Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Useful, Beautiful or Loved

It is the Sorting Moon, the time of year when the harvests are being brought in and it is time to decide what to keep and what to get rid of so that limited resources can be used well in the coming months. In agricultural communities this would be a time to harvest livestock so the winter hay supply could feed the breeding stock through the winter. In other communities it would be the time to check and re-check everything in the root cellar to make room for the new harvest and ensure that no "one bad apple spoils the barrel." On a larger scale, like that of a project or a business it is time to go over what success and failure came out of the plan and decide what to keep for the next cycle. On more macrocosmic level it is a time to look over what your life has been like and what you have learned from your lessons recently so you can meet new challenges with a full understanding of what you already know.

I've been feeling the energies of the Sorting Moon in a very real and insistent way. I have been on a serious stuff purge this last week. I have sent bags of stuff to the thrift store donation center and composted or tossed a fair amount of stuff out of my fridge and cupboards as well. A core principle of both Waldorf Education and Quakerism - two movements I've been finding a lot of inspiration from lately - is simplicity of living. People are often drawn to Waldorf education because of all the beautiful things like wooden play kitchens and hand knit toys. All of these things are, indeed, lovely but Rudolph Steiner was quite adamant that the best things for children to play with were natural, found materials. Quakers can also get bogged down in stuff, though those do tend to be things like books or free trade coffee varieties. Both Quakers and Waldorf teachers know that a house or room full of things is not very conducive to being present, calm or creative. Just last night I cleared off a shelf in my bedroom that had become cluttered with junk. When I got home from work today I felt a great sense of peace just looking at that shelf. Like a part of my brain that had previously been busy looking at all that stuff now got to rest and just be.

I've also been thinking about junk and treasure in a larger perspective - my whole life. Carrie over at The Parenting Passageway is adamant that a family vision statement helps families stay on the right track of mindful parenting and not get tossed around by fads or urgent but less important things. Steven Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says that a personal mission statement gives us a foundation to make "daily decisions in the midst of the circumstances and emotions that affect our lives." At first I felt really lost in the idea of writing a personal vision statement but a few google hits later and I had some good ideas. My favorite resource has been another Steven Covey website, the Franklin Covey Mission Statement Builder. Its free and appears to have no strings attached and most importantly, is good. It walks you through some really deep questions about your life and gives you a good rough draft of a personal statement.

The next step is the real Sorting Moon work; taking all those words and values and thoughts and winnowing them down into a concise piece you can really live with. I've been working on mine for days and am not down to a one page letter yet. Its a process of deciding what is really important and that is hard work. During the summer we were washed in the light of the universe as we worked and played outside. As the days get shorter and colder it is appropriate to bring the spiritual insights gleaned to work at this gargantuan task of identifying what is really important in our lives.

There is that old saying in self help circles that you shouldn't keep anything that isn't useful, beautiful or loved. It may sound cliche, but I think it is a useful measuring tool for deciding what really is worth holding on to. This time of year even the trees are getting rid of the outworn and unnecessary. What are you sorting out this month?
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The photos show of the pure simplicity found inside traditional Quaker meeting houses. The top photo, taken by Pete Reed, is of the Jordans Meeting House in the U.K. The second photo is of the Ramallah Meeting House in the Palestinian West Bank, one of the only Quaker Meetings in the middle east. The photo is by delayed gratification. Please check out these photographers' other photos.

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