I had the opportunity to go the Yoga Barn today in Ubud, Bali and partake in a Yin/Meditation class. The theme of the class was Nothingness; what comes up for you when you think about doing nothing? The instructor had us move into groups of 4 and discuss with one another what came up for us when we thought about doing nothing and how does this nothingness play out in our lives. It was a moment of reflection for me and my mind went straight to “sloth day” which is a regular part of my life, no matter where I am in the world, I still “sloth”. It also brought up the busyness that has come up in my life over and over again to the point of exhaustion, taking care of everyone else and putting myself dead last to the point of me going down for periods of time. It made me think of the last time I put myself in this position and the result of such actions. In speaking to the group, I told them nothingness was a regular part of my life now and it was a vast difference from my life just a few years ago. One of the youngish 20 something year olds asked me how I brought this into my life. In the moment my response was declaring a sloth day, signing out of social media, shutting down my phone, and just “being” by setting aside one day a week, usually Sunday, with nothing to do, to be spontaneous, to do nothing, to be quiet, to be alone, to refuel my tank.
With some reflection, I worked it back to the last time in my life I took on too many things, there have been many, where I found myself burnt out and going down fast. I was working three days a week, I was counselling a number of clients (the time before and after clients takes a lot of time), I was facilitating a mindfulness course (which required a ton of preparation before each class, once a week, a regular 2-3 hour meeting with my co-facilitator and meeting regularly with a supervisor) and I had just volunteered to be a co-facilitator in the upcoming training program at Citizens’ Counselling Centre, a 10 month program training new counsellors, which involved the whole interview process (reading through applications, setting up and conducting interviews, meetings before and after with the facilitator) taking up many hours a day. I had a few personal relationships that were needing a lot of my attention, some consuming me. I would leave in the morning each day and fall into bed each night, busy, busy, busy, letting my self-care plan, my sloth day, my nothingness fall to the wayside as I got involved deeper and deeper into the organization and being of service to everyone but myself.
What usually happens is I start to feel off-balance, something doesn’t feel right inside me and I start to falter, I start to feel the sense of needing to hibernate, to get away, to shut everything down but at this point I am usually so over committed to too many things that running away and hiding is not something easily accomplished. The realization hits me that I am putting too much out and getting very little in return which means eventually I will be no good to anyone, including myself. I think about the oxygen mask analogy that I use with clients, I use with friends, I use all the time and realize that I am not practicing what I preach. Once this lesson has slapped me in the face again and I realize that I have done it, again I start the process of peeling back. I offer myself compassion in recognizing the old patterns of behaviour and confirm that they are no longer serving me. In my self compassion, I remember that these patterns of behaviour are so ingrained that sometimes it is hard for me to see what is happening until I am already raging full speed ahead.
On this particular moment of awareness, I got out a poster sized piece of paper and started writing all the things that were currently going on in my life using coloured felts and pens, drawing words, images and pictures, within an hour the entire page was filled with everything I had on my plate and I felt overwhelmed just looking at. Each entry on that poster sized piece of paper had a little piece of my attention and that was not fair to anybody, most of all myself. After spending some time reflecting on where I had arrived I took a thick black marker and I circled the most important relationships, what services I wanted to continue giving, what took priority, considered how much time was in a day, added in my “sloth/nothingness” time, added in self-care and started working a plan to reduce this massive overload and get back to what is really important, me.
I start dropping things off my plate and taking back the time I need to get rebalance and grounded ensuring that nothingness had a relatively large slot on my new white canvas.
This has been a pattern in my life; taking on so many things that I don’t have any time for me, my processing, my refuelling and eventually my tank runs on empty and I need to go back to my repair shop for a maintenance overhaul.
Now that I have awareness of this pattern of behaviour I have the ability to see myself playing out the same pattern, perhaps as a witness more and more, and stop it in its tracks before it gets away on me. Sometimes, sometimes not. I am a work in progress.
As I always say “once you have awareness, you can never go back”, now that doesn’t me you will never repeat the same patterns of behaviour but success is having the awareness of it and continue working on closing the gap between the time that you repeat a pattern and the time you become aware of it, therein, decreasing the length of time you spend in the behaviour, decreasing the depth to which you stumble and most importantly giving yourself another opportunity to witness it in action. As soon as the awareness is brought back to our attention we can immediately move into compassion and unconditional love thereby starting the process of recovering out of the stumble.
As we transition from old patterns of behaviour to new patterns of behaviour the comfort zone shifts. Before, I was extremely uncomfortable and filled with judgemental about doing nothing, it meant I was being lazy accordingly to my conditioned beliefs and ideas of success. Now, I am extremely comfortable in nothingness and require it in my life as part of self-care. I still carry judgements but they are dispelled as quickly as they arrive because I remember that I am no good to anyone unless I take care of myself and that means “slothing”.
I like to look at it as moving from the deep ruts we have created with all the conditioning in our lives, the patterns of behaviour, the thoughts that keep us imprisoned and moving slowing but steadily over to the newly created rut, the one that holds us for a while until we recognize we are back in the old rut again and we adjust our navigation and manuever over to the newly created rut. Each time we stay until we notice again, we move over, on and on it goes until that new rut become deeper and more pronounced than the old rut; from this place we create a new comfort zone, a deeper, newer rut, only moving back to the old rut occasionally and only staying for a short time recognizing that this the old rut no longer serves us.
Calmness engulfing my being as the sun disappears out of sight;
Reflection on a day filled with nothingness, a day filled with deliberation, a day filled with nothing to do, nowhere to go, simple nothingness;
An keen sense of awareness of all that surrounds me;
Gratitude fills my heart, Solitude fills my soul, Nothingness fills my mind and Tranqulity fills my body;
A gentle but steady breeze boasting as the sky fills with kites floating majestically through her stream;
White fluffy clouds adorning the sky with their mystical contours, contrasts, constitutes and conformations;
The ocean in sight yet yet her shores are so far away, so unreachable, so much distance between myself and my beloved;
The unmistakable sounds of the giant steel birds soaring into the night sky;
As a song gently played out in the back of my mind … Country roads take me home to the place where I belong, West Virginia, Mountain Mama take me home, oh country roads. Walking down this road I get a feeling I should have been home yesterday, yesterday oh country roads take me home to the place where I belong …