Cleaning house

Photo by Kaiton via Creative Commons

Three simple suggestions:

Trust in yourself.

You have all the tools you need to handle everything life sends your way.

Clear away the clutter in your life.

Three suggestions offered gently and pragmatically by Geri Larkin, author and Zen Buddhist teacher.

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing a talk by Larkin. She is the founder of Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple in the heart of Detroit. She also has written at least seven inspirational books. She is also indirectly responsible for guiding me away from becoming a raving lunatic or a raging alcoholic or both. She couldn’t take credit. She doesn’t even know. But it’s true.

Larkin left Detroit five years ago and now lives a quieter  life in Oregon. She returned in May to help Still Point celebrate its 10th anniversary.  In telling her story to those gathered, she pointed out that — surprise — nothing turned out as she had planned. Larkin once lived a life of privilege. She once was a highly successful, albeit stressed to the limit, mover and shaker in corporate America. She had it all. Or, did she? A search for stress relief led her to the path that ultimately changed her life.

Trust in yourself.

She told those of us gathered that one of her goals in Michigan was to build a beautiful retreat center. She envisioned something serene and inviting tucked away on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Despite numerous efforts to get her plan going, bureaucracy and karma got in the way. Instead, all her money spent, she found herself standing in front of a Victorian-era duplex in the inner city of Detroit. Hardly an enticing destination.

You have all the tools you need.

Turns out, the old building was not what she envisioned, but it was where she needed to do her work. During her tenure, Larkin and temple members transformed the building and grounds into a center of peace and learning. Today, the temple stands as a quiet refuge in a noisy, troubled city.

Clear away the clutter in your life.

Larkin suggested that we just might be happier with less rather than more. She challenged us to clean house, literally and spiritually. She asked us to be less attached to our “stuff” and more generous with the world.

After reading about Still Point, her students, and the many visitors to the temple, I had to see for myself if the in-the-flesh Larkin would radiate as much energy  and wisdom as her prose does on the page. Oh, yes she does. Larkin has an energy about her, an optimism tempered with realism, that makes you believe anything is possible. She’s all at once funny, witty, self-deprecating and tough as nails. She doesn’t even want you to take her word for it. She offers suggestions but asks that you see for yourself. If it doesn’t work, find something else that does.

Although she swears she gets crabby like the rest of us, has her bad hair days, I see a woman who strives to live each moment as if it  were a slice of the sweetest, richest piece of chocolate cake ever baked.

She likes her chocolate.

Check out The Chocolate Cake Sutra: Ingredients for a Sweet Life or many of Larkin's other books on

Speaking of cleaning and simplifying, Hand Wash Cold by Karen Maezen Miller is on my must-read list for the summer. I have yet to get my hands on a copy, although I've read excerpts online.

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