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Clearing Digital Clutter as an Integration Practice

I don’t have an organized bone in my body. Any habits or patterns I possess that move away from chaos and toward organization have been hard won. And to be honest, sometimes they’ve been beaten into me while I was in silent darkness. Many of the internal challenges I’ve experienced in altered states have been the direct result of a messy environment, and many of the messages I’ve received about how to move forward had to do with organizing and simplifying my life. Learning that a clean, organized space was important for my set and setting was a revelation. But more on that later. For now I’d like to talk about clearing clutter, and, primarily, clearing digital clutter as an integration practice.

I don’t know if you’ve seen Merlin Mann’s video about “Inbox Zero” before. It’s brilliant. Inbox zero is a rigorous approach to email management aimed at keeping the inbox empty. It’s a proactive method for organizing what comes into to your live, and how you manage it. It’s meant protect your most valuable (and finite) resources of time and attention, when they are consistently attacked by an infinite onslaught of bids and demands.

We all know that our medicine experiences bring up old traumas for the purpose of healing. We sit (or dance) in darkness (or in front of a wild light show), revisit old wounds, and try to summon enough love to heal them. We also remember old gifts and kindnesses, and feel ourselves fortified with gratitude. What I’ve been experiencing cleaning out my ancient emails is not unlike this at all.  Clearing digital clutter this weekend was cathartic and purifying.

Inbox Zero Meditations

  • What do I need to let go of?
  • What have I been giving more importance than it needs to have?
  • Are there people that I need to reach out to, and express my appreciation and affection?
  • What have I been putting off, what is incomplete?
  • What emotions come up as I do this? How do I manage the loss and letting go?
  • How does my mind seek to distract me from this process
  • How can I manage the resistance to this process and stay present?

Over the summer I spend quite a bit of time unplugged. I didn’t look at my email as regularly as I usually do, and my inbox was starting to look a little bloated. I decided it was time to clear the clutter, and give inbox zero a shot. I’ve got more than one email account, but I decided to start with my Gmail account, and the Tam Integration account. Tam Integration was easy, it’s only a few months old. I registered my Gmail account in 2005, so that’s where the heavy lifting was going to happen.

I started with the low hanging fruit. Hundreds of mailing list emails with no bearing on my life. Groupon, Virgin Airlines, Yelp. Linkedin managed to get me on 7 different email lists. The Roxie Theatre, 3 accounts. I mowed down thousands. It gets trickier when real people are involved. I reviewed emails from old businesses, jobs, relationships. Looked at some bittersweet pictures, and then deleted them.

I started creating some folders. Some of my teachers got folders. I want to be able to go over their emails and teachings, so I want to keep those. They just need to be out of my inbox. A folder or two of business emails I should keep for reference. One for emails my wife sent me that I think are cute. You get the idea.

When I got down to 350 emails, I started to feel it in my body. My arms got cold and goosebumpy. I was a little panicked, and a lot excited. The emails that were left were hard to know what to do with. I might have made a mistake or two, but nothing I could not live with. I carried on.

Finally completed, I felt a weight lift off my shoulder, and sense of success. I had purified. I wanted to do this for years, but I never thought I had it in me. It was too overwhelming. But it happened, and if I can do it, you can do it.

Here’s hoping that clearing digital clutter will enable me to have an entirely new relationship with my inbox. I’d like to envision a world in which this new spaciousness allows for faster and better decision making. I’d like to hope that having my digital life cleaner and simpler will allow me to focus more on what’s important. As Merlin notes in his talk, we don’t read emails just because we like reading emails. They exist to connect us to others, and to our purpose. So here’s hoping that this practice and discipline will help me to do that. Let’s all continue to explore ways to clean up our minds and our lives so that our little psychedelic community is just an increasingly sparkly place to live.

Of course, as always, if you’d like some support on this journey towards sparkliness, reach out and we’ll talk about it.