Sweeping Out What Weighs You Down.

361 © Jed Smith, Watercolor

The problem is, most of what weighs us down is hidden from our conscious minds.

That’s what I’ve realized recently, with growing alarm. My usual strategy when I’ve felt overwhelmed is purging excess stuff…material stuff. I’ve even reached for Marie Kondo’s “The LIfe Changing Magic of Tidying Up” hoping that would be the fix (she even has a Netflix series). Sure, there is bountiful wisdom there, but as with many things in life, our outer accumulations mirror our inner accumulations—physical, mental and emotional. If you’re like me, you might feel a brief respite from a sense of heaviness by paring down your belongings and making multiple trips to Goodwill or the local dump. But, often a heaviness returns because we haven’t looked deeper and seen that we’re hoarders of so many other things.

Hoarders aren’t just those sad people we see featured in reality TV.

I am so guilty of cringing at stories of people with a gazillion cats, and a mini Manhattan of towering piles of just about everything. “I’m so lucky I’m not like those people,” I say smugly to myself, without realizing I’ve been committing hoarding on a more insidious level. This isn’t a cloud-parting revelation. No, it’s been coming steadily on in the few years with greater volume. Read my post Exploring the Rich Potential of Spaciousness and you’ll see this isn’t a new theme for me.

What the heck does hoarding have to do with building a life in Italy?

It has to do with hoarding experiences and being on a tear to cram as much into my life here as possible. It’s kind of like having a bucket list on steroids. When you come to Italy, either to live or to visit, it’s so easy to do. For me it often manifests in trying to build a stockpile of stories for ItalyWise instead of relaxing and letting the stories come organically. Ironically, the stories of real substance actually come at me with greater frequency when I don’t try to manhandle the process. Hmmm….is there a lesson there?

For other people, I see countless people fall prey to cramming an unreasonable amount of stops into their Italy itineraries. I get short of breath just hearing about such do-it-all whirlwind trips. How can there be a chance to let experiences really settle in? How do we savor the tastes of the experiences like slowly chewing and enjoying a delicious meal?

No, it’s more important to many people to add notches to their belts that they’ve done something rather than really be present for the experiences.

Why the hurry?

I’m questioning myself more and more. Why is there an underlying angst in my gut like the crack of a riding crop to keep me at a steady gallop? I’ve usually taken that uncomfortable feeling as a necessary prodding towards achievement and accomplishment. Now, I’m realizing that feeling is a signal that I’m grabbing and hoarding to reach a future idealized state in which I will have arrived at the top of the heap having won all the marbles from the game of life.

Then I find myself in that dreaded state of too much stuff and not enough space—not ideal for traveling light in this crazy, confusing thing called life.

Then there are the selfies.

I’m not just talking about the photographic kind. Again, I’m right at the front of the line of being judgmental of people so so intent on capturing pictures of themselves in places like Venice to somehow hold onto an experience. Meanwhile, I miss the “selfing” that can be a personal excess by constantly being caught up in thoughts about myself and thinking I’m the only qualified person to be master of the universe.

When you think about how to get rid of the clutter in your life you do you consider excessive, runaway thinking as clutter? For me I’m realizing that it is the biggest opportunity for housecleaning. And this housecleaning is not about my rolling up my shirtsleeves and going to war with myself and my conditioning. No, my “broom” is being quiet, becoming still and creating space to be aware of machinations of a mind that feeds on itself. I’m learning to not engage, to just watch. Then things change.

The power of fasting.

Western culture doesn’t really teach of the wisdom of giving our minds, our hearts, and our bodies a break. Just recently have I discovered the power of this age-old practice. Before, I simply dismissed it as a practice of religious fanaticism. When my Sunday school teacher would tell the story about Jesus going into the wilderness and fasting for forty days and forty nights, I’d think to myself, “That’s crazy!” I had no concept that such a practice might give a person the opportunity to reset and let stored up accumulations work their way out.

Fast forward to today as I’ve been reading up on how intermittent fasting can break us out of ingrained eating patterns and cravings while encouraging a powerful process called autophagy. For a quick overview, check out this Healthline link.  Simply put, autophagy usually kicks in after twelve to fourteen hours of fasting (it can be enhanced by exercise). The body depletes its glucose stores and starts searching the body for residual excess and burns it as fuel. It can trigger periodic self-cleaning if done properly.

Everyone is different so embarking on such a practice is best done when consulting with a wise medical professional. I can say for me the effects have been pretty dramatic in seeing my body transform as it slowly makes visible the “taking out of the trash.”

Might it boil down to the power of taking a break?

Becoming still, sitting in silence (aka meditation) is like fasting for a mind that has been gorging on itself. I think about all the “stuff” lodged in my mind, all the stuff I’ve packed away while piling more stuff on top. Geez, it’s no wonder that so many of us burn out our throttles and end up reaching for superficial fixes to feel good. We end up self-medicating in countless ways when a powerful therapy that cost nothing is at our fingertips, saying “less is more.”









By |2019-01-24T13:57:21+01:00January 24th, 2019|Paintings Posts, Personal musings|20 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. Image Earth Travel February 20, 2019 at 11:31 am - Reply

    An excellent read Jed!

    Lately, I’ve been seeing so much on social media and friend’s mentioning intermittent fasting and really must try.

    Although I have to mention that with a mother that was a certified Naturopath back in the 1970s when still considered Witch Craft, she put me on regular fasts as an adolescent – I was her Guinea Pig child. I remember a fruit and vegetable juice fast for 14 days – I lost a lot of weight, but then put it all back on after coming off the fast – it was supposed to be more of a detox and not a diet.

    • Jed February 20, 2019 at 2:17 pm - Reply

      Yes, there are cleanses called “fasts” but a true fast is either water/tea/black coffee only or nothing at all (how a person can do a one or two “dry” fast is beyond me). Cleanse are awesome too!

  2. Chip Meeks January 26, 2019 at 11:04 pm - Reply

    Jed, good! Anutha ‘gin! Thanks. Intermittent fasting helped me unload about 20 lbs. of “stuff” over the past 10 months only to let me gather 10 lbs of it back over Christmas holidays! Keep taking care of yourself and sharing your thoughts and sights! Have a great weekend!

    • Jed January 30, 2019 at 5:15 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Chip. I’m down about 20 lbs. myself. Already I’m sleeping better. The gym at 6 x a week is helping too. I’m determined not to drag an ailing bag of bones to my grave! I plan to blow past 100 with gusto! Always great hearing from you!

  3. Nicole January 25, 2019 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    A great and timely post/reflection – you always come up with these wonderful pearls of wisdom when I am going through endless thinking, doing, etc. Thanks for posting info on autophagy. p.s. your new website looks great! xoxo

    • Jed January 30, 2019 at 5:14 pm - Reply

      Glad you like the redesigned and reimagined site. Loads more work to do! We all work to keep each other supported in this crazy trip through life, don’t we? i’m determined not to arrive at my deathbed burdened with unnecessary stuff and with my head in the sand. So great seeing you when I was in CA! xoxoxo Jed

  4. Kevin January 24, 2019 at 11:45 pm - Reply

    Jed, this is truly one of your greatest posts yet! My mind was throwing sparks as I read to the end. I feel as though you described my current state perfectly! The idea that we hoard so much beyond material just material possessions is something I will be chewing on for a long time. You put this out at a time that really hits home. As Amy and I start this new year… with a look towards moving to Italy in 2020…there is a much more intense awareness of all that we’ve accumulated and what digging out might look like as we proceed. There will be a large effort towards “unburdening” ourselves of both a large household (almost hoard) and the proverbial warehouse filled with the “inner accumulations” of which you speak. We will be living this post….digging out….in more ways than one! Such an amazing share….and well timed! Bravi! Tropo buono mio amico!

    • Jed January 25, 2019 at 10:36 am - Reply

      Thanks, Kevin. This one has been percolating for the last couple of weeks. Writing it only exposed additional hidden reservoirs of internal clutter and “doing.” I feel the familiar internal response of going to the wrestling mat with myself thinking “I’ve got to fix this,” when the real power truly is in seeing such conditioning in the light of awareness. Gulp. Piano, piano…

  5. Nancy LeMaster January 24, 2019 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    “We grow up to get out of our own way.” What a sage comment to Kathryn and to me. Thanks again for sharing.

    • Jed January 25, 2019 at 10:09 am - Reply

      It’s quite the journey, isn’t it, Nancy? Good to know we have such a great network of friends who understand and support one another as we stumble out way through waking up.

  6. CAROLYN DICKEY January 24, 2019 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    Thank you for your heart felt introspection. Having been brought up with a strong “work ethic” it has been difficult to give myself permission to veg out (words once said by a dear friend of mine many years ago) I know she was saying that we should at times lie like a vegetable, quite, inert and peaceful. That was about 30 years ago and I am just beginning to catch on. Thanks for nudging me along, Carolyn

    • Jed January 24, 2019 at 8:14 pm - Reply

      I love rediscovering that phrase! Vegging out isn’t something we’re taught to do so much. I love the power and paradox of the less obvious path! Thanks for writing, Carolyn!

  7. Linda Jenkins January 24, 2019 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    Jed: Wise words, as always, Jed. And oh so necessary here in the States right now as we buckle up and see where this insane political siege is going to take us. I’m having trouble writing right now (even though I have a manuscript to complete) and was having this exact conversation with Tim and his sister yesterday. Oh for a little clearing out and peace. Thank you! Linda

    • Jed January 24, 2019 at 4:53 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Linda! Yes, a timely topic that is being played out on multiple stages. Always great to hear from you!

  8. Angela Paladino January 24, 2019 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    Super timely for me. Actually described behavior I’ve been exhibiting re taking everything to Goodwill! Thanks for your thoughtfulness.

    • Jed January 24, 2019 at 4:51 pm - Reply

      I’m glad this resonated with you, Angela! I’m still learning a lot about how much I really need and it’s far less than I’d ever imagined!

  9. Kathryn Smith January 24, 2019 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    As always, you give me so much to think about. I am guilty of everything you describe!

    • Jed January 24, 2019 at 4:49 pm - Reply

      The human condition! We grow up to get out of our own way.

  10. Kit January 24, 2019 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    Perfect timing. Let’s catch up soon. ❤️

    • Jed January 24, 2019 at 4:48 pm - Reply

      Look forward to it, my friend!

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