Can I Strip Down Now?
My mother-in-law, Melba, was a proud Southern woman, having spent her first 78 years in South Carolina. Dignity and humor were her hallmarks. When the end of her days drew near, we arranged for hospice in our home. The day before she died, she was in and out of clarity. In one of her last lucid periods, we were gathered around her bed. My wife told her she was in hospice care and she didn’t need to worry about getting up anymore.
This information startled Melba, and it slowly morphed into relief: “You mean I don’t have to get up to go to the bathroom?” No you don’t. She then asked: “I don’t have to eat or drink anymore?” Not if you don’t want to. “Can I strip down now?” as she pulled at her clothing. Sure, we can take off whatever you like.
In this conversation we witnessed Melba letting go of all unnecessary encumbrances. It’s as if she was throwing off the final baggage of life to lighten her dying, and, in her mind and faith, to ease her passage to heaven.
That scene and conversation have come to my mind many times, especially when I become aware of all the baggage that I accumulate. Stuff, files, “to do” lists, paper clips, business cards, thoughts, beliefs, assumptions. Each of them adds an ounce or two of weight to the psychic backpack that I haul around with me day and night.
Every once in while I give myself permission, or am guided by another wise soul, to let something go. I’m slowly realizing that one of Melba’s last questions should be one of my first: “Can I strip down now?”
- Can I let go of some unessential, time-consuming task and focus on work that is more life-giving and important?
- Can I see through the fog of my tired beliefs and mental judgments to the light of a wider and wiser perspective?
- Can I take 15 minutes to declutter that closet or desk?
- Can I step out of the hamster wheel of business and align with what matters most to me?
Many (perhaps most?) of the complications we trip over in life and work are self-induced. How do we uncover these life impediments?
- The first step is to pause and reflect on what is encumbering you. What clutter, life-patterns, beliefs, resentments, etc., sap you of energy?
- Next, which one of these can you address and release today? Trying to take on too much will overwhelm you. Go with baby steps.
- Lastly, find some way to track this stripping down process, both the things you want to work on and the successes you have in letting go: journal your process, make a phone note, do a vision board or collage, start your day with a “stripping down” intention, and end it with a gratitude exercise for what you have released.
Stripping down is both an ancient spiritual practice and it is the rage in contemporary psychological study. Our Course is Spiritual Growth and Guidance will be a deep dive into the personal practices and wisdom sources that support this liberating work. CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE about our course that starts in September.
And in the meantime, YES! You can strip down now!