Stop to smell the black-eyed Susans: De-cluttering my brain and my life

“Take short walks in the park down a happy trail.”
– Zen Master Rama


Before I owned a gym, I was a teacher. My area of specialty was emergent curriculum and what is commonly known as the Reggio Emilia approach. The schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy are famous for many things, one of which is seeing the environment as the third teacher.

Everything in the classroom is there for a reason. There is nothing extra, everything has a purpose. And, it is all beautiful.

So, I learned a long time ago that your physical environment is, in a sense, everything.

Recently, I’ve remembered how important this is.

Nick and I redid the gym and got rid of everything we didn’t need. We made things flow better, we took down the junk hanging on the walls, we even eliminated music. We “fung shui-ed” the place. Made it more “Zen.”

We are doing this at our house also. We revamped the home gym space. We started moving furniture. The goal is to give every room a purpose, eliminate clutter, and make each space a pleasant place to be.

It’s amazing how this eliminates stress.

I have enough clutter in my brain.

I don’t need it in my physical environment.

When an environment is beautiful and inviting, it makes you want to stay there. You relax. You get more work done.

Our new “office” is Waking Life Espresso in West Asheville, which is not far from the gym. We refer to it as “the Zen coffee shop.”

I’m sitting at Waking Life now as I type this. There is something about this place, and it’s not just the fact that it has amazing hand-brewed coffee. The décor is simple. It is all light wood and soft white lamps. You can’t feel stressed when you are working here. We’ve decided that anyone who comes into this coffee shop and gets angry must be an asshole. There’s no other explanation.

Working here helps me declutter my brain. There are too many things rattling around in my head.

Working here helps me breathe and feel okay in the moment.

I said to Nick the other day, “I feel like we are always rushing.” We are constantly rushing from one thing to the next. Take the kids to camp, eat, work, pick up the kids, head to the gym. Rush, rush, rush.

So, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I want less stress. I want less rushing. I want to be okay in the moment.

Then, this morning on Facebook, a story popped up in my News Feed. You should read it. The Day I Stopped Saying ‘Hurry Up” by Rachel Macy Stafford.

I realized that it’s not just me who feels rushed. My kids probably always feel rushed. And, worse than that, I’m training them to rush, to never be satisfied in the moment, to always look forward to what’s happening next instead of what’s happening now.

I realized that one of the most common expressions I hear from them is “When can we go?” as if what is currently happening is unimportant and will obviously be eclipsed by whatever is next. Then, the next thing happens, and I hear “When can we go? Can we go NOW?”

Never satisfied with the now. Always looking for the next best thing.


This morning, I was already running through the day in my mind before we left the house – take my daughter to camp, take my son to camp, get the oil changed, eat, work (insert 100 things to be checked off the work list), pick up my daughter, drop her off, go home and let the dog out, start packing for our trip…

And so on.

I felt rushed and stressed before we even got in the car.

As we drove, I looked over at Nick and I saw the same thing in his face. I could only guess the list of things running through his head, but I am sure it was as long as mine.

We dropped off my son at camp and started driving so that I could get an oil change to avoid my car exploding on our drive down to Florida.

I already knew what I was going to do before I did it.

Instead of continuing on to Merrimon Avenue, I turned left and stopped in a gravel parking lot.

Nick looked up at me wondering where we were and why I had stopped in this particular parking lot.

The Botanical Gardens of Asheville.

I said, “Walk with me?”

So, we got out of the car and took a walk through the Botanical Gardens.

There were a million black-eyed Susans. A plant called The Devil’s Walking Stick. Moss covered stones. Birds chirping.

We stood at one of the bridges for a minute and listened to the water rushing.

We sat on a wooden bench.

And, then we walked back to the car and continued on with our day – a little less stressed and a little less rushed than we had been 15 minutes before.

Author: Tamara Reynolds

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  1. I loved this.

    And yes, our stop to walk was a great move. I’ve lived my entire life within easy distance of the sounds of water – mountain rivers, the ocean, rain.

    Pausing on the bridge to watch/listen to water helps remind me to be more like the water.

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    • Funny, I originally thought this post was going to be more about water and Bruce Lee because that’s what I was thinking as we stood on the bridge.

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  2. Mark your calendars folks. Tamara just used the phrase “the now” without a whit of irony. 🙂 Great post though. Jayme and I got rid of our truck when we moved to Indiana, and I’ve really been enjoying the more relaxed pace that it makes room for. Going to a friend’s house? 20 minute walk, enjoying the flowers both ways.

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    • You wouldn’t even recognize me, Cliff! It’s a whole new world (cue Aladdin music…).

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