Look downstream and feel the ease, then sit a while longer.
She sat by the edge of the river until her shoulders dropped, then felt her body sink into the old plastic chair. Her bare feet absorbed the cool green freshness of the earth while the sun warmed from the outside in. Churning spring waters rushed by and filled her ears with music that soothed her frantic mind and helped to clear away the residue of a demanding city life.
She made space to dream and felt her heart space warm. Her longings gathered silently round until her deepest desire blossomed forth. Then, with a knowing smile, she sat a while longer and allowed it to be, to settle in. In that moment she knew only love. The baby would be born a year later, my first grandchild.
How does one maintain enough calm in this hectic life to realise exactly what it is we do need and want, to take a look at how we are living and course correct if necessary? Our hearts know the truth, so that is the place to look, where our own sweet magic exists. It speaks, so why not take some time to listen?
But finding that space takes deliberate action, before it’s too late. Sometimes the best action is deliberate inaction. That was my strategy on my journey back to finding the resilience I once took for granted.
Two years ago I went into involuntary retirement a full five years before my plan. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, a Divine Plan was underway. It started six months earlier while sitting at my favourite beach with my journal. These words fell onto the page unprompted: “I will be retired by the end of the year”. What a hilarious idea! How was that possible? I had a mortgage and busy life to pay for, so tossed the idea out and forgot about it, until… sure enough by year’s end, my central nervous system gave way and I was forced to stop work. Not exactly how I was expecting retirement to play out. What if I had listened?
What a mess! There I was with absolutely no idea how I would carry on. While it’s true I had been doing my best I was clearly not hearing what my body was shrieking at me, so Divine intervention came along with a heavy hand and made the decision for me. My summertime prophecy became a reality, yet it was a long time before the blessing was revealed.
Recovery included way more rest than I expected. By the end of the second year, after a lot of help, I started to look around at life again. I noticed the view from behind my eyeballs was different. The world was friendlier, and the anxiety that had coloured my perspective was much less in charge.
Financial support showed up with loving assurances that it would all work out. But I was fiercely independent and found it all so embarrassing and humbling. Of course there were reasons for my nervous breakdown that were beyond my control, but my stubborn ego had kept me on the job much longer than I should have. The self-reliance I had worked so hard for was gone, and I felt weak and vulnerable.
Being still was how the proverbial question emerged. “Who am I?” I could see that I was out of touch with my deepest self, and had been for a long time. So I set about to find my own heart’s truth.
Years back my business partner asked how I was going to handle the stress I was experiencing. Instinctively I replied “I am going to slow down.” It surprised me as much as it did her. It seemed the opposite of what was needed with so much to do. So I put my head down, buttoned up my soldier uniform, and went back into the trenches.
If slowing down doesn’t work, then stop. Stop before it’s too late. I wish I had. If you are a blur because of a full life, a big job, maybe two jobs, a husband, children, relatives, illness, pets, know that survival mode is not sustainable. A survival mindset eventually consumes well-being. And it’s not what life is supposed to be all about. Check in with yourself and consider those random thoughts, and do it before something dear gives out. Take small actions. The slightest act of self-love can make a difference. By the way, maternity leave and recovery from surgery don’t count as time off!
Take a look at your life and see where time can be recovered. There are ways to do this without ending up a tragic mess. It is not a question of being lazy, stupid or weak. Do some triage!
Taking time for daily practices saved me. I started with short meditations, yoga breathing, creative visualisations, really quality rest time. I give myself permission to lock the bathroom door and take a healing aroma therapy bath. One of the best things I started doing was to write out my thoughts in a journal each morning. Sure enough I coughed up some anger and frustration, but after that, the gold came out, those life-changing inspirations.
A friend introduced me to a meditation app called Insight Timer, an easy way to get started with a daily practice. It offers a variety of background sounds, a timer to keep the time police at bay, and you will sit with meditators from all over the world. This morning I sat with 5800 other like-minded souls and loved knowing I was sharing this peaceful practice with others. If you only have five minutes, take it.
The shift was gradual and took time, patience and no small amount of faith. But when I listened to my inner voice there was magic. The day my first AHA! showed up I knew I was making progress. Then one day I realised I was reconnected to my intuition. That was a remarkable feeling. Understanding the difference between acting out of intuition or fear was the real game changer for me. They are both powerful emotions, but fear has sharp teeth and intuition can be trusted.
What did taking time do for me? Besides healing, it taught me a great lesson, to always take time to care for myself, especially when my first thought is that I am out of time. There are always choices, and I choose me now. But even better, some of my greatest inspirations have emerged this way and life just has more meaning.
I leave you with this poem I wrote 8 years ago. There were murmurs even then, but many more lessons before I finally came to terms with my own stubborn nature and started to listen.
BE STILL A WHILE
Regard the muses beckoning.
Listen carefully to their whispers
The speed at which you travel allows not
but drastic measures the only chance to stop
Listen and allow without expectation.
The least of all will be found
Disconnect your inner critic.
Shut down your mortal judge
Be still a while and practice silence
Receive that which patiently waits to inspire
In pure awareness comes the knowledge
your aching spirit yearns for you
Thank you for joining me.
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