Four Rooms

As a college professor, April/May is ridiculous. (See my previous post about some of this.) I’m on the other side of the semester now – exams given, grades done, graduation attended – but there is still much to do. Summer isn’t exactly “time off.” I supervise classes, teach a MBA course, deal with a variety of reports and assessments, prep for the fall semester based on those reports and assessments – you know, work. (Anyone who snidely tells a teacher at any level, “Must be nice to have summers off” deserves to get slapped with a trout, in my opinion.) However, summer does run at a slower pace, no doubt about it. Furthermore, it’s been a woolydoozer of a year. That’s all I’ll say about that here – take me out for pastry and I’ll spill the tea, but suffice it to say that I’ve gotten a Master Course in Priorities.

I can always tell when I’m off-center by how my house looks and how I eat. I love the house my husband and I are building this stage of our life in and I enjoy taking care of it. And I feel better when I eat better. But lately – whoa, Nelly! Things thrown about, piles of stuff on piles of stuff, very little good food in the house and way too much junk drugstore candy. Long ago, I learned to take a look around the destruction and do a quick evaluation – am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? (“HALT” for those of you keeping score at home.) Address whatever issue arises as soon as you identify it, then you can go to work on the deeper problems. (Note – it’s a surprisingly effective tool. Don’t keep pushing through if any of these triggers have been tripped. Just. Don’t.)

The British writer Rumer Godden lived in India for a good portion of her life and became acquainted with an Indian proverb that says “Everyone is a house of four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time, but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.” The first time I came across this quote, I literally stopped in my tracks. I have not been keeping my rooms aired out – not at all. Realizing this, over the last three or so days, I’ve been making far more of an effort. I do not demand that I fix everything that got so out of whack by Thursday – it took a while to get this off-track and it’ll take a while to get back to living a calm life that puts emphasis on the truly important things.

Do this slowly. For example, I’ve taken two days to clean my dresser. It’s topped with this gorgeous handmade quilted runner that my sister-in-law made for me. Yesterday, I took everything off, washed the runner, and hung it up to dry. Today, I IRONED it (anyone who knows me just staggered back in disbelief), dusted and cleaned everything, and reassembled the top of my dresser. And I love every bit of it!

Don’t try to do everything at once. You’re airing out your four rooms, not trying to set up housekeeping.

Here is my challenge, to myself and to you. For the next four weeks, keep track of your “rooms.” Pay attention to them all and walk into each of them every day. Make yourself a little chart to help you monitor your progress. Mark your successes, dwell not on your missed opportunities. (I suggest colorful stickers to help you!)

Here are some suggestions to begin your daily visits to each room:

Physical – Cook with good-quality ingredients, nurture plants and animals, tidy your clothing and belongings so you enjoy what you wear and what you see. Exercise in the sunshine (with sunscreen!), drink plenty of fresh water. Buy flowers. Bathe and savor the feeling of being submerged in warm water. In other words, be cozy.

Mental – Read. All sorts of things. Try poetry or a memoir. Maybe a cozy mystery or fantasy. (Maybe even try a book in another language – I’m at the Babar the Elephant level of French.) Play games. Cards, puzzles, and board games with friends can all challenge your brain. In other words, be alert.

Emotional – This one can be scary, as we are often conditioned to ignore and suppress our feelings. How we feel – even if it’s a strong emotion like sadness or anger – is an excellent barometer of how closely we are living our values. Be willing to both explore and express your emotions – write a note, prepare a gift, notice your breathing. In other words, be heart-filled.

Spiritual – Begin your day with a few minutes (even if it’s only five) of dedicated reflection. Light a candle if you like. Do not have your phone with you. You may want to read thoughtful inspirational words at this time (I deeply enjoy Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea and I connect with Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Romancing the Ordinary. This is also a great time to prioritize friends you intend to connect with today, whether that is in person, through text, and so on. In other words, be present.

I’ll check in with you next week! Go forth and live with savoir faire!





One response to “Four Rooms”

  1. Jennifer Faircloth Avatar
    Jennifer Faircloth

    So enjoyed reading this. Thanks so much for the inspiration.

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