I listen to a lot of podcasts. When I feel threatened by anxiety or pain, more often than not, I lie down and turn on a podcast that calms my nerves and settles my emotions. As I was trying to decide what to listen to last night, I was struck by a theme that runs through my podcast library: order. I have podcasts that help me order my thoughts, those on philosophy and logic. I have podcasts that help me order my language, those on grammar and etymology. I have podcasts that help me order my time, my space, my emotions, my relationships, and even my finances.
The goal of creating order is to safeguard our physical, emotional, and mental health. It can do so by helping us achieve and maintain a condition that is free from anxiety, fear, and pain. When the space around us and within us is in disarray, we are bound to feel unsafe and ill-at-ease, especially if we suffer from mental health issues or have addictive tendencies. Establishing order allows us to gain a measure of control over our environments and interactions, which helps us gain control over ourselves. Feeling in control can bring safe reassurance, which in turn fosters physical and mental health. Lastly, order can also help create a healthy environment that allows us to more fully use the gifts we have been given.
Ordering my space is so easy to do and has an immediate impact on my physical and mental health. I was listening to a podcast on Feng Shui, the ancient practice of arranging one’s space to maximize a sense of safety, and it struck me how certain rooms in my house make me feel especially safe or unsafe. Yet, I rarely do anything to increase my sense of safety or minimize the threat I feel. Things pile up around and under my bed, on my desk, on the floor of the closet, and on my chest-of-drawers. And as they do so, I feel increasingly threatened by the accumulated mess. I often don’t take action, however, until crisis is upon me. More often than not, there are simple steps I can take right now to order my immediate surroundings.
My language is one of the few things I have complete control over, yet it often controls me and my relationships. I repeat stories or words that sink my emotions and chain me to a painful past. I use sardonic humor and biting sarcasm that alienates those I love the most. I rarely pause a moment or two to order my words before I let them pass the barrier of my teeth.Thought, of course, is closely related to language. The more I order my words, the more structured my thoughts become, and vice versa. With very little effort, I can order or reorder the words I utter and the stories I tell myself and others.
Only I can direct or redirect the flow of my own energy. Some practices call it Chi, others call it Prana. Whatever we name it, there seems to be a life-sustaining current that flows through each of us. At times it pools or becomes blocked, especially if I make no effort to mindfully direct it or manage it. I believe that all energy is love energy. If I direct it into creative outlets, I prosper. If I fritter it away, Iam prone to feel regret, guilt, or shame. I need to develop and diligently maintain a practice of managing my energy. Perhaps it’s through prayer, yoga, Qi Kong, Reiki, or exercise.
As for ordering my time, starting the day with a simple checklist of things I need to get done and the timeframe I need to get them done in gives my day purpose and flow. I stay on task and stay productive. If I don’t organize my time and create clear, achievable daily goals, I often feel overwhelmed and adrift. I know making a daily checklist and weekly goals preprograms direction into my internal GPS system, but I don’t always have the discipline to do so.
I must also order my relationships: the relationships I have with those around me and the relationships I have with those I rent space to in my mind. I must decide who makes me feel safe and who threatens me. I must determine who helps me grow and who undermines my growth. By taking careful inventory of my relationships, I can establish clear boundaries and better determine who in my life or in my mind ennobles, inspires, and empowers me.
The sphere of emotions is the only area where the act of ordering, in a strict sense, might be, if not impossible, significantly difficult, even for the most disciplined person. Since emotions arise instinctively, I would suggest making the focus on how we respond to them. We can’t at will turn them off or put them in a queue, but we can prepare ourselves to know that certain emotions will arise and that we have a planned response when they come.
If I lack a response plan, I may feel that I am losing control and hence am unsafe. If I recognize that a certain emotion has come to visit me for a while, I can order it in the sense that I have control both over how I respond to that emotion as well as what boundaries I intentionally place on the emotion’s impact. With these two guidelines in place the emotion will not be able to affect me any more than would the arrival of an unexpected guest, who has been informed of and now knows the protocols of the house.
Even though I know ordering my space, language, energy, time, relationships, and emotions can be life sustaining, I don’t usually take the simple steps to do so. I think it’s instructive to reflect on reasons I choose not to. Perhaps a part of me is addicted to the chaos and accompanying sense of freefall. Certainly, wallowing in disorder gives my addictive self a good reason to exist and a good reason to use drugs to numb the pain or fear I feel. Perhaps it’s because I psyche myself out: I become overwhelmed by how daunting the task is to order everything in my life that I don’t even bother to order anything at all. Or maybe it’s because choosing not to order my internal and external reality also allows me to perpetuate the fallacy that I am a victim in the drama of my life.
But the upside to establishing order is so very great. I can feel safe, in control, and at ease. I can form clear boundaries around and within me. I can feel purpose and direction in my life. An ordered existence can nurture all aspects of my being and help me form a solid foundation to live a med-free life. A disordered existence is bound to unsettle me sooner than later and send me back into the sickly sweet arms of psych meds, which will gladly impose their own brand of order in my life.