The first time I went on a cruise I experienced a big surprise – using the Internet was very expensive. I therefore decided to use it sparingly, which meant emails were seriously rationed and texts were non-existent. No Facebook, Twitter or phone calls for me! I was also determined not to waste precious time on shore looking for an Internet café.

So, how was I going to use this golden, technology-silent opportunity?

The pristine beauty of the glaciers and the wild ruggedness of the Alaskan scenery was a perfect setting for contemplation. But I noticed during the first few days that my thoughts were cluttered with useless information or unresolved issues. I would suddenly find myself thinking back to some old encounter or worrying about some future event.

Those mental invaders were interfering with my natural joy and peace. It was definitely time to spring clean my mental space.

Many of us experience moments when mental clutter intrudes. We could be in the midst of a peaceful moment of prayer, or beginning a meditation or favourite yoga position, when suddenly the urge to make a ‘to do’ list occurs, or we find ourselves worrying about the kids or work. Worse still, feelings of guilt or self-criticism creep into our space.

This messy mental atmosphere can lead to stress-related illnesses and depression. Chronic guilt and self-doubt have both been linked to cancer and heart disease.

The results from a study at Princeton University Neuroscience Institute on the effect of a cluttered physical environment offered an interesting observation on the problem. Putting it in layman’s terms, the article said:

“When your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus. The clutter also limits your brain’s ability to process information. Clutter makes you distracted and unable to process information as well as you do in an uncluttered, organized, and serene environment.”

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Once we become aware of the impact that cluttered thinking has when it invades our prayer or reflective time, how can we clean it up? Is there a deep cleanser that really tackles some of the emotions, memories and deep-seated beliefs that hide our true, confident, spiritual nature? Being someone who loves the natural approach, here is one analogy that I have found helpful.

If you have ever owned a glass-lined thermos that keeps your coffee hot, you will know how difficult it is to clean. You can buy a bottle-brush and do battle with it that way, but the easier method is to fill the bottle with hot water and add a teaspoon of baking soda. The bubbling action naturally brings all the accrued debris to the surface. And then rinsing the glass makes it literally gleam like a new bottle.

That is how I think of divine Love – as a cleanser, or spiritual solvent, washing away the debris of our accumulated mental clutter, and leaving us with a clearer, more focused idea of our spiritual identity as forever an expression of the Divine.

On that cruise I used three favourite spiritual tools that always help me in the initial stages of my mental house-cleaning.

  1. Discernment: Being more alert about what I allow into consciousness. What is influencing my thought – the human or the divine? Does it bring inspiration and clarity, or confusion and negativity?
  1. Perception: Seeing and acknowledging glimpses of the divine in consciousness, so they don’t get forgotten or lost. For example, recognizing moments of peace or joy that are present, regardless of any external event.
  1. Invitation: Inviting Love into consciousness to begin the clean up. Starting with the simple idea that one is divinely loved focuses attention on that one true fact, and allows this solvent to begin its work.

Will those intrusive thoughts cease? Maybe not right away; but with patient and persistent use of this solvent of Love, the mental clutter does dissolve.

One does not need to go on a cruise in order to find quiet moments to enjoy a spiritual clean up. It can be practised every day, and leaves us with clearer views of the divine nature, and an unobstructed, more organized mental environment. That’s way better for our health!

This article was published in the Vancouver Sun HERE