I’ve been on airplanes nine times in the past three months, including teaching trips to England, Germany, Canada, and the Midatlantic Coast. In between, I’ve taught classes in my local area, seen clients, worked on my book, volunteered at my local soup kitchen, launched a video teaching series, launched an e-publishing venture, kept up with my dedicated students, dealt with some necessary fires, took an unemployed person into my home, and started an on-line class.
Last May I hit a wall with travel. I actually said, “I’m finished” and took to my bed for a day. But I still had all these trips on the books, and all this other work that I had said I would do. I got to this point after having said, around four years previous, that I needed to cut back on travel. What did I allow to happen instead? My travel increased. As these were all teaching trips, and teaching is what I love to do, I did not say no. I did not, like some business people have done, institute a “Stop Doing List”. Instead, I increased my “To Do” list, partially because I was following the vision and calling I feel so strongly, partially because I knew the structure of how I work needed to change and I had to get systems in place to support that, and partially because I’m used to rising to discipline.
That mostly worked. It also hit snags this summer, because the sheer number of things I had set myself toward and the energy required to make them happen were actually too many and too much. So I increased my exercise routine and further cleaned up my food to gather the resources required. I kept up meditation and prayers. However, I started sort of kind of not really taking a full day off. I would count working a few hours in the morning and then doing something else as a day off. I started working early and late. I cut back on the things that feed my creativity, and yet wondered why I was having such trouble getting my current book project into a shape that worked. I also wondered whether I could do more to support the Occupy movement.
I wasn’t taking my own advice. I was pushing too hard. Here was the reasoning: The problems I was encountering were all problems of privilege anyway, I have a great life, and didn’t really have anything to complain about, I’d announced these various projects and promised things to people, and so they had to get done. That was all true. It doesn’t mean it was working. As a matter of fact, it is somewhat of a miracle as much got accomplished as it did, considering I was running at a deficit. One night’s scant sleep wrecked me the following day, a sure sign that reserves were low. I knew all this, and was still trying to be diligent, so I did try to slow down. I switched from lifting weights to yoga, allowed my spiritual practice to tune toward listening, and took more half days off. Finally, this month, I said to myself that I would only do the work directly in front of me, and let the larger projects lie fallow for awhile.
It was too late. The thing I always tell people will happen, did happen: “If you ignore your animal soul for too long, it will finally say ‘You’re going to bed for three days.’” Well, here I am in bed. I’ve been here since Friday, when after a morning prana yoga class at the ashram near my home I realized I didn't feel well, and took my computer to bed. Between napping and reading, I got a lot of work done. I’ve been in bed despite having been scheduled to present at a conference on Saturday. Saturday morning I got up, mixed a protein shake and went to talk to one of my partners about the day, and whether or not we would go out to breakfast. I said, “It isn’t the going out to breakfast that feels hard, it is the bathing, getting dressed, and then going to breakfast that feels hard.” He looked at me and replied, “If you are too sick to go to breakfast, you are too sick to teach.” I did what I hate most, and canceled my presentation and went to bed. The incipient vertigo, the wooziness, the mild fever and exhaustion all added up to overextension. Forced into it by circumstance and wise words from another mouth, I finally took my own advice and really took to bed. No work. Just rest.
They tell us we can have it all, and we can do anything, if we just try hard enough. Sometimes we try too hard, and then we fall.
I preach integration, and bringing all our parts to our Divine Work. Right now, I’m trying to learn how to include the parts that need deep rest, that need more down time so the book that has been trying to emerge can do so properly, that needs more laughter and time with friends. I’ve been working too hard, brothers and sisters.
Why am I writing this? Not to garner sympathy, but because I have a feeling many of you are in the same boat. As a matter of fact, I know this is so because I’ve been hearing it from clients and students. A lot of us are crashing.
The other reason is this: my sense is that now is the time to gather our energy, because the big shift we cannot quite see around the corner? It is coming. Better to get a bit of rest, so we’re ready to ride the next wave.
What parts of self have you been avoiding? What is the advice you need to take? How will you help yourself, so you can better help the world?
Myself? I'll work on a "Stop Doing List". After I've had some rest.