Friday, January 20, 2006

Organization as spiritual practice

Recently I picked up a book called It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys by Marilyn Paul. (You can download the first chapter at her website for free.) It's a book about organization as a spiritual practice, and while that may sound hokey, I'm finding it relevant and useful. I've always been disorganized about some things, like my finances, and over the past five years or so, I've become disorganized about things that I've always managed fairly well, like my work, eating healthfully, and keeping my home in order. I've felt overwhelmed, stuck, and unsure how to change things. (My perfectionist tendencies lead me to declare every six weeks, I have to change my entire life right now! Shockingly, that doesn't work very well.) Dr. Paul's book addresses the underlying causes of disorganization, such as feelings of worthlessness; perfectionism (who, me?); or underlying beliefs like "being organized is boring" or "creative people are messy" or "I have better things to do with my life" (which is true until you can't keep track of where your money or research is or what you're supposed to be accomplishing to pursue those "better things"). It's surprising to me, and hard to admit, how disorganized my life has become, and how much that interferes with my day-to-day functioning. It's easy for me to get caught up in the "family mythos" that I'm lazy, flaky, or an absent-minded genius (my parents and sister really do think these things about me). When I was severely depressed, I resisted the romanticization of depression as the hallmark of creative genius. Depression means you don't get shit done. Well, now it's time for me to admit the same thing about being disorganized and messy. And I really like Dr. Paul's book so far, because it meets me on my spiritual path, as it were, with compassion and insight. If you're someone who wants to be more creative or productive, or wants to have a life more aligned with your values, and you're a spiritual seeker, then I highly recommend this book. I'm reading through it as well as beginning to work through the exercises, and I'll report back.


jo(e) said...

Interesting. I find that when things in my life are in balance -- emotionally and spiritually -- I am more organized. And when I am overwhelmed by stuff going on in my life, my desk and office will be a mess ....

I am going to have to read this book.

Sojourner said...

I, too, have noticed that when my living space is clean, I feel less stressed and I am able to consentrate better.

This sounds like an interesting book.

Pandora said...

I loved this. Makes sense.

Reminds me of the basic rules of feng shui:

1) Throw out everything you don't need.

2) Clean the house.

(After which the crystals and all aren't quite as important as they were....)

Spicy Cauldron said...

'When I was severely depressed, I resisted the romanticization of depression as the hallmark of creative genius. Depression means you don't get shit done.'

I couldn't agree more. I came across your blog today having hopped over from Oak's, where she has now installed a blogroll and I'm working through it as I'm a friend and admirer of her wise words, so am interested to see who she links to. I have to say, what a beautiful blog you keep.

We owe the depression=creative genius equation to a number of critics over the year, particularly literary ones, and of course to the Romantic poets who we tend to visualise now with a freshly-scribed poem in one hand and a jug of laudanum in the other... And then there's Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton... but personally, I don't think their mental distress was a factor in their ability to craft language, no matter the subject matters they chose.

I'm reasonably organised because I have to be. Writers drown in paper and I can't think when things get to that level. I have a free-range brain, the mind works better when there's not loads of stuff lying around or things waiting for me to get round to doing. x

deborah oak said...

well, it turns out that matter MATTERS! I know that for me, sweeping is one of the most powerful magical acts I do. What a great blog!