What does it mean to keep your side of the street clean? It means being clear and self-responsible in your life and cleaning it up when you mess up.
Dog owners in New York complained at first, then got used to scooping their dog’s poop when the laws changed. Just like dog owners, it’s best not to leave your emotional poop stinking up the sidewalk for others to have to step around or step on.
That’s easier said than done. You might have inner voices that feel justified in holding a grudge, withholding affection, or feeling victimized. And other voices you picked up from your family and culture may criticize you when you do your own thing.
But somewhere in the cacophony there’s a quiet, clear voice that knows, moment by moment, what’s right for you. You can’t control which voices clamor the loudest but you can choose to prioritize the clearest one and teach the others to fall back.
It can get overwhelming to sift through the many practices that promise to improve clarity and boost freedom. Should you light a candle, sit cross-legged, and watch your breath? Should you journal in a comfy chair? Should you stand on your head and eat only vegetables? Should you run 100 miles? Should you create a despacho and bury it in the woods? What if you live in the city? How do you hear yourself in the midst of all that noise?
To simplify things, I’ve broken down the work of keeping your side of the street clean into three parts, with examples of practices that serve for each.
1. The Street Itself
A house needs to have a foundation on solid ground in order to stay standing through the storms. And (surprise, surprise) so do you. The first part of keeping your side of the street clean is investigating the ground you stand on.
You are a part of something infinitely larger that moves in, through, and as you. Whether you call it Life, Universe, Love, God, Consciousness, Emptiness, Presence, Quantum Physics, or Purple Rainbow Unicorn Star, if you currently live on shaky ground, learn to connect with and deepen your experience of that larger thing.
Here are sample practices that support you in standing on something more deep and vast than your individual self: Meditation, prayer, journaling, visioning, reading and reflecting on spiritual books, spiritual counseling, spiritual community.
I’m not saying you have to get into religion. I’m talking about cultivating a direct experience of the benevolent aliveness of the universe. When you need to, you can lean on this foundation to help you remember that whatever you’re experiencing that feels huge is a blip when seen from that perspective.
2. The Street Sweeper
The street sweeper clears a path for you to walk on the street. These practices support you in clearing your mind and letting go of stories that keep you stuck.
This doesn’t mean avoiding or bypassing your feelings, it means keeping the bigger picture of the street in mind even as you acknowledge and feel your suffering and past wounding.
The street sweeper in your mind sees both the dirt and the clear street. It knows that dirt’s a natural part of life and isn’t bad. The street sweeper also knows that clarity — without obsessing about it — feels better than staying stuck in the dirt.
Clarity allows you to revel in living at your unique address on the street.
Here are sample practices that sweep your mind: Meditation, gratitude practice, journaling, forgiveness work, working with a therapist or a coach, The Work by Byron Katie, breath work.
Read Lynne Forrest’s article on the Victim Triangle to understand how your mind pinballs between victim, perpetrator, and rescuer, a triangle that prevents you from experiencing inner freedom until you learn to step off of it.
3. The House
Your body is your house. Your body doesn’t have to be healthy for you to feel free, but it helps. Also, brain chemistry is a THING. Doing stuff to support neurotransmitter health benefits your whole system.
In thinking about your house, look at the basics, like plumbing, electrical, and structural design:
- Do you eat in a way that supports your particular digestive makeup (plumbing)? No one diet works for everyone’s body. Experiment to find the right mix of fresh food and supplements that keep your plumbing and circulation clear and your body humming with vitality.
- How’s your nervous system (electrical) doing? Does it fire appropriately or does it send too much juice through your wiring, so you short-circuit on a regular basis? Ground your electrical system with practices like limiting caffeine intake, eating enough healthy fats, taking walks outside, getting sunlight on your skin in the morning, breathing exercises, limiting smartphone and computer screen time at night, using blue-blocker glasses when you’re on the computer or under fluorescent lights for long periods of time, Epsom salt baths with 10 drops of lavender oil, and getting plenty of sleep.
- What do you do to support your muscles and bones (structure)? A combination of cardiovascular work and strength training, plus flexibility work, prolongs your mobility throughout your life. Whether you like Pilates or yoga, pumping iron or the elliptical machine, pole or belly dancing, find ways to move your body that you enjoy. Getting regular bodywork, like massage or chiropractic, also helps your house have a sound structure. If you can’t use your muscles or joints, use visualization instead to imagine your muscles contracting and joints moving.
The more you set up your body to run well with good fuel, grounding, and movement, the more clarity you have in your mind and spirit. And the more you clear your mind and expand your connection to your spirit, the more you support your body in maintaining or returning to better health and function.
Now grab your journal and do some writing on these two questions:
- Which aspect(s) of keeping your side of the street clean have you avoided in the past or find to be the hardest to connect with? As an antidote, and to expand your range, you may want to weigh your practices slightly toward that one for a while until you feel well-connected to all three.
- Do you have a favorite, so you tend toward practices that amplify that one over the other two? As an antidote, and to expand your range, you may want to reduce your practices for that one a little, and strengthen the ones you may have been ignoring, until you feel all three working in harmony.
Ultimately, if you keep your side of the street clean by tending to the street, the sweeping, and the house with attention and flexibility, you’ll be well on your way toward experiencing inner freedom and having the clarity and vitality to create a life and relationship you love.
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