This summer, for the first time in what feels like way too long, I have spent day after day with just myself and my beloved. Real conversations have unfolded. We have had time and space, and felt expansive and safe enough to say things that needed saying and loving enough to hear them with an open heart. We have learned wonderful new things about each other after all these years together. We’ve had real fun. We noticed how when days slow right down, they become curiously full. Turns out there is a lot going on when we unbusy ourselves.
For some time now I have chosen to say “my life is full, largely doing what I love” rather than “I am busy”. Unbusying myself has been a determination and a practise although, being human, I quite regularly fail - often miserably, before being shocked into focus with a jolt of overwhelm and exhaustion and the odd migraine headache. Yet, even with slip-ups and back-slides, each day I set the compass of my heart to easefulness and simply begin again, roll out my mat, and focus my attention on my breath. I do this because I now know no other way to flourish and be happy. I know no other way to take care of myself.
Many of my clients come to see me because they haven't wanted to feel their anxiety or fear, their grief or their shame. Yet years of pushing these inevitable emotions and experiences away (with constant busyness or other forms of avoidance) hasn't worked, or maybe something truly difficult comes along as the final straw and the volcano erupts. What we resist, persists. The message that it’s ok to not feel ok at times, or that feeling pain doesn’t necessarily mean something is ‘wrong’, may not be what they were initially hoping to hear, yet it’s the only message I can truthfully offer. While severe anxiety and depression are certainly not normal or to be tolerated, turns out a lot of the rest is mostly about slowing down, wrapping ourselves up in kindness and self-compassion and allowing the inevitable messiness of life to ebb and flow. Taking the time to feel what’s feel-able, to lean in a little, to be curious about the aching bits, to tune into the wisdom of the heart, to be present to ourselves. Sounds simple, but it’s not easy and having a wise (and hopefully well-qualified) guide can really help. But there’s no magic wand that makes the discomfort disappear. Growth comes at the gritty edge. It's just the way of things.
Wanting to live a full, rich, magnificent, easeful and happy human life means making friends with the whole darn lot, even if those waves can feel pretty choppy at times. Seeking to have it all solid and tied up neatly so you don’t have to feel uncomfortable is both a delusion and an impossibility. Wanting security and certainty is understandable but ultimately futile. We must live alongside the fragility and the not knowing, we must be with it all, the pleasure and the pain, the praise and the blame, the loss and the gain, the disgrace and perhaps the fame. Nothing lasts, not the good times, but not the bad times either. It all matters, no more and no less.
In 2020, perhaps the kindest thing we can do for ourselves, our families, and our world is to make our lives just a little slower. To unbusy ourselves. Perhaps cross just one or two things off your list of things to do today. Stop saying “yes’ when your heart aches to say “no”. Give yourself permission to stand up for yourself and your energy. Maybe wake up a little earlier and slow down your morning. Do the small things well. Make your bed properly (listen up kids), tidy your room, organise your space. Don’t waste time reading rubbish or scrolling mindlessly through Instagram. Read as many good books as you can. Be discerning about the media you consume, and the people who have access to you. Be careful about what you put into your body, it’s your temple. Go for long walks. Make amends with the good people you have hurt, and let go of relationships that no longer serve you. Be kind to others but remember that doesn't mean being a doormat! Find peace in whatever you choose. Smile at the homeless man by the supermarket. Call your grandmother if you are lucky enough to still have one. Do what you can to make your world a better place. Make the time to know yourself and what you need to be happy - and then go get it.
Most of all, please slow down. The right path becomes clearer with time and space. Don’t let constant busyness grow horns and suck you down into the quicksand of anxiety or its close cousin, depression. Because that’s what happens and it’s not nice.
Remember that we are all going to cross the finish line. I, for one, am in no hurry to get there. This life is too magnificent.