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.”