“The biggest thing I did is clear my schedule, leaving a few empty spaces in my days to do nothing. By making this space, everything has seismically shifted for the better. All because I started doing less. Resting more. Finishing one thing at a time. Don’t forget that the space between all the ‘doing’ is a wellness practice in itself.” ~ Dana Claudat
Up until late last year, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, busily ticking things off my endless to-do lists. I had gotten swept away in “doing” and had lost myself in the process. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I was hiding behind the busy. I had let go of many of my wellness practices because I just didn’t have the time. I had worn my busy-ness like a status symbol (as Brene Brown calls it). I was hiding from the revealing of self, from the changes this uncovering would require of me. If I kept up the 100 mile an hour pace, it wouldn’t catch me and I could continue to hide in motion and pat myself on the back for all that I was accomplishing. What was the “it” I was running from? I didn’t exactly know, but I was becoming increasingly unsettled, edgy, restless. I was finding mundane and pointless distractions tedious. It was becoming clear that a major shift was about to take place.
So, my monastic nature kicked in and I went into a period of solitude. To the outside world, it looked like depression, but it wasn’t. Sure, there was a mixture of sadness and anger, sometimes rather intense, but mostly it was about just sitting still. I was allowing all my feelings to run through me without the knee-jerk reaction of avoidance. I didn’t label them bad or wrong. I just let them be. I isolated myself quite a bit from the outside world and returned to my meditation practice with the renewed enthusiasm only suffering can induce. I observed my ego-mind and marvelled at how crazy it was. I listened to the compelling stories it told and became almost convinced they were true.
But then my heart-mind came forward and spoke loud and clear. It was time to stop resisting the shift that was going to happen, regardless of my resistance. It was time to show up for what was truly important in my life and stop hiding behind the busy-ness. I needed to release the story I’d been telling myself, which was that my value was tied up in my doing and accomplishments. So I cracked open the door and allowed a little light to come in. Each day I opened the door a little more. As more light came in, the ego-mind shrank back and eventually became small enough to hold in my arms. I kissed it goodnight and let it go back to what I hope is a good, long sleep.
The shift that finally came wasn’t a big lightening bolt… it was as gentle and quiet as a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. I felt a little disoriented and unsure of myself, but much lighter. I felt unsteady, insecure, out of place, but somehow more liberated. Will I find peace in this new version of my life? Which of my friends and family will remain by my side and who will drift away? What unnecessary baggage will I need to let go of to become truly open and free? Can I practise non-attachment and still be madly in love with my husband and kids? Can I practise groundlessness and still be grounded? Can I practise curiosity and remain open to new ideas without becoming fixed and rigid? Can I keep my heart open in the face of anger and fear? Can I be the calm eye in the storm, as my mother used to say?
I will endeavour to open up the space in between all the doing and be like the tree in the picture above. I will protect the space where my wellness practices live and let go of the idea that everything has to be done right now or the sky will fall. Of course, there is important stuff to do that when completed actually brings a healthy sense of accomplishment and reduces future drama and stress, like paying your bills on time and keeping your house tidy. But allowing myself to become mired down and overwhelmed makes me far less effective and efficient anyway, so what’s the point? I’m starting to see that multi-tasking is not the most effective path. Sure, I can do many things at once, but they’re done half-assed. I think it makes more sense to mindfully do one thing at a time and do it well.
So far this year, I’ve managed to create space in between work, appointments and family activities to nurture myself. I meditate every morning. I journal. I exercise. I get a massage. I take a cat nap if I need one. I spend time with my family and friends. I make time for listening to and learning from my teachers. I read. I don’t make excuses when I don’t want to do something… I just say, “No, thank you.” I tell the truth because it’s easier to remember. And you know what? All the stuff I’m not getting done as timely as I would like, is not throwing the Earth off its axis. It’s still sitting there in my in-box and patiently waiting for me. I’ve found if something really needs to be done, it will get done. If it doesn’t get done, well, it must not have been that essential in the first place. On my deathbed, I won’t regret all the crap I didn’t get done. I will regret all the time I wasted trying to get everything done instead of spending my precious time loving my tribe and taking better care of my heart, mind and body.
So, my new mantra is…. “Serenity is found in the space in between.”