It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us.
The ego, or the self you imagine yourself to be, has a thousand goals. But are they really yours? And are they your sweetest goals?
A whirlwind Western world worships productivity, as defined by how much we “get done.” But I’d love to see you become “undone” with joy. Because let me assure you of this: Learning how to be unabashedly alive is a very productive goal.
I want you to be free. Freedom doesn’t mean you’ll run away to Istanbul or forget to pay the rent. It’s a remembrance, not a forgetting. It’s remembering who you really are. It’s too easy to lose sight of your nimble, guided self in the everyday tasks and habits, not to mention the self-talk that cripples you, makes you feel behind, even before you’ve sipped your morning coffee.
It’s preconceived ideas about what we “should” be doing that prevent us from listening to our hearts in any given moment. But you can stop this “virtue” in its tracks. Set down the laundry or report, even for a minute. Your deep self wants to talk to you. Do you want to listen?
We don’t always realize what we’re not getting done by “getting things done.”
One day in the middle of a busy lifetime, I decided to give myself a mini-retreat on the sofa of my back porch. Actually, I’d hurt my neck. And the pain distracted me from answering e-mails. You could say it was a pain in the neck. So, I resolved to put aside my tasks and spend the day listening to my body and myself.
Immediately I heard a perky voice within dictating acceptable ways to relax. Hey, you could read that new book about scaling your business. Since you’re not on the computer today, why not organize your meditation space? Even in the domain of my “time off,” I had a brisk checklist waiting to devour me.
I spent the day resting on my couch, instead, “doing nothing,” meditating by not even trying to meditate. It was one of the most productive days I’ve ever had.
I didn’t watch television or listen to an audiobook. I met the silence, big as a bear. It held me. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d given myself space to just be. I allowed myself to be bored and awkward at times, like I was on a really bad date, the kind where you’re maybe hoping for a tiny stroke so you can leave—but I wasn’t bailing and calling a cab. I remembered, in tiny bursts of raw self-acceptance, this is what my soul needs to experience, and it’s not on any to-do list.
I always hunger for real life, not the mass-marketed “get real” life. I want to smell the wild honeysuckles taking over the wooden fence, knowing I only have a bucket full of summers here on earth. I want to taste my life, seize moments that will live inside me forever. I want to choose my right life. I don’t want to live on auto-pilot. I crave a shift in consciousness.
In rebellious chunky penmanship, I wrote, “I am not going to answer e-mails today or get back to clients. I want to know, witness, and love myself. This day of self-care will get more ‘done’ in my life. Yes, I know. I’m no Malcolm X when it comes to insurrection. Still, this was a Rosa Parks, I’m-sitting-down-and-you-can’t-stop-me moment for a responsibility freak like me.
That day, “doing nothing,” I ended up journaling, resting the cells in my body, forgiving myself for forgetting myself in any way, cradling a part of me who’d suffered disappointments, and not pushing myself to do or be anything.
And when I least expected it, another part of my mind woke up. It felt like the stone had been rolled away from the gate. In the quiet, self-love and creative ideas deluged my mind. I couldn’t write fast enough. I chased the bursts of illumination and ideas that flew at me like a pack of butterflies, and forced my “practical” mind to take a backseat.
Then, later, I even wrote the newsletter for my business, the main task that I’d set aside that day. It was suddenly easy. Everything felt like mind candy. Work that would have taken me hours took minutes and came out better. No, I was not on drugs. But the lack of self-judgment is intoxicating. If I could bottle this mystical superpower I would.
Checklists, shmecklists. It’s so much more productive to be inspired.
Believe me, I know about inspired space. I work in this realm with others.
I’ve been leading retreats in nurturing, scenic places for years. I am the one who encourages others to let go and trust the process. Participants arrive tired, excited, and some slightly frightened with faces white as goat cheese. I sometimes wonder if they think I am going to make them call their bosses, quit their jobs, and run away with me to follow their bliss—or maybe join a new age circus. Some may be secretly hoping I will.
Naturally the bright-eyed overachievers want to get their money’s worth. They are hoping that in the opening circle I can start giving them exercises to figure out their lives now, before they unpack their luggage. I feel the need pulsing within them to attack the problem at hand. I tell them we are going to spend the weekend relaxing, undoing conditioning, and receiving what is already within. I am setting them up to be guided.
Some look at me with relief in their eyes, as though someone has finally invited them to stop running a decade-long marathon and sit down in the shade, wipe their sweat, and sip lemonade. Others look at me like this better not be a trick. I better get an answer by Sunday, their body postures threaten. And I want to assure them that they will be answered by Sunday. They will receive the juice, resurrection, and clarity they do not even know they crave.
I’m not being arrogant. It’s just that through the years, I have come to trust the wild efficiency of the Universe, which uses these intentional “time out of time” occasions like one of those Japanese chefs at a Benhina restaurant, tossing knives into the air, carving carrots into roses, then handing you sustenance in the wink of an eye.
I know that emotional safety and relaxation are the most critical ingredients in creating inspired time.
As a facilitator, I am trying to sweet-talk my students into releasing expectations of themselves. I am escorting and training them into radical receptivity. I’m not interested in lecturing their know-it-all brains or their ordinary identities—the surface level of who they really are. I am beckoning the extraordinary within them. I don’t want to ask the most important questions to the least literate part of their brains. I don’t want to engage their tired, angry, habitual selves in a dialogue about joy, meaning, and desire.
I want the daily self to bathe, to scrub off the layers and veneers of disillusionment, resentment, and toxic self-talk. I am eager to engage their Inspired Self, the one with an unlimited love that lights up memories, inclinations, and clarity. I know that if I can engage this self for even an instant, the real work is done.
Inspired time is indescribable. It’s like skipping steps in a long, cumbersome equation. It’s as though you’re suddenly on the moon, where concrete boots and money issues are weightless; it’s easy to move or to change anything. Believe me, it’s constructive.
It’s a magic I want to experience as much as possible in my daily life. This is what it means to be productive to me.
Yet just like my students, I have had to understand the rites of the realm.
When I want unpredictable and unprecedented healing and abundance in my life, I know I need to feed myself time and space. Orchids don’t grow in sand.
My revelations require the loamy earth of love, space, time, meandering, and permission. So do yours. Some of you might think taking time for yourself is impossible, with kids, jobs, deadlines, making payroll, and dependent relatives. It’s a tough choice to make. Yet an exquisite life requires exquisite choices.
I get it. You have so much to do. But that doing may be about sustaining a life that may not be sustaining you. Or you might want to rush the process, take an express train to your expressed life. My clients often want to just “get there” as they traverse the middle of a life that is changing. “It takes an intermission to find a mission,” I say, then wait for the groan. But I know what works.
Take some time to consciously do less. Rest. Be. Get yourself to a lake, a park, a retreat, a beach, some nature if you can. But a flowered couch will do. Let go of self-judgment as it arises. See what wants to happen. You may want to paint or walk or write or cry. Be still. Be moved. Be forgiving. Be curious. Breathe. This is important work to do. It’s the most important work you can do.(This is an adapted excerpt from Thriving Through Uncertainty: Moving Beyond Fear of the Unknown and Making Change Work for You -)
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