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Remodeling Your Life, the Not So Big Way

August 2, 2017

By Sarah Susanka, FAIA 

Ten years ago I came out of the spiritual closet.  For all of my adult life, my actions in my everyday world have been informed by a deep interest in what life is here to teach me.  But until 2007, when The Not So Big Life was published–my eighth book in the Not So Big series–I hadn’t revealed the importance of this heretofore private world that was so much a part of my own life’s journey.  Most people at that time knew me as the bestselling author of The Not So Big House series, as well as a nationally recognized architect.  But the way I thought of myself was first and foremost as a student of life.

I knew without a shadow of a doubt that had I not been focused upon my own inner growth, none of my writings and other successes would have come into being.  Whether or not I was well known was not the point for me.  My interest was in living a life that was authentic, informed by the things I loved, and by what was being experienced directly in each moment.  I knew that that was where the vibrancy of life existed, and that’s what was important to me.

What keeps us from ourselves

In just the same way that it takes years of practice before an architect is able to design a building that moves people with its form and character, it takes just as much, if not more, practice to be able to let go of the ideas we have about who we think we are supposed to be, so that we can start living our full potential.  It is a little understood truth that what keeps us from living our dreams and natural capacities is that pesky personality structure that each one of us has spent so much time shaping and refining.  ‘It’ (the personality) thinks that it’s protecting us, and helping us to get what we want, when in fact ‘It’ is the very thing that is keeping us stuck in a back eddy of life, wondering why the world is not cooperating with our wishes.

Most people have no idea that this personality is not who you are.  It’s simply a collection of conditioned patterns and hidden beliefs that have shaped the way you experience and process everything you do, say and experience.  The truth of who you are is something vastly more than that, but until we begin this adventure to observe ourselves and our firmly held beliefs and buried fears, we can’t even begin to sniff that greater potential.

A life remodeling

So, after many years of my own inner journey, I decided ten years ago that it was time to describe in book form the process that I myself had been engaged in for so many years, working with a number of teachers in the art of living more consciously.  It’s a process that I refer to in The Not So Big Life as a life remodeling.  We all desperately need one, and this process is intended to give readers some tools to engage in their own life remodeling.

If you read the Introduction and First Chapter of the book, (which you can find here: you’ll see that the process is laid out very similarly to the way one would go about a house remodeling – by doing such things as identifying what isn’t working, removing the clutter, noticing what inspires you, and removing some walls to open things up a bit.

Although working through the steps of your own life remodeling does take some work and serious dedication, when you are earnest about the journey, and willing to look at yourself with objectivity and curiosity, life starts to shift very quickly as you learn to let go of ideas that have been keeping you stuck, many times without your even being aware they are there.  (This TEDx talk, named “Life’s Invisible Feast,” which I gave a few years ago, gives a taste of what’s possible as one learns to look with the eyes of a student at everything that happens in our lives).

As we become more aware of our individual programming, the amount of suffering we experience is dramatically reduced because we no longer believe that all our conditioned patterns define us. What we come to see is that our thoughts are the architects of our world, and when we learn to recognize the fears that have caused us to identify with those particular thoughts, our world can shift in ways we could never have imagined.

Every one of us has so much more potential than we are living, so much capacity to live more fully and to quietly and capably perform the function that is our natural expression. All that’s required is our attention in learning how to let go of what we are NOT, so that we can realize what we ARE, and have in fact always been.

Invitation to Attend a Not So Big Life Workshop

If what you’ve read here interests you, I encourage you to read or listen to the book, of course, but I also invite you to join me for The Not So Big Life Workshop, which I teach every summer at Duke Integrative Medicine.  This year the dates for the workshop are over Labor Day weekend, from Thursday August 31st through Saturday September 2nd, 2017. (

There are few things more transformative in life than these opportunities to share in the process of self-discovery, when we gather as a group with collective intention toward that end. I look forward to meeting you, either at this workshop, a future workshop, or wherever our paths may cross.

I’ve put together a short video that tells a bit more about what to expect, which you’ll find here:

To learn more and to purchase the book or audio book, visit:


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