He started out by exhorting us to go around the house and make a list of little things that need fixing - dripping faucet, squeaky screen door, peeling paint on the windows - and then get them fixed. After a few minutes of talk of this sort, someone raised a hand and asked, "Excuse me, but how is this supposed to help me with spiritual well-being? This doesn't sound very spiritual!"
"Ah, but this is the prep work," said the coach. "Before you can do the inner work, you need to get rid of all the little irritations and guilt-producers on the outside. You need to get out from under all the stuff that hangs over your head, some of it literally. Get your physical house in order to prepare for getting your spiritual house in order."
Some of my classmates seemed to remain skeptical, but I totally understood where this coach was coming from. I suffer from a general sense of frustration and anxiety about little things that need fixing, and they pick at me when I don't take care of them. (And I often don't. I'm not handy and neither is anyone else who lives in this house.) I feel my life getting smaller and smaller and can feel myself starting to be hemmed in by the effort it takes to either ignore or work around those little things.
The coach went on to say that vagueness is an enemy. Which is why we make the list that includes everything, from tightening screws to replacing rotten wood. He was right. Vagueness allows us to feel overwhelmed (everything is broken!), which leads to getting off track or even giving up altogether. Some of us may be able to ignore all that and tend to inner work, but many of us end up feeling uneasy and filled with a a sense of low-level but constant distractedness and must get it out of the way. Certainly, I do.
I can't listen for God when I'm listening to squeaks and drips and that little voice in my head nagging and chastising me for not getting things fixed.
So, I am thrilled that I have someone who's working on stuff that needs fixing at my house in the coming days. We made a list. I can feel the burden beginning to lift, already, and he hasn't even started the work!