Taking My Own Advice

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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.

35 Responses to “Taking My Own Advice”

  1. Meliny

    Someone I respect said “If you’re not at least a little bit selfish, you’re of no use to me!” It kinda sounds funny out of context, but it’s still a very good message.

    I think I stopped just short of crashing. There was some serious partner-clashing, though, so I may be deluding myself about my alleged non-crash.

    I have some trouble with the concept of a Stop Doing list. Perhaps I’ll create a “Do This Instead of This” list.

    I hope you’re back on your feet soon. Another quote, this one from Pretty Woman: “Take care of you.”

    Reply
  2. steward

    After clicking the Fiat Lux! link, I think that will help a lot with hitting the wall with travel. (Some publicization will likely help, though, I hadn’t heard of it before seeing this blog entry on a post on facebok…)

    Reply
  3. Rita

    I just took a breath. And breathed out through my heart, love to you. I am so grateful for all you do. Be nourished. Be well.

    Reply
  4. Sarah

    This is the story of my October too: doing too much, not heeding my the voice of my own experience, not getting enough rest, and then coming down with a cold and spending quite a lot of time in bed.

    The voice of experience that I’ve been ignoring is the one that reminds me that I’m wiser about the future than about the present. In the present, it’s easy for what’s in front of me to seem shiny and urgent and compelling — and therefore to overwhelm what is deeply and consistently important to me. In very practical terms, this means the way for me to get enough time for rest and exercise and my spiritual practice is to put it in my calendar six or eight weeks in advance, before shiny opportunities start coming up in droves.

    Reply
  5. Shira

    Get well soon (not just so you can Do Stuff again), and I will be taking your advice and work on being lazy…because it’s good for me.

    Reply
  6. Niki Whiting

    The wave…. the current pushing my family home far sooner than we expected! The little beings that refuse to sleep through the night! We feel the current moving here too. If only we could rest for three days. May you get all the rest you need Thorn.

    Reply
  7. Julie

    You know I’m there, too. Lots of insights to share with you next we talk. And if you need to reschedule, let me know. :-)

    Reply
  8. Lyssa

    Engaging practice more deeply has brought me back to my body–and my body’s need to rest, having been pushed in directions for a lot of other things before its own care.
    So I am learning how to balance, take it steady but listen enough to be able to feel “I am tired.” “I might be sick.” I honestly could NOT feel some of that, because I was ignoring some other pains and, well, it’s something to get used to. It feels strange and not quite comfortable.

    But damn, sleep sounds good.

    I wish you deep rest and its healing, and look forward to seeing you when you return.

    Reply
  9. Stephanie Hartzell-Brown

    I have learned to limit myself the hard way…I too am so disciplined that it can be difficult to say No or limit the tasks, promises I make. What made the difference was really hitting “the wall” and ending up flat in bed for weeks. It was truly an eye opener for me. I have learned to take better care of myself, listen to the feelings of fatigue and muscle aches that come with MS. I no longer push past those feelings into “I have to do just this one more thing because I promised”. I think as disciplined women we often feel the need to prove how many plates we can handle/juggle and forget there can be consequences to overburdening ourselves. So glad to hear you listened to your body and are practicing the right way! Thank you for sharing what a lot of us do to ourselves but don’t want to admit!

    Reply
  10. Kevin F

    Oi, yeah, what you said. I worry I’ve overextended myself in my school schedule this year, and Saturday I took a ‘day off’ by doing several loads of laundry, cleaning the kitchen, cleaning my car, organizing my bookshelves…

    I hate wishing away time, but I find myself keenly anticipating the end of this semester.

    Reply
  11. Fortuna

    Hallelujah and pass the kleenex!
    Yes, feeling trapped in that same driven, hamster-wheel, gotta-gotta-gotta model.
    I took a day off on the weekend and felt guilty!
    But what I’ve noticed is that the exhaustion engendered by the summer months, the scattered and resistant mind, is beginning to come around. It does take the willingness to say no, and to do what is needed – read, clean, eat breakfast with friends, or go to bed.
    What’s saving my (over-deadlined) head today? Someone wanted a healing and a reading, so I’ll take part of the day away from my computer to do what feeds me. It’s good.

    Reply
  12. Shen-Tat

    To remember the nayural human rhythym of life requires that I expose myself to Nature. Her cycles are gentle, slow, accumulating over. Expansive time enormous force prior to inaugurating action. I share your exhaustion and took my leave several weeks ago. I am still not ready for the drive ahead and am resting. Ardhhu is whispering sweetly, “Surrender!” And I am kissing Him on the mouth, desiring more! More! More of His scent, taste, compassionate grace… I pray you and I both emerge fortified.

    Reply
  13. Saga

    That is the pattern I used to find myself in when my sons were still kids. Besides the usual mom stuff, I was over-committed volunteering at the schools and other organizations. Then I would find myself flat on my back with the flu or pneumonia (or both). It all came to a head when I was knocked on my ass by cancer. That cosmic 2×4 taught me not to do that to myself anymore. It’s also why I have taken 6 days off of work starting this Thursday. Granted, I will be doing a lot of work around the house during that time (with help) but I don’t have to also deal with my job. Just scheduling the time off has made me sleep better.

    Reply
  14. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I’m heartened to know there are others who are coming to the same conclusion…

    I delayed a book I wanted to have out by the 30th in order to make sure it gets indexed fully and properly; and today, I realized that I could either continue working on the index and not get done by the end of the week when I’m due to be elsewhere, while also not getting a lot of other stuff done, or i could put the indexing on hold, take care of these other pressing projects, and then resume indexing when I get back. And, I’m choosing the latter, which means that, if all goes well, I’ll be in bed in about four hours instead of ten. (I had many more naps today than usual, which seems to be indicating this is a good choice…)

    Much peace and dreamless, truly restful sleep to you, dear friend!

    Reply
  15. Soli

    Rest and recover well. I myself am in the midst of recovering from what I believe to be adrenal fatigue. Took a few years to get to this point, just have to remind myself I am not going to be 100% in less than two months.

    Reply
  16. sophiaheathwodin

    Sweet rest and gentle times are a great perscription, one that you gave to me not so very long ago! And, as it has been helping me to recover and regroup, so may it bring you back to equilibrium and peace.
    Much love as you return home to yourself, dear friend and teacher

    Reply
  17. Lori F - MN

    It’s time to schedule in this rest.

    Once a month, I have a massage. It doesn’t sound like much but it certainly helps.

    Reply
  18. The Wild Hunt » A Day Off

    […] Here’s some things you might want to read instead.‘Return to Oakland’ by Starhawk‘Taking My Own Advice’ by T. Thorn Coyle‘All Candy, No Jesus: Halloween in America’ by Mary ValleAlso, do check out my favorite […]

    Reply
  19. Morgana S.

    LOL, sounds familiar! I’m getting used to the idea that some people are just going to hate me for having Good Boundaries. But I feel better and am able to give more to the things I AM willing to commit to. Blessings and feel better soon.

    Reply
  20. Jay

    Thanks for this. I’ve been driving myself crazy with an infinite to-do list. When I sit down for meditation, I find my head a burning cacophony. It’s good to be reminded that I’m missing the point of all this work I’m doing. :)

    My Zen teacher refers to retreats as a “downshifting” – an opportunity to disengage from our hectic schedules and return to the stillness of our source. We can all use that from time to time.

    Reply
  21. Ellie Di

    Taking time to refresh our well is so vitally important, and we’re so totally trained that gogogo is the only way to live. I’m sad to hear that you’ve pushed into your breaking point, but I’m glad to know that you’re taking the rest you need. Care for yourself, sweetie, so that you can better care for others.

    Reply
  22. annakorn

    Your symptoms don’t sound like over-extension– they sound like infection. True, you are more susceptible when over-extended. But Fall, when more people gather together in school, in classes, in warm indoor spaces, is when we start to share lots of microbes. Take care! And if you encounter so many people in the course of your life, consider a flu vaccination, too. As a helath care worker, it does help!
    Anna

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Anna,

      I think I did have an infection of some sort. I am on so many airplanes it is amazing that I am rarely sick. And yes, overextension leads to compromised immune system.

      thanks – T>

      Reply
  23. Rick Loftus, M.D.

    Ah, Thorn, this is why you are such a magnificent teacher! Because you are so unabashedly human and real. I’m with everybody else- new job, new practice, sick patients in the hospital, traveling, starting a research program, etc. Ack! Even Samhain was spent working to set up the Bee Altar at Reclaiming’s Spiral Dance in SF. I think you, too, may be an INFP- Mystic archetype in the Myers-Briggs. We envision in twelve directions at the same time, and then pour out Will into those visions, dragging our poor little bodies along with us. Anyway, that’s how it is for me, and I so relate. This morning, a last day off, I spent an hour in silent breath work- which felt like a year compared to how much time I can normally do.
    Am sending you love, respect, healing energy, and deep gratitude for your wisdom and humanity. Rest and know we all love you so much.

    Reply
  24. krissy

    Wow what a trooper… you even continued to work in bed- wow. Unfortunately if your body is telling you to take a break taking that computer in bed with you won’t be doing you any favors. Maybe you need to disconnect from technology for a minute.

    Reply

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