Finding rest in stillness

I love what I do so much, it often doesn’t feel like work and because of that I can become so engrossed in what I’m doing, I function at a rapid pace that would make the Energizer Bunny green with envy! Unfortunately, when this happens time off becomes an afterthought and I don’t allow myself enough time for rest and renewal.
Well, this autumn it all caught up with me. I completely over-extended myself, to the point of exhaustion. Even though my stamina had wilted and I was having trouble focusing or creating, I kept pushing myself – willing myself – to meet those relentless deadlines and complete those urgent projects, pressing for my attention. Wariness foiled my concentration. Whenever I stepped away to be still, I couldn’t switch off my racing mind.
This had been going on for a few months until, unable to keep up the pace, I wedged in time for a day’s rest. Unfortunately, it was too little too late! I awoke the next morning unrealistically confident about how much energy I’d recouped, and how alert I was to handle all the plans outlined in my head. But now I had finally stopped, I couldn’t muster the strength to get moving again. I was a pile of mush.

Reluctantly succumbing to slumber’s insistence that I swiftly return to its embrace, I spent another day in bed; a day that eventually turned into several! During brief dalliances with wakefulness guilt slipped under the covers beside me, taunting me with all the unmet deadlines and incomplete projects I was neglecting. I sang guilt a lullaby and shamelessly drifted back to sleep; my only regret being my inability to keep my eyes open long enough to engage in a meaningful time of meditation.
After a number of days had slipped by in a groggy haze, I tentatively heaved myself out from under the cocoon of the comforter to take a short meditative walk on the trail, which snakes its way around the cul-de-sac by my house. Plodding – albeit mindfully – up the path leading to the pond at the end of the street, I paused and exhaled. Silently tuned into the echo of nothingness resounding around me, I tossed back my head, sucked in a few whopping great gulps of air (like my life depended on it), and stretched my arms up towards the sky, out the sides towards the trees, then down my back towards the ground; all the while deepening every breath – until stillness usurped inertia.
After a couple of weeks of slumber, interspersed with mindful walking in nature and deep breathing by the pond, I slowly began to revive. I was not merely stirring from exhaustion-induced drowsiness, I was also awakening to how, to my detriment, I’d allowed self-neglect to leech my vibrancy – and almost jeopardize my dedication to my practice.
This journey to the brink was my wake-up call, a reminder to take my own advice about spiritual self-care and no longer give myself away to such an extent where I leave myself bereft of energy or enthusiasm for nurturing self-care; not even if, misguidedly, it’s in the name of sacred service.

Gradually, I inched my way back to daily life and extended again the length of my somewhat renewed meditation practice. I resolved to take better care of myself in order to more effectively give from a full vessel, rather than scrape out contents from an empty barrel. Into this re-awakened consciousness new ideas dribbled into my mind during my pond-side reveries, including the thought, which soon became my mantra: “I live like I mean it.” Yes, I live like I mean it!
As we gear up for the Holiday Season activities, my wish for you is that the best gift you receive this year will be the one you give to yourself – the gift of time for self-care and sacred practice. May you emerge on the other side with a reserve of energy, verve, and clarity; and may the affirmative mantra ushering us all into 2013 be, “I live like I mean it!”

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