seemed like such a bad thing to me. I’ve always felt guilty when I’ve been lazy, spending a day in my sweats reading. I’ve always thought that time not spent productively was a waste. At least that’s what I’ve been told since I was a kid. I just never asked myself what productivity really means to me. And once I did, I couldn’t help but embrace being lazy.

I think it’s really proactive and productive to spend time taking care of myself. And if taking care of myself means napping, meditating, or just sitting in the woods listening to the silence, that can’t be a bad thing.

Every Monday at Plum Village is a Lazy Day. And I looked forward to it every week. It’s a day to recharge the mind and spirit. It’s a chance to spend the day reflecting, walking, reading, napping in the sun or just being with friends. There’s no agenda and no expectations. The day just unfolds slowly and luxuriously.

It amazes me how long a day can seem when there is absolutely nothing that has to be done. Being able to enjoy a day relaxing and being fully present and aware of each moment is an incredible gift. It’s a really a practice of giving myself to myself.

It’s not easy for everyone though. Many people find the concept of a Lazy Day so foreign that they’re unable to relax into it and enjoy it. We’ve been so programmed to stay busy that it’s difficult to do otherwise. And if we’re always busy, it keeps us from having to really look at what’s going on inside. It’s a way to not feel any true emotion.

I’ve learned if I’m tired, rest. And that if I feel boredom when I’m not busy, to really look into the cause because if I’m fully present and aware in each moment, it’s impossible to be bored.

This beautiful practice of Lazy Days is something I’ll want to continue throughout my life with much joy and gratitude. Rather than feeling guilty about being lazy, I’ll embrace it wholeheartedly.

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Nov 17 2011

How to Let Go and Embrace Simplicity

Peggy McPartland

Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.
- Raymond Lindquist

Letting go isn’t easy.

It’s cold and the sun is setting. It’s been raining and the cedar boughs send their deep fragrance over me.

I stand alone, watching.

The gray SUV pulls out onto the road, the tail lights glowing in the darkening day. On top of it are two well used sea kayaks.

They used to be mine.

I feel a piece of my life heading down the road.

They represent who I am or was – a strong adventurous person. It’s as if I’m giving away my life piece by piece.

Letting go isn’t the end of the world, it’s the beginning of a new life.

Our belongings give us a sense of identity. We cling to them believing they represent our past, our history, and in some ways our life.

There’s strength in being able to let go. We can spend our lives acquiring things and never really feel as if it’s enough.

What you own is not who you are. It doesn’t define you as a person although it does feel like that at times.

Living more simply provides the freedom to open up to new experiences. If you’re less focused on acquiring, maintaining or hanging onto your possessions, you’re able to more fully focus on the things that bring joy and meaning to your life.

You’re not letting go of yourself; that stays with you. You’re only letting go of the things that no longer have a place in your life.

Imagine a future less cluttered and less encumbered. Imagine what life will look like living more simply.

Being settled in a simple space surrounded by your family, your friends and those things that truly have meaning will bring a deeper sense of joy than being in the most luxurious surroundings.

Rather than looking for external validation, strive to live fully and presently with a sense of openness. With that openness your creativity will flow more freely bringing a new clarity to your life.

Allow this simplicity to come from a place of abundance rather than scarcity. This isn’t about giving up anything, but making room in your life for what’s really important.

The familiarity of our things feels safe. Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t have anything left. You’ll still have the things that are important yet feel freer and less encumbered.

Letting go brings a clearer sense of your authentic self. It adds lightness and joy, giving you more energy to fully interact with the world.

Ask yourself what your belongings represent to you. Are they enhancing your life or holding you back?

Discover what they mean to you and what letting go represents.

Let go bit by bit. Find creative ways to recreate the feelings those objects represent. Let go of the uneasiness of feeling as if you’ve lost a part of your identity.

You can make the choice to live a simpler life. The rewards are tremendous.

Today may be all you have. Do you want to spend this day crowded with excessive belongings or filled with rich experiences and the people you love?


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Photo credit: rickydavid, flickr

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Oct 27 2011

Four Easy Steps to a Less Cluttered Life

Peggy McPartland

I like to think I live very simply; that I don’t own an excessive amount of things. It was easy to believe this until I really took a close look at how I was living.

Yes, I’m one of those people with an unfinished basement that’s easy to throw all kinds of things into, as well as a spare bedroom/office. I’m sure you have something similar – a garage, a spare bedroom, or closet where you toss everything you have no idea what to do with.

It’s that out of sight, out of mind concept. If you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist – although that can only work for so long.

The idea of going through everything in those rooms that are now bursting at the seams is so overwhelming that we just don’t do it. We continue to procrastinate and hope that it will magically take care of itself!

In the meantime, it affects us. We feel overwhelmed, crowded and out of balance. We long for the sense of freedom and clarity that comes with living more simply.

Living a simpler, less cluttered life can become a bit more manageable and less intimidating if we break it down into smaller pieces.

Start Small

Choose one small area to focus on. That’s all. This is the easy part. Choose a room, a closet or a drawer – whatever seems most doable to you. It’s not how much you start with, but that you start.

Think about the importance of sentimental items

We all have things in our lives that hold sentimental value. Maybe they belonged to your grandparents or hold a memory of a special time in your childhood. It’s important to really think about whether the items themselves are important or the memories they hold are what’s important to you. The memories will continue to exist regardless of whether you have that special keepsake. Ask yourself if it’s important to you that you keep the item itself or if the memory is all you need. The answer will be different for each of us but it’s an important question to ask.

Determine where there’s money to be made

We’re often holding onto things that we no longer use that could be easily sold. The money you make could then be used to travel, donate to your favorite charity or be put away toward whatever dreams you have.

Books, CDs, DVDs, and sports gear can easily be sold. Books are very special and they’re one of those things that many of us want to hold on to. And that’s okay. Just make sure to think about their importance and where they fit into your life. While it’s something I struggled with, I finally decided the books I love are available through the library or electronically and I can still read them whenever I want without owning them.

Many bookstores will buy used books. Half Price Books has book buyers on site and make the process very easy.They’ll also buy CDs and DVDs. Independent music stores like Silver Platters will also buy used CDs. After transferring all of my CDs to a hard drive I sold them – hundreds of them. Be sure to back up your hard drive before you sell the CDs – this is very important! It would be tragic to lose all of your music.

Craigslist is a great resource for selling sports gear and whatever other things you no longer use. Plus you meet really cool people who respond to the ads. I recently sold cross-country skis, boots, snowshoes, and bikes on Craigslist and netted a cool $700!

Provide Benefit to Someone Else

We all have more clothing and household belongings than we could ever use. Wouldn’t it be better if someone else was using them rather than them just taking up space in your home? There are many worthwhile organizations that would be thrilled to take your things.

It’s difficult to declutter. It feels wasteful. We realize just how much we’ve invested, materially and otherwise, in things.

The pain of feeling wasteful has its place; to remind us that it’s important to really evaluate our needs and desires in the future. Because in this consumer based society, odds are we’ll be tempted by the next shiny thing.

So before you succumb to that temptation, ask yourself how you’ll feel about it a year from now. And more importantly, how will you feel when you’re looking to get rid of it because you really didn’t need it to start with?

I enjoyed having these things while I did. But I’m happy knowing I’ve passed them on to someone else to enjoy now. I love the idea of owning less and the feeling of openness and simplicity that comes with it.

How would you feel if your life was less cluttered?


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