When your eyes are tired, the world is tired also. When your vision has gone, no part of the world can find you. Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes to recognize its own. There you can be sure you are not beyond love
-David Whyte, from the poem Sweet Darkness
I started this month on a high note, writing a lot on my blog, traveling, going out, getting lots of work done, and balancing the many, many plates that we all juggle. At the end of the first week of March, I was on top of my game when one of the plates dropped. A difficulty that I thought had been resolved came back again as an open issue needing my attention. And I faltered. If you have ever watched a plate juggler in real life or on TV (or perhaps tried it yourself!), you know that when one plate falls, pretty soon all the plates are down, and you have quite a mess. Since I was spinning plates at maximum capacity, lots of plates crashed to the floor, and me along with it.
I’m guessing that many of you are like me, living and working somewhere between mania and impossible, and that it doesn’t take much to bring the whole structure to collapse. A week before I dropped my plates, a co-worker asked me if she could talk to me about something. I rattled off the next 8 hours of activities that I had scheduled, including a 2:45-3:00 call with my daughter. She expressed surprise at the fact that I had to squeeze my daughter into a 15-minute time slot in the middle of so many other things. If I were a ER doctor or a surgeon, or even someone with set hours controlled by the company, then I could better justify such a schedule. But, heck. I am a yoga and meditation teacher who has full control over her own schedule. There’s some irony here, don’t you think?
For me, and maybe for you, some of what is on my schedule is there because I have to do it, but a lot of what’s there are things I want to do. I want to have tea with another yoga studio owner, I want to plan a weekend away with my husband, and I want to meet with studio staff and students. Spending time is a bit like spending money. It’s so easy and fun to spend it that before we know it, we are broke! When I got my first job, I remember a boss telling me that I needed to always pay myself first. I never did learn that lesson.
After my plates fell this month, I spent a few days desperately trying to get them back up, working the weekend straight through trying to get caught up on email and work. I soon realized that I wasn’t getting back on top, just slipping further down. And feeling pretty bad about myself as a result. So I decided that what I needed was C&C time. Most people think they need R&R, Rest and Relaxation, but what I really needed was C&C, Cloister and Convalesce.So I have been Cloistered — seeing other people as little as possible, even with people who are so kind as to want to help me talk through things or even take on some of the work. I tell them about my C&C, and tell them that I will be in touch when I’m back out in the world. And I have Convalesced — treating myself as if I had just been ill — sleeping and resting, eating as well as I can, and trying to get gentle exercise.During my C&C, I was able to restore my energy, re-prioritize my life, and recharge my enthusiasm for living. Limiting our connection with others may sound counterproductive, but we interact with dozens or even hundreds of people each day, and more if you count the internet, Facebook, Linkedin and the like. I am convinced that most of us aren’t wired for so much contact and so many different activities, and it simply overwhelms our nervous systems.
Now, at the end of the month and after about 10 days of C&C, I have many of my plates back up in the air, but with more awareness about each plate and why I am spinning it. Practicing C&C is a way to pay ourselves first rather than burning up all of our valuable time on outside activities. It also allows us to weed out any unnecessary plates that we are spinning out of habit. If we set aside a little C&C time every day or week, we may not be able to spin quite as many plates, but we also won’t risk making such a big mess of them and suffering as a result.
As Thich Nhat Hanh says:
Doing nothing brings about quality of being, which is very important. So doing nothing is actually something. Please write that down and display it in your home: Doing nothing is something.
Let’s give it a try.