It was a busy week running this business with all its responsibilities and activity. I needed a rest and it was definitely a ‘down time’ weekend for me. Much of it was spent lying on the sofa relaxing, reading and nodding off. In the past I would have been too self judgemental and felt too guilty about taking such a long time off productive activity. Now I simply have to listen to what my body is telling me it needs, and I obey. It wants a swim in the morning, and I go, it wants a park walk and I go, it wants a nap and I take one. Perhaps this is a symptom of getting older too, since there is no longer abundant energy to splash around and use on unnecessary activity.
I was having a conversation with my son the other day and he was giving himself such a hard time for not feeling motivated to work (he is self employed too). I don’t know if my advice was the right thing for him to hear, he certainly rejected it, but I said that he could trust himself and work when the urge arises to work and rest when it does not.
I was never given the advice that it is okay to trust yourself. Like my son I may not have even believed the advice in my fearful state. In my experience relaxing doesn’t make you lazy and it hasn’t made me less productive. I spent 6 hours straight stuffing envelopes with marketing material on Friday. Everything still gets done as and when it needs to, and in fact I am way more productive now that I am not driven by anxiety invoking thoughts that suggest disaster lurks round every corner. I hardly ever work when I don’t feel like it or don’t have the energy for it. However I do really enjoy my job and my business, and that helps. No need to motivate or discipline or force myself to do much I don’t want to do.
I also extend this to other necessary tasks such as washing dishes, filling the washing machine, food shopping, even socialising, just everything really. The dishes can lie there for a couple of days not washed but soaking and have bubbles added and the water changed regularly, till they are practically clean by the time I feel like doing them, and they are certainly very easy to wash by then. Not having a young child or a young energetic dog any more has helped to open this space up too of course.
Also menial tasks can be highly enjoyable I have discovered. When I slow right down in the park to a snail’s pace and practise mindful walking, I notice that a new world opens up. One in which I find myself completely immersed and present and not wanting to be anywhere or to be doing anything other than exactly what is happening. No longer trying to get anywhere. Just being completely inside the walking experience, feeling the wind on my skin, the crunchy texture under foot and my breath going in and out.
I have been starting to extend this to almost every activity recently. To eating, or doing the dishes or driving somewhere. I can let go of my urge to get the activity done and be right inside the activity. While driving I can sit deeply into the comfy seat and feel how well supported my back and my body feels. I can look at the way the trees are moving in the breeze as they pass by, and notice how lovely the music is. This is where life is happening, where it is always happening. It has proved pointless to permanently be trying to get to the next ‘better’ moment and the next and the next.
Life is different without so much worry. Fear no longer motivates to the same extent, and without fear this huge space opens up, which can feel a little voidy and unnerving at first. The identity feels disorientated and can feel threatened. Then idea that there is even a self to feel threatened is questioned. Opening to freedom creates a lot of changes.
What to do with all this permission to do whatever you want? You find out what you are really like, how you have been limiting yourself, what you want and don’t want, what makes you feel happy or not. You risk hurting other people’s feelings more as you no longer dance to their music. You end friendships that no longer work. You risk not being liked. You risk being more alone. Then find that being alone is fine too.
Feelings become easier to navigate through and live with, when self compassion is practised. Being lonely is okay, I can relax and rest with that passing feeling, and give myself a theoretical or actual hug. Being angry arises and you can rest with that temporary state and not feed it with more thoughts. Feeling afraid arrives, and you just notice, give yourself a reassuring dose of self compassion, and it too passes to till the next state arises and the next.
Pain is not run away from any more, it is allowed to arise and pass. It isn’t going to swallow me up as I used to believe it would. Pain is also not an attraction as it once was when I rejected, chastised and disliked myself and felt I deserved it. So people who bring painful experiences are not attractive any more. I don’t know who I am attracted to any more, and that not knowing and uncertainty is also allowed to arise, be felt and rested with.