This blog post was originally written in August 2016 as I was preparing to write The Flourish Formula and it remains one of my favorites.
Especially this time of year as we transition from late summer into the fullness of fall it is a lesson I need again and again. I hope you enjoy it!
I spent so many years suppressing my urge to rest, I came to mistrust it.
Long after I have built a coaching business centered around the Enneagram (and the project of knowing and befriending ourselves) I am unearthing another layer of self-deceit:
I think I have to drive the show (in my life + biz) or nothing much gets done.
But lately all I feel like doing is floating through my days with my children enjoying the home we have created. Playing with the toys which require thick imagination, reading the Big books, picking back up with unwatched Downton Abbey episodes, listening to the toll of the church bells down the street and reclining at the neighbor’s house with the pool.
And more delights … Harry Potter (three of us reading this series for the first time in one house!), travel memoirs, Spicebush herbal tea (pictured above) made from ingredients I harvested on an edible landscape tour, white wine spritzer when the kids have gone to sleep. And the butterflies which show up, sometimes in glorious pairs outside my kitchen window, bright orange — flitting between my son’s mandarin tree and the zinnias i potted this spring with their bursts of red and yellow.
But can I trust myself to go over this edge? To float on these waves of doing as little as I can manage? Lazily dipping my hand in my biz, wondering what it needs to keep rowing forward and doing only that, one stroke a day. Sometimes one a week.
And my home– one extra household task a day to keep the tidy equilibrium is all I can muster on top of daily dishes and meals. Putting away two loads of laundry an accomplishment.
But will I ever return from the land of hazy rest? Or will I forever drift down this river and when I emerge be disoriented, wondering what happened to my life and my work?
Here is the strange thing: during this month of doing nothing and a social media fast I received: three new coaching clients, an invitation to teach a weekend long retreat in the spring, and a request to help design a wellness theme for parents and teachers at an area school. I’ve also been able to capture a handful of writing snippets as they emerge (you are reading one right now!) And I am enjoying appointments with existing coaching clients while Rich watches the kids — showing up grateful for the quiet and the chance to be with just one person and to listen deeply, a respite from the multi-tasking which is my mama life.
In short something is moving, but it has such a different quality than my own ego-hewn sense of how work should feel.
It feels light. Driven by a fuel far distinct from my narrow-focused sense of the work equation: time at my computer screen = time of accomplishment.
As I sat yesterday and listened to my friend talk about her recent visit to a shaman (how do I find a shaman?!) I felt the world quivering at my feet: the grass moving and bending, the leaves dancing, the vibration of life surrounding me, this green nation converting sunlight to their own sustenance.
What if work could feel like that? As intuitive? As self-nourishing?
What if our love-affair with discerning our own work and offering it to the world was as simple as using the processes at our own interior disposal in the same way plant cells convert sunlight into food.
Food for ourselves yes. But leaves inevitably are food for other animals and fall, nourishing the earth. Our work is similarly part of a broader offering and cycling.
I am coming to trust the river of rest and to know that there is an end to how long I will even want to float here. At some point it feels good to get out of the water when your fingers are all wrinkly to enjoy the rub of a towel warmed on the beach. And the hunger in your belly invites you to work again, to start the fire.
For this is what i am coming to learn: my yearning for Downton Abbey will fade, depositing me grateful and open-hearted in the real life web of human and nonhuman relationships where I make my home. My impulse to lay and read another travel memoir will transition to dreaming and research about an upcoming trip to the mountains of Mexico to celebrate a big birthday. I will eventually want to wash my hair and to cook a hot meal of fresh beet greens and basil and an omelet of goat cheese from the farmer’s market, all a drizzle with the Palestinian olive oil we got as a gift. And to reconnect to writing, coaching, and lovely you.
In short, rest deposits me back into my life. More awake to its subtleties. More grateful.
I won’t get lost there, I can trust it.
And so can you.
Now many of my coaching clients are tired. Sometimes an early bed time or a nap is the next best step toward discerning the life that wants to live out of you. Other times that fatigue actually indicates that more activity is needed both in terms of moving your body in whatever way you find fun and risking sharing your talents with others.
I’m curious: what one step could you take this week to bring your relationship with rest and work closer to an equilibrium?
Leave me a comment below!
PS If you would like more strategies for healing your relationship to rest and creating an approach to work and life that nourishes rather than depletes you, you can order a copy of The Flourish Formula right here.
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